Newsletter #1213

Apologies for the delay, due to an insufferable migraine, which (contrary to belief) was not brought on by our reserve tonking at the hands of the Rags. 6-0, we’re trying to recall when the last time was we suffered such a scoreline but fortunately the youngsters were not played and were kept safe for next week’s Youth Cup Final.

Tonight Don brings reaction to the Middlesbore game, contract news and the return of Sicknote. We have some excellent opinion on the price of progress, backing the manager thanks to Andy and Lucas.

Next game: Tottenham Hotspur, away, 12.45pm Saturday 8 April 2006


“How to Express Disappointment” News

Got the Message? Perhaps it was due to City losing their fifth consecutive match in all competitions, but you got the feeling on Sunday that Mr. Pearce went for a slightly different approach to his after-match press conferences. In the aftermath of an insipid 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough, there was none of the urbane “I learned to be polite sitting at Mr. Clough’s feet” we normally hear – instead the we got to hear a full on, Psycho-dellic rant. But as BBC Radio 5’s Adrian Chiles pointed out – the outburst was made to sound all the scarier by being delivered in a very quiet, menacing manner. Here’s a flavour of what was said:

  1. “We were so spineless it was frightening. Myself and the players were adisgrace. Our supporters deserved a hell of a lot better then that. Weshowed no courage to win the ball. I thought we were absolutely awful, fromstart to finish. I thought the ‘keeper’s done okay, but the rest were awful.Credit to Middlesbrough, they came here to fulfil a fixture between two toughgames and couldn’t believe their luck. If I was a supporter I’d be disgustedwith that performance. We weren’t good enough today, a million miles away.”
  2. “I’m the first to take the criticism and behind me will be my 11 players.It was a performance that I had never seen before and no one stood up andtook any responsibility. We didn’t have the bottle to play. We weren’t goodenough, it’s my fault, the players’ fault and that’s the bottom line. I wantto be a successful manager and I will be and I don’t mind ruffling a fewfeathers and putting people out to do so.”
  3. “To say I’m disappointed would be one of the biggest understatements ofall time. If I was a supporter, I would be disgusted with that performance.I know I am as a manager. We showed no moral courage whatsoever. I do notinclude the goalkeeper in this, but the rest of them I have told to go home,have a look at their kids and ask them how daddy did today. None of themstepped up to the plate. None of them showed any leadership. None of themearned their wages. Without doubt, it was the worst experience I have had asa manager. I have been in bad teams during my career but I would like tothink somewhere down the line, if I wasn’t playing well, I had the bottle toreceive the ball. I had the bottle to get in someone’s face and I had thebottle to get aggressive with someone, show my aggression out on the pitchand show I was not happy. Our players did not do that today. I am notpassing the responsibility onto the players. The buck stops with me. But if Ihave to do something about it to be a successful manager I will. These boyshave to come back into work again. They have to walk past me in the corridorand look me in the eye. They know exactly how I feel about them at thispresent moment in time. It was unacceptable and if it happens again, therewill be people leaving this club.”
  4. “If you play like that, you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of gettinginto Europe. You would embarrass yourself if you were playing in Europe andproduced something of that nature. The FA Cup defeat is an excuse – and I amnot in the excuse business. You can find a million and one excuses in lifeif you want to. I like the excuse ‘it is my fault, I am going to do somethingabout it’. That is what I expect the players to be saying when they go hometonight.”
  5. “I want to be successful in this job, I’ve come from the shop floor and Idon’t want to go back to the shop floor. I want to stay in this professionbecause I love this profession. By hook or by crook I’m getting there, I’vegot a track record that says, ‘Stuart Pearce gets there, no matter what hehas to do to get there’. I’m going to get there, now people have got to rolltheir sleeves up and come along with me. I need a squad of people to get methere and have good days. They were not there today, and that disappointsme.”
  6. And so on.
  7. 7. And on.

McLaren’s Formula Won: Pearce’s opposite number, Steve Mclaren, could afford to be generous after the game. He took time to defend SP – “Management is easy when you are winning. It is a bit tougher when you are not,” he offered. “The mark of a good manager is how you get through the bad times. Every season, one manager or another goes through spells like this. Stuart Pearce has the character, the staff and the players to pull it round. He has done a fantastic job here over the last season or so but now is the time to hold his nerve and not panic.” Of the match, Mclaren averred that “I enjoyed that. That was a look into the Middlesbrough future. We had seven Academy players on show. Some of our football was breathtaking. We could have scored more, but hopefully we’ve saved them for Thursday. I wanted to look at the youngsters today. They took a while to settle, but once they did they found their footing. There were some very, very good kids on that field. They’ve got a bright future. We’ve got big games coming up. We’ve shown we can create chances, so hopefully we’re due a few.”

General News

No Six Appeal Here! Cripes and zounds! The Reserves’ winning streak came to an end in dramatic fashion this week, and against the worst possible opponents an’ all – the second string were humbled 6-0 at Ewen Fields by MUFC, no less. Fraizer Campbell struck four times, with Rossi and Neumayr snatching a goal apiece. Like we care! Let’s name and shame the Sky Blue Reprobates;
Team: Weaver, Logan, Collins, Ward, M Mills, Laird, Croft, Flood, Haapala, Wright-Phillips, Miller.
Not used: Grimes, Matthewson, Obeng, C Evans, Moore.

Stuart Stays: The general media consensus is that SP has been ruled out of the running to manage England, having failed to make a four-man shortlist compiled by the FA. Alan Curbishley of Charlton, Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, former Celtic chief Martin O’Neill, and Steve McClaren of Middlesbrough are thought to be the main contenders to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson. The list was compiled by a nominations group made up of FA chief executive Brian Barwick, international committee chairman Noel White, Premier League chairman Dave Richards and FA board member David Dein. The quartet has opted to disregard all foreign candidates from consideration to lead the nation following this summer’s World Cup. With the new manager expected to be confirmed prior to the showpiece in Germany, the FA have until June 9 to name their man.

Transfer News and Gossip

Clear Those Decks: A number of recognised names are reportedly on their way out of the club this summer, if newspaper reports are to be believed. The press think SP will axe Danny Mills, Kiki Musampa, Antoine Sibierski, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ben Thatcher to help fund his recruitment drive in the close season. Pearce had always planned to bring in a number of new faces in the summer but the tailing-off of City’s season and the manner of Sunday’s defeat by Middlesbrough has highlighted the need for more signings. SP for his part is only talking about bringing players in, and won’t confirm any departures. “We know the players we want,” he says. “Now it is a case of having a chat with the chairman to see what is available financially and moving forward from there. I hope we will have a bit of money – then we might have to be cute with one or two Bosmans,” which sound (somewhat unnervingly) like a phrase from the KK phrasebook. Responding to last week’s gossip linking City to Aston Villa striker Milan Baros, Pearce said: “That’s a new one to me. I don’t know about that one.”

King Charles Sought: Reports in France are linking Lens goalkeeper Charles Itandje with a move to City. The 23-year-old has been linked with several English clubs in the latter part of the current campaign but speculation is now putting City at the head of the queue should he seek pastures new. Itandje’s current deal with Lens is not set to expire until 2008 and previously, he has stated that he will fulfil the remaining two years of his deal. However, whilst claiming he is keen to remain in France with Lens, Itandje admits that long term he is looking to play on the highest stage. “To go to a very big club is the dream of all players,” he told L’Equipe. “But to leave now would be unnecessary as I’d need to find a club that offers me more important objectives than the ones I already have. Lens have big objectives and with the exception of Lyon, none of the other teams in the league are of a superior standing. But also I think of the financial aspect, this is also a reason I am a pro. A career manages itself strategically not day-by-day.” This move would be a surprising one, with City well stocked with custodians at the moment.

Ex-Blues’ News

To Hull and Back for Mack? Jon Macken is reportedly a target for Hull City. The 28-year-old, who joined Crystal Palace last summer from MCFC, has been on the fringes of the first team at Selhurst Park for much of the campaign, starting just 12 league games to date. With Clinton Morrison and Andy Johnson ahead of him in the pecking order, Macken may look to leave in the summer and Hull boss Peter Taylor is thought to be keen on a deal for a player whose scoring exploits with Preston earned him a £5 million move to City in 2002.

No Fowl Play: Robbie Fowler is still waiting to discover whether he will be a Liverpool player next season. The former England international signed a six-month deal when he returned to his first club from the Blues in January and was set the task of proving he merited a long-term contract. The 30-year-old has so far netted twice in 11 games during his second spell at Anfield, but manager Rafael Benitez has not given him any indication of whether he regards that as good enough. “It’s a bit of a weird situation really because when most players have six weeks left of a season or contract they want their future sorted out,” Fowler told the Liverpool Echo. “I’m different because I really don’t mind waiting until the end of the season. I just want to stay here. I just hope I get a positive answer when it comes. I’ve had no indication what the decision will be yet. I’ve known from the start this is just a short-term deal and the decision won’t be taken lightly by the manager. He’s obviously not made up his mind yet, or if he has he hasn’t told me about it. All I can do is sit and wait. If he comes to me and says there is a new contract there, no one will be happier than me. It’s not really for me to say if I’ve done enough. In an ideal world I’d love to have scored more goals, but I don’t think I’ve let anyone down.”

Squad News

Old and Injured: Andy Cole has updated the world on his fitness and his future this week. “The second operation’s done the trick and basically sorted out what we thought the first one had done. It’s disappointing that I won’t play again for the rest of the season. I was expecting to miss about four or five weeks and be back by now – but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Everybody’s been great with me helping me through. We’re all disappointed that I won’t play again this season but I’ve just got to get on with it now.” And Cole has also been getting on with his contract talks: “The talks have gone well and it should be virtually done and dusted now. I just need to get fit and come back for next season.” And speaking of the injured, the man who defines the phrase “injury prone” is on the verge of yet another comeback. Claudio Reyna has returned to training. The USA midfielder has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, but may now play against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Is Sven Vassell-ating? Darius Vassell has not written off hope of featuring in this summer’s World Cup for England. “I haven’t lost hope about playing for England again – and if the call came for the World Cup I would put off the hernia operation and go,” Vassell told the Sunday Mirror. “At the moment it seems I’m not in Mr Eriksson’s thoughts. But it’s still nice to hear that he says good things about me, and I would be willing to put myself on the line if he wanted me in Germany.”

Are You Two Dunne Yet? Richard Dunne has urged Joey Barton and Sylvain Distin to sign long-term deals. “I hope that Sylvain is here for another four or five years, and then we can build something from a strong base,” Dunne said. “Sylvain is his own man, but being the captain of the club is a major thing for him, and I think he wants to stay. I also think it is important that Joey stays. He seems to have got over his little bit of trouble in the middle of the season and his performances have been terrific. I hope Joey wants to stay. It is up to the club to make sure we can offer future players European football and the knowledge that we will be up there in the league.”

Don Barrie <news(at)>


A lot has been written and thought in recent weeks about whether we are making progress under Stuart Pearce, so I thought that having been a bit quiet this season I would put some thoughts into the ring. On the face of it, we have stood still, with our league position being about the same as when Pearce took over. However, I think there are some very important factors that we have to consider in this discussion:

  1. Last season we finished on 53 points and just missed out on 7th spot due tothe penalty miss on the last day (possibly a blessing in disguise butthat’s another discussion). This season Blackburn in 6th already have 53points with 6 games left and 7th place gets you 48 points at the moment. Thisis mainly due to the awful form of the teams going down and the poor awayform of some of the big teams, especially Arsenal, which means that mid-tableteams have found points easier to come by. On the face of it, thislooks like we’ve gone backwards.
  2. Last year we had an international class playmaker who could turn a game onits head. Selling SWP was undoubtedly good business for the club but lefta vacuum that is hard to fill. Malbranque would have been close to fillingthe gap but he didn’t want to come north and Pearce was right in myopinion not to splash the cash for the hell of it on someone he didn’trate highly enough. I think he’s had a few targets in mind but just hasn’tbeen able to get them. On limited resources, when he does buy a playmakerhe knows he has to get it right and someone like Malbrangue is what he hasin mind. In short I suspect (and hope) we are playing the long game withour money in this area. The lack of a “star” to turn games as Shaun didmany times last year, makes it harder to win games so in that respect 40points by this stage of the season is respectable. Of our international“stars”, Reyna is a waste of time as he’s never fit but equally that makeshim hard to offload. Barton is good but needs a quality “difference maker”alongside him.
  3. Foreign imports almost always take a year to settle down and their secondseason’s performance is usually better than their first. There have beenexceptions, of course, but generally I’d expect more from Riera andSamaras in particular next year. I went to the Portsmouth game as it wasclose to my home and apart from the one-brain-cell Pompey fan behind mewho knew absolutely nothing about football and plenty about rage and anger(mainly directed towards Mendes who won the game for them…), the mostfrustrating thing I saw at very close quarters was how poor Samarasactually is in the air. He was constantly out-jumped by defenders at least6 inches shorter than him and this is an area he needs to improve. Thepoint about imports also applies to graduates from the Academy (look atArsenal); they are only just starting to gel now. Fabregas looked toofeeble last year in the big games but gradually he has grown this year. Wemust look at our youngsters to do the same. Look at our squad most weeksand we are clearly in transition: Anelka, Fowler (wasn’t he one of ourbest players last season?), SWP are all gone and the likes of Bradley,Croft, Ireland etc. are taking time to settle. Remember that Wenger blameda lot of Arsenal’s inconsistency on having young players in the team.
  4. The Premier League has 5 types of team in it according to my thinking:
    1. The super rich and big clubs: Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal.These can simply outspend us and to compete I reckon we’d need about£30-50 million every year and even then we’d be looking at a couple of yearsfor everything to settle down. The gap is immense, our best playerlast year by a mile, is not considered good enough to even get a gameat Chelsea!
    2. The pretenders who want to make the Champions’ League on a regularbasis and are spending accordingly: Newcastle, Spurs and possiblyMiddlesbrough. Look at how much these teams have spent in the last 2-3seasons and look at where they are now. Even with big money way beyondour budget they have struggled to make it happen, although inNewcastle’s case they’ve had one of the worst managers in PremierLeague history. Have a look at their squads and then think about howmuch we would need to spend to get parity throughout the whole squad.If they stay up and the Russian money continues to flood in,Portsmouth could also make it into this bracket, thus demonstratingthat it is money that decides who competes at the top level andnothing else. When you compare us with these sides, we have been doingquite well I think.
    3. The scrappers: Bolton, Wigan, Everton, Blackburn, Charlton. None ofthem play pretty football but they can all scrap for their lives. Theywill have good seasons and average ones, and in a good run might nicka European place, but that is the best they will ever do. They arewell managed, play a physical if rather dull game but get results.Bolton are the best at this but are not getting any better.
    4. The once great now average teams who want to play pretty football butjust don’t have the cash to compete with the teams in the topbrackets: Villa, City, West Ham. The harsh reality is that the pretenders and the scrapperswill usually fight out places 7-14 every year. Generally thereis not much difference between 7th and 14th. All should be safe in mid-tableobscurity and only a major sugar daddy, probably Russian, canchange things. City are the best of these with a good youth system.
    5. The relegation scrappers: The promoted teams plus West Brom,Birmingham and Fulham. Can’t break out as they don’t have enough cash,but don’t want to go down either.
  5. The last factor is the players themselves. The top players who would takeany side forward will always go to the top category teams where they willinvariably get or believe they are going to get decent level Europeanexposure. As a mid-table outfit we will get mid-table players. The onlyway out of this cycle is to be prepared to splash the cash as Spurs andNewcastle have done and show the big players that further money isavailable in an ongoing fashion. To do this we need major investment. Somemay bleat that we would have had this had Keegan not spent it all, butwithout that surge of cash we would be in a relegation fight or possiblyeven a promotion battle right now.

Considering all of the above, is it right to expect us to be up there with the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool? No. I’m afraid we ought to be content with a few more years of mid table nothingness to clear our debts and then when we’ve got some cash, try to do a Spurs and push on. In the meantime we might get a fortunate season such as Everton had last year and Blackburn are having this time around.

So back to my original point, are we making progress? We have a weaker squad than a year ago but less debt and a lower average age. Generally, in terms of performance, we are much the same but in time I think we may be able to push forward. In reality 7th or 8th is the best we can hope for in any season and I suspect we will take turns for that with Bolton, Everton etc. To realistically look at a consistent European place we need to spend at least £30 million and for the Champions’ League £80-100 million over a couple of seasons. That is money we don’t have and to imagine we can make the transition with a team of Academy graduates is fanciful at best and at worst cloud cuckoo land. Let’s be grateful for where we are, consolidate and dream for the future under a good manager.

Andy Clarke <andy(at)>


Firstly apologies for the length of this posting but I needed to get this off my chest. In line with many of Tuesday’s posts, I was initially seething, then frustrated and finally depressed after the Boro match. I’m not normally one to post, but I’m moved to write to support SP in his post-match reaction. There seems to a general end of season nothing to play for malaise setting in with the City players after a terrible run of results. The players needed to be told that they are playing for their jobs until the end of the season.

There is insufficient funding available from the current board, and an unless a benevolent and suitably moneyed investor appears over the horizon, this is likely to be the mid term fact of life for any transfer dealings undertaken by SP (who is the man for the job). After the rash exuberance of the KK years, debts incurred by the club have to brought back to manageable proportions. The Bernstein/Wardle debate is history whatever your opinion, but as much as we would like it to happen, Wardle handing SP substantial transfer funds is not going to happen whilst the club still owes him substantial sums, and the bankers who provided our long term structured loans, and from a business perspective the correct decision. Our goal over the next two seasons will have to be not getting demoted, aiming for a top table finish and highly optimistically hoping to clinch a UEFA Cup spot, hopefully with a few good runs in the cup thrown in to excite us. The question is: what plan do SP and the board have in mind to enable City to achieve this? This is where the board are deliberately disingenuous in their statements to us, publicly aiming high, but behind closed doors aiming to stay up, but hey we’re CTID, and we’ve turned the corner so many times you thought we would have got back to the start!

Our youth development policy is beginning to bring dividends, and will continue to bear fruit. Unfortunately, for the next two or three seasons I believe that fruit is going to be sold to reduce debt, however much we object to this. These are the sad realities as I see them.

However, there are silver linings of optimism. We have a potentially strong backbone that needs to strengthened, whilst clearing the decks of deadwood. Goalkeepers: why do we need 4? Ship out Geert, keep James, NW and KS. James for another 2 seasons, NW on the bench, with KS out on loan for a season with a Championship club and a call-back clause, such that he can take James’ place in the 2008 season. If we have a serious injury crisis, call back KS or plead with the FA for short-term cover if outside the transfer windows. Defenders: unfortunately Distin is going, we should sell/offload/terminate the contracts of Sommeil, Thatcher, Mills and Bischoff, leaving Onuoha, Dunne (captain), Richards and Jordan as our remaining defence, supported by young Mills and Sun as a utility man, meaning that we have to transfer in an experienced centre half and two young, hungry, attacking full backs, one of which could be Logan.

In midfield we all know we have a problem. Barton (as much as I like him) will be sold this summer, and I feel it is necessary to sell or move on Sibierski (lost his footballing ability), Croft (not good enough) and Musampa (even though he has improved as the season has progressed) and Happala (will not make the grade). That leaves us with Reyna (old head for a season), Flood (jury still out), Ireland (normally good passer but still lightweight), Riera and Sinclair, thus requiring us to transfer in two wingers, a defensive midfielder and a playmaker.

We are relatively well blessed with forwards, though I think SP has decided that BWP will not make the grade at Premiership level, but why not promote Miller, Sturridge or Etuhu to the bench until the end of the season, and try them out? I think that SP is right to give Cole a new 1 year contract hopefully on a pay as you play basis, as early season he linked up well with Vassell, but if his injury doesn’t clear how about Hasseilbank on a similar one year deal as it is likely he will be leaving Boro? Not sure about Samaras as his first touch can be non-existent, but at least he gives us a target man, and ruffles defenders. Attacking permutation would therefore be Vassell playing off Cole or Samaras. I would continue playing 4-4-2 with two wingers, and a defensive midfielder and playmaker, playing down the wings, not the long ball tactics currently being employed (more due to lack of personnel on SP’s part I hope, and not a long term trend – if it is SP’s intention to drag us down that road, I for one don’t wish to follow).

All-in-all 11 players out, 7 players in. We all have our ideas on whom those players should be, but if it was told to incoming players that City were trying to form a young attacking team hoping to develop into UEFA spot contenders in 2008, why not? I’m not even going to attempt to fulfill all those 7 positions, but IMHO we should be looking at types like Pennant, Upson, Arca, etc, and hopefully a couple of European/African players who do well this summer. Finding quality defensive and attacking midfielders and support/replacements of Riera and Sinclair will be the key.

After a couple of seasons, whilst holding on to Onuoha, Richards, Sturridge etc., i.e. City’s future, we hopefully will have sufficient financial reserves to spend some serious money and bring in top 6 players, though they will only come if we start playing attractive, attacking football, by getting the ball down on the deck, and coaching a quick passing and movement mentality.

Rant over.

Lucas Sheard – Jakarta <lsheard(at)>


I am in the USA but over in the UK for the end of April and beginning of May.

I’m looking for a ticket for Villa (away) and also Blackburn (away). I’ll have a car, but would be happy to share transport, yours or mine, if possible too.


Simon <AlienUK(at)>


The club will shortly be holding another web users’ forum, so if any McV readers who are regular users/viewers of have any comments they wish me to take forward (positive, negative, constructive) please let me know.

Many thanks, Heidi <editor(at)>


4 April 2006

Birmingham City       1 - 0  Bolton Wanderers      26,493

3 April 2006

Blackburn Rovers      1 - 1  Wigan Athletic        20,410

League table to 05 April 2006 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         32 15  1  0 37  8 10  3  3 23 11 25  4  3  60  19  41  79
 2 Manchester Utd  32 11  3  1 31  8 11  3  3 33 22 22  6  4  64  30  34  72
 3 Liverpool       33 13  3  1 28  7  7  4  5 19 15 20  7  6  47  22  25  67
 4 Tottenham H.    32 10  5  1 27 13  5  5  6 19 19 15 10  7  46  32  14  55
 5 Arsenal         31 12  2  2 40  9  4  3  8 13 14 16  5 10  53  23  30  53
 6 Blackburn R.    32 11  3  2 28 16  5  2  9 15 21 16  5 11  43  37   6  53
 7 Bolton Wndrs    31  9  4  2 23  9  4  5  7 20 26 13  9  9  43  35   8  48
 8 Wigan Athletic  32  6  2  8 19 21  8  3  5 18 18 14  5 13  37  39  -2  47
 9 West Ham United 32  7  3  6 26 22  6  4  6 20 24 13  7 12  46  46   0  46
10 Everton         32  8  2  6 20 19  5  3  8 11 24 13  5 14  31  43 -12  44
11 Charlton Ath.   32  7  3  6 20 18  5  4  7 17 24 12  7 13  37  42  -5  43
12 Newcastle Utd   32  8  5  3 21 14  4  1 11 13 25 12  6 14  34  39  -5  42
13 Manchester City 32  9  2  6 24 15  3  2 10 15 23 12  4 16  39  38   1  40
14 Middlesbrough   31  6  5  5 25 27  5  2  8 19 25 11  7 13  44  52  -8  40
15 Fulham          33 10  2  4 27 20  0  4 13 14 34 10  6 17  41  54 -13  36
16 Aston Villa     32  4  5  6 15 17  4  6  7 19 29  8 11 13  34  46 -12  35
17 Birmingham City 32  5  4  8 17 19  2  3 10  7 25  7  7 18  24  44 -20  28
18 West Brom A.    32  6  1 10 21 23  1  5  9  7 26  7  6 19  28  49 -21  27
19 Portsmouth      31  3  5  6 10 17  4  1 12 17 35  7  6 18  27  52 -25  27
20 Sunderland      32  0  4 12  9 29  2  1 13 12 28  2  5 25  21  57 -36  11

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1213