FAN'S EYE VIEW : Some players have got to go. Lee and Ball are both racehorse owners so they should be able to tell a donkey when they see one

HARVEY MCGAVIN
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The Independent Online
The glory days are here again for City fans. They come courtesy of the BBC's Match of the Seventies, repeated highlights from a faraway time when City were a winning machine. Stylish (on the pitch at least), entertaining and feared throughout the land.

As a nostalgia trip, the delight of seeing a League table with City at the top is hard to beat. If only the present team were the same. Instead, their guiding philosophy seems to be "you win some, you lose some more".

Last season was a tale of two Cities. There was the team which began the season thrashing Tottenham 5-2 and ended it with a spectacular comeback at Blackburn. Then there was the other, barely recognisable team, which spent most of the season sliding down the table, plagued by defensive jitters, lacking in passion and devoid of ideas.

"Survival itself is not enough," Frannie Lee declared. In those final few weeks most fans, fearing the worst, would have settled for just that. But it wasn't enough to keep Brian Horton his job and it won't be enough this time.

Horton's scared rabbit demeanour didn't exactly inspire confidence, but he made some good signings. Rosler (our saviour, hallowed be thy name), was only pounds 750,000 while Beagrie and Walsh added inventiveness to a jaded side.

Taking over from Peter Reid, who nearly took us into Europe with two top 10 finishes, Horton presided over back-to-back relegation battles when our best chance of continental honours would have been if Niall Quinn had entered the Eurovision Song Contest.

Alan Ball has inherited the makings of a good side. With Uwe up front, Beagrie and Walsh in support, and Niall coming off the bench, our attacking options look good.

There's plenty of home grown talent in midfield, where Flitcroft and Lomas were linking up well until the latter missed the run-in through injury.

Our midfield playmaker, the majestic Maurizio Gaudino, has gone back to Eintracht Frankfurt. City have a fine tradition of selling crowd-pleasers and an unnerving habit of selling good players dead cheap to other Premiership clubs so they come back to taunt us. Take a bow, Messrs Hinchcliffe and Hendry.

Gaudino's replacement is Georgi Kinkladze, an unknown quantity apart from his spectacular 40 yarder for Georgia against Wales but an exciting prospect. But one summer signing does not a new team make.

With Coton and Curle injured for the start of the season, the arrivals of Kit Symons and Eike Immel were crucial. The defence needed propping up. It conceded 64 goals in 46 games last season. Only Ipswich, Leicester and Wimbledon were more generous.

reinforcements are called for. And some players have got to go. Lee and Ball are both racehorse owners so they should be able to tell a donkey when they see one. Kernaghan and Vonk must be braying in their boots.

The bookies, offering 100-1 against such a possibility at the end of the season, and the newspaper pundits who are forecasting relegation, may not share our title dreams. And if you look at City's pre-season form, you can't blame them. Friendly defeats at Wolves and Burnley and a 5-1 drubbing by Hearts don't look good on paper.

But statisticians don't reckon with idealism, optimism and a desire to win, which will be key factors in the Maine Road revival. Ball has promised to play eye-catching, attacking football and after the way he let Le Tissier flourish at Southampton, it's easy to believe him. Let's hope it comes to pass, which would be something of a first.

Whatever happened to the spirit of 1989 when City beat United 5-1 and the Kippax was a cauldron of joy? The antithesis of that feeling had to be losing 2-0 away to Wimbledon in front of the lowest Premiership crowd of the season.

With Lee in the boardroom, Hartford on the training ground and Summerbee on the wing, the names evoke greatness. A few shrewd moves on the transfer market, a little reorganisation and the glory days could be just around the corner instead of just down the road at Old Trafford. It can only be a matter of time. And money, Chairman Lee, don't forget the money.

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