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MAN CITY INFO VIA THE ALPS "McVittee!" #625


DATE Thursday 20th July 2000

City have made a 6m bid for Ehiogu of Aston Villa but this was today turned down by John Gregory. It remains to be seen whether City are prepared to go higher, especially as they suspended interest in Koller due to the price tag (reputedly not as high).

This issue has a detailed tribute to Cliff Sear, City's stalwart full back of the late 50's and early 60's; the draft itinery for the Tribal Gathering (TG2000); a request from MCVITTIE FC for tournament players; a witty music analysis; opinion and a Why Blue.

Lastly, City play the first warm-up game of the new season on Saturday, so it would be greatly aprpeciated if anyone who attends could write us a match report (or two even)!

Next game: Saturday 22nd July 2000, Linfield away

NEWS SUMMARY

Villa Reject City's Ehiogu Offer

Manchester City confirmed on Wednesday that they had made a 4 million bid for Ugo Ehiogu. But Aston Villa have rejected the Blues' offer for the defender. City have only said that Joe Royle's bid is around double the club's current transfer record, which means the figure is at least 6 million. However, with Villa obliged to pay half of any fee to Ehiogu's former club West Brom, boss John Gregory is holdng out for as large a fee as possible. The Midlands club are signing Turkish international stopper Alpay Ozalan, who is widely presumed to be a replacement for Ehiogu, but even if Royle does manage to agree a fee with Gregory, he'll have to convince the player to come to Maine Road ahead of possible rival bids from Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

Injury Wrecks Amokachi's Hopes

Daniel Amokachi will not be joining Manchester City. The Nigerian's trial this week lasted only two days before City's medical advisers pulled the plug on the potential move. Amokachi has a knee problem and will require a cartilege operation. And while the injury doesn't threaten the player's career, Joe Royle isn't prepared to offer a contract to a man who will be unavailable for a significant further period. "He had his knee scanned and x-rays and he still has problems there so we will not be proceeding any further," Royle told the official City website at http://www.mcfc.co.uk/. "It's a shame for Daniel and he's very upset but he still had a cartilege problem."

Koller Signing "Unlikely", Admits Royle

Joe Royle has admitted that the Blues have made a "firm enquiry" for Jan Koller. But Anderlecht's valuation of the player means that the prospects of him joining City are remote. Royle says he understands that Marseille have lodged a 6 million bid with Koller's Belgian club Anderlecht. And the Blues are unwilling to match that figure. "I won't deny that Koller's name was high on the list of strikers I have considered signing," said the City manager, "but as a manager you have a figure in mind and 6 million for Koller is way over the odds."

"Three Major Bids Already Made"

Manchester City have already made one large offer for an established Premiership star this week. And there's speculation that in addition to the 6 million bid for Ugo Ehiogu, the Blues have made another two approaches for players - at a combined further cost of 10 million. Joe Royle this week blasted reports that he's had problems making signings this summer, saying that Eidur Gudjohnsen is the only player whom the Blues have lost out on. "I heard this morning that we have had a number of setbacks in the transfer market this summer," Royle told the official club website at http://www.mcfc.co.uk/, "but that's a load of cobblers."

Dickov in Blades Link

Paul Dickov could find himself pushed down the pecking order at Maine Road if City sign another striker this summer. And Neil Warnock has admitted he's interested in taking advantage of that situation to take the Scot to Sheffield United. Joe Royle has asked the Blades' boss about highly-rated front man Marcus Bent, and Warnock raised the possibility of an exchange deal for Dickov. However, talks never progressed past a preliminary stage. "I never got into discussing specific figures with Joe over the value of Marcus or Dickov. Discussions never reached that stage," the ex-Bury and Oldham manager told the Manchester Evening News. "I think Joe wants to see how his various players come back for pre-season and then decide which of them will be okay for the Premiership."

Midfield Duo Placed on List

Manchester City have placed Gary Mason and Jim Whitley on the transfer list. Both players are available for nominal fees. With fierce competition for places in central midfield, and neither the elder Whitley nor Mason has much prospect of senior football with the likes of Alfie Haaland, Gerard Wiekens, Ian Bishop, Jeff Whitley, Tony Grant and Kevin Horlock all competing for central midfield rôles. "I cannot see Jim or Gary forcing their way into the first team in the forseeable future," confirmed Joe Royle. "They have slipped down the pecking order and they won't be included in the squad going to Ireland this weekend. We have now told other clubs they are available."

Morrison - Watch Me Go

Andy Morrison is vowing to return fitter than ever in the new season. The City skipper last played for the team last October and can't wait to return to action. The Blues have signed Spencer Prior since Morrison's last appearance and look set to add further to their defensive complement. But Joe Royle says that the bargain buy from Huddersfield is capable of making an impact at Premiership level and has an important rôle to play in the new campaign. And the big defender has assured the City boss that his recent fitness worries will soon be a thing of the past. "Andy has told me he will be combat-fit for the start of the new season," said Royle. "They are his words and not mine and I don't know what he means by that but I know it means there will be trouble ahead for a few Premiership strikers."

Lee Defends His Record

'Blue Moon Rising', a new book on Manchester City, is due out later this month. And the tome has already made the headlines, with the comments of Francis Lee in particular causing controversy. Lee has blasted former Blues' managers Alan Ball and Frank Clark, with the latter drawing particular criticism over the signing of Lee Bradbury. And the ex-City chairman also has harsh words for his successor David Bernstein, who he blames for failing to handle the sacking of Tony Book in a dignified manner when Lee was abroad. Lee claims that he turned round matters off the pitch at Maine Road, but suffered because of poor on-field performances, a factor over which he had no control. "People can say what they like, I know I did not fail," he asserts. "A lot of people who were associated with the club know I didn't fail. It was the players who failed. Unfortunately it does not matter what happens off the pitch, the fans are only interested in results."

Secretary of State Visits City's New Home

Building work is now well under way on Manchester's Commonwealth Games stadium at Eastlands. And the Blues' new home was visited this week by Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Smith gave the development his endorsement, confirming that construction is progressing on schedule. "I'm very impressed with the work going on here," he said. "The pace of work is going like a steam train and the stadium is already rising above the ground. The project will certainly be on target for next year."

City in Ticket Initiative

Manchester City have announced a new joint enterprise as the club moves to revamp the Dial-a-Seat hotline. The Blues are joining forces with Piccadilly Box Office in a bid to improve the much-criticised service. From Wednesday 26th July 2000, fans will be able to dial 0161 828 1200 seven days a week, between 8am and 9pm from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 8pm on Saturdays and between 10am and 5pm on Sundays. Tickets sold over the phone will be posted out, or, if purchased within three days before a game, collected from Maine Road. "Our Dial-a-Seat service needed a complete overhaul," director Chris Bird admitted to the official club website at http://www.mcfc.co.uk/. "The link with Piccadilly Box Office will hopefully deliver a much improved facility for our fans."

Peter Brophy (peterbrophy@mancity.net)

CLIFF SEAR - TRIBUTE

The recent death of Cliff Sear was reported in my news summary in MCIVTA 623. The following is based heavily on a tribute supplied by Geraint Parry to the 'Robins Review' Wrexham mailing list on 9 July, with additional material taken from the 'Red Passion' independent Wrexham website at http://www.red-passion.com/. Factual detail on Cliff's playing days is taken from the Manchester City Complete Record, edited by Ray Goble, and my own father's recollections of Cliff as a player form the basis for comments on his playing style and abilities.

Cliff Sear was a loyal servant to City for over a decade, and as it is this aspect of his career which will be of most interest to MCIVTA subscribers, I have added significantly to the detail in the original piece on his time at Maine Road. However, I have not excluded or shortened the extracts relating his work at Chester and Wrexham, with whom he had even longer spells than at City, since this material shows the esteem in which he was held at both clubs.

A capable if unspectacular player, he was a decent and knowledgeable football man whose career in the game spanned four and a half decades. The account of his early days in football also offers an interesting contrast to the climate in the modern-day game.

A Great Loss

A director of the club [Wrexham] has confirmed to us that long-serving Youth Development Officer Cliff Sear passed away on Saturday, 8 July. News of his untimely death at the age of 63 will come as a great shock to officials, players and supporters of the club alike, as well as his many friends and colleagues throughout the game.

Born in Rhostyllen, Wrexham on 22 September 1936, Cliff worked down the mines as a youngster before being spotted by Manchester City. His early football in the Wrexham area was played with Rhostyllen Youth Club, whom he helped on a great run in the old Welsh Amateur Cup of 1954/55. Quite a few Football League scouts were watching their games then and Wrexham even picked up George Evans from that team, but strangely missed out on Cliff. City were not so easily put off and the youngster signed amateur forms for them in the summer of 1955.

He would travel the four hours to Manchester by train and play Lancashire League games every Saturday. But it was this travelling which forced him to leave City and sign for Rhostyllen Sports Club, before Alan Ball Snr picked him up for Oswestry Town. Highlights of his time at the Victoria Road Ground included a win againt Shrewsbury Town in the Shropshire Senior Cup Final and a Welsh Cup semi-final meeting with First Division Cardiff City at the Racecourse in 1956.

Cliff was still working down the pits at that stage, and often reflected that his background made him appreciate how fortunate he had been in his subsequent career: "I left school at 15 and went straight down the mines. George Evans was a fitter above ground, whilst I used to work at the coalface. I worked at Bersham for five years in total. Young kids these days come straight into football, and don't really know what life is all about. Having seen how hard it was for youngsters when I was playing, it gives you a broader perspective."

City came back in for him a short time later and he signed for the Blues, then FA Cup holders, in January 1957. He went on to play in 248 league games during his time at Maine Road and although he featured in both full-back positions, the vast majority of his appearances saw him stationed on the left.

He made his senior début for City in a 3-3 draw at Birmingham in the last game of the 1956-57 season, before featuring against German side Werder Bremen in the club's end-of-season tour. The following campaign, in which City finished fifth in the table and became the only side ever to score and concede 100 league goals in the same season, saw Cliff establish himself in a defence which included the likes of Bill Leivers and Dave Ewing, with the legendary Bert Trautmann, of course, in goal.

Cliff soon impressed enough to earn representative honours, being called up to the Welsh Under-23 squad for a visit to Scotland and also playing against the same opponents at the Racecourse. He remained a regular choice at club level, too, playing in 221 league games in his first seven full seasons. He also took great pride in his selection, in November 1962, for his only full international cap, when Wales played England at Wembley.

It would be wrong to say that Cliff Sear is one of Manchester City's all-time greats, but he was a reliable performer who held his own in the top division of English football over several seasons. His lack of flamboyance probably ensured that he often passed relatively unnoticed, but he was a dependable defender during what were often turbulent times at the club. Graceful and with more skill on the ball than many full-backs of his era, Sear preferred where possible to play his way out of trouble. His stylish performances saw him oust Roy Little, who played in the 1956 Cup-winning side, and hold off challenges for his place from a series of other players in the following years.

Relegation battles were a regular feature for much of Cliff's time with City and the 1958 placing was the last time the Blues would finish in the top half of the old First Division until the 1968 league championship season. After one or two previous near-misses, City were finally relegated from the First Division in 1963, and though Cliff played in 35 games in the unsuccessful attempt to win an instant promotion, his career seemed to have stalled when he was called on only seven times as the Blues slid to what was then the club's worst ever league position in 1964-65.

Then the summer of 1965 saw the arrival of a new managerial pair who changed the course of the club's history. And while, in the two years preceding his departure in April 1968, Cliff played exclusively reserve-team football as a senior squad evolved which would go on to domestic and European success, he did return to play a significant rôle in the start of the club's revival under Mercer and Allison. Nineteen appearances in the 1965-66 season earned him a Division Two championship medal and his one league goal for City came in his penultimate first-team game, a 4-1 win over Bolton on the way to the divisional title.

When Cliff finally left the Blues, more than eleven years after joining from Oswestry, he moved closer to home by signing for Chester. He turned out 48 times in the league for the Cestrians before moving onto the coaching staff at Sealand Road when a knee injury ended his playing days. Cliff had obviously made a good impression on chairman Reg Rowlands, who immediately offered him the chance, accepted eagerly, to start up the club's youth policy.

One of his first finds was John Relish, who later turned professional and went on to manage Newport County. Soon after followed the Futcher twins, then many other well-known names. At this time Cliff was also helping to coach the first team and assisted in the Seals' run to the League Cup semi-finals in 1975, which included victories over Newcastle United and reigning champions Leeds United. In the last four, Chester faced Aston Villa, and after a 2-2 draw at home, lost only 2-1 in the return leg at Villa Park.

In the late 1970s came Cliff's biggest find, a certain Ian Rush, whom he first saw play at Flint as a 13-year-old in 1976. Then, in 1982, Cliff was appointed Chester manager following the resignation of his former City team-mate Alan Oakes, but within a few months he had decided he preferred coaching the youngsters and returned to his rôle as youth team manager. However, the summer of 1986 saw Harry McNally take charge at the club and, with the new regime wanting to make changes to the coaching staff, Cliff lost his job.

Chester's loss was certainly Wrexham's gain when then-manager Dixie McNeil stepped in to bring him back over the border. In fact, ex-Chester 'keeper Grenville Millington once told the Chester City Independent Supporters' Association that he thought that the worst mistake that Chester ever made was to let Cliff Sear leave, with his subsequent success at the Racecourse emphasising the magnitude of McNally's error.

Cliff, however, was pleased with the move to Wrexham: "It was the summer of 1987 that I first came to the Racecourse. My first impression was of how big a club Wrexham was, much bigger than Chester. I wanted to assess the whole situation at first, and then, after a couple of months, I asked Mike Buxton to come and help me."

The products of their hard work began to bear fruit in 1989/90, when Gareth Owen, Wayne Phillips, Phil Hardy and future Premiership star Chris Armstrong all broke into the first team. But against the backdrop of this professional success, Cliff suffered a major personal blow in 1990, when he suffered a mild heart attack. After a six-month break, he returned to the Racecourse and continued unearthing young talent until his death.

Cliff's service to Wrexham was recognised in May 1996, when he was awarded a testimonial. City sent a strong side to the Racecourse for to take on the Robins - and were thrashed 6-1 in front of over 4,000 fans. Spurs striker Chris Armstrong, another one of Sear's proteges, guested for Wrexham that night and scored a hat-trick.

Speaking at his testimonial, Cliff told of how happy he'd been working at the Racecourse: "Brian Flynn is a great boss to work for, as are [his assistants] Joey Jones and Kevin Reeves. They'll do anything to help Mike Buxton and myself. We don't always agree, but that's why we work so well together as a team. I've enjoyed every minute of it here at Wrexham. The people have all been so friendly to me, I just can't repay them enough. Every player will tell you there's no substitute for playing, but I've thoroughly enjoyed my time coaching, especially at Wrexham. We've had players come through into the Welsh and Eire squads and there's more in the pipeline yet."

For the likeable Sear, who admitted to being a nimble ballroom dancer and an avid fan of Dick Francis novels, the lure of football never diminished: "I must watch well over 100 games a season, normally two every Saturday. However, I never tire of watching youth football, after all, you never know what you might unearth!"

On a personal note, I was only talking with Cliff at the training ground last Tuesday lunchtime. We discussed the recent Euro 2000 championships and the latest crop of youngsters to join the club as first year scholars. It is such a shame that he will miss out on watching their progress as Wrexham prepares for its first season in the FA Academy structure, something he worked long and hard to attain.

While clichés are often over-used at moments like this, I think it is only fair to say that Cliff was a true gentleman and will be missed by all those fortunate enough to have met or worked with him.

We send our deepest condolences to his wife Rita and the rest of his family at this very sad time.

CLIFF SEAR (Sept 1936 - July 2000) RIP

Peter Brophy, with thanks to Geraint Parry and http://www.red-passion.com/ (peterbrophy@mancity.net)

MCVITTEE FC

The mighty McVittee FC are taking part in a 48-team football tournament this coming weekend (Sat 22/Sun 23 July) in Leeds, or to be more precise Leeds Uni's, Bodington Hall off the A660 Otley Road.

So are you all thinking, just what is McVittee FC? Well basically it's people like you and me, yes ordinary folks off the list (MCIVTA) who gather together to actually play football, yes ball, nets and boots, none of this simulation stuff, against like minded souls from other football teams' lists. This coming tournament is a culmination of a season long league (nothing too serious), this year's winners were Arsenal, but I digress. This year's tournament has teams from as far as Ayr to AEK Athens, from Lincoln to Lens and all points north, south, east and west. We're a little short of numbers, so if you fancy coming and playing then contact either (preferably before 17:00 on Friday 21):

mford@fs1.li.umist.ac.uk
or
dave.barker@moonfish.co.uk

If you just fancy coming along to cheer the lads you'll be more than welcome; once the football is over the partying starts.

For more info and details, take a look at http://www.internetfootball.org/.

Many thanks, Martin Ford (mford@fs1.li.umist.ac.uk)

TRIBAL GATHERING (TG2000)

Below you will find the first draft details of this year's Tribal Gathering.

Friday 29th September

Events will take place in the bar opposite the Oasis Suite and the Oasis Suite itself in the Platt Lane Complex.

Morning: We have had the bar opposite the Oasis Suite reserved, from about 11:00am onwards, for a screening of last season's video and maybe a showing of the Blackburn game too. Those who attended last year will remember that this was a great opportunity for folk to meet and chat to each other before weekend's festivities began in earnest. We all watched the game against Gillingham at Wembley and cheered like lunatics at every goal that was scored (including Gillingham's). The bar will be open serving alcohol and soft drinks, and the food bar will be open too. Children are welcome. There's a very good chance that a few of the players may make an appearance to say hello, sign autographs and what have you, when they finish training for the day. Rough numbers are needed for this event (for staffing purposes), so please email DEBS@MANCITY.NET (don't forget the "S" at the end of my name) if you plan on coming along to this.

Evening: The now legendary Friday night TG welcoming party is booked to take place at the Oasis Suite in the Platt Lane Complex on Friday 29th September 2000. It will start at around 7:00-7:30pm (time to be confirmed). Because this is a licensed venue, there will be no children allowed. There will be the usual buffet, kamakazi karaoke (you don't get to choose what you sing - the DJ or audience does), disco, fun quiz and a Q&A session with specially invited guests (to be confirmed [Gary Owen has already confirmed his attendance]). Moonchester will be there, up to his usual antics and let's hope he gets up on the karaoke for us all again. He's brilliant for a mascot that doesn't make a sound! Has to be seen to be believed! As well as guest speakers, invitations have been extended to a whole host of ex-City players and "celebrity" City fans. Once again, as and when acceptances are received, guests' names will be posted on here. Tickets for the party are priced at 9.00 each. I know this is increase on last year's price, but we got a lot of "freebies" last year from the landlord of the pub we held it in. Rest assured that there will be no profit made on this price, as any monies that are left over will be put towards the 5-a-side tournament on the Sunday and all the rest (if any) will be donated to the Youth Academy as they were last year. Remember the commemorative keyring last year? Well, I've lined up another little momento for you all to take away with you - hope you like it. People wanting tickets for this event should please email DEBS@MANCITY.NET (don't forget the "S" at the end of my name). Important: If you require a match ticket (priced 21.00) as well as a party ticket, then applications are to be made to BOB@MANCITY.NET. The overall price for tickets for both events will be 30.00. No tickets will be despatched until payment is received. Cheque and address details will be sent to you upon application.

Saturday 30th September

Events will take place at Maine Road, Moss Side and Rusholme, Manchester.

Morning: A tour of the ground is planned for Saturday morning. The timing of this tour depends on the number of people interested. Last year, there were too many for one tour, so two took place instead. All folk interested in going on a tour of the ground should contact BOB@MANCITY.NET.

Afternoon: Manchester City vs. Newcastle United - the main feature of the weekend. 125 tickets have been secured, so early application is advised. So far as we know, all the tickets are located in the Main Stand and are priced at 21.00. Applications for tickets should be made to BOB@MANCITY.NET. Important: If you require a ticket for the Friday night party as well, then the overall cost will be 30.00. No tickets will be despatched until payment is received. Cheque and address details will be sent to you upon application.

Evening: Looks like we could all be ending up at the Sangam Indian restaurant again, on Rusholme's now-famous "curry mile". Almost 50 of us went there last year (after several glasses of pop in local hostelries). The restaurant staff were fantastic and very tolerant and we even had a Richard Edghill look-a-like serving us and signing autographs! Emails to DEBS@MANCITY.NET if you are interested in going for a curry on the Saturday night.

Sunday 1st October

Events will take place at the Platt Lane Complex

Morning: Stef (Blue Dynamo) has very kindly offered to organise this year's TG 5-a-side tournament. A great favourite of past Tribal Gatherings. This is usually the Wookie's baby, but (fortunately for him and unfortunately for us) he is now a big IT hot-shot in the Smoke and is unable to organise it for us this year, due to his busy, busy life. Hopefully, he will be able to join us for the weekend itself though. We are quite hopeful that there will be another City Old Boys' side taking part in the tournament again. Further details will follow. If you have a team to enter into the 5-a-side tournament, or would like to put your name down to play in one of the many teams that will take place, send an email to SROCZNIAK@HOTMAIL.COM or give him a shout on the Blue View message board.

Should be fun...


FRANCIS 'Lee One Pen' LEE

Tuesday night's documentary on Channel 4 was about soccer's bad boys. The representative team (from memory) was as follows:

1.      Schumacher (Germany - took out Batiston)
2.      Julian Dicks
3.      Norman Hunter
4.      Tommy Smith
5.      Ron Harris
6.      Norman Whiteside
7.      Roy Keane
8.      Dave McKay
9.      John Fashanu
10.     Francis Lee
11.     Graeme Souness

I found it strange that there was no Steve McMahon, no Vinnie Jones, no Billy Bremner and no Dennis Wise, but Frannie was included because 'he was the best diver ever'. The programme (and Jack Charlton) claimed you dare not let Francis turn and run at you because he would go down in the box for a penalty. I know Frannie has the record for most penalties won and scored in a season, but this was not a side of his game I was really aware of. Frannie himself says that he profited from a few decisions but that overall he should have had a hundred that weren't given. As I was only young (ah bless!), when FL was playing, can anyone who watched the man, week in week out, answer the question:- Diver or not?

The programme also showed his many impressions of a clenched fist windmill (especially against Norman Hunter), so maybe diving is not all he made this team for.

Stuart Wells (bluestu@city.freeserve.co.uk)

GUY IN THE CHANGING ROOM

In MCIVTA 624 Mark James (surely not the one who has wound Nick Faldo up?) asked about the guy in the changing room at the end of the Blackburn game with his arm round the Goat. He was indeed a "mere" fan who wangled his way into the changing room. He just followed the players (I think he had the Goat's shirt) down the tunnel and nobody stopped him. At the end of Soccer A.M. he was actually on the five minute phone-in telling all. What a star.

David Kilroy (davidkilroy@cwcom.net)

IS IT JOE OR IS IT MY AIR FRESHENER?

I was just reflecting on the ups and downs (mostly ups) of last season and I remembered the reason we were so successful.

Cast your mind back to the good run we had before the home match against Huddersfield, which we followed up with another two defeats. I can now exclusively reveal the reason for those three straight defeats. I always have a MCFC air freshener in my car, but for those three games my car was without the sweet smelling City shirt hanging from the mirror. I realised with dread that my lack of air freshener could somehow be affecting the performance of our beloved Blues. So before kick off at the Swindon match I rushed to the shop in the Kippax and bought three air fresheners to make up for the three games we had lost. We then beat Swindon 3-0, proof if ever it was needed that my air fresheners play a part in City playing well.

I would like to officially apologise for the error I made and the resulting three losses (which could have made the difference between us finishing 1st or 2nd). And I promise it will never happen again!

Also I was wondering if any one else has any superstitions that they have to go through? Knowing that if they don't City will probably lose?

And if there are any souvenir shop managers out there, make sure you stock up so I don't run out next season!

Rob Hyslop (robert.hyslop@baesystems.com)

ASHES

Does anyone know what is going to happen to the Ashes of former Blues, scattered around the Maine Road turf, when we move to the new stadium? Are they going to be transported to the new ground and reburied, or left behind?

CTID, Richard Mottershead (richardjohnm@hattonblue.com)

MUSIC, MAESTRO, PLEASE!

Recent debate has centred on the tricky subject of which heavyweight song with plenty of frightening bass and clanking drums can we intimidate the opposition/wind ourselves into a tight little frenzy with this new Premiership season.

Although "Movin On Up" is relatively recent and positively dripping with Blue connections and relevance (and a decent enough tune to boot), is it not a little bit "lightweight" and cosy in a high-pitched sort of way? Sort of thing they might want to treat us to at The Dell or some other potting shed. The thought made me cast my mind back to start of match and out of body experiences I've had on my travels over the years. It has to be said that a large number of extremely sad and clueless divots parade around to a really quite appalling array of glamrock nastiness around our continent. I have been bitterly disappointed for example and very nearly choked on my sausage to be treated to Europe's "de-de-de-der-der, derrr, det-det der" ("Final Countdown" or some such pseudo armageddon-meets-too-much-eye-make-up-and-trouser-fumbling sort of cobblers) whilst feeling the deep vibrations of imminent match-time on Borussia Dortmund's Sudtribune. Nothing makes my bockwurst droop more quickly than Eurotrash-glamrock-and-pop-Scandinavian-garbage, especially when you are wedged into a giant, scarily steep terrace over-populated with yellow-clad Dortmunders thundering for show-time to begin. I mean, could we pop out of the tunnel to Aqua's "Barbie Girl" perhaps? Difficult to imagine anything worse than fuzzy-haired hopelessness of that ilk unless you happen to have been to a Cannes vs. Monaco derby, which are seemingly piped out to Charles Aznavour's inebriated cousin Jean-Luque having a quick session of navel indulgence.

We could of course do the Euro 2000 full frontal and get a scantily-clad and little-known female crooner to stand on a box and sing a "live version" of something moving like "Bring on the Clowns". Or better still, get Paul Young to agree to do it and then start the music without him. The Dutch are so confident that at places like Ajax they play the excrutiating "We Are The Champions" before the game has started. The audience are already fully anaesthetised at the ArenA anyway, having had to take Western Europe's most urine-ridden underground out to a point beyond the limits of pleasant canalside Amsterdam to a tower-block, concrete and steel-infested nightmare somewhere in the dim suburbs of Diemen, where plastic cups of alcool-vrij beer is the nearest you get to seat of the pants football experience-type pleasure. If ever there was an anodine tribute to UEFA and the future of football, the ArenA is it and it certainly deserves as many noxious Queen hits as they can find under the great concrete vaults.

On the rain-swept terrace at the Bokelburg, Mönchengladbach's home, however, I underwent the curious experience of ducking horizontal showers whilst being bombarded by Crockett's Theme by Jan Hammer, an eerie and worthwhile experience awarded a gutsy 3 out of 5 on the Hair-On-The-Back-Of-The-Neck-ometre. A mate of mine (very strange lad, it must be said) swears that even the hairs in his pants are standing on end when the Z Cars theme strikes up at Gloomison Park. I proposed to him that this is akin to becoming sexually aroused in front of marshmallows but everyone to their own, I suppose. Not for us theme tunes to cop shows from the telly, methinks, although the Swampdwellers might like to look at "Taggart" a bit more closely and Bradford could consider "The Theme To Dixon of Dock Green". Sunderland's telly inspired classical swirls were all very well and I have heard similar at the Parc des Princes, which should have been named the Parc des Pants the night I was there, as the baroque stuff masquerading as audience warmers encouraged only a minor Mexican wave (itself a hanging offence) and a deeply disturbing outbreak of pains aux chocolats. Jessies' food at matches will have to be carried over for another day, however, as it is a whole chapter of nastiness all on its own.

Back on the Hair-ometere, the Catalan national anthem is a laugh before Barcelona games, although from where I was sat right at the top of the upper tier, it was difficult to tell whether this was a weighty national rallying call or Lionel Blair trying to eke a semi-quaver or two whilst playing a clarinet with his back-end. I recall a similarly trying experience in the Luis Casanova in Valencia where a tinned band struck up a whole series of colonial Spanish marching hymns much like the awful screechy trumpet-induced anarchy before bull fights. Luckily there were 8,000 travelling Schalke fans there that night who drowned the place with a heaving Gothic version of the Pet Shop Boys' classic. We did the same song some service with our own "Uwe Rösler", never sung with more gusto than a classic end-of-season singalong at Hillsborough, where we raised the roof when the old Hoover scored for us too. The start of that match was made memorable by Wednesday's insistence on playing Simple Minds' "Waterfront" for ages before the teams came out. Now there was a classic base-heavy, tub-thumping play-in that had that great old ground positively throbbing with atmosphere. We need something weighty and nerve-jangling like this.

As the boy Walsh said last time, the old Fat Boy Slim opening for Blackburn certainly cut the mustard. What a 5 out of 5 that was on the Neck-ometre, compared to the deflated balloon feeling after the Gillingham game having to "get up" to "Rockin' All Over The World". Is that Status Quo? Are they taking the mick? No wonder everyone looked dazed on Wembley Way afterwards after Rossi and the old pensioner's league had had their wicked way with us. The boy Redgrave may have a leaning this way with his "decent rousing rock anthem" for the Main Stand, so we'll have to see what he comes up with, as the Main Stand likes nothing more than a bit of Val Doonican whilst unscrewing the flask tops in my occasional experience of that den of iniquity. Of course this cheap jibe will be totally irrelevant next season as the whole ground will be a tumult right from Game One. Anyone with a flask and a penchant for a cheekily-wrapped slice of Battenburg should be aware there's going to be no time for that kind of controversy when we are shouting for Premiership City.

As for the boy JimSim and his bananas, we do need something sharp and visual, but you can't eat Battenburg when you've got a six-foot banana in your hands, Jim. If the Italians have made a Europe-sized gaffe with their hopeless Foghorn Men, then the giant flags and flares are fantastic. Forget the dibilitating bleating of some crazed goof with a loud-hailer (there was one at Parma who was utterly utterly away with the fairies), let's get the Slim Fat Boy machine moving, knock up a variety of the biggest laser blue and similar flags and smuggle in the flares. Add the entire Lazio home end bouncing trick and free Battenburg with every programme and we will be in heaven and that's for sure. P.S. Cathal, the pills seem to have done the trick, mate. Thanks a lot.

Simon Curtis (simoncurtis@linguarama.com)

OPINION - WORLD CUP 2002

I do not want to re-open the Man United debate but whoever is selected for England, we need to get right behind them in the World Cup qualifying game in October(?) this year. If Messrs Beckham, Scholes and the Neville pair are on form and scoring goals and defending better (ahem!) let them do it for England too. A couple of Man Yoo fans that live here in Cayman Islands have shamefully intimated that an early return for Stretford England players is better for their club. Sad but true I'm afraid.

We need to qualify early and convincingly and erase the memory of the abortion (that's being kind) that was Euro 2000.

Why?

If England fail miserably, Mr Keegan will be shown the door; the FA will need a scapegoat for several reasons. Euro 2000 on the field performance and the appalling campaign for the World Cup 2006 bid (our failure was not all down to the hooligans, but that's another story) and if we fail to qualify for World Cup 2002 it's bye bye Kevin.

What's that got to do with the price of eggs in China? Well who would be Keggers' successor?

England Manager Criteria:

  • English Born.
  • Premier League manager.
  • Preferably a former England and Premier League (top division) player.
  • Proven track record of success as a manager.
  • Ability to motivate and cultivate a winning culture and self belief in a team.

Mr Royle is all of the above (well 4 out of 5), just think that if he can do what he has done for City on a limited budget, imagine what he can do with the pick of the league with only a few games to prove himself? I know it's a huge step up but I'm laying down the gauntlet as to who would be an alternative.

The next other candidate is John Gregory, who is about as much use as the Popes' balls. Especially after he has announced he is going to electronically tag players on non match days.

Who else is in the frame? Alan Curbishley (shurely not)?

Of course that's just my opinion, I could (hopefully) be horribly wrong and England thrash Germany in October when it really counts.

So we have to shout for City and England next season and toast the success for Keegan, otherwise Mr Weaver will get a very early call up. Not a bad thing I suppose, no doubt he is good but is not the finished article yet. We all need to see him do his stuff against Kewell, Petit, Henry, Beckham, Owen, Flo etc.

BTW - my choice for opening anthems for the team to come out is the Fat Boy Slim track that was used last season on a number of occasions (I forget the title) or Oasis - Roll With It, or Gustav Holst - Mars - The Bringer of War (Bauhaus used to come on stage to this one, stirring stuff).

CTID & Eng-er-Lund, Phil Lines (Phil.Lines@cwcay.cwplc.com)

OPINION - MUSIC

In response to David Cash's suggestion that the team come out to Queen's "We Will Rock You", I would have to say I couldn't disagree more.

That type of cheesy drivel is more at home at Old Trafford or the set of Gladiators and probably booms out at grounds all over the Third Division. I thought that "Right Here, Right Now" was ideal, and that its replacement (if one is needed) should be similarly rousing and probably contemporary.

My best suggestion would be Oasis' "Hello" as it is up-beat, positive and potentially intimidating to the opposition. It has obvious City relevance thanks to Liam and Noel, and the chorus (borrowed from one G. Glitter) "Hello, hello, it's good to be back, good to be back" makes this the ideal season to use it.

My view on music assisted goal celebrations is simple. Clubs who buy in to such things are invariably those who have become fashionable overnight, who probably have cheerleaders, and whose fans aren't really sure of how to behave at a match.

If City start this sort of nonsense, I'll chain myself to the gates and starve myself until they stop. Either that or I'll complain via e-mail...

Scott Turton (Scott.Turton@uk.michelin.com)

OPINION - SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

Why is Joe ok at spending 6 million on Ugo who has a couple of caps, whilst he is not prepared to spend 6 million on Jan Kohler who would be a great buy and is a current international of a top European side (Quinny all over again)?

Graham Lord (gooch@logos.cy.net)

PROGRAMMES FOR SALE

If there is anybody interested in City programmes then I have some for sale:

England v Sweden        May-68  Excellent Condition     2.50
*Colin Bell's first international*
City v WBA              Oct-55  Creased                 1.00
City v Blackpool (FAC)  Jan-56  Taped edge              1.50
City v Forest           Jan-58  Excellent Condition     2.00
City v Aston Villa      Apr-59  Excellent Condition     1.50
City v Stockport (LC)   Oct-60  Token Missing           4.00
*City's first League Cup game*
City v Chelsea (a)      Nov-60  Taped edge              1.50
City v Fulham (a)       Dec-60  Creased                 2.00
City v Huddersfield (F) Feb-61  Slighty creased         2.00
City v Torino (F)       Oct-61  Excellent Condition     5.00
City v Notts County(FAC)Jan-62  Excellent Condition     2.00
City v Leeds            Nov-63  Staple missing          1.00
City v Huddersfield (a) Oct-65  Writing on Face         1.50
City v Blackpool (FAC)  Jan-66  Excellent Condition     3.00
City v Bolton (LC)      Sep-66  Excellent Condition     2.00
City v Wolves           Oct-67  Good Condition          0.75
City v Leeds            Oct-67  Good Condition          0.75
City v WBA              Dec-67  Good Condition          0.75
City v Sheffield Utd(a) Jan-68  Good Condition          0.75
City v Sunderland       Feb-68  Good Condition          0.75
City v Fulham           Mar-68  Good Condition          0.75
City v Leeds (a)        Mar-68  Poor                    0.50
City v Chelsea          Apr-68  Good Condition          0.75
City v West Ham         Apr-68  Good Condition          0.75
City v Academica(ECWC)  Mar-70  Good Condition          2.50
City v Stoke(FAC)       Jan-73  Token Missing           1.00
City v Burnley(CS)      Aug-73  Excellent Condition     4.00
City v Hartlepool(FAC)  Jan-76  Writng on Back          2.00
City v Milan(UEFA)      Dec-78  Good Condition          3.50
City v Borussia(UEFA)   Mar-79  Token Missing           3.00
City v Liverpool(LC)    Jan-81  Torn                    0.50
City v Spurs            Sep-81  Good Condition          0.70
City v Middlesbrough    Nov-81  Writing on Face         0.70
City v Cardiff(FAC)     Jan-82  Writing on Face         1.00
City v Hudders(FAC)     Jan-88  Excellent Condition     1.00
City v Millwall(FAC)    Jan-90  Cover missing           0.50
City v Sheffield Utd(a) Feb-92  Cover missing           0.50
City v Chelsea          Oct-93  Excellent Condition     0.75
City v Ipswich          Jan-94  Excellent Condition     0.75

If you are interested in any of the above then please e-mail me or I will sell all of them to the highest bidder in a bundle starting at 55.

Chris Craddock (craddy_99@hotmail.com)

WARSAW REQUEST

Any Blues out there in Warsaw?

Thanks! Roly Allen (Roly.Allen@hamlyn.co.uk)

TICKET REQUEST I

I'm working in London for the summer but after studying the fixture guide there's only one City match I can go to; the opening game vs. Charlton. The problem is I have no ticket. I was wondering if anybody would be able to help me get a ticket? You can rest assured that it's going to go to a true Blue and as this is my only game I can get to I'm extremely desperate. If you can help me I'll buy mucho beer and am willing to pay slightly over the odds. Two tickets would be even better but not being greedy, I'd be happy with one. Thanks a million.

CTID, Cass - dubcity (cass@ireland.com)

TICKET REQUEST II

I have supported City all my life (I'm 44 now); I went to almost all the games home and away in the seventies (sigh, what a team). Then I got married in 1979 to a scot and have lived up here in Scotland ever since. I have been back a few times and managed to see my beloved City. However, I am not a season ticket holder any longer and I wondered if there was any way I could get a ticket for the home game with the Rags as I know it will be all ticket.

Steve Oatway (oakaman@hotmail.com)

WHY BLUE (WHEN I USED TO BE RED)?

I must have been about ten when I changed allegiance. My dad used to take me and my younger brother to watch United, this was between 1971-73 when working class families could still afford to visit their ground. Then one week my dad took us to see City reserves versus Wolves. This experience, together with some persuasion from a somewhat biased next-door neighbour we knew as Uncle Joe, converted me to the Blues.

Over the years there has been much debate, some would say criticism, that Old Trafford had more atmosphere than Maine Road. My first and lasting impression has always been to the contrary. Maine Road always had a friendly welcoming atmosphere, whilst Old Trafford seemed a cold, sterile place. My first proper matches at Maine Road must have been about 1973-74 when I used to pay on the gate for Platt Lane, but my first season ticket for the Kippax must have been the following season. One thing that stuck in my memory from that time was reading about Francis Lee's move to Derby County whilst on holiday in Rhyl. I was so disgusted that he could turn his back on City that I threw the newspaper away, much to my father's annoyance. Lee's betrayal (in my naïve mind) was to colour my opinion of his spell as chairman in recent times, and although his choice of managers was criticized, I must admit that his business vision paved the way for City's recent revival.

Other memories from my visits to Maine Road included a lady called Ellen (nicknamed Anna-Bell) who used to sit behind the goal in the North Stand, ringing her 'School-Bell' to rally the team on. There have been some lows that I recall, namely walking out of a home-game against Liverpool when we were 5-0 down; I felt guilty at my actions, but sometimes it was too painful to watch. One high that I recall was watching City 3-0 up at half-time against A.C. Milan in the second leg of a UEFA Cup match; we'd already drawn the away leg 2-2, but that victory and Asa Hartford's goal from what seemed like the half-way line will stay with me forever. So much for my romantic ramblings, anyway here's a question for any trivia buffs out there: what was so unusual about the names of all the teams that we played in the League Cup in 1975-76 season? Answers on an email to the address below.

Steven Hinds (s.d.hinds@tesco.net)

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