ROD CHOOSES CHESTER ABOVE FRENCH
boy Rod Thomas shunned Scarborough and Marseille
to sign for Chester City. And the former England
U21 international believes he’s made the right decision.
“Chester have got a good footballing side and
there’s no reason why we can’t be in the second division,”
said Thomas, who completed his move from Carlisle to
Chester on Friday. He was due to sign for Scarborough
on Thursday but City chairman Mark Guterman and manager
Kevin Ratcliffe acted swiftly to get their man.
“Scarborough wanted me and my agent was fixing
me up with a trial at Marseille,” added the 26-year-old
Londoner. But I found out about Chester’s interest in
me two weeks ago and I was interested. I’m ambitious
and I wouldn’t be here if the club wasn’t ambitious.
They were one of the better sides we played last season
and they were a little bit unlucky in the play-offs.
I think they deserved to go up because they play good
City missed out on the play-offs but Carlisle celebrated
promotion to Division Two. Thomas played 33 times but
felt he didn’t fit in with manager Mervyn Day’s game
plan. “The sweeper style didn’t suit my game,
but I think Chester’s style of play will suit me. I’m
very positive in the way I play. I’m more of a creator
than a goalscorer and I’ll be aiming to bring players
into the game and be in a winning side!”
Assistant manager Gary Shelton
said: “Rod runs at players and he’ll add another
dimension to our game. We are very pleased to sign him.”
The Thomas signing has also
delighted The Blues chairman, who played a big part
in bringing Thomas to The Deva. Guterman dealt with
Thomas’ agent, Mel Stein the man who looks after
Paul Gascoigne. “We are delighted to sign him.
We’ve beat off competition from other clubs and we still
want to sign a couple of players before the start of
The players return for pre-season
training on Wednesday when Thomas will meet up with his
27 June 1997
Chester City today unveiled
their first summer signing.
Former England youth and U21 international Rod Thomas
is winging his way into The Deva. The Blues called a
conference for three o’clock when they were expected
to parade their new signing. Twenty-six-year-old Thomas
from promoted Carlisle United on a two year deal. He
can play on either flank and has lightning place. And
no doubting his ability.
And Blues boss Kevin Ratcliffe has also acted quickly
to get his man. Third division Scarborough were chasing
the former Watford winger and reports in yesterday’s
Carlisle News and Star said that Thomas had signed a
year deal at The McCain Stadium.
But City have stepped in with a better offer and Thomas
was expected to finalise his free transfer today. Thomas,
who has been at Brunton Park for four years, spent most
of last season on the bench.
His traditional winger style didn’t suit Mervyn Day’s
five man midfield policy. But City are unlikely to leave
Thomas out in the cold. They are winger-less following
the return of loan ranger Sam Aiston to Sunderland and
the off-loading of Kevin Noteman.
Roger Preece is back in League
football. The ex-Chester City and Wrexham favourite has
signed for Shrewsbury.
Preece, a Shropshire lad, has been handed a player coach
role at Gay Meadow and the 28-year-old midfielder
“It’s just great to be back in the league football,”
said Preece, who played Conference football with Southport
and then Telford after leaving The Deva last October.
And the Telford link played a big part in Preece’s move
to Shrewsbury. The Shrews new boss is Jake King, who was
Preece’s manager at Telford.
“Everything’s worked out really well, I was really
down when I left Chester but I knew that I could get back
into the game and it’s great to be involved again.
It’s the best of both worlds for me, I’ve had no real
problems with the knee since and I want to play as much
as I can in the first team. But if my knee doesn’t stand
up to things then I’ve got the coaching to fall back on
And Preece will want to make sure he’s fighting fit for
September 13. That’s when the Shrews visit The Deva.
“I’ve got to say I’m looking forward to it,”
said Preece, who made 169 league appearance during six-year
stretch with City. “The Shrewsbury v Chester game
was the first game I was looking for when the fixtures
came out. We’re going to Chester in September and the
return is in January they’ll be good games.”
Preece teams up with another ex-Blue at Shrewsbury where
former manager and physio Derek Mann is now football in
the community officer.
26 June 1997
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Chester City’s latest batch
of trainees today signed in at The Deva. The eight new
arrivals include one defender from Wrexham but none from
the Chester area. But youth coach Dave Fogg believes City’s
new kids on the block have what it takes to become professionals.
“It’s the first set of trainees that I’ve brought
into the club and I’m quite pleased,” said
Fogg. “If they work hard then they may become professional
If they do become pros, they’ll be following in the footsteps
of Jon Jones, Ryan Dobson, Craig Warrington, Martin Giles
and Phil Clench. They all made the step up during the
summer but Fogg will still be keeping a close eye on them.
“I’ve discussed things with Kevin Ratcliffe and
Gary Shelton and we think it would be better if the first
year pros still worked closely with me for another year,”added
Fogg, who now has a 16-strong youth squad.
The new kids on the block are:
Martyn Lancaster a right-sided player from Haydock
Dave Pendleton a centre half from Southport
Karl Rendell a centre forward from Runcorn
Darren Moss a right back from Wrexham
Matthew McKay a midfielder from Warrington
David Lloyd a left winger from Liverpool
Matthew Conkie a goalkeeper from Weaverham and
Danny Carson from Huyton.
On the first team front, manager Kevin Ratcliffe is chasing
a left-sided midfielder and could have a deal sealed by
the time the players return for pre-season training on
Former Chester defender Paul Futcher is the new manager
at Vauxhall Conference side Southport. Chester-born Futcher
takes over from Ronnie Moore, who became manager at Rotherham
25 June 1997
EX-BLUES IN THE NEWS
Two ex-Blues were in the news
today. Former skipper Peter Jackson, released on a free
transfer last month, will start pre-season training with
Conference outfit Halifax Town. And Colin Greenall, who
quit The Deva three years ago, could be on his way out
at Wigan. Greenall, who played 42 times for City
and was named player of the season in their promotion
year, has turned down a one year contract at Springfield
The 33-year-old stylish defender wants a two year deal
after lifting the Division Three Championship with the
Latics. And if Wigan boss John Deehan fails to reach a
compromise with his captain, Greenall could become a target
for Rochdale, now managed by former Blues boss Graham
Meanwhile, Jackson, another winner of the Blues player
of the season award, is hoping to stay in the Football
League. The popular centre half will start the season
with Halifax but is interesting a number of league clubs.
“It’s early days yet,” said Jackson, who lives
in Brighouse, which is only a couple of miles away from
The Shay. I’ll start pre-season training with Halifax
and take it from there.”
Jackson chalked up 100 league appearances with the Blues
but missed out of the play-offs because of hernia operation.
24 June 1997
KEV BACKS STRIKEFORCE
Kevin Ratcliffe today gave
his shot-shy strikers a vote of confidence.
“I’ve been reading a lot about us wanting to get
a new striker, but I’m quite happy with my strikeforce
and the signing of Rod McDonald increased the competition
for places. It would be nice to buy a 20-goal-a-season
striker but they cost a lot of money.”
Bury’s 36-year-old Mark Carter has been mentioned but
Ratcliffe may be looking elsewhere. “Mark’s a proven
goalscorer but he’s also 36. Realistically it’s better
to look for a younger player who will cost us £40,000
who we can then sell on for a lot more money. We are looking
for new players but it’s very quiet at the moment. The
lads are back in training next week and we’re just making
the final preparations for our pre-season.”
City have home friendlies against Preston and West Bromwich
Albion. They are also going on tour to mid and South Wales.
20 June 1997
FISH CAN’T PUT HIS FINGER
Fisher can’t wait for the new season to kick off. Chester
City’s ex-Bolton man struggled to make any impact in the
Blues promotion push last season. And Fish can’t seem
to put his finger on where it went wrong.
“It wasn’t a lack of confidence. I just don’t know
what went wrong. I had a good first season with Chester
and maybe I thought it was too easy. I then worked really
hard and perhaps tried too hard, and that’s when things
started going wrong. Then I tried to relax out on the
field and that went against me too. I just couldn’t win.
Now I’m really looking forward to the new season and just
hope it’s nothing like the last one. I feel I’ve let a
lot of people down, especially the manager and the lads.
But it’s made me even more determined to get my form back.”
Fisher, who started only 19 league games last season,
lost his central midfield berth following the arrival
of hardman Shaun Reid. And with Reid and Chris Priest
occupying the two midfield anchormen posts, Fisher fancies
the role on the left wing. Kevin Noteman was freed and
on-loan winger Sam Aiston has returned to Sunderland.
The number 11 shirt is up for grabs and Fisher
“I’d like to make the number 11 shirt my own, I
fancy playing on the left side of midfield. That’s where
I played when I first came to Chester and it’s my favourite
position. I think that’s where Kevin Ratcliffe sees me
playing and having a regular position might help my game.”
The versatile Fisher has played in central midfield, right
midfield, left midfield, right back and left back. “Sometimes
it doesn’t help you if you can play in different positions,
I think it’s affected my game.”
18 June 1997
ANGRY GUTERMAN BLASTS LEAGUE CHIEFS
Chester City’s outspoken chairman
Mark Guterman today accused Football League bosses of
money wasting. Guterman is furious at the number of reports
commissioned by League chiefs.
“They are being irresponsible with the league’s
money,” he said. “It’s just report after report
with the costs running into six figure amounts each time.”
Guterman played a major part in blocking regionalisation
plans for Division Three and the Conference last season.
The report, carried out by accountants, suggested that
a return to the old Division Three North and South Leagues
would benefit cash-strapped clubs like City. That radical
plan didn’t go ahead but Football League chief, David
Sheepshanks, chairman at Ipswich, still believes it is
the best way forward.
Guterman disagrees and said: “All they are interested
in is making money for the first division clubs.”
City could be planning to change just one fixture in the
1997-8. The home game with Scunthorpe on Sunday December
28 could move to the Monday. The Football League have
penciled in all matches for the Sunday. But that could
“We’re allowed to change three games in the season
and I’ll have to speak to Kevin Ratcliffe if we want to
move it to Monday,” said secretary Derek Barber.
The only other change could see Colchester moving their
Saturday fixture on December 20 to Friday 19.
16 June 1997
CITY KICK-OFF AT HOME
City will kick off, and sign off, the new season at
Lincoln are the visitors to The Deva on 9 August with
a home clash against Scarborough completing their 1997/98
campaign. “It’s great to be home on the first
said City’s top scorer Andy Milner. “It’s
better than last season, we were at Brighton on the
and it was hot down there.”
The Football League fixture computer has churned out
a Boxing Day clash away at Hull while City’s return
to Moss Rose, Macclesfield will be on 25 April.
13 June 1997
NOTHING IN JENKS RUMOURS
Jenkins spoke for the first time today about speculation
linking him with a big money move.
“I’ve read that a lot of clubs are after me but
I’ve heard nothing,” said Chester City captain Jenkins.
“Chelsea, Aston Villa and Sunderland have all been
mentioned but as far as I’m concerned I’m a Chester City
Jenkins, who had an outstanding season as the Blues narrowly
missed out on promotion, has just signed a new improved
two year deal at the Deva. But the 24-year-old defender
is now a wanted man after making a big impact on the international
soccer scene with Northern Ireland. Jenkins, who only
found out he was eligible to play for Bryan Hamilton’s
side 10 weeks ago, has since become a regular. One B team
game was followed up by a World Cup qualifier in Armenia
and an end of season tour to Thailand.
“I can’t believe how things have turned out,”added
Jenkins. “I was only finding my feet at the start
of the season following the car crash and now there’s
talk of a move to the Premiership. But that’s all it is
at the moment talk. Kevin Ratcliffe and Mark Guterman
will look after my interests and I won’t be leaving Chester
City unless it’s in the best interests of myself and the
Jenkins, who kicked off his career with Everton, where
he made six first team appearances, is ambitious and wants
to play in the Premiership. His valuation is increasing
all the time especially after three faultless displays
at right back with Northern Ireland. The cash-strapped
Blues could easily demand a £200,000 plus fee for
Jenkins, who has chalked up 126 league appearance in four
Versatile Jenkins is capable of playing anywhere along
the back four as was City’s regular left back last season.
But he could return to his favourite right back role next
season with Ross Davidson unlikely to re-sign for the
Blues. Davidson, who comes from London, has refused to
sign a new contract. The former Sheffield United defender
has been having talks with promoted Fulham. Chris Priest
City’s other pay rebel hasn’t attracted
any interest yet and is expected to return to the
Deva for pre-season training on July 2.
12 June 1997
TESTING TIMES FOR STUEY
striker Stuart Rimmer has become a victim of the current
crisis at Goodison Park. Rimmer Chester City’s
record signing and record goalscorer had hoped
to attract Everton to the Deva for his testimonial match
before the start of the season. But with Everton still
searching for a new manager and a new sponsor, Rimmer’s
match has been put on hold.
“It definitely won’t be pre-season,”
said Rimmer, whose two spells at the club have totaled
ten years. “I really don’t know what’s
going to happen because I’d sorted out all the details
with Joe Royle.”
Royle has since left Goodison and until the Toffeemen
appoint a new manager, Rimmer will have to put his big
match plans on hold. “Hopefully we can look to the
end of next season,” added Rimmer, who has been
given a new one year deal to stay at The Deva.
Southport-born Rimmer, 33 in October, played 28 times
last season, scoring six goals. That took his record-breaking
tally to 127 league goals for the Blues.
And Rimmer will aim to improve on that as he battles it
out for a regular place in the starting line-up. Andy
Milner last season’s top scorer with 14
and mid-season signing Rod McDonald were the main strike
pairing last season. But things could change up front
as City try to make it third time lucky in their bid to
escape from Division Three. Rimmer, Milner and McDonald
will also face the challenge of young guns John Murphy
and Jonathan Jones.
And Blues boss Kevin Ratcliffe is desperate to sign another
striker before the start of the season. Ratcliffe wants
a 20-goal-a-season man but those kind of players don’t
come cheap. Money is available to spend on new players
but the transfer activity is unlikely to start until after
the players return for pre-season training on July 2.
Two ex-Blues boys are still looking for new clubs. Kevin
Noteman and skipper Peter Jackson were both released last
season and have yet to sort themselves out. “It’s
early days at the moment,” said fans’ favourite
Jackson. “Most of the managers are away although
I’ve had a couple of offers.”
11 June 1997
CHRIS YET TO TIE THE KNOT WITH CHESTER
Priest is ready to put pen to paper but not with
Chester City. The Blues midfielder, who has said no to
a new deal at the Deva, has far more pressing engagements.
“I’m getting married,” said Priest today,
who will tie the knot with girlfriend Joanne in nine days
time at Leigh Registry Office. “That’s my main concern
at the moment. We’ve just come back from a family holiday
in Alcudia and I’m getting married in nine days time.
We’re not going on honeymoon so then I’ll be able to think
Priest has turned down an initial offer from Blues boss
Kevin Ratcliffe. He wants more money. But the 23-year-old
former Everton man still thinks he’ll be back at the Deva
when the squad regroups on July 2. “I’ve had no
phone calls from anyone although it’s been interesting
reading all things about me on Teletext,” revealed
Priest. There’s been all these things saying I’m leaving
because I’m ambitious and want to play at a higher level.
That certainly hasn’t come from me. Chester have made
me an offer and I’m not accepting it but I think there
is room for negotiations when I return. I’ve been told
to return to pre-season training on July 2 and I’ll be
getting myself fit for then.”
Priest will go on a week-to-week contract if he fails
to hammer out a deal suitable to both himself and
the club. “I don’t want to leave Chester, I want
to stay and we’ll just see what happens.”
Priest’s last game for City ended in double disappointment.
He was sent off as the Blues were dumped out of the play-offs
at Swansea. “It was a disappointing end to a disappointing
season for me,” added Priest, who struggled with
a thigh strain for the early part of the season. I wouldn’t
like to think that the Swansea game was my last for Chester,
but it does cross your mind.”
Priest is one of two players holding out for more money.
Right back Ross Davidson, who had a tremendous season,
has also refused to sign.
6 June 1997
BLUES STRIKER RE-SIGNS
Andy Milner is to re-sign for Chester City on a one-year
contract. The 30-year-old Cumbrian has agreed terms with
the Blues but the search for attacking options goes
City assistant manager Gary Shelton confirmed this morning
that Milner had committed himself to Chester for another
season but stressed that a proven goalscorer was still
the club’s number one priority.
“Andy had a good season last year in terms of goals
and assists”, he said “It’s good news for
us that he is staying. But hopefully we will also bring
in another striker. That will be good for competition.
We will have Andy, Stuart Rimmer, Rod McDonald, Jonathan
Jones, John Murphy and someone else all battling for two
places and that’s got to be good.”
Shelton said that enquiries had been made for one or two
players and added: “We’re looking for someone who
can stick the ball in the back of the net but so is everyone
else. We missed out last year. Everyone knows the chances
we created and we need to take more of them. Andy Milner
is very unselfish and does create chances for others.
He’s more of an all-round player than a natural goalscorer.”
Chester’s name had been linked
with Mark Carter, released by second division champions
Bury but the club have denied speaking to the player.
Shelton said though:“Mark’s been released on a
free and people have put two and two together but we
haven’t spoken to him. It’s pure speculation. He does
get goals. He got 16 or 17 last season and he’s experienced
but he’s 36 and that could be a problem. We do have
some money available for the right player but we might
need to wheel and deal.”
Meanwhile midfielder Chris Priest
and full back Ross Davidson have yet to agree new terms
and Shelton said: “They’re the only two holding
out now and we assume they will be going on week-to-week
contracts. It’s disappointing but they’re ambitious lads
and important members of our team. But if they’re not
happy and want to go elsewhere then there’s nothing we
can do. Financially we have a budget and if they can’t
fit into that then that’s that.”
5 June 1997
MILNER FUTURE UP IN THE AIR
Andy Milner’s future at Chester
City could be decided by the end of the week. The 30-year-old
Cumbrian born striker has been offered a one year deal
but was playing his cards close to his chest.
“I have replied to the club’s letter and it is up
to them after that. I am just waiting to hear from them.
It will all become clear, I would like to stay. I am happy
Milner was a regular in City’s team which fell at the
last promotion hurdle against Swansea in the play-offs.
“We have not got too far to go,” he added.
“We were only a couple of steps short at the end.”
It’s no secret the Blues, though, are after a 30-goals
a season striker, with Bury’s Mark Carter one of the names
that has been mentioned. The club has also approached
two other strikers both experienced players with
lower division clubs but neither is available.
Bury’s 36-year-old hitman Carter, meanwhile, remains another
possible target but he is on holiday and hasn’t been approached
by the Blues.
But Milner won’t let Ratcliffe’s hunt for another hitman
influence his decision about his future at Chester.
Said Milner: “All I read about in the paper is that
the boss is after a striker. It’s not brilliant to read
that but he is probably right. If we did have one, we
would be right up there, but everyone wants a striker
like that. It’s a fact of life and this is a squad game.
Kevin will have five or six strikers who he can chose
from. It’s up to me to do well if I stay on. But it definitely
won’t affect my decision. You are never going to have
just two strikers at a club - there is always going to
The Blues’ assistant manager Gary Shelton added: “Strikers
have been talked about everyone agreed we needed
one last year. But Andy was our top scorer and top with
the assists. Andy is still a very important member of
the squad. If he has agreed to stay, he will have to fight
for a place like everyone else. Competition for places
is healthy. I have inquired about two experienced strikers
who are at lower division clubs but at the moment, their
clubs aren’t going to release them so that is dead and
4 June 1997
EX-EVERTONIAN SIGNS AGAIN AT CHESTER
City’s promising young defender Mattie Woods is set to
agree a new deal with the club this week.
The 20-year-old ex-Evertonian centre back is set to sign
on Friday, assistant manager Gary Shelton confirmed today.
And the Blues received a double boost with the news that
fellow 20-year-old, goalkeeper Wayne Brown, has also agreed
a new deal.
Centre back Woods, a possible long-term replacement for
Peter Jackson, and Brown, who arrived at the Deva from
Weston super Mare as an understudy to Ronnie Sinclair,
are expected to sign either one or two year deals. Said
Shelton: “Matty has just broken into the team while
Wayne had a couple of games last season. We were hoping
both would stay because they are ones for the future.”
Veteran striker Stuart Rimmer has also pledged his future
to Chester for another season while solid centre back
Spencer Whelan has signed a two year deal. That leaves
striker Andy Milner, Ross Davidson and Chris Priest still
Cumbrian-born 30-year-old Milner is thought to be considering
a one-year offer, while Priest and Davidson have been
offered two year deals.
Added Shelton: “They are three regular first team
players so we are hoping they re-sign. But we haven’t
heard anything yet. At the moment, you have got to think
that is a negative sign but they do have two or three
weeks to reply. We just have to wait until they come back
from holidays. If they don’t sign, they go on to week-to-week
Ex-Evertonian Priest and ex-Sheffield United player Davidson
have both been the subject of speculation regarding moves
to top level clubs. But Shelton said: “We have had
no offers. There are lots of rumours flying about but
we have had no enquiries and no bids for any of our players.”