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NEWS FROM DEVA STADIUM 1997
May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December
MAY 1997
SUMMARY
Despite the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea City in the play-off’s, it’s been a successful year for Chester City. “We’ve definitely improved this season and we can do better next time” said manager Kevin Ratcliffe.

He believes he has the basis of a promotion winning squad at the Deva and will be hoping that the nucleus of the squad will stay together. That explains why only three players have been released this summer, skipper Peter Jackson, forward Kevin Noteman and defender Greg Brown.

“You have to give the young lads their chance,” said assistant manager Gary Shelton, who himself has made over 500 league appearance during a 20-year-career. “That’s why we’ve let the likes of Peter Jackson and Kevin Noteman go. They were experienced pros but we’ve got young lads coming through and you can’t stand in their way.”

Chris Priest, Dave Flitcroft and Ross Davidson appear to be holding out for better deals and have yet to sign contracts for next season , while Spencer Whelan, Rod McDonald and goalkeeper Wayne Brown have agreed new deals. Whelan has a two year contract, while McDonald and Brown have one year deals. Current Northern Ireland international Iain Jenkins recently pledged his loyalty to the club by signing a two year deal.

Andy Milner, John Murphy, Stuart Rimmer and Nick Richardson have all been offered contracts for next season though at the time of writing none have signed – those who don’t will be put on weekly contracts. Centre half Gary Tallon, who made one appearance on trial from Kilmarnock has returned to Scotland.

Ratcliffe has hinted that he won’t have much cash to play with during the summer. “I’ve got a budget to work to. I knew that when I took over and I can’t expect the chairman to keep digging into this pocket. I’ve got to start looking for good players – and good players on free transfers.”

That, Ratcliffe and Shelton have started to do, checking lists of available players at the PFA in Manchester, as there is no doubt the side needs strengthening. “We know we haven’t got money to splash out on players but sometimes you get a few surprises in the released lists.”

City will have one of the youngest squads in the third division next season and manager Kevin Ratcliffe may be looking for a couple of experience pros during the summer. Top of the shopping list are a 20-goal a season striker and a left-sided wingman.

As we all know, goalscoring has been City’s problem for at least a year now. With Kevin Noteman released and Sam Aiston returning back to Sunderland following his successful loan spell, City have no natural left sided player.

Meanwhile chairman Mark Guterman is still waiting to see if the FA will take any action against him following an astonishing outburst at red-card referee Neale Barry. A furious Guterman was livid after his side were dumped out of the play-offs at Swansea. And he told the Scunthorpe official exactly what he thought of him. “We were cheated,” fumed Guterman, who was seething over the sending off of City midfielder Chris Priest.

The Blues lost 3-0 and their chances of a Wembley debut and promotion to Division Two were completely wiped out. “I will do everything in my power to make sure he never referees a Chester City match again.” Guterman’s wish has now been granted – Barry has been elected to the Premier League List of referees!! Barry, who earlier in the season, sent off Blues boss Kevin Ratcliffe, responded by reporting Guterman to the Football League. The under-fire Barry said: “He came into my room at the end of the game and made certain representations.”

The matter has since been passed onto the Football Association. And they have asked Guterman to send in a report on the incident before the matter goes before the FA’s disciplinary committee.

29 May 1997
FLITCROFT SIGNS NEW DEAL
David Flitcroft has signed a new deal with Chester City. The 23-year-old midfielder put pen to paper after agreeing a two-year contract. Assistant manager Gary Shelton was delighted when the Bolton-born battler finally put his name on the dotted line. He said: “David’s very strong, very direct down the right and I think he’s got a lot of enthusiasm which rubs off on other members of the team. “He also scores some important goals coming in from the right. When David’s at his best, Chester City play well.”

The Blues were determined to keep Flitcroft to aid their push for promotion from Division Three next season. Flitcroft, who scored six goals in 30 league appearances last season, was holding out for better terms.

Shelton added: “I think it was a bit of both really - David wanted to get the best deal for him and we wanted him to sign.”

The Flitcroft deal means Chester, who released captain Peter Jackson and Kevin Noteman at the end of last season, are now waiting on just three men to re-sign.

They are: midfielder Chris Priest, right-back Ross Davidson and striker Andy Milner.

Shelton was not sure of the state of play with these players. He said: “Kevin deals with that side of things so I don’t really know. Chris and Ross are both vital members of the squad and we want them to stay at the club. Maybe they do feel they can play at a higher level. Chris has come to us from Everton and Ross from Sheffield United, both of which are higher up. Both are ambitious and maybe they believe they can play higher up.”

23 May 1997
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLIES
Chester have arranged the following pre-season friendlies both at the Deva Stadium.
July 15th – Preston North End
July 29th – West Bromwich Albion

Meanwhile the players will be reporting back for training on July 2nd, before embarking on a pre-season tour of South Wales in mid July.

22 May 1997
GARY SHELTON’S DEVA DIARY
I’m still finding it difficult to talk about last week’s defeat at Swansea. It wasn’t the best way to end the season. We had a hard task after drawing at our place and were always going to be underdogs at The Vetch. Our dressing room wasn’t a nice place to be after the game but it’s no use us feeling sorry for ourselves.
We thought we were going to Wembley but it wasn’t to be. We just missed out last year. We got there this time around but we’re still slightly short of being the finished article.

Our big problem has been scoring goals. We’ve known that all season. If we’d have had a Graeme Jones in our side then we’d have won promotion. But we haven’t got the money to throw around and we’ve just got to accept that. Anyway, let’s not dwell on the bad things. Let’s have a look back at the good times this season.

The Middlesbrough match has to be the highlight of my season. It was great to play in front of a big crowd and it was also a great experience for our younger players. That was the most enjoyable game from a playing point of view. The most enjoyable from the bench was the Doncaster match. All we had to do was sit back and relax after the goals started flying in. I wish all games could be like that.

There’s been many memorable things off the field – some I have written about and some I haven’t been allowed to print.

But here’s one funny to finish. Groundsman John Hipkiss was in his favourite haunt in Chester – Brannigans. He strutted up to a long-blond haired party goer and cuddled up next to her only to discover it wasn’t a her. It was a bloke. I haven’t seen John since so I don’t know what happened to him. Finally, I’d like to say goodbye to two old friends – Peter Jackson and Kevin Noteman. Jacko’s been a great favourite with the fans and has stepped in to do my column a couple of times. Notes has kept my column going with his antics on the field and especially on the golf course. I bet he wishes he hits a golf ball in the air like he takes a penalty!

Have a good summer and you’ll hear from me at the start of next season.

WAIT AND SEE FOR MARK
Chester chairman Mark Guterman is still waiting to see if the FA will take any action against him following an astonishing outburst at red-card referee Neale Barry. A furious Guterman was livid after his side were dumped out of the play-offs at Swansea eight days ago. And he told the Scunthorpe official exactly what he thought of him.

“We were cheated,” fumed Guterman, who was seething over the sending off of City midfielder Chris Priest. The Blues lost 3-0 and their chances of a Wembley debut and promotion to Division Two were completely wiped out. “I will do everything in my power to make sure he never referees a Chester City match again.”

Barry, who earlier in the season, sent off Blues boss Kevin Ratcliffe, responded by reporting Guterman to the Football League. The under-fire Barry said: “He came into my room at the end of the game and made certain representations.” The matter has since been passed onto the Football Association. And they have asked Guterman to send in a report on the incident before the matter goes before the FA’s disciplinary committee.

Apart from the Swansea aftermath, it’s all quiet at The Deva. The players who have been offered new deals, have until next week to decide yes or no. Dave Flitcroft has yet to put pen to paper and other players are also holding out for better deals.

“If they don’t sign they’ll go on a week to week contract,” said assistant manager Gary Shelton, who will try to bolster the Blues squad tomorrow. Shelton and Ratcliffe are off to the PFA headquarters in Manchester to look at the lists of available players. On top of their wanted list is a centre forward.

City skipper Iain Jenkins gained another international cap with Northern Ireland yesterday. He played in their 0-0 draw against Thailand in Bangkok.

21 May 1997
LIFE TO BEGIN AT 40 FOR BLUES STAR
Golden oldie Gary Shelton today vowed to carry on playing. Chester City’s veteran midfielder will be 40 next season – and he’s still going strong.

“I had quite a good season,” said assistant manager Shelton, who has been at the club for three seasons. I played about 18 games and enjoyed them all. I know I can’t manage two games a week these days but if I’m needed I’ll put the boots on and give it my best. I love playing and I’ve kept myself fit over the years and it’s great to still play.”

Many fans reckon that City play better when Shelton’s in the side but the Nottingham-born midfield man sacrificed his place in the side. “You have to give the young lads their chance,” added Shelton, who has made over 500 league appearance during a 20-year-career. That’s why we’ve let the likes of Peter Jackson and Kevin Noteman go. They were experienced pros but we’ve got young lads coming through and you can’t stand in their way.”

City will have one of the youngest squads in the third division next season and manager Kevin Ratcliffe may be looking for a couple of experience pros during the summer. Not for the first time, a centre forward remains his priority and Ratcliffe and Shelton will scour the free transfer lists this week. “We’re going to Manchester to the PFA office on Friday and we’ll look through the list to see who’s been given frees,” added Shelton. We know we haven’t got money to splash out on players but sometimes you get a few surprises in the released lists.”

19 May 1997
WINGMAN IS CITY TARGET
Chester City are targeting a left winger after Kevin Noteman’s Deva departure.

Noteman was freed last week and with left winger Sam Aiston now back in his native North East, the Blues don’t have a naturally left sided player.

“Kev’s gone and Sam’s gone back to Sunderland so it does leave us a bit unbalanced down the left,” said assistant manager Gary Shelton today. “Kev did a good job for us – scored a few goals and I’d like to wish him all the best and hope he gets fixed up with a club. We haven’t got a naturally left footed player in the side now and we’ll be looking to fill that position.”

Out of favour Neil Fisher, who has had a poor season, has played on the left before, but is unlikely to feature in that position next season. But a new left winger isn’t on top of manager Kevin Ratcliffe’s summer shopping list. Not surprisingly, the Blues boss is after a-20-goals-a-season-striker.

“That’s what we want,” added Shelton. “And that’s what everyone wants. We’ve known all along that we need a striker who will score goals regularly but they’re difficult to find.”

Andy Milner was City’s top scorer last season with 14 and the 30-year-old front man is one of several players still mulling over new contracts.
“They’ve all been offered new contracts. We’ve had no definite yes or no’s and they are all just thinking them over during the summer.”

Noteman and skipper Peter Jackson were the only players to be handed frees – and both want to stay in the Football League and not go into non-league.

The highlights of the Blues second half of the season can now be savoured forever. The video, priced at £12.95, is now available in the club shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 1997-2008 Steve Mansley | User Stats | Technical | Webmaster
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