Newsletter #1246

Lee Croft has today completed his move to Norwich; we have a view on that tonight and wish him all the best.

We have a report on our pre-season game at Bradford and an assessment of the friendlies and new signings thanks to Colin. There is also bizarre news from Italy of new arrival Corradi’s interests, opinion on Channel M, and a plea for screensavers.

City are off to China this week; for those fans heading out there, have fun and send in your views.

Next game: Shanghai Shenhua (Friendly), away, 8.30pm Friday 4 August 2006


It’s the last of the domestic pre-season friendlies and so, on the back of an impressive performance at Port Vale, we head over the Pennines to Bradford. Sitting in the ground brings back terrible memories of those heart-rending TV pictures from just over twenty years ago when the old main stand caught fire and over 50 people died in the flames. The ground is much improved from then but the legroom has to be the worst I’ve ever encountered, even worse than at the Theatre of Delusions. There is a reasonable turnout from Manchester but not many Bradford shirts in sight.

Corradi gets his first start, lining up alongside Hart, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Sinclair, Hamman, Dabo, Reyna, and Sibierski. They appear to be playing 4-5-1, with Sibierski out on the left and the midfield is pretty defensive. Maybe this is going to be our away formation this season? Our old favourite, Richard Edghill, lines up for the Bantams and gets a great reception from the City fans.

The game doesn’t quite get off to the sparkling start we saw on Wednesday at Port Vale and the first significant action, from the City point of view, takes place after 5 minutes. Dabo finds Corradi and his shot from a tight-ish angle is cut out by the Bradford ‘keeper. Soon afterwards City are on the attack again, with a neat nod down from Sibierski to Corradi. He crosses but there is no-one on the end of it. The pressure keeps coming and this time it pays off. Reyna starts a neat move involving Corradi and Dabo and finishes it off by placing the ball inside the far post from a tight angle.

It’s then the turn of Hamman and Dabo to make an opportunity for Sinclair on the bye-line but the ball goes out. Bradford then had a chance but Hart saves easily. City come back and Sibierski plays a great ball to Corradi (yes, that really says Sibierski plays a great ball) but the Bradford ‘keeper just gets there first. We have settled into a nice rhythm and are content to play the ball around until we can fashion an opening.

It was Corradi’s turn to get on the end of a chance carved out by Reyna and Dabo but the defender just got there first. Dabo then had a pot at goal himself and it was a real stinger of a shot that the Bradford ‘keeper could only palm away. Bradford then put on a bit of pressure themselves and had a couple of corners that came to nothing by virtue of some positive City defending.

Micah Richards went on a strong run and crossed from the goal-line. Corradi headed it back to Sinclair, whose strong shot on target was well saved. The Bradford ‘keeper earned his crust again soon afterwards when Sibierski played a good ball (I’ve said it again!) to set Corradi up for a shot that kept low.

At this point, the action on the pitch was a bit slow and the focus was on the fans, as the legendary humour of Blues’ fans came into play. There were no bars open in the ground and the fans started singing various songs about this (“Shall we buy a pint for you”) but the funniest exchange was when the City fans in the East Stand started singing “If you want a pint of lager clap your hands” and the fans in the Dallas Stand responded with “Sing when you’re drinking, you only sing when you’re drinking”.

Attention was soon back on the pitch where there was a bizarre incident. Neat play between Reyna and Hamman ends with Corradi playing a superb crossfield ball inside the full back, to find Sinclair in front of goal. He scores but the referee has blown for an injury to a Bradford player. Corradi is involved again, playing a lovely reverse flick to Sibierski but it goes just behind him. A minute later, Sinclair does find Sibierski, who attempts to place a shot beyond the Bradford ‘keeper but he just gets a hand to it.

The half time whistle goes soon afterwards and it has been a good half for City, even though it hasn’t quite reached the heights of the Port Vale game. A largely defensive midfield has used the ball patiently and well to fashion a number of opportunities for the attacking players. After the interval there are the customary changes, with Schmeichel, Ireland and Dickov on for Hart, Reyna, and Corradi. All three have played pretty well, particularly as the two outfield players have played their first matches of the new season in a blue shirt.

The first action of the second half comes quickly as Sinclair crosses to Sibierski, who blazes well over on the volley (“Not like him” says one wag near me). Then Dabo feeds Dickov, who lays the ball off to Sinclair but the ‘keeper just gets his fingertips to it. Ireland then has a shot similarly deflected for a corner. A neat couple of 1-2’s between Ireland and Sinclair move the ball smartly into the Bradford box but the defence get it away. It’s not away for long though as a great ball from Dabo is headed into Ireland’s path by Dickov. It looks like a goal all the way but the shot goes narrowly wide. The substitutions continue, with Miller on for Sibierski and then Barton for Dabo. Dabo has done really well but Barton is soon in the action, delivering a pin-point curling pass to Miller with the outside of his foot. Miller plays the ball back to Barton but he blazes over.

The Bradford ‘keeper is injured and there is a nice moment as Richard Edghill signs autographs for the City fans while he is waiting to take the throw in. The next few minutes see Samaras, Danny Mills, Marc Laird, and Jordan replace Sinclair, Richards, Hamman, and Thatcher. True to form, the game peters out tamely, with the only scare coming late on when a Bradford forward has a clear header but plays it into the ground and over the crossbar. Both teams clearly need some heading practice, as Samaras also headed a good cross tamely against a Bradford defender.

At the end, Distin comes over to the fans to sign autographs but is clearly non-committal when asked about his contract.

The pleasing thing about the three friendlies I saw is how the quality of the passing has improved out of all recognition. Long passes, short passes, quick passes and a patient attitude all make a refreshing change from last season. The new boys have settled in well and the players all look confident and comfortable on the ball. They are using clever, short passes between a few players to get the ball into the danger areas but are not afraid to switch play to the other wing if required. Nearly all the passes hit the target as well, in contrast to last season.

Players’ Assessments

Hart 8. Looks good so far.
Richards 7. Solid and reliable. Loves going forward.
Distin 6. Not really tested but solid enough.
Dunne 7. The veteran Windass gave him a game but he coped pretty well.
Thatcher 7. Has clearly been told to get forward more and he can cross the ball well.
Sinclair 8. Another busy game and his crossing was far better. Needs more of an eye for goal though.
Dabo 8. Pulled the strings in midfield and pulled them pretty well.
Hamman 7. Quieter game for him, sat in front of the back four, but an effective one as little came through the middle.
Reyna 7. Does what he does well and looked good. Kept the ball moving and usually found a blue shirt.
Sibierski 6. Not bad – for him. Showed some great skill but just doesn’t impose himself enough.
Corradi 7. Looked good. He is a big target man but with a very skilful touch.

Ireland 6. He could well be the answer to our creative midfield question mark.
Dickov 6. Chases everything and makes a nuisance of himself. Unlucky not to get one.
Miller 6. He could also well be the answer to our left sided question mark.
Barton 7. Don’t like him as a person but hard not to admire him as a player. He plays with fire in his belly even in a friendly.
Samaras 5. Not one of his best games. Needs to learn how to keep the ball better.
Mills 6. His confidence seems to be back, which can only be a good thing.
Laird 6. Does the unglamorous Bosvelt/Hamman rôle and should learn a lot from Didi & Dabo.
Jordan 6. Looks back to full fitness and raring to go.

Colin Savage <colin(at)>


I didn’t get to the Wrexham match but have seen the other three. Rochdale was what you might describe as typical City, with them looking ill at ease against a quick-passing and hard-working side. Eventually class and superior fitness told but it was never particularly convincing. The old failings of poor passing and lack of movement were well to the fore in the first thirty minutes.

Port Vale saw them in a different mood and they dominated for pretty well all of the ninety minutes. It might be wishful thinking on my behalf but the coaching seems to be far more professional and they have been taught how to play possession football. They also had the patience to wait until the right moment and the ability to create chances almost at will. This is the mark of a good team. Having a heavyweight like Dabo in midfield allowed Barton to have a free rôle and he was able to pop up in the box to score a hat-trick. There was no way he could have done that last season as he was usually too busy trying to win the ball in front of the back four. The line up against Port Vale was also quite attacking, with Sinclair and Miller on the flanks. I think we will see a lot more of Miller this season – he is strong and direct, with a good touch and he will cause defenders problems. Dabo also looked good after a shaky start. He was usually in the right place at the right time and he passes the ball well, both short and long. The real revelation for me though was Danny Mills. Last season he was clearly unhappy with himself and life at Eastlands generally. It’s early days yet but at Port Vale he was all energy and controlled aggression. He kept his position well and, more importantly, used the ball extremely well when he had it. He also got forward intelligently. If he carries on like that then there’s no way he should be going anywhere. Thatcher was interesting to watch as he hates going forward usually but played almost as a wing back in a 3-5-2 formation. He is also a good crosser of the ball, which we rarely see.

Bradford was clearly the test for a 4-5-1 line up and although the game wasn’t the free-flowing spectacle of Port Vale, the basics were good again. City kept possession and dominated and there was some wonderful interplay between Reyna, Dabo, Sinclair, Hamman, Corradi and even Sibierski. There seemed to be a plan, the movement was good and the pass accuracy was high. These are all the factors that we lacked last season. Once again, the conclusion has to be that a change of coach has been beneficial, even over a short period. Corradi was very impressive. He played alone and was always looking for the ball. He is also a very skilful user of the ball, as you would expect from an Italian player. There was an interesting exchange between him and Joe Hart while play was stopped for an injury. He was clearly explaining to Hart how he wanted the ball played to him. This involved a lot of sign-language and gestures but it showed his experience and professionalism. Reyna also had his first game back after his World Cup injury and he also looked effective. He is not a long ball merchant and he seemed to be much more at ease in a system where the midfield players were close together and that involved quick, short passing. He started and finished the move that led to the goal and I have a suspicion that he is going to be less keen to spend time on the treatment table this season. Hart has been impressive as well, although it’s early days. He dominates his area well, is sound on crosses and seems to be a good shot stopper.

Of course, Bradford and Port Vale are not Chelsea and Arsenal but it was pleasing to see that we were able to keep control of the game for ninety minutes and weren’t outplayed by teams that may not be as skilful but were better organised. We now appear to have a good mix of players in key positions and should be able to select a team to play to a particular game plan. So for the game against Chelsea, I would expect that we would go 4-5-1, with Hamman and Dabo at the centre of midfield with perhaps Dickov up front for the first hour to upset the Chelsea defence. Macken did this pretty well two seasons ago when we beat them and they clearly didn’t like it. At the end of last season we looked like relegation contenders but I’m somewhat more hopeful this season. However, it is City!

Colin Savage <colin(at)>


Very sadly, Lee Croft has departed and gone to Norwich.

I wish him well in his career but fear that he will come back to haunt us, so highly do I regard this player.

We never saw his full potential at first team level as, also with Willo Flood, he was nearly always used on the wing. Croft and Flood are central midfielders, not wingers.

I predict that he’ll have an outstanding season with Norwich and one of the big clubs will snap him up for a much higher fee than we have got for him. I hope that we have a ‘sell on’ clause in place.

Surely we could have loaned him out for half a season? The one that got away.

[Good luck to Lee, many of us feel he didn’t get a decent chance and wish him all the best – Ed]

John Nisbet <nisbet1957(at)>


Welcome back, my dear Mancunian friends!

Italian Blues’ fans are still very proud for our Bernardo Corradi’s signing. Everybody here knows he’s a good and strong striker: also if he’s not a great scorer, I’m sure we shall appreciate him as a very hard worker.

Here is some further news about one of his bigger passions. He was born 30 years ago in Siena, the Central Italian town of the ancient and prestigious competition of the Palio. In Siena there are 17 “Contrade” – their local name for their quarters – making part of this horses’ incredible tournament.

Every 2nd of July and 16th of August of each year since 1189 A.D. this fantastic horse racing aggregates all Siena citizen and a lot of tourists coming from all over the world.

Well, Bernardo is fiercely being part of Contrada of the Bruco (= Italian name of “maggot”): every year he gives a part of his money to his Contrada to try to win the Palio!

Shall Blue fans be nearer to him during our next games at the CoMS? Well the best we can do is buy his favourite Contrada flag and always keep it one of them at the North Stand!

All we can do is to link at:

I’m sure Bernie shall be very glad about it!

City till we die! Renato Tubére – Torino, Italia <r.tubere(at)>


As I continue my one-man campaign for City to re-sign SWP, how about this proposal: a swap with Chelsea.

Give them the £5 million City could generate from selling Distin, chip in the £800,000 for Croft and another £200,000 they earned from BWP and toss in Daniel Sturridge in return for SWP.

Certainly Sturridge is the future but SWP is the present and we know what he can do. I honestly believe that Wright-Philips on the right wing is the missing component for City being a serious side in the Premiership this season and I definitely feel that Chelsea would go for this swap if they do feel that SWP doesn’t fit into their side. Better to get SWP back in the line-up than have him farmed out to Newcastle or Tottenham.

Otherwise, if they can stay clear of long-term injuries, 2006-2007 City are looking pretty good.

Keith Sharp – Toronto, Canada <keith(at)>


Thanks to Peter for putting me in the direction of the all time league table. I too was disappointed with City’s poor position until I saw the criteria for ranking, which was based on average points per game in the top league. One relegation season with Alan Ball can have a very damaging impact on that stat.

However, a more realistic view of success of clubs might be to look at some of the other stats available. In terms of number of games played in the top division we were 6th behind Everton, Villa, Liverpool, Arsenal and the Rags…

In terms of points scored in the top division, which I think is probably a more accurate reflection of the success of each club, the league is as follows:


Pushing for a place in Europe? That will do for me this year.

Martin Glynn <martin.glynn(at)>

OPINION: CHANNEL M CITY PROGRAMME I tells you how to get Channel M. It’s available on free terrestrial in the Manchester area (I guess you need a digibox) and on Sky channel 203 throughout the UK – incredible, I just pressed 203 on my Sky ‘mote and there was City playing Wrexham, followed by Psycho explaining that you can’t have too many Dickovs. Isn’t technology great? Many thanks to Tony for letting us know.

Dorien James <dorien.james(at)>


When each episode has been shown on TV, you can then watch it on your PC. Here’s the link

John Nisbet <nisbet1957(at)>


Did anyone see that City programme on Channel M? If so, what was it like?

Joel Perry <j.perry(at)>


Do any of our readers have any suggestions for MCFC screen savers or backgrounds for PC or laptops, not the ones for mobile phones?

The ones on the MCFC official web site are not very exciting.

I hope that Dave Clinton comes up with a new fixture list for a background. Last season’s was a great one.

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


Article from The Times, which I thought others might be interested in:

The ultimate maverick

Our correspondent delves deep into the colourful complexity of Rodney Marsh.

If Martin Peters was ten years ahead of his time, Rodney Marsh was 200 years late. “I should have been born in the late 1700s,” he said. “That was the time of highwaymen and rascals and romance.” It is a neat summary, but it barely hints at his kaleidoscopic guises as a Blitz baby, a boy beaten with a belt called “Kennedy” and an England player sealing his fate with a gag about masturbation.

An hour into the interview and Marsh has spoken about Salvador Dali and Chinese ink paintings, Elton John and the Rolling Stones, “f***ing idiots” and “total a***holes”. History books tell you that he played for Fulham, dropped to the Third Division to inspire Queens Park Rangers’ League Cup win in 1967, captained Manchester City and got a tan in Tampa. They omit the bits about the family history in which a relative smashed an ashtray into his mother’s face and the two days drifting in and out of consciousness after being bashed in the head during a game against Leicester City. This is Marshland, a maverick world where the stories are day-glo but the opinions black and white. Maybe it is this gift of the gab, learnt as a survival mechanism, that makes him more able than most to explain the psyche of “The Entertainers”.

Exhibit A: “I’m playing for Manchester City against Birmingham. We’re 3-0 up and playing brilliantly. I get the ball in the outside left position. It’s almost like looking through my own mind’s eye and all the other 21 players are there to watch me. I’m going towards a defender. I keep dropping my shoulder. I’m oblivious to the whole game around me. The defender falls on his backside. I’m ten yards from goal. I just need to shoot or pass square to Colin Bell who will score. I try to chip the goalkeeper. It bounces on the crossbar and over. The crowd give me a standing ovation. The manager says, ‘what the f***ing hell were you thinking?’

Exhibit B: “I’m playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies against the Memphis Rogues. It’s 1-1 and we get a last-minute corner. The ball comes in and I hit a bicycle kick into the top corner. Jimmy Husband runs after me. He’s going to hit me, so I turn round and butt him first. There’s a 22-man mêlée. Fans are on the pitch. The referee sends me off and I throw my shirt in his face. I ‘m like a matador in the bullring. Brilliant.”

Marsh says that “The Entertainers” were a club with George Best as their leader and Terry O’Neill their photographer. “Did we know we were different? Christ, yeah. It was a brilliant era. There was rebellion everywhere and nothing was off limits — drinking, gambling, nightclubs until 5am. You got ten parking tickets and you threw them away. We were part of the anti-establishment. They say you get nothing from evolution, it has to be revolution.”

It was no surprise that Marsh, hirsute and sharp-suited, would clash with officialdom. “I fell out with the manager” is the interview’s refrain. “There is an institutional fear of genuine talent in England,” Marsh said. “If Ronaldinho had been English it would have been drummed out of him. It’s astonishing the level of distrust. I would be told, ‘play the way you’re facing’, but I’d say: ‘I’ve got vision.'”

The most famed falling out was with Sir Alf Ramsey. “Me and Alf were oil and water,” Marsh said. “He had a regimented attitude and wanted to get me to play like Geoff Hurst. I wanted to pack in after three caps. It was only Malcolm Allison who kept me going. I got nine but never did myself justice.” It was 1973 in the dressing-rooms at Wembley when Marsh made the quip that ended his England career. Ramsey gave warning that if Marsh did not work hard enough, he would be pulled off at half-time. “Christ!” he replied, ambivalent about the consequences. “All we get at Manchester City is a cup of tea and an orange.” It was his last cap. The brashness and honesty have long conspired against him. In his football afterlife as a pundit, he caused a furore by making a joke about the tsunami. He counters by saying society is too restrictive. “Now you have rules a, b and c, subsections eight, nine and ten.” It was ever thus. When Peter Swales, the chairman at Maine Road, called him in to ask for his opinion of Tony Book and Ian MacFarlane, the manager and head coach, he gave it straight. “I said the truth is they are f***ing useless. They sacked me and put me on the transfer list for that. Elton John’s manager rang and said did I want to take his private plane to LA. So I did. Elton was out of it but sensational company.”

The United States may appear a suitably artificial epitaph, but there was always substance behind the Marsh style. Beaten by his father and “Kennedy”, he went deaf in one ear after his accident against Leicester and spent a depressing ten months as a teen wondering if his career was over. He is a voracious reader and history buff, once stopping the team bus to check a fact in a library. He owns three Dali etchings and “did some shadow-painting of birds recently”. He hates political correctness but loves football, wishing he had played under Arsène Wenger. He has also come to appreciate lesser talents, even those such as the team-mate who labelled him a performing seal. “It’s the things that are ordinary that make the greatness what it is,” he concluded.

Peter Carlisle <Carlisle(at)>

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Newsletter #1246