Newsletter #1039

News tonight contains all the latest happenings and friendly games, plenty of opinion on the forthcoming season, friendlies and ticket prices.

Next game: Wolverhampton Wanderers, away, 7.45pm 30 July 2004 (friendly)


General News

Anelka Correction: The News of the World has back tracked on last week’s report that claimed that Nicolas Anelka wanted to leave the club because of the racial abuse. This week the journal printed the following piece: “CITY FANS ARE NOT RACISTS – By Ray Ryan. NICOLAS ANELKA has condemned inaccurate reports that he had accused Manchester City fans of being racist. The French striker revealed details last week of the sickening racial abuse he has endured during his career. But Anelka was adamant he had suffered no such problems in Manchester, insisting City fans were the best he had ever played for. He said: ‘I have been subjected to racial abuse in the past – before I came to City. My worst experience was at Real Madrid when we were playing away from home and there were also times like that in France with PSG. But since I have been at Manchester City I have never been racially abused by the supporters of any team – let alone our own fans. Our supporters have backed me all the way and they are the best I have ever played for. Anelka, who has urged supporters to help City improve on their disappointing season last time round, even insists the English Premiership can be proud of its record on tackling racism. He added: ‘People suggest that racism is a problem in English football but in my experience the Premier League is the best I have played in. You can see a lot of work has been put in by good people to deal with this issue. As a result, football racism in England is far, far less of a problem than it is in other European countries.'”

A Raft of Good Ideas: Stuart Pearce has given details of his new rôle at the club, now that Arthur Cox has retired. “Credit to Faz, last year he involved me in as much as I wanted to be involved in so in that respect there is very little change,” said Psycho. “The one big difference is that we don’t have another head in the room now Arthur has gone so some of the scouting and little bits and pieces are going to have to be shared around. In the main I have been involved from day one and nothing has changed my ambition to one day return to management. I am still on the six months rolling contract and I have no problem with that. Just to show how flexible it is, my last six months ran out at the end of June and I have not asked for another one yet. I take it they are still paying me! The manager and the club know I am fully committed here and that is the bottom line. Whatever I do I love being at this football club and the more I do it and the more I get my feet under the table with the job the more I enjoy it.” It also sounds like Pearce is in charge of devising team bonding sessions. “We went away yesterday and it is something that we plan to do throughout the season without swamping the players with it,” explained Pearce. “It was something that I took on board when I was Nottingham Forest. We went to concerts as a team; we went white water rafting, ballooning, jet skiing, and paint balling among other things. Every few weeks we did something that drew the players together and basically gave us all something to look forward to. I am sure it will be good for the spirit of the club. I used to enjoy it when I was a player.” The club website covered the rafting, and made sure that a photograph of Nicolas Anelka was prominently displayed. He was resplendent in a bright blue safety helmet, and was (gasp) laughing! Note to the media: Please let’s have no stories about “Anelka Snubs Away Day”, OK?

Wot No Internationals? So much for Eastlands impressing the FA. You may remember that there were noises this summer, that following the success of the international matches at the COMS, some of England’s World Cup Qualifiers might end up in M11. Well, the fixtures were announced were announced this week, and err, four of the five home matches are at Old Trafford. The fifth is at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park. An FA spokesman said: “As this is the World Cup qualifying campaign we wanted to make sure that the maximum number of fans had the opportunity to see the England side and that is why we have chosen the two biggest club grounds in the country.”

Striker Sun: Sun Jihai’s dad must be fuming, as his son is still not impressing China’s coach at the Asian Games I quote from the Xinhua News Agency’s website: “SUN JIHAI PUZZLED WITH NEW RÔLE AS STRIKER -BEIJING, July 25 – Manchester City defender Sun Jihai said that he felt puzzled with a new rôle as a striker in China’s 1-0 victory over Qatar in their Asian Cup Group A match here on Sunday. Sun, who played only 15 minutes in China’s first two matches, was sent on by Dutchman Arie Haan late in the match to replace striker Li Jinyu. Sun, who mostly plays as a right back, was close to scoring a second goal for China, heading the ball against the crossbar. ‘It’s a good chance, but I don’t feel good to play up front,’ he said. ‘It’s a sudden decision by the coach. But I will be happy to try this position.'”

Transfer News and Gossip

Fowler to Blackburn? Fat Chance! The Daily Star reckoned that Robbie Fowler was on his way to Blackburn, but Rovers quashed reports linking Graeme Souness with a move for Fowler. Souness has made it clear that he is not interested in signing the former Liverpool hit-man, who he launched on the road to fame and fortune when he was the manager of the Anfield giants. Fowler was seen by some sources as the replacement for Andy Cole, who has joined Fulham this season.

Get in Rapido for Mido: City are still in with a chance of landing Marseille’s Mido, but the Blues will have to find around three million Euros if they are to fund a loan move. The wages part of the equation would not be a problem for the Blues but they may baulk at the lender’s fee that the French club is seeking. Egyptian 21-year-old Mido, who is also being courted by Southampton, has expressed his desire to come to City but the Blues’ board must come up with the cash. Mido’s agent Christophe Henrotay said: “It’s now up to Mido to decide. Some of the clubs we’ve been speaking with are away on pre-season tours and he needs to talk with the managers. Hopefully it will be sorted this week.”

Ex-Blues’ News

Top 10 For Blues: City face Shaun Goater’s Reading in a benefit match on August 2, and the Goat has been talking about the game and the chances of success for his beloved Blues in the new season. “There are three reasons why City fans should take in the game,” stated the Goat: “To help grass roots football in Bermuda, see me play and maybe see me score a last goal against City! Hopefully, this game will raise up to £50,000, which will enable us to provide youth academy style professional coaching in Bermuda. I keep in touch with all the City lads. I have a lot of pals there, so I am grateful to Kevin Keegan agreeing to bring his first team squad. I think City will go well next season. I just can’t see them getting involved in a relegation battle again. The players will be looking at what happened last season, reflecting on the disappointment and then making sure it doesn’t happen again. No way will they be hovering round the relegation zone. I reckon they will end up eighth or ninth. They will put it right.”

Sheffield Bound? Let’s hope this Paul Ritchie item’s more accurate than last time! Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock is thought to be interested in the former City defender. The Scot has been looking for a new club after leaving League One side Walsall at the end of last season, having recently turned down a move to America with Major League Soccer club New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Scottish Premier League clubs Livingston and Aberdeen, as well as Spanish side Tenerife and Belgian outfit Genk have also been mentioned with the 28-year-old. It remains to be seen if Ritchie would consider a move to The Blades, as the Bramall Lane outfit gear up for a fresh promotion push in the coming Championship season. Warnock must be working his way through City’s ex-defenders, as last week he gave a trial to Steve Howey. Reports of a comeback for Mike Doyle cannot be confirmed at this time.

Jason’s the Blerk for Mossley: The Oldham Evening Chronicle brings us some non-league news. Mossley’s manager (and former City winger) Jason Beckford is trying to increase the Blue connection at his club by offering a trial to Jason van Blerk. The 36-year-old, who played also played league football for Millwall, West Brom, Wrexham. Stockport, Hull and Shrewsbury is training with the Seel Park club. Manager Jason Beckford is keen to land the left-sided van Blerk, who won 27 full caps for Australia between 1990/2000 and who played 21 games in the laser blue of City between 1997 and 1998.

Southend Make Prior Arrangement: Spencer Prior is zipping up his boots, and going back to his Roots – Roots Hall that is. City’s former no.7 (yes he was!) has completed his move to Southend United, signing a two-year contract. Prior began his career with the Shrimpers, and manager Steve Tilson was delighted that Prior had agreed to rejoin the League Two side. “I think it’s a very good signing for us,” said Tilson. “We only had three central defenders at the club, so it’s good to get another one in. Spencer being an ex-player will obviously help as well. He’s a fantastic player, he’s played at the top level and he’ll bring great experience to the football club. He’s 33-years-old now but he’s still a very fit lad so there’s no problems there. I think he’ll be a big signing for us. We had a very young side here and I think we needed to bring in some experienced players, and I think we’ve got that now.”

Pre-Season Reactions and Comments

Not So Belle Vue: City drew 1-1 with Doncaster on Saturday. Shaun Wright-Phillips equalised for City, making amends for Shaunie’s misplaced back pass that allowed Leo Fortune-West to open the scoring for the home side. The game made headlines for all the wrong reasons, as Joey Barton caused an on-field ruckus after some hefty tackling on Doncaster’s Paul Green. Retribution was swift, and the Scouse hard man has suffered an injury from some of the tackles he later received. “When I called him over I told him the truth that if he wanted to carry on doing what he was doing I would take him off,” explained Kevin Keegan. “I don’t want to stop him being tenacious but I do want him focussing on what football is all about. He can look after himself he thinks but when you get in this division and do the sort of things he did people will sort you out. I am looking at it as a learning curve for him. If he wants to fight in the Premiership or this division there are a lot of players who are pretty tough and know how to look after themselves. I just want Joey to get on and play football. That is what I told him, that he either played football or came off, there was not a choice. He has got a nasty knock from his troubles but hopefully he will learn from it.” The manager admitted that the incident overshadowed the first half of the friendly. “I thought the referee handled it very well but the first half looked as if it could degenerate into one of those games in which you kick us and we kick you. That is not what we wanted. We get on great with the people here at Doncaster but the incident was started by a couple of individuals. There were disappointments in the game. I don’t have a problem with Joey Barton if he wants to play football. I have a problem with Joey Barton or any player who just wants to go out and be physical. He possibly could have been sent off. The ball was down on the ground when he went in there but the way he hacked at it he could have been sent off. If we were away from home in the Premiership and he did that he probably would have been sent off.” KK’s view of the referee was not shared by that paragon of self restraint, Danny Mills. “The referee let one or two dodgy tackles go early on and in the end he had absolutely no control whatsoever,” the Baldy Bouncer claimed. “People go out to try and claim a scalp but sometimes you get a referee who isn’t prepared to pull a couple of players to one side and have a quick chat after the first couple of tackles. If you aren’t going to be protected by the referee, players look to protect themselves. You get one more bad tackle, then a couple of revenge ones and by that stage the referee had lost control and didn’t have a clue.”

Morecambe Unwise: A young reserves side went down to a 2-1 defeat in their pre-season friendly with Nationwide Conference side Morecambe this week. Bradley Wright-Phillips was a constant danger to the non-league side and he opened the scoring when he raced onto a long ball and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting home. Chris Blackburn levelled for the home side after a defensive mistake from City, and they took the lead just before half time after Nick Rogan nodded in Wayne Curtis’ superb right wing cross. City: Ellegaard, Warrender (Lee-Mathews 74), Collins, J D’Laryea (Onuoha 65), McCarthy (capt.) (N D’Laryea 65), Bischoff, Croft, Flood, B Wright-Phillips, Proffitt (Murphy 57), Laird.

Sweaty Robbie: Finally, a pre-season win! City beat Hull City 4-0 at the KC Stadium last night. A Shaun Wright-Phillips header put City in front early in the opening period before a three goal blitz inside four minutes emphasised the visitors’ overwhelming superiority. The last three goals came courtesy of Robbie Fowler, Claudio Reyna and Paul Bosvelt. “It is not often a pre-season fixture goes exactly the way you want it – but it did tonight,” said KK afterwards. “I was looking for a big improvement on what we have done before and I got it. I was looking for goals and a clean sheet and we got them and I was looking to give some of the young lads a chance and I was able to do that as well. Overall, it has to be a very good night’s work for us.” Keegan was particularly impressed with the workrate of striker Robbie Fowler. “Robbie put some real sweat on his shirt tonight,” said Keegan, who confirmed the striker will not be required for Friday’s trip to Wolves. “We know he will get sharper but that will come over time. Apart from his goal his leading of the line was excellent. There was a big step up in the game against Hull,” he continued. “We really set our stall out and our attitude was spot on. It helped that the pitch was cut shorter and that there was a nice atmosphere in the stadium. We got a lot of things out of the game, probably a lot more than we expected and we were able to get some of the younger players on into a good situation and they looked very impressive. It as a good night’s work from everyone and that was mainly because the attitude was right. After Doncaster we still had a lot of questions. You are never sure how fit the players are and how mentally they are prepared for these games. At Doncaster and Bury the fact that the pitches were long meant that we couldn’t zip the ball around and that made us look lethargic at times. We looked strong, fit and committed at Hull and that pleased me. We scored four goals and I felt it could have been more. It is not often that pre-season friendlies work out the way you hope but we certainly got that.” Willo Flood was a second half substitute for SWP, and the manager was delighted with the midfielder’s performance. “I was looking to put young players on where they good show what they were about and we were able to do that against Hull. I thought Willo Flood was outstanding when he went on for the second half. You could see Willo do some of the things that Shaun does. He was getting past people and getting his crosses in, it was nice work from him.”

Squad News

Stuart’s Support: Stuart Pearce has given his approval to the two new members of the City full backs’ union, namely Ben Thatcher and Danny Mills. “We have brought a couple of new boys in who settled very well and equated themselves to the rest of the lads. They are decent players and good lads who are good around the place,” he said. “To be fair to Ben Thatcher he went from Wimbledon to Spurs with a big reputation and, as I found out to my cost when I went to Newcastle, if someone doesn’t like your face you are out of the picture. He has had a season at Leicester last year and done well and if I were in Ben’s shoes I would be thinking that I had a fantastic challenge on here at City. We are a big, big club and he will realise that soon enough when the games get under way and by just being around the place. He has come and fitted in well. Danny Mills has also come in and that is half a defence. We know that if we are to achieve where we expect to be in the Premiership we have to be tighter at the back this season. There are lots of strong personalities in that back five now especially with David James and Millsy, who is very vocal on the pitch. Both the new lads are solid defenders but they have the legs to get forward and that is all part and parcel of a full back’s job. I think Millsy gets forward enough and Ben will be encouraged to. However, Cloughie used to tell me that a defender’s job is to do exactly that and anything else is a bonus and that’s how I look at it.”

The Wright Stuff: The negotiations for a new contract for Shaun Wright-Phillips have begun. They began unofficially in the Sunday People this weekend – SWP’s agent was quoted as saying that if City didn’t give his man a much improved new deal, he would leave. The paper said that Liverpool would be on ‘Red Alert’ (geddit?) and would offer £7 million or player swap (thanks JWB). This clearly had the desired effect because two days later, KK announced, “We are looking to give Shaun a new contract. He has earned it and he knows that. We have not got to the stage where we have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s or anything like that. There is no deadline as such but we would like to get it sorted before the start of the season for the player as much as for us. If it goes into the season then it does. He has two years to go on his present deal and I think everyone knows that we want to keep him here. He has never shown any signs of wanting to go anywhere else but here so we will just get on with the discussions. There is no point in bringing these players in from all over the place if we can’t keep the ones we want to keep of our own,” added Keegan. “Of course you never know in football but we are at the very early stages of discussing a new deal with him. Shaun is popular with everyone and rightly so. He is popular with us and you will never find anyone who has a bad word to say about him. He has become the heart and soul of Manchester City Football club even though he is only twenty two years of age.” Shaunie meanwhile has said that he hopes to be pushing for more international recognition. “I am not going to reveal my targets for the season publicly but England would be nice,” he said. “What I have to do at the moment is play well for City and if that chance comes along then I will try and grab it with both hands.”

Heart in the Job: Steve McManaman wants to put last season’s disappointments behind him as he aims to return to form in the 2004-2005 season. “My heart is in the job I can assure everyone of that,” he said. “I want to play football. We have been training twice a day, every day, working ever so hard and I am sure it will pay off when the season starts. I just want to stay injury-free. Last season was incredibly frustrating for me. I played a few games but never got in a real run through chronic injuries. I had a lot of muscle injuries that I had never had in my life. I suppose `frustrating’ sums it up perfectly. I got a little bit of form then missed a game, came back and was getting into the swing of things and then got another knock. I’ve never known anything like it. All you can do is that you stay injury free. I had 10 or 12 years of not getting injured then I come to a new club, I want to impress and I had five or six injuries.”

Don Barrie <news(at)>


Every season by about this time I’m usually getting all ready for the big kick off. Excitement and anticipation building as we wait to see what City are going to serve up to us. I say usually as this year I feel myself being somewhat hesitant in wanting the new season to burst upon us. I can only put this uncertainty down to the apprehension I have for the coming months and having read many websites and fans’ opinions, it seems many of us long suffering Blues are in a similar predicament.

I try to view things objectively and not be over critical of things that don’t go how I think they should (not signing DvB for example) and likewise try not to see things through sky klue tinted specs at the better things that benefit our club. However, I can’t help feeling that some things are sadly wrong at Eastlands.

The very obvious shortcomings of our squad to cope with the ever improving and competitive Premiership seem to be glaringly apparent to all except those that have the power to change them. OK we had players last year who played well below their achievable level of performance but why did have so many? It’s usual for a couple of every team’s players to have a loss of form or a poor season but we had 6 or 7 who didn’t just fall below a fair standard, they were bloody awful.

I can only speculate that the imbalance in the squad meant that some individuals were asked to perform rôles that they struggled to adapt to. If this is the case then why hasn’t the balance been redressed?

We now have a decent ‘keeper who, rate him or not, was one of the major factors in our staying up last year. The Seaman employ was a waste of time and showed that from day one. We are desperate for a commanding centre-back and DvB seemed the ideal choice. That chance has gone and I’m not going to go over old ground except to say it concerns me that in today’s market a speculation of say £6-8 million would have obtained us 2 or maybe 3 very decent players (DvB being one of them) that would have made Premiership safety almost certain. That in itself is worth, we are told, £30 million a year so an investment return in 1 year of 4 or 5 to 1 seems hardly foolhardy.

Another season of gross underachievement by our unbalanced squad is something we daren’t even contemplate but is sadly very possible. Our squad has some good players but it needs 3 or 4 additions to take us well out of the reach of the expectations of any of the 3 promoted clubs and up towards the lowest expectations of the fans. If that investment had occurred then I feel as the PremiershipFootball League divide grows ever wider and our sustained stability in the Premiership became assured we could really build some permanent foundations for our long term resurgence as a potential trophy winning club rather than the bankrolled and subsidised investment that Middlesbrough and Birmingham have undertaken.

I soundly back the purchases of Thatcher and Mills and rue the missed opportunity that was DVB. I constantly feel frustrated at many obvious and common sense decisions being ignored or delayed, like why KK has taken so long to suggest Sun could be a great defensive midfielder when we all thought to give him a chance at it again 18 months ago and why we let Tiatto go with no replacement or chance of signing one on the horizon.

The absence of a true left sided midfielder in our squad seems so amateur and leaves us one dimensional in our play via SWeeP, or is it that we mustn’t give KK’s failed signings too much competition for a place in the spare slot on the left of midfield? I exclude Siberski in this as I think he could be a good attacking midfielder in a 3-5-2 formation, but doesn’t really fit in a 4-4-2 unless he becomes Anelka’s mystery partner – he’s done better at this than most. Wanchope’s knees mean the £2.5 million rebuke that Malaga received last year is again a mistake and as much as I like Macken, we should be too good a side for a (albeit decent) Division 1 standard striker to get into. I backed Fowler’s signing but he has disappointed me the most and I guess KK too. It’s sad to say but it looks like his time has passed him by, trouble is no one else can afford him so we’re stuck with him. As for midfield we need that missing true left sided player.

If we are broke then get what you can – Jason Wilcox has been given away by Leeds and could have done a more than decent job for us. Remember Paul Power having his best season at 30+ something for Everton? Wilcox could have done that for us. A ball playing and tempo setting midfielder is not easy to come by and Macca should be able to fill that rôle but he has just not performed or been up to it. If he still can’t cut it then we really do need one – again something that many have been crying out for but is seemingly overlooked but KK feels a 5th striker is more important. Reyna, Bosvelt and the over-confident Barton just don’t look like a midfield that leaves the opposition quaking in their boots, unless of course they are sitting on the ball, and want their legs breaking – right Joey? Don’t even get me started on Sommeil who I didn’t rate from the start when I saw him mincing about at Maine Road vs. Fulham. £3 million for him whilst taking a £1 million loss on Mettomo who was by far the better player – more stupidity. I’ve got to stop or the rant could last all night and I really want to start looking forward to the season but right now I just can’t see too many reasons to be cheerful.

C’mon you Blues, give me something to cheer about (a decent performance against Hull tonight would be a start).

P.S. My son has now grown out of his ‘Official’ Manchester City bike so it’s now for sale. It would suit any 6-10 year old. Its only 18 months old, in hardly-used condition and bought from the Superstore at Maine Road. If you are interested give an e-mail and I’ll get some photos and spec of it to you.

Neil Higson <neil.higson(at)>


Why do we all get so uptight about pre-season friendlies? After all what are we expecting to see at these warm ups? Yes, we want the team to prepare in the correct way and show signs that there will be some cohesion for the new season but there is a long way to go and I for one remember us being relegated to Division 2 after having an excellent pre-season.

After watching City at Macclesfield a few years ago I swore never to go to one again and with the exception of the Barça game at Eastlands last year I have been true to that. If you’re looking for tonnes of commitment etc. in these games I suggest people save their money for the new season!

[It would be nice to see one or two of our “experienced” players looking as though they were interested – Ed]

Graham Keller <gkmcfc(at)>


A few things I want to comment on tonight. Firstly let’s not all get too carried away with pre-season. If we were winning them all 5-0 everyone would be saying “they’re only friendlies”. Another striker is a must, but let’s look at loans, as I think a couple of the youngsters could be spot on this time next year.

As for Birmingham I think Mat is dead right. I’ve thought for years we should charge teams exactly what they charge us for their tickets. With always selling out, away from home, we are almost always a top category game for everyone else. They get us on the cheap at COMS. In fact could we not use the extra revenue to try to keep home prices pegged?

Best bet has to be 18/1 City to finish top of the league with a 35 point start. The spread betting firms think we’ll finish with between 45.5 and 46.5 points. Buy the spread. If we create as many chances as last season we must get at least 56 points. Or it could all be terribly expensive!).

Richard McDonald <rmac63(at)>


Nice to see City score four goals from four different players. I would have preferred to have seen City play but because I was not able to, instead saw as game on TV. Manchester United 1 Celtic 2, I enjoyed the game very much!

A player to keep an eye on is Craig Beattie of Celtic; he’s only eighteen, love the way he goes forward in a very positive way.

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <britcityblue(at)>


In reply to Mat Howden’s complaint about Brum’s ticket prices. Although I agree £40 is a rip-off, it isn’t possible for City or any other club to charge Brum’s fans £40 if they don’t charge their own fans the same for the same view. This is a Premier League ruling, so I think you’ll find Brum fans behind their goal are charged the same.

[The simplest thing is for fans to boycott the game – Ed]

Tony Preston <tony.preston(at)>


I fully agree with Matt Howden. In cases where the admission charged to City fans is greater than we pay for the most expensive ticket at Eastlands, why don’t City charge every visiting team’s fans the same as their clubs charge us? I cannot believe that Birmingham have the cheek to charge £40.00 to watch a game from a stadium that is poor to say the least. At least when we go to Chelsea to get ripped off we get to see a few decent players.

I for one will not be contributing to Heskey’s inflated wages. Forty quid? They’re having a laugh!

Andy Howell <Andyatbluemoon(at)>


Regarding City and betting, serious or fun bettors should take a look at Betfair ( where City are currently 18.5 to 1 to back to win with 44.5 points (in the handicap betting) and a straight 480-1 to win outright. Anelka is 65-1 to be top scorer. It is also worth noting that you can lay odds too on Betfair, and take other people’s money just like the bookies do – so it can be fun betting against ManUre and taking their supporters’ money! Since it is online, many markets are offered live, and you get to see some interesting things happening – especially with betting in tennis matches.

Simon – ex-Maine Road season ticket holder, and still virginal at Eastlands – Atlanta, USA <AlienUK(at)>


In response to Steve Sterrett’s SOS for satellite polarity and frequency settings, he should try This is a great site as it gives the settings for all of the Sky programmes.

John Breen <breen(at)>

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Newsletter #1039