Little did I think when I went to the Witton Albion ground back in July 2002 to see the City under 21 side beat a Thai under 21 international side
that 5 years later we would have an ex Premier of Thailand as Chairman of City and for sure back in 1958 while listening to Jussi Bjorling in Skansen Park , Stockholm between covering world cup games, did I think we would ever have a Swedish manager - Sven-Goran Eriksson. Well its a funny old world and City now embark on an interesting journey.
The lengthy take-over process has put more pressure on the new manager to sign new players quickly before the start of the season and already we have two new faces - Rolando Bianchi a striker from Italian club Reggina. He was 4th highest scored in Serie A last season so we shall expect a few from him this coming season. Then we had the signing of Gelson Fernandes
from Swiss club FC Sion. He is a 20 year old defensive midfielder and captain of the Swiss under 21 side. There are others on the cards too and I think there will be a few surprises- nudge nudge wink wink!
The first pre-season friendly against Doncaster ended with a 3-1 win with Corradi scoring with a great volley though the Telegraph reported it a header ( too much time in the bar at half time perhaps ). Richards and Mpenza scoring the other two. Mind you anyone trying to follow the game on Radio Manchester would have been disappointed. They even failed to give the result on the 5-0pm Sports news. There was plenty of support by City supporters and a lot of media coverage with it being Sven's first game back in UK since his England days.
Another surprise signing today was the nicking of Geovanni from under the nose of Harry Rednapp at Portsmouth. The Brazilian had been expected to sign for Portsmouth and had already scored for them in a pre-season friendly. He will immediately become a favorite at COMS having scored for Benfica against United in December 2005. His previous clubs include Barcelona and Benfica scoring 15 goals in 91 games for the latter. He is an attacking midfielder with an ability to shoot from long range. Known to his Benfica pals as 'Soneca' - sleepy - I hope the 27 year old will keep opposing defences wide awake with his dribbling and pace He played 4 times for Brazil in 2001
Latest City signing is Martin Petrov from Atletico Madrid who will be wearing the number 15 shirt. The Bulgarian international ( 64 caps) is 28 years old and is a left sided attacking midfielder. He is fast and a dab hand at penalties. City beat Spurs to the punch this time and with the permit formalities to be completed City are getting stronger by the day. Other targets include Zigic a lofty attacker from Racing Santander in the Spanish League and several defenders so there is plenty for City supporters to look forward to. I expect to see most of the new players at Shrewsbury next week.
Finally worked out the average mark I gave to each player in the games I covered last season. Some of the 'games' included substitutions lasting at least twenty minutes.
Not surprising that top of the list was skipper Richard Dunne who was also the only player to get a '9' during the season. Alas we have now lost our other top players Distin and Barton
Also departed are Weaver. Jordan. Beasley. Reyna, Thatcher
Trabelsi and it would not surprise me if they were followed by the two Mills' , Dabo, Hamann, Miller (possible loan) and Samaras
Last seasons Averages
Dunne 7.1 - 21 games
Distan 7.0 - 21 games
Barton 6.8 - 18 games
Mpenza 6.8 - 6 games
Richards 6.6 - 16 games
Ball 6.6 - 6 games
Vassell 6.5 - 18 games
Jihai Sun 6.3 - 6 games
Johnson 6.3 - 3 games
Isaksson 6.3 - 6 games
Onuoha 6.3 - 7 games
Beasley 6.3 - 9 games
Jordan 6.3 - 7 games
Ireland 6.3 - 13 games
Weaver 6.3 - 15 games
Dickov 6.2 - 10 games
Corradi 6.2 - 13 games
Dabo 6.1 - 9 games
Trabelsi 6 -
Hamann 5.9 - 7 games
Sinclair 5.9 - 10 games
Samaras 5.9 - 17 games
Reyna 5.8 - 8 games
Miller 5.8 - 9 games
Thatcher 5.6 - 6 games
Another new signing is Vedran Ćorluka from Dinamo Zagreb. He is a tall 21 year old defender who has played 9 times for Croatia He scored 7 times in 61 games for Dinamo Zagreb. He played against England last October in Croatia's 2-0 win.
Another new signing is Brazilian international 26 year old Elano Blumer who is an attacking midfielder. He can play either side and also just behind the strikers so gives flexibility. He has played 15 times for Brazil scoring twice. His last club was Shakhter Donetsk (14 goals in 49) and before that Santos (33 goals in 131). Cost was about 8 million pounds.
Also signed is Javier Garrido a 22 year old defender from Real Sociedad now managed by Chris Coleman
City v Shrewsbury 2-0
August 1st 2007 friendly game att. 8,000
Having spent the afternoon exploring the Folly at Hawkstone I was nackered by the time I finally found the new ground in Shrewsbury. With four individually positioned stands - I think they will be new in the Argus or Ikea catalogue it is a purely functional ground but with some design faults. The stewards there have serious concerns regarding the fact that both sets of supporters have just one entrance to the stadium area and they have several 'derby' games this coming season. There is no parking on the ground for visiting supporters despite a large patch of grass in front of the North stand. Nearest place was a pub ten minutes walk away. As my ticket had not arrived by the time I had left home I then had to hang around waiting for a duplicate to arrive ( Post Office strikes do not help). What of the game itself. It was a game of two teams - City started with Schmeichel: Onuoha. Richards. Dunne. Sun: Geovanni Johnson. Fernandes . Petrov : Ireland. Bianchi
As City were attacking the far goal it was difficult to judge accurately the action at that end but
we saw excellent play from Petrov and lots of skill from Fernandes and Giovanni. Johnson looked a little out of it at times. Schmeichel made some good saves and Sun Jihai seemed to enjoy his tint at left back ( wonder whether he has played in goal too !) Richards and Dunne were pretty steady as usual but Onuoha will have to lift his game to keep in the side especially with new defenders coming in. Bianchi will need a partner up front I think. From the second half I thought there was little to commend. Logan looked handy but Miller looked out of it and was substituted by Vassell after 78 minutes. Samaras missed some good chances and the only good thing he did was the cross for Corradi to score. Corradi looked more positive in his play and scored a good goal.
Sven watches the action from the bench
Ireland watches Fernandes clash with opponent
Fernandes dashes down the right wing
City first half team enter the fray
Making his debut for City - Geovanni
Bianchi and Moss clash near goal
Skipper Dunne heads clear
A Petrov free-kick. We will be seeing a lot of these.
Ireland shows off his new yellow boots
New City star Martin Petrov (9) had plenty to show City supporters.
Ireland attempts a tackle
Half time and City supporters have time to discuss the new signings.
Johnson has a shot saved on the line
Is this the last we shall see of Paul Dickov and Danny Mills ?
After 82 minutes Samaras flashes in a centre which Corradi ( celebrating) heads into the net.Just on full time Dickov added a second to make it 2 nil. Like Elvis I had just left the building! The City side in the second half was as follows
Hart: D Mills. M Mills. Ball. Logan: Samaras. Miller. Hamann. Dabo. Corradi. Dickov
The second half was pretty drab - little creativity - compared to the exciting passing and movement of the first half. I think Sven has given last seasons doubtfuls a fair crack of the whip and shortly when he has finalized his squad there will be some more departures from the club.
With so little time before the start of the season it will be a tough job to get the new squad to play as a team . Good Luck Sven .
Team for Saturday . perhaps Isaksson. Richards. Dunne. Corluka. Garrido: Geovanni. Elano Blumer. Ireland or Fernandes . Petrov. Bianchi. Bojinov
We shall see. Exciting times ahead. Could City join the hated brigade!!!
Latest transfer news from Italy concerns 25 year old Livorna keeper Marco Amelia. He was third choice keeper for Italy in the 2006 World Cup and could be coming to City. That will keep Isaksson on his toes. Also City could be upping their bid for Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus. Mark Bresciano an Australian versatile midfielder of Italian and Croatian descent is another hot tip for City. He has been playing for Palermo and was a regular goal scorer for his club and country.
Striker Valeri Bojinov a 21 year old Bulgarian striker from Fiorentina is the latest edition to the City squad. He has played for Lecce ( 16 goals in 65 ) Fiorentina ( 8 in 36) and Juventus (loan) ( 5 in 18). Also 2 goals in 11 games for Bulgaria. He made his debut in Italy's Serie A at the age of 15 years 11 months - will now link up with fellow countryman Martin Petrov.
A great start to the season with a 2-0 win away to West Ham. It marked the debut in goal of Kasper Schmeichel deputizing for the injured Isaksson ( out for 2 months). Watched by his Dad Peter, young Kasper was rarely troubled by a largely inept West Ham side . He was also well protected by Richards and Dunne at the centre of defence. City took the lead early on when Elano burst through with a tremendous burst of speed following an excellent tackle by a rejuvenated Hamann. The cross by Brazilian Elano was met by goal poacher Bianchi at close range. A good late substitution ( now that's a change) of Neddy Onuoha for a tiring Corluka led to City's late clincher. Neddy had an extraordinary run down the right flank beating several West Ham defenders before giving a great pass to Geovanni ( on for Elano ) who flashed the ball past Green just before full time.
This was one in the eye for Sven's critics. Full marks to the Sven and the City staff for forging the new players into such a determined unit in such a short time. There was plenty to admire in the efforts of Martin Petrov and City bred youngsters Johnson and Ireland played a part while new signing Bojinov had a 30 minutes spell in place of Bianchi to get a feel of the Premiership. I now look forward to the visit of derby on Wednesday.
The coverage in the press makes interesting reading. Brian Glanville in the Times mistook Ireland for Elano in describing City's first goal while Patrick Barclay in the Telegraph made Kasper man of the match ( does he owe Peter some money!) Many of the others hardly mentioned the efforts of Neddy for the last goal. Too busy writing their piece no doubt.
With City on second on Match-of-the-Day it was a good day for City supporters.
A touch of reality for City supporters in the past few weeks with defeats at Arsenal and Blackburn albeit by the only goal of the game and the failure to clinch last minute signings before the August deadline. The injury to Bojinov was a blow and as Dickov and Corradi have departed it just leaves Vassell and Samaras as 'reserves' for Bianchi and Mpenza. Sturridge is still on the injured list. Despite the defeats at Arsenal and Blackburn City have been continuing to play good football so with some 'easier' fixtures to come we can hope to get back quickly to winning ways. Whether Kasper Schmeichel will continue in goal after his less than positive reaction to crosses at the Blackburn game is a problem for the manager to sort out. Kasper's ability as a shot stopper is first rate but his vulnerability to the crossed ball has to be sorted. Isaksson is now fit and may take his place for the Villa game which Dunne will miss having been sent off at Blackburn.
Visit to Carrington
This was the first time I had been back to Carrington to see City train since the departure of Kevin Keegan so it was interesting to see the changes that have taken place. It was snowing the last time I was here - Feb 2005 -
Today it was just the odd shower of rain but I must say I was really impressed with the variety and quality of technical, tactical and fitness training and above all the attitude of the players. There was plenty of banter and smiles and it was obvious they were enjoying the two hour session. Considering the influx of new players and lack of preparation time it is remarkable how well the players have come together as a team. However much of the credit should go to the manager and his back room staff.
Sven discusses the schedule with coach Derek Fazackerley
Italian fitness coach Stefano Marrone, Geovanni and Sven
Skipper Richard Dunne- Elano in the background
One for the scrap book- Derek Fazakerley dashing down the wing!
Ousmane Dabo heads for goal
New England ace Micah Richards
Emile Mpenza and Stephen ireland tussle for the ball
The finale of the training was a series of short sprints with the players divided into three teams. Losing team were sentenced to push-ups
More pictures at http://www.rtfract.com/citcarrgton.htm
As I was working on this page news came through about the departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea. Incredible ! Replaced by Avram Grant ! Who you may ask? Well he was in charge of a couple of teams in Israel and the Israel national side ( definitely not when I refereed them back in 1957 when they played Vietnam in the Asian Cup!) . It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Chelsea team.
As I checked through my web stats the other day I noticed there had been a big increase in visits to the site from Thailand who have jumped into 4th spot behind the USA, UK and Canada. Also there are Thai City web sites appearing and generally an increase of interest from the Far East ( China, South Korea, Japan,Hong Kong and Singapore)
I noticed that Elano scored for Brazil in their 5-0 World Cup qualifying game against Ecuador on Wednesday the 17th. he came on as a sub for Vagner Love after 76 minutes so he should be Ok for the Birmingham game if he gets over the jet lag in time.
Martin Petrov played the full 90 minutes for Bulgaria against Albania in a 1-1 draw so he should be OK too.
The win over Birmingham was the sixth home win on the trot for City and the best since the 1957-58 season. That season City beat Chelsea 5-2, Preston 2-0, Portsmouth 2-1, Spurs 5-1, Sheff W 2-0 and Leicester 4-3 before a 2-2 with Luton brought the sequence to an end. But that was an extraordinary season as mixed in that opening run were a 1-4 loss to United, a 1-6 loss to Preston and an incredible 2-9 defeat at West Bromich! City finished in 5th position scoring 104 goals but conceding 100 ! I did not see any City games that season until November as i was stationed in Norwich. I did manage to watch Norwich City a few times and get to London to see some England under 23 games. Looking through the teams now I noticed that playing for the England under 23 included Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Haynes, Maurice Setters, Chopper Harris, Jimmy Armfield, Peter Brabrook and Don Howe.
Before 1957 City had a good start in 1926 in Div 2 when they beat Swansea 7-4, Port Vale 1-0, Leeds U 2-1, Oldham 3-1, Hull 2-1, and Reading 4-1. City finished top that season and South Shields bottom..... and no I did not see any games that season!
However I cannot see City topping the 1902-03 season when they won 14 opening home games on the run in Div 2. They finished top that year too. Other teams in the league that season included Small Heath, Woolwich Arsenal, Burslem, Glossop, Gainsborough, Burton - names to conjure with! Billy Meridith played at outside right in every game and scored 23 times.
The crushing defeat at Chelsea brought City fans down to earth with a bump and it must have been a pretty depressing journey back home for both players and supporters. I can remember 2 really bad defeats in particular. The first was in early December 1949 when I ventured to the old Derby County ground. We lost 7 nil and Bert Trautmann was in goal playing only his 3rd game for City. I remember that the conditions for the game were terrible with mud everywhere. It was one of Bert Sproston's last games for City who were relegated that season.
The second occasion was the last game of the 62-63 season when we were thumped 6-1 by West Ham United . There are a couple of pictures from that game on my City Past page. This was the last game for Peter Dobing and Harley and also the end of the road for manager Les McDowall who was responsible for the signing of one of City's best ever players Roy Paul. Alas City were relegated that season too.
Back to the present and I hope the Chelsea game remains just a blip in the season.The gritty win against Sunderland means that we stay in third spot - amazing !
Plenty of transfer talk at the moment with the January transfer window looming ahead. Names mentioned for a striker include 26 year old Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow ( 62 goals in 120 games), 18 year old Montenegro international Stevan Jovetic ( Partizan Belgrade - 18 goals in 54 games) and 26 year old Afonso Avles of Dutch club Heerenveen. The latter has already scored 7 goals in one match! You can view them on YouTube.
Even the most pessimistic of City supporters must believe that the cloud of relegation has now passed safely over COMS. With a third of the season gone and the 30 point mark almost reached surely those fears must have disappeared.
For the highly optimistic of supporters a report alleging that Sven is likely to get 150 million to spend if we reach a European place this season is likely to bring dreams of seeing players like Kaka donning the sky blue!!!
Even the birds sitting on the Spikey Thingy would get excited about that.
Another recent newspaper report alleged that City players had introduced wrestling into their training sessions. There was certainly nothing like that when I visited Carrington recently. I did have to wrestle with my camera strap occasionally though! ..... and if I think about it I could have sworn I saw Joey Barton practice some Thai Boxing moves in a game for Newcastle against Sunderland recently though! I must have been mistaken as the F.A. have done nothing about it.
The sacking by the F.A. of England manager McLaren was no real surprise following the lack lustre display by England against Croatia and the failure to qualify for the European Championships. What did concern me was the state of the pitch following the decision to play an American football game on it only few weeks or so before this vital game. I very much doubt whether the income received from the visit from the States will exceed the money lost through the failure to play in Europe in the summer.
Opera singer Tony Henry has become a hero in Croatia following his huge gaffe in the singing of the Croation national anthem before the game. His mispronouncing of a line caused great mirth to several Croation players including our own Vedran Corluka ( who played really well incidentally and showed his class) .The story can be seen here- http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/23/national_anthem_gaffe/
Mixed news just before Xmas. Still 4th in the league, out of the Carling Cup and a new centre forward before January. I suppose it could be worse! I shall be very happy if we are still in 4th place after the holiday games. At least it will save a few bob not going to Wembley for the Carling Cup final. The lads will just have to try harder in the FA Cup !
The new loan signing Nery Castillo has apparently paid a chunk of his loan fee himself. Now that must be a first Let's hope he is an improvement on our last Mexican - Matias Vuoso
Nery will be 24 in June . He is 5ft 7inches and will wear number 30. He scored 30 goals for Olympiacos in 105 games between 2000 and 2007 and 5 goals in 12 games for Mexico. He played only a handful of games for Shakhtar Donetsk his last club. His transfer fee from the Greek club to the Ukrainian side was in the region of 20 million euros His speed and trickery will allow him to play in any of the attacking roles so he should be a more than useful acquisition
I was quite surprised when I looked at the program for the Spurs game to see my images of the 'Ballet on Ice' . Its forty years since I shot those and I am still looking to see if I can find more from that cold cold day in 1967.
City are also giving a trial to Yasser Al Qahtani from the Al-Hilal club in Saudia Arabia. He is captain of the Saudi national side and was Asian player of the year in 2007 and is a striker.
He might find our COMS a bit small compared to the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. There is shading for over 70,000 seats (its the largest Stadium cover in the world).
I took this when I was shown round in 1993 on one of my visits to Saudia Arabia. It's an amazing stadium.
He has scored 23 in 31 games for Al-Hilal and 44 in 51 games for his country. Not a bad average !
As the rumors abound with the January transfer window about to start the latest names to cross my path include Luka Modric of Dinamo Zagreb. A 22 year old Croation international midfielder with a great deal of talent. He is not tall (5ft 6in) but is a pretty good playmaker who likes to score and celebrates very athletically! Perhaps Corluka will put in a good word for us but he is likely to cost quite few million as he is wanted by a few of the top Premiership clubs.
Another possibility is Lukas Podolski of Bayern Munich. He is only 22 and a German International striker. He has been spending too much on the bench recently and a move to City would do him the world of good. He starred in the last World Cup - and voted the young player of the tournament. He has recently been edged out of the Bayern starting lineup by the form of Klose (who City should have signed years ago) and Luca Toni.
Another name has been resurrected now that the sales window is here is Brazilian Alfonso Alves of Heerenveen is nearly 27 and is a prodigious goal scorer (49 in 49 games for Heerenveen) but there might be issues with a permit so there are doubts with this possibility.
Another Brazilian - Fred a 24 year old currently playing for Lyon
is also on the radar. He now wants a transfer following his loss of a place in the Lyon line-up as he was out of action for a while following breaking his foot in the Cupa America for Brazil.
I am sure last April we did not think that City would be in 4th place at the start of 2008 and with the possibility of some new names to the squad in the coming weeks perhaps we will be looking forward to Europe next season.
Latest name to be linked with City is Brazilian midfielder Mancini of Roma. He does step-overs like Ronaldo. This season he has scored three in 14 games. He was 28 years old on the 8th of January and has been at Roma since 2003-4 scoring nearly 50 goals in Serie A nd European games. Although Sven has denied any interest in Mancini you never know. One player that City re giving an extended trial to is Nashat Akram Ali from Al-Ain club in the UAE. He is from Iraq and I am afraid I cannot show you an upto date shot of Baghdad but I have got this one I shot over 50 years ago !
Perhaps his granddad may recognize it!
He is just 24 and a 6ft 1" midfielder. He has played 63 times for Iraq and scored 8 goals making his first appearance for his country in 2002. Before playing in the UAE he played in Saudia Arabia. If he does get an outing in a City shirt he will I believe be the first Iraqi to play in Europe. Whether he is up to the physical elements of the Premiership remains to be seen.
Kevin Keegan returns to football as manager of Newcastle United. Will he lead by.......
Kevin was appointed manager of City in May 2001. He replaced Joe Royle and he immediately brought excitement to the club. He signed one of my favourite players - Ali Benarbia and also Berkovic and Stuart Pearce. City finished as Champions in his first season scoring 108 goals ten points clear of West Brom- some pics here
and here .
The next season in the Premiership was the last at Maine Road and Keegan signed Anelka, Peter Schmeichel and Mark-Vivian Foe. The latter tragically died from a heart attack in an international game for Cameroon against Columbia in June. He was the last City player ever to score at Maine Road
Here he is ( number 23 )scoring the final goal against Sunderland in a 3-0 win on April 21st 2003 .
For the first season at the new City of Manchester Stadium Keegan signed Paul Bosvelt, David Seaman and Michael Tarnat.
However one of his transfers that did not go well was Mathias Vuoso who never actally played for the first team.
He is now scoring regularly for Santos Laguna in Mexico
Here he is playing for City reserves.
Kevin's last home game in charge at City was a one nil loss against Bolton and my pics taken at Carrington
were taken shortly before his departure on March 10th 2005. Stuart Pearce took over. I am sure the Newcastle supporters will be overjoyed by KK's surprise return to football. Interesting that his first game in charge will be against Bolton !
Last image of Rolando Bianchi in City shirt in the dying moments of the West Ham league game last Sunday. He is now on loan with Lazio with a view to a transfer in the summer. At least he will still be wearing blue!
That leaves Sven with a striker problem as the January transfer days are rapidly disappearing. However good news was the form of young Sturridge who scored a hat trick in his first game back after a long injury lay-off in a youth cup tie against Reading.
With the possibility of Podolski arriving on load from Munich diminishing, the latest name to appear in the sights of Sven is Luis Fabiano Clemente, a Brazilian at present playing for Seville. A 27 year old 6ft striker he has a good strike rate for Seville - 45 in 100 games and 8 in 14 for Brazil Although he had good stays with Seville and Sao Paulo he had lesser success at Porto and Rennes. As Seville are still in the Champions League Fabiano will have to be persuaded to join City. He has had a bit of a checkered career especially in early days at Sao Paulo and apparently a couple of years ago his mother was kidnapped by gunmen.
Yet another possibility is Diego Milito an Argentinean international who plays for Real Zaragoza. He joined the Spanish club from Genoa in 2005 and has scored 51 in 93 games. He is 28 and although only 5ft 10" is a powerful header of the ball.
I understand City supporters will soon be able to enjoy a new large video screen at COMS. I am not sure whether there will also be a replacement for the smaller electronic one as well. The not so good news is that there is likely to be electronic advertising boards at a lower level. I have found these to be distracting and how it effects players and linesmen I don't know. I suppose with the UEFA Cup Final coming at the end of the season it was essential to bring the ground up to modern standards.
Another Mancini rumored to be given a trial at City is Filippo Mancini, 17 year old son of the famous Inter coach Roberto Mancini. He was given his debut ( final 8 minutes) for Inter Milan in a 3-0 cup win against Reggina on Jan 16th. Filippo is a midfielder
Latest striker to be linked with City is Jo Alves de Assis Silva of CSKA Moscow a 6ft 2" 20 year old . He has played once for Brazil and has scored 27 in 43 games for the Russian club. Others are Cisse with Marseille and Love also of CSKA Moscow. The latter is more experienced than Silva and has played 20 games for Brazil scoring 8. Time is now running out for Sven, the only good news coming from the poor display against Sheffield United in the cup being the goal on his debut by Danny Sturridge.
I still find it hard to understand why the balloons were not cleared from the City goalmouth. It probably cost City the first goal and gave the home side the initiative. Mind you that does not excuse the lack of fight by City and failure to up the tempo in the last third.
With the hours ticking away time is rapidly running out for City to add to the squad to finish the season and hopefully end up in a top 6 place. Latest names mentioned in the press are Miguel Angel Angulo who was with Valencia and Benjani of Portsmouth. Angulo who will be 31 in June is a versatile right sided player who scored 41 goals in almost 300 games for Valencia but was dropped when new manager Ronald Koeman came in. He has played a few times for Spain.
Benjani is more well known having played for Portsmouth since 2006. He was born in Zimbabwe and will be 30 in August and is a regular goal scorer.
Samaras has gone to Celtic on loan and I was surprised to see Bianchi sent off shortly after he came on as sub for Lazio having collected two yellow cards!
According to reports overnight City have signed Felipe Caicedo from FC Basel ( £5 million) for whom he has scored 12 goals in 46 games. He is only 19 and is 6ft 1". He has played 15 times for Ecuador and scored twice. He can play both in midfield and as a striker. Good dribbler. Big and strong he should become a crowd favorite. Lots of potential here. Let's hope its true!
Talks with Benjani will continue after playing for Pompey against United. Watch this space. Dabo has departed for Lazio and Isaksson has decided not to go to Turkey.
City failed in their attempt to land Benjani due to the player arriving late in Manchester according to reports. Questions will be asked! At least the move of Caicedo went through and Miller has gone to West Brom and Dickov has gone on loan to Blackpool.
Following Grannygate and Balloongate now we now have Benjanigate. It could only happen at City! The Premiership are having to sort out the chaos of this transfer. Apparently according to several papers Benjani failed the shortened medical late on Thursday with a possible knee problem. Benjani should have left Southampton airport at 3-15pm on BA1396 but he missed that and the next at five ( BMI590). The next one at 6-45 (BMI592)was cancelled and as the 8 o'clock one (BMI594) was delayed he did not arrive in Manchester until 10-30pm! He arrives at Carrington for the medical at 20 past eleven. Why the missed flights. Did Benjani not want the transfer ? It has been alleged that knowing about the possible knee problem the time left for the medical was deliberately kept to a minimum. As Portsmouth were relying for this transfer to go through to enable them to sign Defoe a lot of questions need to be asked. I understand that agent Mckay ( definitely not FBI) is connected with Benjani so anything is possible. As well as a possible dicky knee Benjani had apparently not signed one of the forms and said tiredness was the reason he missed the flights so all sorts of conspiracy theories are being talked about. As Lord Stevens investigated Benjani's last transfer perhaps now is the turn of Jack Bauer to investigate who gave Benjani the sleeping pills?
To quote Oscar Wilde in his 'The Importance of Being Benjani' --- " to miss one plane may be regarded as misfortune ... to miss both looks like carelessness"
Anyway it will probably end up with a compromise with Benjani joining City on Monday and scoring a couple of goals against United next week!
I noticed that both Samaras (Celtic) and Dickov (Blackpool) scored for their new clubs - Bianchi will probably score for Lazio later today!
As I mentioned a few days ago Benjanigate has ended with a compromise and no doubt he will be featuring at some stage against United on Sunday. A reduced fee initially and the rest in installments will suit City as there were concerns over his past knee injury. Apparently he fell asleep at the airport. Unbelievable!
February 6th is the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster when BEA 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from Munich airport. 23 of the 44 passengers died on that day. They included 8 Manchester United players 8 journalists 3 Manchester United staff and 4 others. Among the players were Roger Byrne who had been a year ahead of me at school -Burnage High and Frank Swift ex City keeper who had been covering the game for the News of the World. The team had been returning from a European game against Red Star Belgrade.
Anyway Benjamin Mwaruwari - Benjani from now on will be 30 in August nd his previous clubs of any note were Grasshoppers (1 goal in 25) , Auxerre ( 19 in 72 ) and Portsmouth (19 in 70). he has played for Zimbabwe 33 times scoring 9. He is 6ft 2 " and a striker. I understand he will be wearing 27 ( Millers old shirt) He scored a hat-trick in the incredible 7-4 Pompey win over Reading. I look forward to him scoring many a hat-trick for City.
Only a month or so before the crash I had been sitting near to Frank Swift in the press box at Old Trafford while covering the European tie between United and Dukla Prague for the Hong Kong Tiger Standard for whom I was covering football in the UK at the time. I came across this old ticket the other day - a sad reminder.
Another sad loss that day was Don Davies of the Manchester Guardian - a brilliant writer. He wrote under the byline " old international" and his reports of games were gems. He was the Neville Cardus of football
After the bomb damage at Old Trafford United shared Maine Road with City and many City supporters at that time went to watch City one week and United the following week. There was not the hostility one sees today. So I am going to break with 'tradition' for once and show some pictures shot over 50 years ago of United games.
The first game was between United and Cardiff City - Oct 9th 1954 40,000 t Maine Road saw United win 5-2 with Tommy Taylor who died in Munich scoring a hat-trick
Wood catching a corner. Bill Foulkes the United skipper who survived Munich is on the far right. Chilton is on the left.
Denis Violett who also survived scores for United.
Trevor Ford scores for Cardiff City
Jack Rowley scores for United
The next game was between City and United on Dec 28th 1957 . 70,000 watched a 2-2- draw and below are a couple of frames from the 8mm film I shot at the time. Sorry about the quality
Bert Trautmann catching a corner
Trautmann about to clear. Denis Voilett is on the right and Barnes and Barlow are moving away.
City - Trautmann, Lievers,Little:Barnes,Ewing, Warhurst;Barlow,Kirkman, Johnstone,Hayes,Fagan
United - Gregg, Foulkes Byrne, Colman,Jones ,Edwards, Morgans,Charlton,Webster,Violett,Scanlon
Finally a couple of frames from the 8mm film of United v Leicester City Dec 21st 1957
Both Jones(5) and Duncan Edwards (6) were lost at Munich
Roger Byrne heads clear. Edwards (6) and Coleman (4) also in frame. All 3 lost their lives
MEMORIES - When the disaster happened I was stationed in Norwich and the previous day had refereed a game between RAF Bircham Newton and RAF Horsham St Faith . On Thursday the 6th I played for my unit team away so didn't hear the news about Munich until later.
My next refereeing appointment was in the Eastern Counties League - Yarmouth Town v Spalding - the mood was pretty somber but in my notes from the game saw that I had booked one player and there had been umpteen shouts for penalties - nothing's changed then!
I hope and pray that all City supporters at the United game this coming Sunday will observe the minute's silence
What a victory at Old Trafford. A great team performance by players and supporters . The minutes silence was impeccably observed by both sets of supporters though there was the noise of some fireworks going off outside the ground. I think there will be some fireworks in the United dressing room after their performance!
Benjani celebrated his debut with a goal (knew he would)
This was the first double over United since 1970 and the first win at Old Trafford since 1974 (Denis Law back heel to send United down to Div 2). In the early 70's I saw City beat United at OT several times Franny Lee scoring 5 goals.in 4-1 and 3-1 victories.Ah those were the days!
More good news for City with Bojinov and Johnson returning from injury with a game at Newcastle for the reserves Bojinov scoring a goal in the 1-1- draw.
Our Chairman Dr Thaksin Shinawatra has returned to Bangkok and after his arrest on arrival at the airport he is now on bail with his trial due to start on March 12th. He was welcomed at the airport by many of his political supporters. He has returned to Bangkok to prove his innocence of the trumped up corruption charges. It is hoped that once this issue is sorted more money will become available for Sven to buy during the summer.
I understand two City players were with Dr Thaksin - Kasper Schmeichel and Kelvin Etuhu who are there to do some coaching with children. I hope they have better luck than I did back in 1956 when I suffered heat stroke after an afternoon session with kids following a morning session with senior players!
Apparently three Thai City players have been loaned out to Swiss club Grasshopper Zurich. However there have been problems with their visas so their football will have to wait a while.
As I mentioned in my January notes the club have officially announced that we will getting two large video screens at COMS. They will be in place for the UEFA Final. May not be ready for our last home game against Fulham.
Further to the story that City will be bidding for Ronaldinho in the summer was the possible sighting of Ronaldinho's brother - Roberto de Assis in the stand at the Chelsea game- in the centre of pic on left
28 year old Barcelona forward Ronaldinho is out of action at the moment with a thigh injury but he would be a great addition to the City squad and a big pull to fill the stadium.
Milan are also eager to sign him so we will have to wait and see.
A guest at the Portsmouth game was Kia Joorabchian (centre left) . He was owner of Corinthians who sold City's latest target Jo to CSK Moscow. Apparently 21 year old Joao Alves de Assis Silva to give him his full name ( fit that on the back of a shirt) is on his way to Eastlands for a fee of about £18-20 million. For Corinthians he scored 13 in 81 games and for CSKA 29 in 51 games. As he has only played once for Brazil a permit will be required for him to play in the Premiership. Could be a great signing if it all goes through.
If you are a City supporter and especially if you have been a supporter for as long a I have then the events of the past few days will be no great surprise but I do admit the 'sacking' of Sven was unexpected to say the least. The second half of the season has not gone quite as well as the first half and perhaps we were rather too optimistic before Christmas as to our chances of a UEFA place. I suppose in the harsh reality of Premiership Management the line between success and failure will depend on the patience of the money men. While it often takes years to build a team a lack of understanding by the people who make the final decisions can upset players and fans alike. Despite his so called England 'failure' Sven was generally liked by City supporters and I was certainly impressed by the set-up on my visit to Carrington a few months ago.
It was a shame that we allowed Fulham to get back into the game last week. Had we won 5-0 I wonder whether Dr Thaksin Shinawatra would have rethought the situation! As it was it certainly would have been better to have delayed his decision until the end of the season.
The latest piece of news regarding City is the likely appointment of ex Nike marketing executive Garry Cook to become Executive Chairman of City. Having worked in the sports industry for more than 20 years this looks like a coup for City . He will have had contact with top sports personalities and shows a serious ambition for the club to move into the top 4. City have been head hunting this position for a while. I hope they have now made the right decision.
Will this be the my last image of Sven at Eastlands ?
Thank goodness I did not go to Middlesbrough at the end of the season. Being beaten 8-1 was pretty humiliating. The dubious sending off of skipper Richard Dunne certainly did not help but the abject surrender to an average side was the lowest of the low. I can remember two games in the 1949-50 season when I saw 18 goals in 2 successive matches. The first was at Maine Road in November when England beat ireland 9-2 Jack Rowley scoring 4 so when I went to Derby to see City play in early December I did not expect us to be taken apart 7-0! Bert Trautmann was in goal on a mud heap of a pitch . What a miserable journey home!
On the other side of the coin I've seen City win some high scoring games -
Bradford PA 7-2, Swindon 7-0, Scunthorpe 8-1,and of course Huddesfield 10-1 in 87-88
Congratulations to Cardiff for reaching the F.A. Cup Final. Shame they just failed against Portsmouth.
On the left is an old image I took from Cardiff City's better days in the sixties at Ninian Park.
Player on the right is a young John Toshack in his early days.
We now wait with baited breath to see what will happen with Sven. So many rumors about managers, players and money. The past season started so well and ended poorly yet by some miracle we are in Europe next season by the back door again - the Fair Play league. Talk about a season of two halves! More when the dust settles!
Dunne 7.3 (20 games)
Richards 7.1 (15 games)
Hart 7 (17 games)
Hamann 7 (15 games)
Johnson 7 (13 games)
Elano 6.9 (20 games)
Corluka 6.8 (19 games)
Petrov 6.8 ( 19 games)
Onuoha 6.8 ( 9 games)
Ball 6.8 ( 15 games )
Giovanni 6.6 ( 10 games)
6.6 ( 14 games)
Ireland 6.5 (19 games)
Garrido 6.5 ( 13 games)
Vassell 6.4 ( 15 games)
Bianchi 6.3 ( 11 games)
Mpenza 6.1 (10 games)
Here is the result of the marks given to players this season - at least nine games to qualify.
top once again -skipper Richard Dunne
Ex City player Joey Barton was jailed for six months following been found guilty of common assault and affray on May 20th.
The Dabo incident at Carrington has still to come to trial.
Other players to go to jail include Duncan Ferguson, Tony Adams, Micky Thomas, Graham Rix and Lee Hughes.
Finally the decision has been made and on June 2nd an official announcement by the club told us of the parting of the ways. Sven-Goran Eriksson has left City by mutual consent!
Most City supporters have been expecting his exit for many weeks now with speculation regarding his future and successor giving City supporters plenty to talk about. Once again we are going to have an interesting summer.
Sven looks as though he will be going to Mexico to manage the national side there while for City, top choice for manager looks like Mark Hughes with whom they are negotiating at the moment. Both Zico and Scolari have also been mentioned but I reckon ex United player and Blackburn manager Mark Hughes will be in charge next season. He has done well at Blackburn with a limited budget.
Well now its official - our new manager is 44 year old Leslie Mark 'Sparky' Hughes OBE ex Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Blackburn player . He has managed Wales and more recently Blackburn Rovers helping them reach the UEFA cup on several occasions. He is arguably one of the top young managers in the country and I feel sure, despite his past connections with the old enemy at Old Trafford, will become a firm City favorite. In his career he scored 163 goals in 606 games in the league and 16 in 72 games for Wales. As Blackburn manager his record is 82 wins 47 draws and 59 losses - a percentage win of 43 . Following his earlier MBE he won his OBE in 2004 for services to football.
Let's hope he will win the hearts of City supporters in the next few years.
He will be joined at City by Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki shortly.
The next bit of excitement for City fans will be the signing of Brazilians Ronaldinho and Jo which I mentioned in the April notes. Whether any Blackburn players will be following in Hughes' footsteps remains to be seen as things start to speed up at Eastlands with the arrival of new Executive Chairman Garry Cook. No doubt talks will begin shortly with Richard Dunne to keep him at the club he has served so well.
While City supporters await the latest arrivals to COMS -whether it be the star turns of Ronaldinho and Jo or the possible Samba or Annan we have the distraction of a certain European competition taking place in Switzerland and Austria. Easily the best game so far was last nights game between Holland and Italy which brought up an interesting refereeing talking point. Whilst ITV commentators and pundits were adamant Van Nistelrooy was offside for the first goal they seemed to forget that Panucci ( off the pitch courtesy of Buffon) was putting him onside. The offside law ( article 11.4.1.) clearly states that a player cannot be offside when one of the last two defenders has left the field of play to make a player offside. The Italians could argue that he did not just walk off ( the reason the rule was brought in) but was injured! However it was his own player (Buffon) who knocked him over the line and I did not see him get any treatment following the goal! If it had been an attacker who had pushed him over the line then the referee might have had a case for disallowing the goal. I must admit during my own career as a referee and linesman I thankfully never had a situation similar to this. I suppose morally the goal should not have stood but according to the present law the referee was correct in giving it. During the past season there were plenty of incidents involving the 'active play' part of the law and many calls for the offside law to be reviewed. With all the 'experts' saying it was offside this morning on my way to buy a paper I chatted to a young 15 year old footballer walking his dog. I asked him whether he saw the goal - he immediately said it was Ok because of the defender off the field ! So much for all the experts!
Well it's now July !st and City fans will be checking all routes to the Faroe islands where City's first game in the UEFA Cup against EB Streymur will take place. No doubt sales of rowing boats will be going up!
On the transfer front it looks as though at long last the transfer of Joao Alves de Assis Silva - Jo to his mates will be confirmed later today. The 19 million fee will be a City record.
There is also talk about another target - Dani Guiza from Real Mallorca. He did well in the European Cup for Spain. I wonder what the record is for the number of strikers on the payroll!!
The Ronaldinho affair goes on and on and we all wait with baited breathe. Whether he would be fit enough for the Premiership is another matter!
Two new departures from Eastlands. Derek Fazackerley City's first team coach ( pictured left )for 7 years has now left the club. He served under managers Kevin Keegan, Stuart Pearce and Sven- Goran Eriksson . His place has been taken by Eddie Niedzwiecki who played for Wrexham and Chelsea as a keeper before injury forced an early retirement. He had spells as coach at Chelsea and Arsenal before joining Blackburn.
Also departing is John Wardle who played a great part in stabilizing City's financial problems. He took over from David Bernstein in 2003 as a reluctant Chairman and was well liked by everybody. His presence will be missed from the boardroom
So Ronaldinho joined Milan and not City. Well that was a surprise! Probably the best thing in the long run as his fitness and eagerness to play in the Premiership was in doubt.
However the latest signing and second of Mark Hughes reign in charge is Ben Haim from Chelsea. He will boost the defence especially as Richard Dunne will be missing at the start of the season through suspension. He is not the first Israeli international to play for the sky blues. Berkovic will be fondly remembered for his efforts a few years ago. Haim is 26 years old and is 5ft 11in tall. After his transfer from Maccabi tel Aviv ( 147 games) he went to Bolton in 2004 ( 88 games) before moving to Chelsea where is played only 13 games. He has played 39 times for the national side
How far will City go in Europe?
Who will be the new strike force?
Is it Welsh cakes in and Eccles cakes out at Carrington
What is the future of Garibaldi biscuits?
Where will Bianchi be next season?
Will the new video screens show playbacks at half time?
For comments and pics for the coming season 2008-2009 goto City 2008-2009
Now got a publisher for the book on Maine Road.
It's now available from Amazon -click on image for link