TESTIMONIAL BACK ON
||Stuart Rimmer is hoping that
his testimonial match postponed from the end of
last season can be re-arranged for next May. The
striker, who has been with Chester 10 years, was
hoping to play Everton but the game had to be shelved
following the sacking of Joe Royle at Goodison Park
and City’s own involvement with the end-of-season
play-off’s. Now with Howard Kendall back in
charge negotiations are starting again for the match
at either the end of the coming season or the start
of the next.
CITY CONFIRM INTEREST
Chester have confirmed an interest
from Sunderland for Northern Ireland defender Iain Jenkins,
but are still waiting for a firm bid
28 July 1997
WINGROVE HAILS SUCCESS
Over 1,500 people attended the
open ‘fun day’ held at the Deva Stadium yesterday.
Chief executive Bill Wingrove declared the exercise a
“massive success”. Fans were able to wander
through the entire stadium from the changing rooms to
the board room. All the players were present and a friendly
game was played against a Saunders Honda X1. The club
shop did a roaring trade taking over £5,500. Looks
like this will become a permanent fixture in pre-seasons
NO NEW MIDFIELDERS
Manager Kevin Ratcliffe has
confirmed that he will not be going out to buy a replacement
for injured Shaun Reid. With Nick Richardson returning
from injury and Neil Fisher finding his form, this would
seem the obvious pairing in midfield for the start of
the season. Richardson has performed superbly on the pre-season
tour but is still on a week-to-week contract at present.
The other main midfield contender Chris Priest is suspended
for the opening two fixtures.
24 July 1997
REID HAS SUCCESSFUL OPERATION
||Shaun Reid is recovering following
his operation at the Chester Grosvenor Nuffield
Hospital for snapped cruciate knee ligaments. The
operation went as well as could be expected but
the influential midfielder will miss the whole of
the coming season. Neil Fisher, who had a poor season
last time round, is doing his best to fill Reid’s
boots with his third pre-season goal and an all-round
good performance in last night’s 2-3 defeat
at Aberystwyth Town. Gary Bennett scored the first
goal in his third spell with the club, with rather
a little help from the home goalkeeper who dropped
Benno’s speculative free kick into the net!
SUNDAY FUN DAY
are holding a fun day at the Deva Stadium this Sunday
27th July starting at 12:30. Admission is free and all
the first team players will be there with the exception
of Reidy no doubt.
Blues chief executive Bill Wingrove said: “Supporters
will be able to view behind the scenes and talk to the
back room staff at the club. A host of entertainment will
be provided, including various side shows.”
The new kit will also be in stock in the club shop
shirts are priced at £29.99 (children) and £34.99
gave trialist Jim Bentley his first run out at Aberystwyth.
The 6ft 1in centre half, released by Manchester City,
played alongside Julian Alsford. “Jim looked OK
but he’s lacking match fitness.” added the
22 July 1997
REID INJURY BLOW
Midfielder Shaun Reid could
be out of action for up to 12 months after suffering a
bad knee ligament injury in yesterday’s game at
Newport. Reid’s injury was bad enough to warrant
surgery at the Chester Grosvenor Nuffield Hospital today.
The seriousness of the damage will not be known until
after the operation. Ironically Reid’s set-back
coincides with the return to the side of Nick Richardson
following a similar injury.
22 July 1997
MYSTERY BID FOR BLUES
Confusion surrounds the rumour
of a mystery bid for a stake in Chester City FC. Sky Sports
(and some north-west regional papers) carried a story
of Keith Williams, a Manchester based, though born in
Blacon, millionnaire. He stated an interest in covering
the players wages at City and bringing in several big
name players including Ravenelli, Ian Rush, Neville Southall
and Barry Horne. City chairman Mark Guternam described
the rumour as “nonsense”. Added Guterman “It
would be nice to have Ravanelli but I’m not sure
he’d get in the team at the moment”. The club
are currently thinking about taking legal action against
Sky Sports regarding the story.
MORE JENKS RUMOURS
there are murmours of a £600,000 bid for Iain Jenkins,
possibly from Sunderland, on the cards. Who knows, perhaps
we’ll get Sam Aiston back with the deal!
17 July 1997
BLUES HEAD FOR SOUTH WALES
Chester embark on their short
pre-season tour of south Wales today taking with them
a squad of 16 players. Competition for places will be
fierce, especially in midfield, with the return from injury
of Nick Richardson. Richardson, out for 10 months after
snapping cruciate knee ligaments at Hartlepool played
for an hour against Preston and turned in a good performance.
Currently on a week-to-week contract at the Deva he will
be hoping for a more permanent deal if he continues to
impress as he did the other night.
“Kevin Ratcliffe and Stuey Walker are having to
hold me back by the reins at the moment,” said a
delighted Richardson, “Kev only wanted me to play
for 20 minutes but I had to go on a bit earlier because
Rod Thomas got injured. I’ve had no reaction to
my knee injury and I feel really good. Fortunately I had
no setbacks in my rehab and at a push I could have played
towards the end of last season.”
With regular midfielders Shaun Reid and Chris Priest both
suspended for the start of the season, Richardson should
find his name in the starting line-up come August 9th.
LOCAL REF TAKES CHARGE
Chester referee Mike Jones
was in charge of the recent friendly with Preston at the
Deva Stadium. Mike, who is just 29, lives in nearby Huntingdon
and joined the League list this summer. He makes his debut
at Mansfield Town on August 9th. He isn’t the youngest
referee in the League though, that distinction goes to
28 year old Andy Hall from Birmingham, who coincidentally
makes his first League appearance when he officiates at
the Deva on the opening day match against Lincoln City.
Incidentally a few new rules will come into being this
season they are:-
- The captain winning the toss
can only decide which way to kick.
- The keeper can’t pick
the ball up from a throw in.
- The keeper has to release
the ball after six seconds.
- The keeper can now score
from a goal kick.
- And teams can score direct
from the kick off.
JENKS ON THE MOVE?
Rumours abound at the Deva that
Northern Ireland International Iain Jenkins may be on
the move to a Premiership club, possibly Coventry City
or West Ham United. Sunderland, Chelsea and Aston Villa
have also been linked with City’s 24-year-old skipper
in recent weeks.
“We have had clubs ringing up to enquire about Jenks,”
said assistant manager Gary Shelton. “But we’ve
had no bids.”
City will do well though to hold on to the skipper who
has impressed since returning from a serious injury last
season, and will be commanding a high fee for his services.
But Jenkins, who signed a new improved deal at the end
of last season, is in no hurry to move on. He played in
last night’s 2-1 friendly victory over Preston
a game that marked the return of prodigal son Gary Bennett.
Back with the Blues for a third time, Bennett, could prove
to be the final piece in the Blues promotion jigsaw. The
33-year-old striker didn’t score last night but
manager Ratcliffe is convinced his £50,000 surprise
capture will get goals.
“When Gary gets in the box he has only one thing
in mind to hit the target. He gives us that little
bit more and he makes things happen.” said Ratcliffe.
Thomas limped off with a twisted ankle after 32 minutes
of the Preston game while. Ross Davidson was City’s
other casualty. He has a groin problem. Davidson and Thomas
join Spencer Whelan (knee), Shaun Reid (neck) and Rod
McDonald (foot) in physio Stuart Walker’s busy treatment
CITY LOSE OPENING FRIENDLY
Chester lost their opening pre-season
game at Bangor City 2-1 on Saturday despite a gem of a
goal from Neil Fisher. The Blues fell behind in the tenth
minute and had a great chance to equalise before half
time with new signing Rod Thomas missing from the penalty
spot. The home side doubled their lead a minute into the
second half before Neil Fisher scored from 20 yards. Despite
a late onslaught Chester were unable to equalise against
the part-timers from Farrar Road.
Priest will be suspended for the opening two games next
season against Lincoln City and Carlisle United (cup)
following his sending off in the play-off match at Swansea
City. Shaun Reid is also suspended for the same two games
following comments made to the referee at the end of the
Chester have sold about 300 season
tickets so far about the same number for the corresponding
time last season. Club Secretary Derek Barber stated:
“We are currently keeping pace with last year and
there will probably be some stragglers who will come for
tickets between now and the start of the season.”
Stragglers? I think customers might have been a more appropriate
12 July 1997
CITY RE-SIGN GARY BENNETT
Chester have re-signed striker
Gary Bennett from neighbours Wrexham for a fee of £50,000.
The forward, now aged 34, has signed a three year deal
for what will be his third spell with the Blues. City
made the move quickly following Wrexham’s signing
of Shrewsbury skipper Dean Spink, the whole deal being
done in little more than three hours.
10 July 1997
LIFE BEGINS AT 40 FOR SHELTON
Shelton could become a Chester City record breaker next
season.The veteran midfielder will go down in history
as the oldest player to play in a league match for the
Blues if he plays at Lincoln on Janaury 10 1998.
Shelton, now 39, will break Graham Barrow’s record
on 39 years and 293 days set on April 2 1994 against
Preston. “It will be a great honour if I do break
the record,” said City’s player coach. Someone
did tell me I’ll break the record next season but
somebody else said that Alan Oakes holds the record.”
But Football League records state that Barrow definitely
holds the record. And with City only have a small squad,
Shelton, who played 25 times last season, has more than
a chance of making the record books. And Shelton, who
will be 40 in March, wants to continue playing.
“I enjoyed playing last season and if called upon
I’ll play again,” said Shelton, who has made
more than 500 league appearances in a career spanning
20 years. Shelton played for Walsall, Aston Villa, Notts
County, Sheffield Wednesday, Oxford, Bristol City and
Rochdale before moving to The Deva three years ago.
He arrived as a player when Mike Pejic was manager and
has since become Kevin Ratcliffe’s right hand man.
They almost led City to promotion last season and
the play off failure has made them more determined to
get it right next time around.
City have now been in training for a week and play their
first friendly at Bangor City on Saturday. Ratcliffe will
take a first team squad to the League of Wales side, who
are now managed by Ratcliffe’s ex-Everton team-mate
Graham Sharp. City’s other friendlies are: July
15 Preston (H) 7.30ko; July 19 Newtown (A)
3.00; July 21 Newport (A) 7.30; July 23 Aberystwyth
(A) 7.30; July 25 Caernarfon (A) 7.30; July 29
WBA (H) 7.30; August 2 Leek (A) 3.00.
NICK SET FOR RETURN
Richardson has been given the all clear for a playing
return. Out for almost a year after snapping his cruciate
knee ligaments, Richardson, is now back in full training
and eyeing up a first team return.
“Nick’s looked good since he’s come
back,” said Chester City assistant manager Gary
Shelton. “He had a week’s training at Lilleshall
before he returned for pre-season training with the lads
and he looks sharp. He has been given the all clear but
we won’t be rushing him back to play. We’ll
settle him in gradually.”
That means Richardson may have to sit it out in next Tuesday’s
friendly at home to Preston North End. It will be the
first friendly for both clubs and that could see
a decent gate at The Deva, Preston always travel well
and Gary Peters has again spent money during the summer.
Prices for the game are £5 for adults and £2
City’s only injury worry is Shaun Reid. The all
action midfielder, signed from Bury last season, has ricked
his neck. “It’s nothing serious,” added
Shelton. “It’s just a reaction to training.”
City have penciled in their final pre-season friendly
at Leek Town on August 2. Leek were promoted to
the Vauxhall Conference and will give City a stern test.
And the Staffordshire side will have a familiar face in
goal. They have just signed former City keeper Ray Newland
from Torquay United.
City’s other friendlies include a mini-tour of Wales
with stop-offs at Newtown, Newport, Aberystwyth and Caernarfon.
They then take on first division West Brom at The Deva
on July 29 a game that marks the return of former
Blues cult hero Cyrille Regis.
8 July 1997
DANNY BACK AT THE DEVA
Danny Murphy Liverpool’s
new Kop kid could be heading back home to Chester
next season. Chester City fan Murphy the 20 year-old
whizkid from Newton has virtually signed and sealed
a £3 million deal that will take him from the humble
surroundings of Gresty Road, Crewe to one of the biggest
football clubs in the world.
But, in true Liverpool policy, Murphy, might have to wait
his turn at Anfield. And Murphy may be heading for The
Deva after Chester City his hometown club
secured a deal with Liverpool to stage their reserve games
between November and March. Details of his move from Crewe
Alex were today emerging after Roy Evans beat off Spurs
and Newcastle to get the England youth international.
Liverpool will pay an initial £1.5m and that
fee could double based on appearances and international
recognition. And Murphy, who used to go to Kingsway High
School in Newton, is tipped for the big time with England.
He has just returned from the World Youth Championships
in Malaysia and now aims to take the Premiership
by storm. He returned to his Newton home last month
and he hasn’t stopped running around since.
Liverpool have always been first in the queue to snap
up the youngster, who is yet another player to roll off
Dario Gradi’s Gresty Road production line. Murphy,
a former Chester and Cheshire Schools striker, has made
over 100 league appearances for Crewe and played
a big part in the promotion play off success last May.
Meanwhile over at The Deva, Chester City are now almost
a week into their pre-season training. Kevin Ratcliffe
has reported no early injury scares and the Blues
boss is concentrating on organising a couple more friendlies
before the big kick-off. City’s first friendly is
against Preston next Tuesday when City fans will get their
first taste of new signing Rod Thomas.
7 July 1997
City new boy Rod Thomas will make his Blues bow next week.
Thomas City’s only summer signing
will play in a pre-season friendly at home to Preston
North End on July 15.
Fans will get their first taste of Thomas and a
refreshed City side. Manager Kevin Ratcliffe hasn’t
pushed the players too hard since they returned for pre-season
training last week. Tuesday’s game has come a little
too soon for Ratcliffe’s liking but it gives the
Blues boss a chance to see how Thomas, a free transfer
signing from Carlisle, will settle in. It will also be
a big night for Nick Richardson, who could pull on a City
shirt for the first time in 11 months.
Richardson snapped his cruciate knee ligament at Hartlepool
last September but has made an excellent recovery. The
former Cardiff City and Bury midfielder saw a specialist
on Friday when he hoped to be given the all clear to play
again. On a week to week contract, Richardson now has
to prove his fitness. He spent a week’s intensive
training at Lilleshall before returning for pre-season
Skipper Iain Jenkins is the only other player recovering
from injury. The Northern Ireland defender had a shoulder
operation during the summer. Pay rebels Chris Priest and
Ross Davidson have yet to re-sign. Ratcliffe hopes to
have talks with the two players this week.
4 July 1997
are on their way to The Deva next season. The Merseyside
giants will play their Central League games at Chester
between November and March next season. Officials at City
are keeping tight-lipped about the ground share deal but
Liverpool boss Roy Evans and chief executive Peter Robinson
have checked The Deva out this summer.
The Anfield club are happy with the arrangement
and so are City, who tried unsuccessfully to tie up a
similar deal with Everton two seasons ago. City fans will
also want a taste of the action with the likes of talented
teenager Michael Owen gracing the Deva. Owen, whose father,
Terry, used to play for Chester, hopes to make the switch
to the first team this season but they’ll still
be plenty of big names heading to Chester.
Extra gate money will boost the Blues bank balance but
the main reason for the deal is to improve links between
City and Liverpool. Chairman Mark Guterman is a big fan
of the ’feeder club’ idea and striking
up a ground share with Liverpool could benefit the Blues
in the long term. In the short term, however, the club
is hoping to attract more fans to watch Chester try to
make it third time lucky in their bid to get out of the
And they will be holding a fun day at The Deva on Sunday
“All the first team squad will be available to talk
to supporters and sign autographs,” said chief executive
Bill Wingrove. “Fans will be able to see behind
the scenes and a host of side shows will also be available.
The club will also take the opportunity to unveil next
season’s home and away kits and the open day will
start at 12 noon and end at 4pm.”
City kick off their pre-season friendlies on July 15
at home to Preston North End.
“It’s a little earlier than we wanted,”
said manager Kevin Ratcliffe. “But that’s
the date they came up with.” City then embark on
a short tour including stops at at Newport (July 21),
Aberystwyth (July 23) and Caernarfon on July 25. On July
29, Cyrille Regis returns to The Deva with West Brom,
where he is now coach. City are also hopeful of arranging
another game before the season kicks off at home to Lincoln
on August 9.
THREE YEARS AT THE DEVA
sun-tanned Kevin Ratcliffe was relaxing Stateside in his
Florida holiday retreat when the telephone rang. It was
Mike Pejic on the line asking him if he was interested
in a job.
“Mike said that was a job available and asked if
I was interested,” Ratcliffe recalled. “He
wouldn’t tell me what club it was but I told him
I was interested.” Ratcliffe, who had already committed
himself to a deal with Bury, would find out more about
Pejic’s mystery offer on his return. “I’d
agreed to sign for Mickey Walsh at Bury before I went
away but Bury went back on certain tings when I returned,”
added Ratcliffe, who then decided to take up Pejic’s
offer as player coach at Chester City.
“The job appealed to me. It was only 10-15 minutes
away from home although financially I was on a lot less
than I would have been at Bury. But I was doing something
I was interested in going into - the coaching side of
the game. And I was going into the coaching side of things
at the right time in my career.”
But after a few weeks, Ratcliffe and poor old Pejic
must have been wondering what they had let themselves
“Considering Chester was on the doorstep, I’d
never kept in touch with who was playing for them,”
“I think we had three players signed on and
I was one of them! We had problems signing players but
that was the least of our problems. We went in cupboards
looking for kit and couldn’t find any. We
couldn’t find any balls, bibs, cones and even boots.
We didn’t even have a physio! We were like a Sunday
It didn’t get any easier. Fans were still reeling
from the Graham Barrow resignation. Whoever replaced Barrow
was in for a hard time.
“I think Graham could see what was coming,”
added Ratcliffe. “I don’t think anyone would
have saved us from relegation that year not even
God. But I’ve said all along that the club needed
someone like Mike Pejic to come in and sort things out.
Mike and I worked all hours and I believe the job would
have killed him if he’d have carried on.”
Public enemy number one, Pejic found it difficult to deal
with the pressure Ratcliffe also cracked a few
times when fans turned on him. “I found it difficult
to play because I was coaching, watching games and looking
at players,” he said. “Then I had to play
in midweek and on a Saturday. The problem I had that I
could rectify our player’s mistakes in the pitch
but when I made one there was no-one there to rectify
it and it probably resulted in conceding a goal. Fans
did have a go at me and rightly or wrongly I had a go
back. They seem to think it’s alright to have a
go at you for an hour and a half and it’s
worse the lower down the leagues you go.
“You don’t notice it at the top but you do
at the bottom. You know where it’s coming from,
you know who’s shouting what and you remember what
clothes they’re wearing! I’d just love it
for some of the players to go and watch these fans at
work and slag them off for 90 minutes.”
Ratcliffe survived where Pejic didn’t but he wasn’t
sure whether he wanted to stay on. Youth coach Derek Mann
took over as caretaker manager - and that suited Ratcliffe.
“Derek and I had a good relationship,” said
Ratcliffe. “He let me coach a lot more and I enjoyed
that. I was more involved and I was given the chance to
organise things a lot more. Mike wanted to do everything
but Derek was quite prepared to delegate.”
Ratcliffe was happy with his new hands-on role until Mann
quit after illness.Chairman
Mark Guterman was uncertain about giving the job to Ratcliffe,
who still hadn’t turned the corner with the frustrated
fans. Ratcliffe wasn’t convinced whether he wanted
the job either. He didn’t apply but he told Guterman
what his plans where and in May 1995, Ratcliffe was the
new Blues manager with Gary Shelton as his assistant.
He signed Neil Fisher within a week and then moved for
“Cyrille was a terrific signing,” said Ratcliffe.
“Some people said that Cyrille was on a £1,000
a game but he was on nowhere near that. He was on peanuts
and he was doing us a favour. He put numbers on the gates
at home and away.”
Then came the start of the season and a double
header with Wigan now managed by Barrow. “It
was billed up as a head to head between the two of us,”
recalled Ratcliffe. “It was a crucial game for me
but it was also important for some of the players, who
were here when Graham was manager. We beat them 4-1 at
home and it was good. My reaction at the end of the game
was ’job done’.”
But the job wasn’t completed as City missed out
on the play-offs by a point that season and Ratcliffe
was feeling the pressure as he lost his head when he kicked
out at Rochdale substitute Dave Lancaster in April 1996.
Most of the frustrations were due to lack of firepower
City weren’t scoring for fun like they did at the
start of the season and that’s what cost
them a place in the play-offs.
“We all now we had to buy a striker that season
but we had no money simple as that,” he added.
Money is still tight but Ratcliffe understands that. “Mark
Guterman has ploughed in between £250,000 and £500,000
into this club and I know that I can’t go
begging for money all the time,” he added.
Money was made available last season but again City missed
out. Ratcliffe just hopes that this time it will be third
time lucky when he begins his third season in charge at
The Deva on August 9.
3 July 1997
TORNADO FEARS OVER CITY KIT
Chester City survived a major
scare when arranging a new three year kit deal with Italian
designers Errea. Blues chief executive Bill Wingrove received
a worrying fax last week saying the Milan-based production
plant had been hit by a tornado. “It was a bit worrying,”
said Wingrove. “But they’ve assured me the
kit will be here on time.” Errea supply kit to Middlesbrough
and Italian Serie A sides Parma, Vernoa and Genoa.
The home kit will be traditional blue and white stripes
with the away strip a green and black check affair. City
will unveil their new kit at the club’s family fun
day on Sunday July 27.
2 July 1997
BLUES BACK FOR PRE-SEASON TRAINING
Chester City boss Kevin Ratcliffe
believes his side will be stronger, fitter and
better this season. The Blues boys were back at
The Deva today for pre-season training and Ratcliffe
is more than happy with his squad.
“I’m happy with the squad and I think it’s
a lot stronger than this time last year,” said Ratcliffe,
who has made only one signing during the close season.
But the introduction of speed merchant Rod Thomas from
Carlisle could prove another masterstroke. Working on
a shoestring budget, Ratcliffe has a habit of bringing
in excellent free transfers. In his first season in charge,
Ratcliffe enticed Cyrille Regis to the Deva and last time
around, goalkeeper Ronnie Sinclair played a massive part
in City’s almost-successful season.
“Rod’s a good signing,” added Ratcliffe.
“His style didn’t suit Carlisle’s style
but it suits ours.” The addition of Thomas boosts
City’s first team squad to 23. “I’m
happy with that number especially when we’ve got
Nick Richardson and John Murphy fit again this season,”
“Nick didn’t play after September and John
Murphy looked back to his best at the end of last season.
They will increase competition for places and we’ve
got five and a half weeks to work out our best side. Pre-season
is one of the most important times of the season. If you
miss the first week then it’s difficult to catch
up. We’ll be taking it easy today and then we’ll
have a programme to work to.”
City’s first pre-season friendly is less than two
weeks away. Preston are the visitors to The Deva on July
15 where City fans will have their first sight of wing
ace Thomas. But it’s unlikely any more new faces
will be on show. “We’ve got certain players
in mind but I’m not being rushed into making rash
signings,” added Ratcliffe. “I’ll only
bring in players who are better the ones we’ve got
and that’s what I’ve done with Rod
1 July 1997
BLUES CONFIDENT DESPITE BOOKIES
are 16-1 to win the Division Three Championship. And the
way chairman Mark Guterman is talking, the Blues are going
for title glory.
“We’re going for promotion,” said Guterman
as he unveiled star signing Rod Thomas last Friday. But
the bookies don’t rate City’s chances. Ladbrokes
reckon Jan Molby’s Swansea who dumped City
out of the play-offs last May are the favourites.
The Swans are 6-1 with relegated Peterborough (7-1) and
Notts County (9-1) the next best bets. Brighton, who could
be thrown out of the Football League, are 10-1 while Devonians
Exeter and Torquay are favourites to go down to the Conference.
Those 16-1 odds might entice some of the City players
in to having a bet. They return for pre-season training
tomorrow with just one new face to introduce. Speedy winger
Rod Thomas meets up with his new team-mates for the first
time tomorrow. And Ross Davidson and Chris Priest
who have turned down new contracts will also be
returning. City are hopeful they will sign and manager
Kevin Ratcliffe is expected to have talks with them this
week. If the players don’t agree, they will go on
a week to week contract.
odds from William Hill
8-1 Peterborough United, Swansea City
10-1 Cardiff City
11-1 Notts County, Shrewsbury Town
12-1 Chester City, Colchester United
14-1 Brighton & Hove Albion, Hull City, Leyton
Orient, Lincoln City, Macclesfield Town, Rotherham United
16-1 Cambridge United, Scunthorpe United
20-1 Mansfield Town
25-1 Barnet, Rochdale, Scarborough
40-1 Darlington, Doncaster Rovers, Torquay United
50-1 Exeter City, Hartlepool United