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NEWS: Les Mutrie dies, aged 66

MutrieLFormer City striker Les Mutrie has died at the age of 66 after a long battle with cancer.

Mutrie played professional football for Carlisle United briefly at the age of 26 but otherwise was a non-league centre forward in his native north east throughout the 70s, playing for Gateshead and most famously, Blyth Spartans, for whom he was a notoriously difficult opponent during a marathon FA Cup tie in which he scored in all three games against the Tigers, even though Blyth eventually lost the second replay 2-1.

Mike Smith snapped him up immediately, paying a record £30,000 for a non-league player, and on Boxing Day 1980 Mutrie, aged 29, made his league debut for City, just four days after scoring the last of his three goals against his new club.

City were poor in 1980/81 and were relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time in their history but Mutrie, who had ended the season with five goals, came into his own at this level. After Keith Edwards’ departure, Mutrie became City’s main source of goals and he responded with 27 in the league in 1981/82 including a run of nine consecutive scoring games, which remains a club record. During this sequence of scoring, he managed 14 goals, including four in a 5-2 win over Hartlepool.

In 1982/83, by now with Colin Appleton in charge, he scored 12 more in a side now more competitive for places up front and with numerous sources for goals as City won promotion back to the Third Division as runners-up.

Appleton only made one significant change in 1983/84 and that was to offload Mutrie, whom he deemed too old for the Third Division. Mutrie’s last game for City was a 3-2 win over Bournemouth in November 1983; his last goal (one of five in 1983/84) was in a 1-1 draw at Brentford a month earlier. He had a loan spell at Doncaster before joining Colchester, but his stay in the south was brief and he was swiftly back in the north east playing for Hartlepool before retiring from the professional game in 1985.

Mutrie clobbered in 49 league goals in just 115 games for the Tigers and remains an icon of the early 1980s when City had both dark hours and moments of glory. A hugely popular figure with the City fans and his team-mates of the time, he will be sorely missed. We offer our condolences to his family.

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NEWS: Robertson departs for Liverpool

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We were never going to keep Andy Robertson, were we? Even if City had stayed up and possessed responsible owners, it’d have been a lot to expect. And so it’s come to pass, with the Scottish international becoming the latest but perhaps most widely anticipated departure of this dispiriting summer.

He’s joined Liverpool, a rare instance of a City player leaving directly for a top-half-of-the-top-flight club. The fee’s around £8m, decidedly on the low side for a played with such colossal potential. Half the value of Maguire, really? Hmm. Still, since joining City three summers ago, his explosive talent has been obvious, and taking a further step up the footballing ladder has always looked likely.

It’s the latest move in a steep career progression for Robertson. Rejected by Celtic for being “too small” (how the hell does this still happen in the modern day?) he spent 2012/13 at Scottish amateurs Queens Park and the following season at Dundee United. Still only 23, with 15 Scotland caps and dozens more to come, he could go a very long way in the game. His rampaging runs down the left wing were a joy to watch, and that third (and decisive) goal at Derby County will live long in the memory.

Best of luck, Andy.

FEAT-MOON

NEWS: Jakupović leaves, but Campbell returns

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Mixed news on the transfer front for City this morning, which does at least constitute an improvment of sorts after recents days.

Eldin Jakupović has left City for Leicester, after a fee of around £2m was agreed between the clubs. He’d been with the Tigers five years, which rather remarkably made him our longest-serving player. His City career didn’t get off to a great start, and an infamous evening against Sheffield Wednesday in January 2013 saw him written off by many, loaned out to Leyton Orient and with an awful lot of reputational damage to repair.

He gradually did that, and battled his way to become City’s first choice keeper following the arrival of Marco Silva earlier this year. He rarely let us down after that, and with capable keeping combined with an endearing eccentricity he become something of a minor cult hero. He ended up with 54 starts for City in League and cups, plus one sub appearance, and leaves with the best wishes of us all (and decent in his position, thankfully).

Rejoining City is Fraizer Campbell. Almost ten years since the beginning of his stunning loan spell that was instrumental in propelling Phil Brown’s unfancied Tigers to Wembley and promotion, the now 29 year old has returned on a two year deal after being released by Crystal Palace.

His exploits in that extraordinary 2007/8 season need no recounting, and as a key part of that glorious season, Campbell’s subsequent career will be familiar to us all. He rarely (and unfairly) never received a warm welcome back to the Circle after declining to join City on a permanent basis, and his return may cause consternation among the unforgiving. The recipient of a single England cap in 2012, he’ll arrive with plenty of expectations and with memories of that magical season at the forefront of our minds. As a free transfer and still the right side of 30, it looks a rare shaft of light of this gloomy summer.

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NEWS: Huddlestone the latest to leave

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City have confirmed the departure of another first-teamer, with Tom Huddlestone leaving for Derby.

He had a £2m release clause in his contract that the Rams have activated, and with Ehab Allam negligently declining to offer the player a new contract until interest emerged elsewhere, the player has elected to move back to the club he began life as a professional with.

Huddlestone frustrated and delighted during his time at the club. There’s a strong argument to be made that he’s the finest passer of the ball we’ve ever had, yet frequently he’d fail to orchestrate games in the way he’s capable of doing. However, prior to a comically unjust red card at Everton at the end of last season, he was in perhaps the best form of his City career.

That career took in two separate spells in the Premier League, a League Cup semi-final, victory in a play-off final at Wembley, an FA Cup final and European football. It’s been an eventful time on and off the pitch, though the ongoing circus off it has seen his time end. His final contribution was to thank to everyone at City, apart from the owners. He’d have been a regular starter next season, and it’s hard to see how he can be replaced for £2m, if at all. For the second time during this increasingly desperate summer, our loss is Derby’s gain – and City are once again looking hopelessly unprepared for the start of a new season.

All the best, Tom.

FEAT-SEATS

City to start at Aston Villa

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This morning has seen the announcement of the fixture list for 2017/18, and it’s decreed that City will start life back in the Championship against Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa. That game has already been bagged by the Sky cameras, and will be played at 5.30pm on Saturday 5th August, and gives us an immediate opportunity to appreciate Steve Bruce for the first time since he was forced out of City during Ehab’s 2016 summer of chaos.

City’s first home match of the season takes place a week later with the visit of Burton, while the first of ten Yorkshire derbies is on 21st October, away to Barnsley.

The Saturday before Christmas takes us to Elland Road, Boxing Day sees us host Derby, while the New Year fixture is Bolton away. Easter Saturday sees Aston Villa visit the Circle, while Easter Monday requires a trip to Wolverhampton.

City finish the season with a 12.30pm kick-off at Brentford on 6th May, a fixture preceded by Cardiff at home.

The lengthiest midweek away fixtures are Fulham and Millwall (kudos to anyone who does both), while tick ground enthusiasts will already be preparing for Tuesday 10th April and the visit to Burton.

 

FEAT-MOON

NEWS: Maguire joins Leicester for £17m

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Harry Maguire has left Hull City and joined 2016 Premier League champions Leicester in a £17m deal.

The 24 year old centre back has signed a five year deal at the King Power Stadium.

It is not an unexpected piece of business, with the player gaining rave reviews all season in a struggling side and becoming a cult hero with City supporters, but again it is disheartening to see big names leaving the club when a better investment programme by the ownership could have ensured the Premier League safety that persuades players like Maguire to stay.

Maguire joined City for £2.5m after a superlative display for Sheffield United against City in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final. He took a while to find his feet, with the likes of James Chester, Curtis Davies and later Michael Dawson ahead of him, and Steve Bruce seemed initially unsure. Eventually, he forced his way into the team and some stellar displays at the back, along with some extraordinary bits of individual defending and mesmerising runs from deep, made him a key figure and a very popular player last season.

He leaves the Tigers after 75 senior appearances which had him spoken of as a potential England player. It’s an astute bit of business by Leicester, whose Premier League winning duo of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan are ageing and slowing down. A percentage of the money will go to Sheffield United, who negotiated a sell-on agreement when Maguire signed.

For City, it opens further the yawning chasm in our defensive options, and new coach Leonid Slutsky will need to sign a number of reinforcements, with Maguire, Curtis Davies and Alex Bruce all departing in the summer. Whether he will get some or all of the Maguire cash from the Allams to sign adequate replacements is another matter entirely.

FEAT-MOON

NEWS: Davies leaves for Derby

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City have sold Curtis Davies to Championship rivals Derby County for an undisclosed fee.

The Rams activated what seemed a ludicrously low £500,000 relegation release clause, making the ‘undisclosed’ element of the announcement a bit pointless, in truth. Davies, 32, has signed a two year deal.

It brings to an end an eventful and mainly glory-filled four years with the Tigers for an excellent, committed defender and an erudite, thoughtful man. After joining from Birmingham City in the summer of 2013, he skippered City in an amazing 2013/14 season which saw a best-ever Premier League finish and a first FA Cup final, in which he scored the Tigers’ second goal in the 3-2 defeat to Arsenal at Wembley, and clamours for him to be recalled by England.

He then led us into European football but the wheels started to come off when injuries and disagreements with Steve Bruce led to his omission from the team as the Tigers were relegated. The signing of Michael Dawson both helped and hindered his cause, although the two became a strong, experienced Championship partnership with Dawson as captain.

Davies played in City’s play-off win at Wembley last summer and then made 29 further Premier League appearances under Mike Phelan and Marco Silva, famously tweeting the photo of the undersized team in pre-season when City had neither a manager nor enough fit players to begin a Premier League campaign.

In total, he played 145 senior games for City in six competitions, scoring seven goals, and conducted himself with professionalism, sportsmanship and no little humour. We’ll miss him and we wish him well.

It means that City now have to find a replacement for him, and defenders of his class, experience, ability and attainable wage bracket are not exactly common. So perhaps the appointment of a new manager or head coach might have become even more urgent…

FEATSilva

So long, Marco

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Unsurprisingly, Marco Silva has declined the invitation to manage City in the Championship, and is drawing to a close a brief but ardent love affair.

He didn’t quite manage his “miracle” of overcoming Ehab’s epic summer of negligence and keeping City in the Premier League, but to get as close as he did (while beating Liverpool and Manchester United) was impressive enough.

City fans are now condemned to watch him aim for greatness elsewhere, while we undertake yet another managerial search under the inept Allam family and fret endlessly about the future.

So long Marco, and thanks for trying. It was fun while it lasted.

FEAT-MOON

Pitch for Justice?

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Last month, two groundstaff at the Circle were dismissed by the Stadium Management Company amid claims about the quality of the pitch.

Those two men, Darrell Cook and Mark Harrison, aren’t happy that their 55 years of combined experience at The Circle, Boothferry Park and the Boulevard has been publicly dispensed with, and have begun a crowdfunding project to take the SMC to an industrial tribunal.

They want to raise £5,000 to instruct Gosschalks (coincidentally, some time sponsors of City) to commence action. Their story and the opportunity to donate can be found here: Pitch for Justice