City planning the Maine move

Manchester City will safeguard the future of their Maine Road headquarters even if they seal a deal to move into the new stadium to be built for the Commonwealth Games.

The First Division club have been given a tentative offer to become "anchor tenants" in the 60,000-seater stadium to be developed across the city at Eastlands after the Games take place in 2002.

Even though City have welcomed the initial idea with open arms, they are also keen to confirm Maine Road will still have a part to play if the move takes place.

"Maine Road is safe as a sporting venue. We feel it would still be a viable sports arena even if we did go to the new stadium," said City's chief executive Colin Barlow, who harbours a sense of disappointment that the Sports Council chose Wembley ahead of Manchester as the site of the new pounds 210m-plus National Stadium.

"We were invited to become anchor tenants at the stadium when Manchester formulated its National Stadium bid last October and I was part of the bid committee," Barlow said. "It was an idea that appealed to us and it's something we will be continuing with even though Manchester was not awarded the National Stadium itself."

Maine Road has been the home of City since 1923 and despite once housing a crowd of 84,569 for an FA Cup tie against Stoke in 1934 - a British record for any game played outside London or Glasgow - the ground capacity is now 31,000.

The club also has a training complex at nearby Platt Lane, a development which helped win them the Community Club of the Year award last year, and they see no reason why their current headquarters should not continue to flourish if a move is eventually agreed.

The bitter blow of losing out to Wembley was cushioned when the Sports Council revealed they would be handing over pounds 60m for the new Manchester stadium.

Meanwhile, Phil Neal yesterday said that he is doing his best to cope with the pressure of being Manchester City manager - despite the constant speculation that he will be out of a job in the New Year.

Neal continues to put on a brave face even though the Manchester United No 2 Brian Kidd, the former Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson and the current Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear are the latest crop of names to be linked with the club.

Kidd, who played for both Manchester clubs and was City's original target as the successor to Brian Horton 18 months ago, has become the favourite to take over.

City's plight near the foot of the First Division has placed more pressure on Neal, who said: "I can't afford to let the speculation get me down as the players don't want to see a miserable manager."

"It would be detracting from what I'm being paid for and it would be an injustice to the fans and the players," he said. "But I am aware and I am told about what's going on."

Neal has vowed to continue to battle for recognition at the club as he prepares for Saturday's vital derby fixture with Oldham. He added: "I was not the first choice but I am trying to earn my spurs to gain the post. I was brought here as a No 2 to Steve Coppell and was very happy to be so. But you cannot get disgruntled about certain names cropping up, although it happens almost daily. It's getting absurd."

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