The give-away is when they use the word ‘massive’ and slot it into the conversation at every available opportunity. The callers then started claiming that Joe Royle wasn’t a big enough personality to manage such a ‘massive club’. Manchester City officials stepped in and advised that the callers were probably of the red persuasion and the penny dropped at Television Centre.
Should City register a first win in nine Premiership games on Saturday, Littlejohn is sure to have a number of genuine fans ringing in to gloat over what would be a ‘massive’ result for the Maine Road men.
City are sitting uncomfortably in the drop zone, but are actually unbeaten in four games in all competitions and are pulling out all the stops in bid to avoid a return trip to the Nationwide League.
Pacy frontmen Darren Huckerby, Andrei Kanchelskis and now Egil Ostenstad have joined up, the latter two on loan, to provide the firepower required to stand any chance of remaining a stop on the Premiership gravy train.
But at the onset of the season, two other strikers were promising goals a plenty for the newly promoted side. The unpredictable Paulo Wanchope proved irresistible for yet another manager and, much more surprising, George Weah swapped Milan for Moss Side via a loan spell at Chelsea.
Weah was set to be the Maine Man, although he looked a little shell-shocked during a pre-season friendly defeat at Stockport. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the former World Footballer of the Year’s Manchester sojourn did not last too long and he departed amid a war of words with Royle. Wanchope, for his part, is now on the transfer list.
Huckerby (pictured) and Ostenstad could be useful additions for the shrewd Royle, having gone through successful relegation scraps in the past with Coventry and Southampton. The Norwegian, however, has experienced the flip side with Blackburn.
The lines appear to have been drawn to an extent in the battle to avoid the drop. With Middlesbrough improving considerably under Terry Venables and Derby picking up results, City and Coventry are possibly relying on a comfort zone team going into freefall — it can happen. Everton looking the most likely candidates at the moment with Southampton looking good to stay up.
A factor in City’s favour is that they are capable of pulling a big result out of the hat. Notable successes this season include a 4-2 win over Sunderland, victory at Leeds, handing Everton a 5-0 thumping and sharing the spoils with in-form Liverpool.
It is easy to forget just how far Manchester City have come in the last three years. When Royle took over in February 1998 the club was in disarray and heading for Division Two. Successive promotions secured Royle hero status with true blues, and he has 12 games remaining to secure City a place among the elite for another season. Now that would be a massive achievement.
By Richard Hubbard
In his role as presenter of BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 phone-in show, Spurs supporter Richard Littlejohn has been ‘had’ in recent weeks by hoax callers describing themselves as Manchester City fans.