By Dom Farrell
Somewhat unfittingly given the swashbuckling nature of his team’s play this term, Edin Dzeko brought up Manchester City’s goalscoring century last weekend with a scuffed shot that required recourse to goal-line technology following a suspected handball by David Silva.
Like any self-respecting striker, Dzeko will tell you they all count. Keeping count, on the other hand, briefly appeared to be more problematic for the big Bosnian during a now infamous television interview in the immediate aftermath of the 6-0 Capital One Cup shellacking of West Ham.
Indeed, from goal-hungry strikers losing numerical track to opposition defences losing their collective will, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have swept all before them in recent month and, when Dzeko registered the ton during the 4-2 win over Cardiff, a number of records tumbled.
January 18 is now comfortably the earliest date in any season that Manchester City have reached 100 goals, smashing through the March 5 mark set by Kevin Keegan’s Blues in 2002.
Like Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison’s 1967/68 vintage and Roberto Mancini’s heart-stopping heroes of 2011/12, Keegan’s team lifted the league title after reaching three figures, albeit in the second tier.
That certainly bodes well for Pellegrini’s side and, of all City line-upsfrom the modern era, the team of Keegan’s first season in charge has as good a claim as any to being a stylistic bedfellow.
Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are weighing in with goals by the bucketload and Keegan also enjoyed the luxury of three free-scoring frontmen in the form of Shaun Goater, Darren Huckerby and Paulo Wanchope. For David Silva and Samir Nasri’s mercurial dual-playmaker act, see Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic; if waspish, committed wing play complete with a questionable final ball is what you’re after, then take your pick from Jesus Navas or Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Crafting a comparison between Yaya Toure and Kevin Horlock almost certainly stretches the analogy too far, but it was ‘Super Kev’ – the scorer of many crucial goals during his City career – who crashed home with a swipe of his trusty left boot to secure City’s century and a 2-1 win over Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
It was a scoreline to flatter the hosts on a night when City attacked with a verve and variety that had come to define their season, following a shaky start during which the team was sporadically exceptional while searching for an identity. Sound familiar?
Watford, who visit Manchester in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend, were the first team to take on Keegan’s City and they were dispatched 3-0 – Berkovic finding the net on an impressive debut.
Benarbia arrived from Paris Saint-Germain in September 2001, his mesmeric orchestration of the 3-0 home victory over Birmingham belying the fact his plane into Manchester arrived only two hours before kick-off. In a 6-2 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday the Algerian schemer was both goalscorer and puppeteer and the City faithful had a new darling.
Such performances remained the exception – chastening 4-0 reverses at the hands of West Brom and Wimbledon came either side of those Benarbia masterclasses – but things changed on December 1, when Grimsby’s Blundell Park provided the unlikely setting for footballing revelation.
Reverting to the 3-5-2 formation he employed in the opening weeks, Keegan paired Berkovic and Benarbia together in central midfield. Horlock was employed as a midfield anchor behind them for the first time, adding crucial balance.
The early career progression of Shaun Wright-Phillips from academy stand-out to £21million international winger can also be traced to that dank winter afternoon on the east coast.
Two years on from his City debut, Wright-Phillips’ development – regrettably not for the last time – had stalled. Too slight to play up-front, Keegan employed him “in the hole” for the second home game of the season against Crewe, where a horribly nondescript display was mercifully cut short at half-time.
Wright-Phillips began to show his promise once more as a conventional wideman in a 4-4-2, meaning Keegan was loathe to discard him when the back three returned. Perhaps by process of elimination, with Berkovic and Benarbia eminently more qualified “number 10s” and Goater ploughing a familiar goal furrow alongside Huckerby up front, the manager selected his pocket rocket at right wing-back versus Grimsby.
This was to the initial dismay of those who revelled in Richard Dunne’s interpretation of the role during October’s reverse fixture, carried out with all the grace of a wardrobe on roller skates. Wright-Phillips became a fixture in the position, his tireless work rate wonderfully complimenting instinctive natural ability.
The performance at Grimsby itself was no more than workmanlike, City waiting until Huckerby’s 74th-minute penalty to break the deadlock before Goater sealed a 2-0 win, but the settled line-up that had proved so elusive was now in place.
Building upon Horlock’s foundation behind the irresistible creative hub, City’s forwards made hay as Wright-Phillips and Danny Tiatto tore mercilessly down the flanks. Like those facing Pellegrini’s men today, opponents were given little to no respite. There were only three more league defeats post-Grimsby and emphatic triumphs became the order of the day.
Wanchope’s first-half hat-trick made a mockery of Burnley’s top-of-the-table status in a relentless 5-1 festive thrashing at Maine Road. A month later, City thumped Premier League Ipswich 4-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup – their relegation on the same Portman Road pitch eight months earlier feeling like a scarcely believable event of the distant past.
Promotion rivals Norwich and Millwall were seen off in consecutive home games despite early red cards for Tiatto and Benarbia. In the first game, Tiatto’s dismissal stirred the old warhorse Stuart Pearce into a righteous fury that became the embodiment of the steel fist lurking inside City’s velvet glove.
If Wolves’ limp loss to Millwall on April 5 confirmed promotion in anti-climactic fashion, City made up for it a day later by clinching the title with a 5-1 dissection of Barnsley, where Huckerby claimed a second consecutive home hat-trick and Benarbia touched perfection.
He would do so again in the penultimate game at Gillingham by launching an astonishing scooped backheel for Goater to drill a volley into the bottom corner. It remains a goal that measures up to any in Manchester City history, somewhat fittingly given the entertainment that team produced.
The harsh realities of the Premier League meant a more pragmatic approach brought a highly respectable ninth-place finish in 2002/03. As the move to a shimmering new home beckoned, Keegan shot for the stars and unwittingly torpedoed the blue moon. Goater, Huckerby, Horlock and Benarbia would never play a competitive game for City at Eastlands; Steve McManaman, Antoine Sibierski, Paul Bosvelt and Trevor Sinclair would almost get them relegated.
Pellegrini has the luxury of not needing to consider the type of transfer gambles that brought Keegan down and appears to be constructing something built to last. If that well-oiled winning machine hoists silverware in May, I will think back to the first City team I loved for what they did as opposed to simply who they were.
Statistics published by the social media networking site LinkedIn prove that Manchester City really is, “the only team to come from Manchester.”
The Manchester City FC Supporters Group, setup in July 2008, now has just over 1,100 members. The LinkedIn statistics show that 29% of the MCFC Supporters Group are based in Manchester, versus only 6% of the Manchester United Supporter Group.
The MUFC supporter group has the same percentage of fans in Manchester as it does in London at just 6%, with 3% of supporters coming from Mumbai in India.
The Manchester United Supporter Group, created in February 2008, now boasts over 5,000 members. Interestingly the group description helpfully reminds potential group members that United is a club from the UK by stating, “For all those fans who love Manchester United (UK) and would like to connect on LinkedIn.”
Dzeko's - back on form
By Dominic Farrell
Manchester City were simply irresistible as they dismantled Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium last Monday and deserving of the plaudits that flooded their way.
A verve and incisiveness seldom seen last season left a Newcastle side reeling from Arsenal’s approach for subsequently absent midfielder Yohan Cabaye sprawled over the ropes in the opening exchanges.
Edin Dzeko led the line with the marriage of muscular presence and assured touch that he often falls frustratingly short of; Jesus Navas buzzed incessantly inside and outside of the right channel to lend the team a thrilling new dimension; David Silva schemed shrewdly between the lines, his mojo working once more.
If 4-0 flattered anyone it was Newcastle – dreadfully undermined by captain Stephen Taylor’s bizarre decision to clout Sergio Aguero around the head before half-time and receive his marching orders – as City clanged down a marker to their title rivals. Some enthralled observers were scrambling around for blue and white trophy ribbons. Roberto who?
And then there was Cardiff. Playing amid a din induced by patriotic fervour as the Welsh capital welcomed Premier League football for the first time, City’s make-shift central-defensive pairing of Javi Garcia and Joleon Lescott rode their luck to preserve parity at half-time. The disintegration and set-piece folly that followed Dzeko’s opening thunderbolt was alarming.
Much of City’s display merited the brickbats that balanced out the post-Newcastle love-in, even if some reactions were extreme (a personal favourite was a forum poster likening Fernandinho to Gelson Fernandes with no reference to near-acronyms).
By the same token, Cardiff grabbed their big day superbly – Aron Gunnarsson capped a magnificent display with the equaliser and midfield counterpart Gary Medel also stood out within a team performance of boundless intensity. With due respect, Malky Mackay’s men may not play better this season. That does not mean Manuel Pellegrini and co can write off Sunday as a freak result.
Pellegrini has been successfully cast as the anti-Mancini - his purported arm-around-the-shoulder managerial technique bringing early success in the form of a rejuvenated Dzeko. But the defeat at Cardiff displayed flaws that often undermined City away from home throughout Mancini’s reign. It was anything but a freak result when cast in that light.
The idea that Pellegrini would come in as a glorified grief counsellor, give everyone a cuddle and fix all the problems in one fell swoop is wholly unrealistic and disrespectful toward the many talents of the manager and his predecessor.
Having watched his charges dismantle Newcastle, Pellegrini’s decision to field a similar XI at the Cardiff City Stadium was wholly understandable – Garcia replaced injured captain Vincent Kompany in the only enforced change – but it left him with a front row seat to a conundrum that Mancini often failed to crack; why do City sides that routinely dominate at the Etihad regularly flounder against a similar standard of opposition away from home?
The temptation post-Cardiff is to focus on Joe Hart’s haphazard form and more points dropped in Kompany’s absence– both are major concerns, particular the latter given the frequency with which the Blues’ toweringly influential captain has collected niggles since pinging a calf against Sporting Lisbon in March 2013 – but the kind of lacklustre away-day fayre served up on Sunday has arrived before with both men at the peak of their powers.
Against Newcastle, City’s front four operated with scintillating variety, rarely allowing Newcastle’s defence a moments’ peace. The game’s opening goal, with Dzeko pulling into space vacated by Silva down the left channel to cross for the Spaniard to head home from his centre-forward position, stood as the most effective example of this tactic.
Mancini also favoured fluid attackers but two of Pellegrini’s new editions helped to refine and improve City’s successful home approach on first viewing. Alongside Yaya Toure at the base of the midfield, Fernandinho helped to set a brisk tempo that meant City’s attacks never became ponderous or predictable, while Navas’ nimble and menacing wing play gave his fellow attackers and rampaging right-back Pablo Zabaleta room to manoeuvre.
Video: Jesus Navas YouTube compilation
And yet, familiar problems re-emerged at Cardiff. The Blues’ frustrations in breaking through a well-marshalled and tenacious defence descended into increasingly ragged and narrow raids as wide positions were not exploited. Navas’ departure, having been watchfully shackled by Cardiff throughout the afternoon, compounded the problem despite City leading through Dzeko at the time.
The hosts then concentrated efforts centrally without fear of being undone down the flanks and this powerful presence through the middle had a hand in their first and second goals, with City outnumbered defensively in midfield.
A strong argument in favour of Pellegrini’s appointment was the prospect of him bringing a fresh approach in Europe to prevent the Blues from falling at the group stage for a third successive season. Thursday’s draw might have done him a slight favour in that respect, but the need to re-evaluate City’s outlook away from home is at least just as pressing. Simply hoping their Etihad tactics will do the job in supposedly bread-and-butter encounters on the road will no longer do.
The Cardiff failings provide a reasonable starting point. By and large, City’s main creative talents prefer to operate from the centre, or at least moving towards it, but the amount of eye-of-a-needle passes from Silva that failed to find their mark in the final third at the weekend underlined the need for a more disciplined approach to width.
This is not to say Pellegrini should depart from his preferred brief of fluid attacking football, but this fluidity needs to run through a sprinkler and not a funnel. A combination of Navas’ natural instincts and James Milner’s unshakable commitment to do whatever is asked of him could help City to stretch their points of attack.
Such an approach would necessitate strengthening the centre of midfield, where the hastily discarded Gareth Barry, Jack Rodwell or Milner may provide a more streetwise feel in the engine room as Fernandinho acquaints himself with the Premier League’s cut and thrust. One imagines the Brazilian learned a number of lessons in Cardiff – the extent to which he heeds them will be fully tested at the Britannia Stadium the next time City hit the road.
Ah, the Britannia – a venue to provoke groans of dismay from many a Manchester City supporter. In five attempts since Premier League football returned to the Potteries, the Blues’ are yet to return with three points. Indeed, a glance at the next five away league games on the agenda – Stoke, Aston Villa, West Ham, Chelsea and Sunderland – shows a solitary victory for City in the corresponding fixtures last season.
So here’s to Pellegrini’s men getting straight back on the horse and revelling in home comforts when Hull travel across the M62 for Saturday’s early kick-off – surely a must even if league title are not won in late August. Alas, they can be lost by early November and a more combative and expansive approach on the road is needed to prevent pre-season optimism from grinding to a halt on the hard shoulder.
Sergio Aguero became Manchester City’s club record signing and emerged after signing his contract to an excited crowd of supporters at the Etihad stadium yesterday. MCFCfans caught the mood with exclusive footage of Kun making a point of dealing with every single request from fans to sign autographs and take pictures, with two delightful junior Blues over the moon at securing his signature.
Sergio has his picture taken with a junior Blue
City fans demonstrated their excellent command of Spanish, though Sergio was clearly briefed to not respond to questions. However, when City fan Norman Burkitt asked,"how are you?" in Spanish, a smiling Sergio replied, "bien!" Life-long City fan Burkitt is now on his way to Dublin hoping to see Sergio play for the first time in a City shirt, whilst his daughter Jasmine appears in the BBC3 documentary series,"Small Teen Bigger World," on Monday at 9pm.
Aguero remarked on his Twitter feed some last night,"I'm already a City player. I'm happy to be in this club and in this town. Thank you all for the welcome and the reception!!!"
Comment below with your ideas for a Kun chant !!
City start the club management’s next pre-defined block of games in an exciting season against Wigan on Sunday. The first block went extremely well, and if City are in the top four by new year then I ‘ll have a fine Scotch in honour of a great first half of the season. To be honest I’ll have a fine Scotch anyway, but it’ll taste better if City are up there!
City have defied the pre-season critics both on and off the pitch, smoothly riding the waves of press vitriol coming its’ way. One can only hazard at the current state of mind of Sir Alex Ferguson who in yesterday’s Daily Mail advised us that City may be heading for financial disintegration in the future, questioning at the same time whether or not it can be good for a club to have financial stability.
The tide is turning. Sport magazine, a London-based sports freebie, has been something akin to a United fanzine for much of the early season. So it was no surprise that its’ editor didn’t reply to my friendly e-mail requesting some balance in their coverage. It’s a decent Sport weekly, so why did they see fit to profile a different United player each week?
Well maybe they were listening this week as the player profiling gave way for “The Power List 2009,” a list of Sports view of the 50 people who wield the most influence in British sport. Sandwiched in between Lord Coe at No.3 and Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive of BSkyB, is our very own Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayad Al Nahyan. One of the world’s most powerful investors who has brought instant stability to City, certainly not the prospect of financial disintegration that £700 million of debt brings.
Kicking off the season again with a win against Wigan will be important. It’s a tough game that provides a stern test of resilience. We will miss Bellamy if he’s not fit, but it’s up to the team to make sure we win games like this. Once again the Manchester City Babies in Ghana have provided great inspiration. The club picked up a triple crown of league victories in all age groups two weeks ago, and finished last weekend unbeaten with two wins and a draw – see their dedicated page here.
MCFCfans reports on the story of Carl Ramsbottom, and appeals to fans to donate generously to the bucket collections at tomorrow’s game against Middlesbrough
For most Manchester City fans, the away UEFA Cup match against FC Schalke at the end of November last year is a fond and distant memory. But for one fan and his family, the trip was just the beginning of a traumatic and exhausting period that will continue for several months to come.
Carl Ramsbottom, who comes from Heywood just outside Rochdale, had been travelling back to his hotel after seeing City win 2-0 at the Veltrins Arena in Gelsenkirchen when a near fatal accident happened. He had stopped to turn around and locate his friends and, with his back to a flight of stairs, he lost his footing in the crowd and fell.
A man with medical experience at the scene prior to the arrival of the emergency services immediately put Carl in the recovery position and ensured his airways were clear. Keen to thank the unidentified man, Carl’s family made an appeal on KEY103 radio in Manchester. Gareth Dickens, a City fan and male nurse at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, came forward. Carl’s cousin Ian Ramsbottom, speaking to MCFCfans, said, “the family wanted to thank Gareth for his efforts as they may have saved Carl’s life.”
Doctors had to quickly release fluid in Carl’s brain by removing and deep-freezing a piece of his skull in an emergency operation. They then put him into an induced coma in order to aid his recovery. More than three weeks passed before the family had the relief of seeing Carl open his eyes for the first time following the accident. Carl now faces another operation to re-insert the frozen skull bone, and a long and uncertain road to recovery as his body learns basic functions all over again.
The family have been overwhelmed by the support from supporters of Manchester City, FC Schalke and other clubs beyond. Fans across the globe have been sending messages of support via message forums such as Bluemoon.
The clubs themselves have also pitched in with support. FC Schalke have been helping with hotels for the family in Germany and Manchester City are providing facilities for fundraising activities. The club also sent a DVD with recorded messages of support from Mark Hughes and many of the City players last month.
The next major expense for the family is likely to be the need to transport Carl to hospital in the UK and this is likely to involve medical transportation by train or ambulance. Fans are rallying round with a series of fundraising events to help the family cover the huge costs involved. Manchester City have granted rare permission for volunteers to do a bucket collection outside the City stadium prior to the match against Middlesboro tomorrow (Saturday 7th February, KO 12.45pm). Willing volunteers are still encouraged and are asked to meet outside the MCFC Superstore at 10.45am prior to the match.
MCFCfans has dedicated a page to the appeal that details some of the future fundraising events. We’ll also soon have a PayPal donation button that fans around the world can use to send funds to the appeal. Carl’s family are sincerely thankful for your support, which has been vital during this very difficult time. We wish Carl all the very best for his recovery.
The BBC understands that Robinho has been questioned in connection with an alleged sexual assault in a Leeds nightclub and is understood to have been released on bail.
This is all Manchester City needs right now. Just as we were getting back to the football. Hopefully somoene trying to make a fast buck and nothing with substance. Who knows if this is related to his sudden departure to Brazil.
In the final part of a two-part series (Part One is at this link) of articles reflecting on the Kaka transfer saga, MCFCfans looks forward to the ultimate remedy: let it all out on the terrace. Fans are ready to put the papers in the bin and make some noise on Wednesday night.
Journalists whizz down to the lowest common denominator
City may well have been running before they could walk, as Mark Hughes suggested to Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail on Friday. Interestingly, Hughes also chose this interview to pick out Sulaiman al-Fahim, ADUG's first spokesperson, as being the root cause of City’s uphill PR battle. He’s probably not far wrong. Talk of signing Cristiano Ronaldo was naive, and not just because it wasn’t what City fans wanted to hear.
Hughes went on to comment, “A lot of people at this club are new to the football business and maybe we need greater knowledge of what makes deals happen.” Are these comments part of a positive group hug-like learning experience for club management? or is it really the beginning of a power play of different agendas between Hughes and Cook, as suggested by this week’s Guardian Sport Blog post by Paul Wilson? Lets hope the former. Just going back to the Guardian blog post, did I really just read, “City were right to go for Kaka?!.”
Most wouldn’t disagree with City's need to sharpen up their deal-making and PR efforts. But the article by Michael Henderson in The Telegraph entitled, “Send in the clowns – it’s another episode in the sad saga of Manchester City,” tested City fans’ patience to the limit. Marina Hyde in The Guardian was yet another example of how journalists, faced with the need to stand out when a big story breaks, jump on to the slide in the reporter’s playground and race down to the lowest common denominator. These folks have already moved on to their next 'holier-than-thou' feeding frenzy, happily passing on the opportunity for intelligent and reflective debate.
We don’t have space here to discuss all of the debatable points that reporters had an opportunity to discuss. However, the most obvious discussion on the table is the one concerning salary and transfer caps. One that has been quietly mentioned by the odd random football club chairman, but one that in reality the Champions League cartel would rather not discuss.
The Champions League has arguably done more damage to domestic football competitions in Europe than the arrival of wealthy foreign owners. The clubs at the top of the EPL have moved in line with the increased number of places in the Champions League. The approach taken by Aston Villa and Manchester City to mount a challenge seems quite different. But both clubs are backed by significant wealth, and both clubs intend to gatecrash the ‘big four’ party.
What will this mean for such money-spinners as ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ on Sky Sports? Is the football fan not much better off with six, or eight, or ten competitive teams versus the original boring and dominant one? In fact the EPL has advanced to a point where the gulf between the clubs is smaller, and competitiveness has greatly increased. But how long will it be before the European G16 (or whatever number it is!) decide that the little Ciddies and Villas of this world are becoming too big for their boots, and begin proposing European or Global leagues? Again, none of this broader debate about the systemic issues in football was apparent in the recent reporting on Manchester City.
‘You can’t spend £100m on one player’ – yes you can
It is totally understandable that all football fans should look at the £100m sum and immediately consider what this same sum of money could do to solve some of the world’s real problems. However, it is of no immediate benefit to do so. Manchester City should not be made to suffer for participating fairly, and within the rules, in what is a transfer fee-based system.
Before the advent of satellite television, the top division of English football had an audience mainly limited to within its’ own borders. Record British transfer fees were still four or more times the value of buying a house, but the exponential growth potential was constrained by the size of the television audience.
The English Premiership now has one of the largest global sporting audiences of any other sporting league. This audience carries a market value, just as royalties are received by music artists according to how many people listen to their music. The sudden and dramatic increase in the global audience is the reason for the sudden and dramatic increase in transfer fees and wages.
If football decides to constrain fees and wages, then all it does is transfer the audience income from the performers (players) and the producers (clubs) into the hands of broadcasters, football authorities, and other vested interests (well back to the fans would be nice too but what chance!). Why should the players not be remunerated according to their global appeal, skill level, and huge audience? Why should clubs not be compensated for releasing a player, who they have discovered and nutured, from their contract? The revenue stream has to find a home somewhere. It would be far more productive, and morally appropriate, to have a debate on securing a larger contribution from the top clubs to develop football at grass-roots level, at home and abroad.
The attraction of the EPL throughout the world is the quality of the players and the football on show. In remote parts of Africa huge crowds of hundreds gather around the smallest of televisions desperate to get a glimpse of a big EPL game. Is there a sudden consensus that we don’t want to see the likes of Kaka play in the EPL? No, there is a view that Manchester City doesn’t deserve such players in a blue shirt.
Daring to dream
In spite of Harry Redknapp’s free spending, the huge debts of many football clubs, the renewal by RBS of their Six Nations sponsorship, some balance in the reporting of Manchester City was in short supply last week. When it finally arrived it did so from an unlikely source, The Daily Mirror. Oliver Holt’s subtle prose in his article, “Don’t gloat over Manchester City Kaka-ing things up...all they’ve done is dare to dream,” hit the nail on the head. “They [Manchester City] were the devils sitting on Kaka’s right shoulder, whispering temptations into his ear, while the angels [AC Milan] on his left shoulder told him to follow his heart,” Holt wrote.
In the meantime, Mark Hughes and City fans can look forward to the contribution that three new signings will make on the pitch. Wayne Bridge, Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy are all good signings who will make an impact. Shay Given is looking increasingly likely to follow, there may well be another striker in the mix before the window is out, and we shouldn’t miss out on Miguel Veloso. He's a hot prospect.
Mark Hughes reports that the recent press barrage has brought the team closer together. If you believe McGarry from The Sun then you’d think the dressing room is an anarchic free-for-all. What nonsense. You can put money on there being a collage of press articles on the dressing room wall on Wednesday night.
Of one thing there is no doubt, the press bruising has left City fans in defiant mood ahead of the Newcastle encounter. Mark Hughes has seen a huge surge of support in our “Should he stay or go” fans poll on our home page, which is due to close at the end of the transfer window.
What better way to put the deafening roar of ‘ignorant and predictable pap’ to bed than to raise the roof on Wednesday night.
In the first of a two-part series of articles reflecting on the Kaka transfer saga, MCFCfans makes no apologies for broadening and balancing the debate. In part two we find fans desperate to put the papers in the bin and make some noise on Wednesday night.
What has been most disappointing about the recent press speculation and coverage of the Kaka approach, and Manchester City’s ‘project in general, is the narrow range of debate that has tended to dominate. It is currently in vogue to ‘bash the rich kids,’ and there are so many parallels to the narrow coverage of the credit crunch. Find a simple target and blame it for the world’s ills.
The word ‘obscene’ was used generously
In what one BBC Radio 4 presenter called, “the biggest made-up story in history,” the use of the word ‘obscene’ to describe City’s approach tells you all you need to know about the propaganda trap that City walked in to.
Simon Caney, Editor-in-chief of Sport Magazine, rightly pointed out that the generous use of the word ‘obscene’ was missing the point. Sheikh Mansour does his share for good causes, but in any event this was a fair and legal approach in a transfer fee-based market. If Jo and countless other players can transfer for £18m, then Kaka can transfer for £100m.
“We recognise the need to ensure that our sponsorship activity reflects the process of restructuring that the bank has under way,” a Royal Bank of Scotland spokesperson said in reaction to reports (BBC Wed 21 Jan) that RBS had extended its’ title sponsorship of the Six Nations Championship for a further four years to the tune of £20m, a figure denied by RBS. This is the story of arguably one of the biggest contributors to the UK’s credit crunch putting up what is arguably taxpayers’ cash at a time when they are laying off staff. Is this not ‘obscene’? Not if the relative column inches are anything to go by.
The credit crunch – upside down thinking
“It is a bit bizarre that, in these times of credit crunch, we are talking about a club paying £100m for one player,” wrote Gordon Taylor, Chairman of the PFA, in his exclusive column on givemefootball.com. Virtually all of Gordon Taylor’s comments are worth challenging, but this notion that Manchester City are going against the grain during the credit crunch is utterly absurd.
David Conn, writing in The Guardian in May of last year, reliably informed readers that Manchester United’s accounts showed the club’s total creditors at £764m. £666m owed to financial institutions, including £152m to hedge funds. Reports stated RBS joined Deutsche Bank in arranging securitisation for the acquisition finance. Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool are no different with The Financial Times reporting on Friday that their RBS loan extension of £350m lasts only until July. If you’re looking for contributions to the credit crunch then look no further. Was all this debt labelled as ‘obscene’ by Mr.Conn or the wider press?
Manchester City has no such debts and therefore does not contribute to the UK’s possible bankruptcy. Indeed it offsets the UK’s leveraged position. The investment by ADUG constitutes new investment, a fresh injection of cash, and a removal of debt. Does that not sound like good news during a credit crunch?!
The boost to Manchester and the UK of having a new investor with capital to invest will not be quantified until specific development projects are announced. However, the circulation of new money within the game at a time like this could indirectly end up being a lifeline for some clubs. That it may give Manchester City a short-term advantage is open to debate. In fact it may give the club a short-term disadvantage, something that most reporters chose to ignore.
One City fan recently wrote to David Conn at The Guardian to question the, “unanimous opprobrium.” He went on to write to Mr.Conn,” I have always felt that, amongst the ignorant and predictable pap emitted around the world of football, The Guardian is a voice of reason.” Conn had the decency to reply, but the damage to City was done.
Part two of this article will be published at the same time tomorrow. In the meantime why not add your vote to our Mark Hughes poll, "Should he stay or should he go" on our home page.
Breaking news: The re-arranged Portsmouth away fixture will be played on Saturday 14th February at 3pm. As if travelling all the way down for the cancelled fixture wasn't difficult enough, now you've got to fight the missus to go to the replay!
Breaking news: New signing Nigel de Jong will wear the number 34 shirt, while Craig Bellamy has taken number 39.
It was such a shame that the Liverpool game had to end in defeat. We arguably deserved a point and the game ended with a feeling of frustration. However, there were a number of positives to take from the game, and Shaun Wright-Phillips was one of them.
City’s trading of Wright-Phillips to Chelsea and back again could not have worked out better. A bucket load of cash at a time when it was needed saw us reluctantly say good-bye to a hero. Most football fans felt he made the wrong move in transferring to Chelsea. He was a smaller fish in a bigger sea at Chelsea, and struggled to get the first team games he craved for his career development.
However, perhaps what was missed in all the coverage of Wright-Phillips was just how much he was learning from all of the world-class players he was surrounded by in his time at Chelsea. He has returned to City a different player. He still rampages down the wing turning defenders one way and the other. But he has added so much to his game. His link-up play with Ireland and Robinho against Liverpool was evidence that he has what it takes to dictate a game. He was everywhere in that game. It was a great performance and he thoroughly deserves his England recall. To think we bought him back for £8.5 million.
I had another great day out at the Liverpool game in spite of the result. I travelled from Brussels to Manchester in the morning and was fortunate enough to meet Vincent Kompany’s family on the flight. His Dad, Brother, Uncle and Manager were all on the flight. I hope fans don’t mind that I told his father that we think Vincent is a great signing. He’s clearly a very proud father. We were talking in French but I think I gleaned that Vincent’s (younger-sounding) cousin is at Chelsea, don’t quote me though. I kind of thought the writing was on the wall for the game when Kompany’s manager told me he was a Liverpool fan.
Anyhow, having met the family I felt obliged to back Kompany to be first goalscorer, and threw in last goalscorer for good measure. With both bets at 28/1, it would have been dreamland if he had scored. As it turned out it was clearly dreamland at half-time. I said to my mates that Liverpool would almost certainly get it back to 2-2 with 10 minutes to go, leaving the inevitable nail-biting finish. And so it was more or less. The various television highlights didn’t highlight the ref’s poor performance. The sending off was understandable but inconsistent with the Skrtel kung-fu kick on Jo. He had numerous other poor decisions on both sides.
I finished the day flying back to London on a really cheap deal I booked with BMI. I was a bit flat but by no means in a bad mood. The first half was excellent and we had managed to seriously challenge Liverpool. You could say we were naïve at times in the second half and Sky argued that we should have shut up shop. I still think we have the basis of a great passing side. Mark Hughes has a touch job on his hands building the side. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But Hughes is the man to make it happen.
What really wound me up at the airport was some yellow-jacketed idiot working on BMI’s ground staff showing off in front of a travelling young girl he obviously knew. A call came through on his walkie-talkie from the check-in desk asking whether or not a late running male with no bag could be allowed to board the Aberdeen flight. In full view of the young girl he replied smiling on his walkie-talkie like a true ****, “ahhh….that’s a negative….we’re leaving in 15 minutes.” This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was no queue at security and it would take all of 5 minutes for this poor guy to get to the gate where we were. There were also still around 15 people waiting to board. This guy would now miss the last flight back home, no doubt to his family. I had a word but it was pointless. Let’s hope the credit crunch forces people like this to serve customers rather than screw them over.
I boarded my flight to London fuming after this incident. Not least because said pen-pushing, yellow-jacketed idiot was escorting his female friend onto the same flight as me. Then they got the headcount wrong and delayed the flight by 15 minutes. “All they have to do is count,” I blurted out, as I began to realise that the match result was actually having more of an effect on me than I had bargained for.
I became aware of a smiling fellow passenger to my right. It took me a while to realise it was Dean Saunders. Spending time talking to him on the flight back, I realised that my post-match tension paled into insignificance in comparison to the stress faced by football managers.
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Istanbul, Istanbul, we are coming........
Greetings from Hong Kong. I'm sloshed, it's 4am local time. Where is the local City supporter's branch so that I can watch the Brighton game?
The Sun newspaper article. Just an easy place to start. My last post few posts have banged on about how City have got the talent to challenge at the top. We don't need to buy loads of quality because we've got loads of it already (strength in depth excepted). We've got Cassell's babes coming through like magic. Witness Stevie Ireland's magic balls today. Ok I only saw highlights but his distribution was excellent. I take it all back if he wasn't as good outside the highlights, but here is a man who has shut the critics up. Young players can falter in a dodgy team but it's amazing what being a baldie can do to your confidence.
City has one of the best passing sides it has ever had. [Emphasize this point was true prior to SWP and Robinho arrival] Actually I've stolen this idea from our man Ads, who has watched over the years that the players coming through the youth team are creating a first team that in future will take the league by strorm. But I believed in it myself. That's the benefit Ads has had boycotting senior games and watching the juniors, he's seen it coming. The media always misses the long game. We've been buildng this side for a while.
Thaksin, Cook, and the new owners witnessed a six goal thriller today. Do you think they got the message that the result came from a City team that has been slowly developing over the years? Do Richard Dunne, Ched Evans, and Gelson sound like palatable names that can transcend the chase for global profile that Cook so desires? They were all on the score sheet against so-called top 4 contenders. So too right.
I got the general vibe right about our new-found fire-power up front pre-kick off, but I got the result totally wrong. I thought up front we would produce, and something in me thought loads of goals, but I chickened out. 2-1 was a rubbish prediction. I received five text messages from people at the game today, and each and every one of them had the same word in them,"sensational!" It's just a shame Europe didn't bring back the Ryder Cup.
And so back to Stevie Ireland. I only got to see the highlights. Here is a man that deserves more praise. GBP 5m to Sunderland. Sod that.
I've seen loads of headlines here in HK. All saying that Robinho was the difference. "Robinho stars in City's romp," declared the Straights Times in Singapore. ".....they could be top-four contenders this season. Thanks largely to Robinho." OK he's brilliant and I love him. BUT. Time to differentiate ourselves from Chelsea. Imagine a lonely Robinho joining Chelsea all those years ago back in the days when we were singing Rocky Rocastle's name in the away end. Chelsea were nothing then and had to build an entire team. We've got one already.
Don't let the media ever lose sight of the fact that what Robinho has done is give a team of young talent the confidence to push on. City were on the brink of success anyway. Cassell is a hero. Maybe it's too early to say, but let's reserve Jim Cassell in the back of our minds as the man who in spite of all of City's prior 'Cups for cock-ups', was the man who produced Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Danny Sturridge, Shaleum Logan, Michael Johnson, Stevie Ireland...the list goes on. He is the man who should be credited with giving City the continuity that it now has. He is the reason why a player like Robinho can slot in as if he's been playing for City for years (as the commentators keep repeating...now starting to say same about PZ)...I propose a motion to make JC not just employee of the season, but an employee who has given his all to City. A man who deserves to be up there with the greats. But perhaps he would prefer to wait before he picks up the accolades, until he sees his Academy graduates winning a trophy in the first team (winning the Youth Cup was just the beginning.)
Remember the days of Gio...."Give it the genius!" I remember my drunken season ticket neighbours shouting in the Kippax when we were scraping the bottom of the barrell losing at home. The likes of Stevie Lomas (long called my look-a-like unfortunatetly) would pass the ball to Gio and the entire team would stop dead, waiting for him to jink past the opposition and score. He often did, but really the rest of the team were out of their depth when it came to Gio.
Enter Robinho. Into a team full of passing talent. It's as if all they needed was the knowledge that a man with pure quality is on the end of their pass. I remember when I saw Ireland for the first time as sub. Making slide-rule passes that smacked of someone who didn't feel pressure. Then the whole national team debacle, superman, possible Joey Barton scenario (well ok point over-done but best 5m? we ever made), some fans were on his back, but look at him now. Robinho has unleashed Ireland as he will Johnson, Petrov, actually forget this listing thing....we're going to become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the world....we already are.
City are back, City are back !!! See you at Mary Ds for the Liverpool game. Lets do our first 'top 4' scalp. COME ON!!!!
P.S. I think we've proved that GBP 32.5m is better spent on a superstar than a general run around at GBP 20m for Liverpool. The only decent signing Liverpool have had for big cash is Torres. If you've got the money then why not spend it on the best, that was the message with Torres, but not with Keane. City look miles better than Liverpool. About time we beat them more regularly. OK Wigan first. CTID.
P.P.S. I've just remembered why I started writing this article. Wenger. Guardian article. Hence the headline! OK Wenger lets put this into perspective. I have relative respect for you as a manager. But your club's commercial enterprise, being as it is in the 'about-to-go-down-the-drain' London banking hoo-ha, charges GBP 7,000 for an executive box to see City. City charge a mere GBP 3,000 to see Arsenal at home in a box. In fact most of City's hospitality is very accessible, unlike the Club Level at Arsenal, which is full of people who have never seen an Arsenal game in their lives. Bottom line, ADUG looked at Arsenal and didn't want it. Shame. But I will enjoy sitting in the theatre-like seats in the away end in North London and hopefully see SWP score a blinder against his old man's team. CTID again. Loving it.
Quality of the trio up front will produce goals today
I was so excited about going to the Chelsea game last Saturday morning. I didn’t have the mind to write any pre-match posts. I couldn’t concentrate. Originally I wasn’t going to the game as I had to run a Duathlon in the morning (9km run, 20km bike, 5km run). As soon as Shaun Wright-Phillips signed I booked my travel and asked for my season ticket back. Duathlon or no Duathlon, I had to see Shauny coming back to City. Little did I know at that point that Robinho would be pulling on a City shirt as well.
I set off for the Chelsea game with lots of thoughts in my mind about the key points playing on fans’ minds over the last few weeks. I kept arriving back at similar conclusions to the effect that what has happened to City is overwhelmingly positive. Not just for City and its’ fans. But also for Manchester, for the competitiveness of the Premiership, and for UK plc in general, at a time when most other news is negative.
It’s very early days of course. But a couple of the key points as they relate to City. I hasten to add that some of these concerns or thoughts came from the media as well as individual fans, but most will look familiar.
“I’m concerned / worried that City fans may lose their famous reputation for having the best sense of humour [in the league, Europe, world, take your pick!]”
It was perhaps not surprising that some quarters of the (high and mighty) press reported the early sightings of City fans in made-up Arab clothing as “tasteless.” It was completely missing the point of course. It was the first inkling that our famous sense of humour was about to go into overdrive! Fast forward a week or two to the game. Hundreds of fans turning up with headdress and in some cases attempts at the entire Gulf Arab outfit, it was fantastic. It really contributed to the carnival atmosphere. Hopefully it was taken the right way in Abu Dhabi as well.
“We’re going to be invaded by glory-hunting fans and this will spoil the fabric of the club.”
Whereas I could only see upside from the mass of extra supply for the average City fan’s sense of humour, the concern around a potential glory-hunting invasion did seem valid. But only in the long-term.
I’ve witnessed first hand what happened to Chelsea. I have a couple of mates who are still Chelsea season ticket holders in spite of spitting teeth each week at the West Stand. I’ve sat in the West Upper at Stamford Bridge a couple of times over the last couple of seasons and it has always struck me how few people are actually watching the game.
There is, however, a big difference with City and this was a simple but absolutely correct point made on MCIVTA. We only have a few seats spare for glory hunters! So until we expand the stadium we should be safe.
“We don’t want Ronaldo, or any United players, and stop the boasting.”
I think the hysteria around possible transfers has been well and truly put to an end. Dr Al-Fahim bucks an entrenched Gulf Arab trait that tends to frown upon boasting. But it didn’t take long for behind-the-scenes action to put a stop to the wild talk. In so doing it killed any notion that Mark Hughes is not in charge. I originally sensed that there was MH’s transfers and then the managing board’s transfers of superstars. But it would appear that MH has managed to get control of this by saying yes to superstars but only if they’re the ones we want and need.
As for buying Ronaldo (of the diving Cristiano variety), I’m surprised that only 633 signatures have been made on the petition against signing him so far. Here is the link to the petition. The other Ronaldo has surely eaten too many pies to join us now.
“It’s too good to be true, they [ADUG] are only in it for the short-term.”
I mentioned this in my last blog post and wanted to mention it again. In years to come I may live to eat my words, but I strongly believe ADUG are in this project for the long-haul. City has landed on its’ feet and right now we may not even see how lucky we are.
Most investors in clubs to date have been either companies or individuals. Companies are often short-term in their outlook. They have shareholders to worry about. If quarterly returns don’t stack up they want out. Wealthy individuals are a mixed bag in football. They either lose a fortune investing in players and paying off debt (Ashley and Newcastle), or they maintain a very high level of debt (Glazers and United), or they run a tight shop but don’t invest as much as the fans want. The last category can be divided again with Villa being a classic example. Randy Lerner seems to be a hybrid. He’s investing wisely.
But City has a completely different type of investor. An Emirate that is investing in businesses to secure the long-term financial and social future of its’ people. An investor that has a reputation of respect to maintain. An investor that I predict will come to love City as much as we do and will seek to maintain the club’s culture. Dr Al-Fahim is just the spokesperson. The ruling family behind the investment vehicle are looking to the future beyond oil. They have more than 10% of the world’s oil reserves, so that’s a long time into the future.
In terms of considering how lucky we are, look no further than Mike Ashley. If reports are to be believed, ADUG were knocking on his door but he wouldn’t give up his majority stake. What a fool he must feel now and how wise Thaksin was to wind up and step aside.
The timing of the deal is also significant given the rapidly-changing economic climate. That was the other thing that struck me about the Chelsea game. It mirrored so many of the contrasts that we see going on in the world now. We witnessed the “Clash of the Cash” while the “Debt-ridden Derby” was going on down the road. The euphoria at 'Middle Eastlands' (even after the final whistle!) was in stark contrast to the constant bad news emerging in the global economy.
Oh and quick aside, what about the pratt that flew the plane around the top of the stadium with a big United shirt flying out the back of it for most of the first half?! Firstly, no one could read what was written on the shirt. But most significantly, deep down I felt a real sense of tide-turning. The plane buzzing around for so long felt like desperation. I couldn’t help but think that we may look back on that game with the plane flying around and remember it as the turning point up for City, and possibly the turning point down for United. After those wonderful feelings all that was left to discuss with my nearest season ticket neighbours was how much cash he was putting into our owner’s coffers by burning all of the oil required to fly his plane!
Oil brings me back to the economics. I believe we are headed for a deep global recession. As each day passes the economic situation worsens. Normally all of this bad news is a sign to buy. Not this time. Oil may retreat to around $60-70 as global demand falls. This will impact our owner’s finances somewhat. But the reserves of our owner will see us through as no other football club owner can. Football must suffer from the downturn. Companies will no longer sponsor in such large size. Individual investors will feel the pinch. The global surpluses of oil- and mineral-rich, and export-driven, nations will unwind. Global liquidity in general will contract. My conclusion, in stark contrast to my last blog post, and coming back to the fortuitous timing of this deal, is that we may well have captured the first and last of the most attractive type of football club investor for some time. All potential new investors now have much bigger fish to fry.
Back to on-pitch matters. I expected to lose to Chelsea. It was written in the script. I’m not sure I agree with some who said that it was good to have the bubble burst and be brought down to earth. No way! Imagine the atmosphere if we’d won it ! But I take the point because at least it settles the media down a bit.
I felt just as happy after the game as I did before it though. There were enough positives on the pitch to see the potential of the team. If anything I was most struck by Chelsea in the second half. As in some of their earlier games in the season, they took control of the game and looked genuine Premiership contenders. With United losing at Liverpool, we can turn a blind eye to the odd defeat to Chelsea.
The South American private jet posse all looked a little jaded. No player more so than Pablo Zabaleta. I felt better when I heard Tim Sherwood say the other night that Corluka looked like a dodgy buy at £8.5 million. Corluka looks like he has a bit of settling in to do at Spurs. I only remember one passage of play with Zabaleta in it during the Olympics and it was him missing a high ball challenge in the air by a mile, which then led to Argentina conceding a goal. His performance in mid-week against AC Omonia was a big improvement.
We miss Johnson and especially Petrov. Great news to hear that Michael Johnson has signed a new 5 year deal. The big-time Charlie concerns will hopefully become a thing of the past with the threat of competition in the air.
City go into today’s Portsmouth game bouyed by their performance against AC Omonia on Thursday evening. The team showed real signs of coming together. Jo getting on the score sheet was so important. To have an end product at the end of all of the neat passages of play is what we need.
And what about Robinho. He was everywhere. Always looking for space, always shouting for the ball, covering back, looking passionate, neat touches, gave the ball away a bit but who cares. He’s brilliant.
You can follow the team’s UEFA Cup progress on our new The Road to Istanbul page. It is only available to view to members, but joining is free. We also have a new Members Benefits page that shows the additional pages that you can view as a member. It would be great to have you join the MCFCfans community and to hear your feedback.
Most pundits have us down for a draw today. It’s the obvious call but I think it’s too obvious. I think it over-rates Portsmouth and under-rates City. Portsmouth will no doubt use the fact that they haven’t won on City turf since 1963 (old second division) as an incentive to get a result. But my view is that City will develop on Thursday’s performance by showing more confidence on the ball and attacking with quality that continues to grow into more goals. Prediction 2-1 to City although we're bound to make it hard for ourselves at some stage at least.
A nice timely text has been delivered by the club just before kick-off, "MCFC can confirm that the purchase of the Club by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan and his group has been finalised, and will be completed on Tuesday." Happy days.
P.S. We’re going to be doing a feature on the controversial SeatExchange, so please reply with your views and experiences of this internet provider.
As the excitement surrounding City’s new ownership reaches dizzy heights, today MCFCfans launches a new page called, “Middle Eastlands.” A page for MCFCfans members to keep up with the latest news sourced from Abu Dhabi about City and our new owners. The page has all of the latest articles, relevent news feeds, links and we've even dug out the best of the latest video interviews.
In tandem with the page launch, we attempt to provide guidance on some of the noise flying around on talk shows, message boards, and in the press.
David Pleat on BBC 5 Live: “The deal was done so quickly, how do we know they are a ‘fit and proper person’?”
A fair question when considering an individual but the club has been purchased by The Abu Dhabi United Group, an investment vehicle. The Group is a private equity group fronted by Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim, CEO of Hydra Properties. Hydra Properties is a subsidiary of Royal Group, which belongs to the ruling family in Abu Dhabi. This is somewhat incidental as the Group is effectively backed by the ruling party in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is seen as the main player behind ADUG. He is a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. They control over 10% of the world’s oil reserves (90% of the oil reserves of the United Arab Emirates).
How do we know they will stick around for the long-term?
The culture of Arab investment in general is to forge long-term relationships. A good example of this is Arab investment in horse racing around the world. Companies and businesses are often seen as personal possessions rather than separate entities. It is unlikely that short to medium-term returns will be seen as a top priority over club success, pride, and global profile.
Why have they invested in Manchester City?
The key reasons are to: increase the profile of the U.A.E. and Abu Dhabi around the world; develop sport and football in Abu Dhabi by having a direct interest in a Premiership club; and quite possibly to upstage their rival family in Dubai. But this isn’t just being done on a whim. Abu Dhabi has been developing its’ involvement in sport through European Tour golf, Formula One, the World Rally Championship and more. No sporting portfolio is complete without Premiership football. But why City? Well Newcastle quoted a £400m price tag (is deal failure with ADUG any connection to the current Keegan affair by any chance?) and Arsenal was apparently too complicated. But I prefer Amanda Staveley’s quote today, “Manchester City sells itself.”
Who is Amanda Staveley?
She works for PCP Capital Partners and was hired by Thaksin Shinawatra to broker a deal to sell the club. She is better known for her ongoing involvement in trying to tie up the Dubia Investment Corporation with Liverpool. She is a former Businesswoman of the year and apparently dated the Duke of York. She's not bad looking either. Amanda is a mere 35 years old and you can bet that her pockets have become somewhat deeper having completed this deal.
Does Abu Dhabi in general have any other outside footballing interests?
Yes, via Hydra Properties. Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim, the public face of ANUG, is the CEO of Hydra Properties in Abu Dhabi. Hydra Properties and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council signed an agreement with Italian football club Inter Milan earlier this year to build the Inter Milan football academy in Abu Dhabi. Dr Al Fahim is quoted as saying, “Sport, whether it be football or something else, is something that is friendly and brings countries together."
Are there more potential investors that might invest in Premiership clubs?
Yes, this might be the tip of a very big iceberg. ADUG is a private investment vehicle, even though it is thought to have the backing of some in the ruling royal family. However, there are well over 20 sovereign wealth funds (SWF) around the world backed by governments. Not all are likely candidates to invest in a Premiership club by any means.
The next widely-tipped candidate to invest is the well-publicised potential investment by Dubai Investment Corporation (DIC is a SWF) in Liverpool. Commentators expect this investment to be speeded up following the ADUG’s investment in Manchester City. Amanda Staveley, who brokered the deal on behalf of Thaksin Shinawatra, was quoted as saying today that DIC were still interested in buying Liverpool. However, she also stated that several other gulf states were interested in buying City. Other possible candidates for investment in a Premiership club include Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain. But don’t rule out some of the Asian countries’ funds also considering investments in the long run.
How will the new owners treat the fans?
This may not be as worrying as it may seem on the surface. In the Arab world hospitality is seen as essential. It reflects the depth of a relationship and is a matter of pride and honour. The press in Abu Dhabi has made a point of highlighting the need for the new owners to be sensitive to City fans. “Manchester City is a club with a passionate local support base long resentful of their more glamorous – and successful – neighbours, Manchester United. So parading a Manchester City shirt with “Abu Dhabi United” inscribed upon it might not have been the best way to introduce themselves to the supporters,” worried The National in Abu Dhabi. But the cultural background and the objective of promoting Abu Dhabi globally will require ADUG to stay in with the fans, otherwise a reputation of respect and cultural understanding will suffer.
Where can I follow more news, information, and views about our new owners?
Become a member of MCFCfans and click on our new Middle Eastlands page. Here you can vote in our poll to give your reaction to the ADUG takeover, review related news, and post your views in the chat section.
Is there any article you can suggest that may help to put other concerns at rest?
Yes the article with the headline, “Abromovich will be a hard act to follow,” in The National in Abu Dhabi published last night quotes Falim saying some reasonable things about the fans, Mark Hughes, and transfer policy. The latest video interview with Al Fahim also appears on our Middle Eastlands page and mentions working with Mark Hughes.
What can I expect the atmosphere to be like at the Chelsea game?
Should I be excited?
Buy, buy, buy !!!
The first day of September, the first day of Ramadan, the last day of the 2008 transfer window, will go down in history as one of the days that Manchester City Football Club changed forever.
Firstly, I may need to eat a large slice of humble pie if Garry Cook was integral to today’s deal as I suspect he was. In the last blog post I jokingly suggested that Alistair Darling might be a better bet at the helm than Garry Cook. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that, on the same day, Sterling would plunge (Telegraph article) after Darling’s weekend interview and City would be purchased by very deep pockets indeed.
Manchester City has been purchased by The Abu Dhabi United Group [ADUG]. The news was broken by arabianBusiness.com (see article). It has been suggested that the vehicle was setup to purchase City. One suspects that BBC5 Live is more accurate in saying that both Newcastle and Arsenal were also considered. Otherwise why put “United” in the name! The picture of Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim, the investment vehicle’s spokesman, with “Abu Dhabi United” imprinted on the back of a sky blue shirt was fairly amusing (see picture from same article).
Al Fahim claims that the vehicle is merely a collection of businessmen. However, it seems inevitable there will be links to the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. The Guardian is almost certainly on the right path by suggesting that the Abu Dhabi rulers have stolen a march on their Dubai neighbours, the Dubai Investment Corporation (DIC), which is trying to buy Liverpool. Al Fahim is CEO of Hydra Properties, which is a subsidiary of Royal Group, which belongs to a member of the ruling family.
City fans, players and directors past, have been calling in to what is essentially “City Night” on BBC 5 Live. The few lone voices expressing concern about foreign ownership seem so out-of-date, even though it's hard not to share some of their sentiments. How the world changes so fast. The western developed world is rapidly losing influence as a combination of huge global economic imbalances and sky high oil prices create huge sovereign wealth funds. These funds are mopping up banks, supermarkets, telecommunications companies, and now football clubs. They’ve got much more money than us, period.
A thank you must go to Frank for doing the decent thing and stepping aside. I’m not sure if it’s possible to tell whether or not he has made a profit yet. I saw a figure of £210m as being the purchase figure. How true that figure is, and how it might break down, may or may not transpire over the next few days. David Bernstein, commenting on BBC 5 Live tonight, suggested that at 40p a share City shareholders got a rough deal in selling to Thaksin. Valuing the club at £20m? They sure did. How they’ll wish they had waited.
A great question to Bernstein was whether he thought that the Abu Dhabi deal would have happened without Thaksin. He didn’t feel qualified to answer but made his thoughts about the relative quality of our new owners pretty clear. But we know now that ADUG were going to buy a club in any event. It could be argued that City became more attractive with Mark Hughes and some better players.
It doesn’t really matter now. The club has progressed significantly during the Thaksin era and is now looking as if it will move seamlessly to a much more credible investor. Bye-bye Thai politics, welcome fit-and-proper Abu Dhabi. The Premier League will be relieved.
This is an investor that makes every other Premiership owner look like small fry. Manchester City is now the powerhouse in English football. Just read that again. Manchester City is now the powerhouse in English football. No other club and no other owner can boast the finances of an oil-producing Emirate. At least not until the next club is purchased.
Berbatov seems set to join United. Mark Hughes, interviewed on BBC5 Live this evening still hadn’t spoken to him. Dennis Tueart said that Mark has got to sell the dream. He probably won’t get the chance. But positive vibes are emerging about Robinho as I write. Probably a better buy do we think? 3 years younger for the same price and not someone who was moaning on about United for months on end.
The new owners have backed Mark Hughes. There is consensus among fans that they must give Hughes time. A top 4 finish might be achievable now. But if we don’t quite make it, please don’t sack the manager! But the flurry of bids for players today suggests that Al Fahim doesn't want to hang about.
A pang inside me wishes we had won a cup last year to prove to the world that the current team was getting up there before the real cash arrived. Oh well that’s modern day Premiership football. Lets hope that the new owners keep the Academy as one of the best, and remember that the fans make the club what it is.
We’re in for a new and exciting era. Our time has come. CTID!MCFCfans
Manchester City’s inspired signing of Shaun Wright-Phillips has brought smiles to the faces of every City fan across the globe. There’s a breeze sweeping over the City of Manchester stadium pitch, and it’s very sweet smelling indeed!
It has been a week to remember what with the Cook interview, the excellent display against West Ham, the predictable scrape against the Danes, the deterioration of the situation in Thailand, and the confident air of City’s advances in the transfer market.
The West Ham game was telling for a number of reasons. The signs of flowing football shown in the Aston Villa game, where the result didn’t do us justice, became absolute slick passing in the West Ham game. Many have pointed out West Ham’s poor showing in the game. But let’s not forget it was City that made West Ham look so poor (note West Ham’s 4-1 victory over Blackburn this afternoon, BBC report.)
We may wince at times because not everything is perfect. But there will be nothing more satisfying than beginning to see the media vultures, who seem so intent on doing City down at every turn, down their tools and button it for a while. Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying, “I’ve heard some unbelievable stories,” in his beginning of season Daily Mail interview. Well that may well be the case. But stuff ‘im. And stuff the the hacks. The desperation to headline with the age-old, “Crisis at Maine Road,” is almost tangible. (“Man City Cook up a recipe for disaster,” Mirror.co.uk, 30 August, 2008).
I can’t remember the last time I received so many texts and e-mails following a City news event. And yet the signing of SWP is just one very important piece in the jigsaw. We needed a right winger badly. Someone to rampage down the right and balance out Petrov. Add a bit of “welcome home hero” into the mix and we have ourselves a genuine feel-good factor. The addition of Kompany and Jo are yet to be fully digested as well.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a very different story going on in Thailand. (See our members’ only Thaksin Watch page for the latest). September 17th will see the court make their first decision. The latest news is that the army has rejected the government’s call for a state of emergency as protests intensify.
With a queue of potential investors looking for majority control, it remains to be seen whether the club’s former directors moved too quickly to sell the club. The media vultures will be back again no doubt. But on the pitch City seem set to ride on guided by the stewardship of Hughes. Sparky seems to have spotted a long-term opportunity. One that is able, hopefully, to see out any issues ‘off the pitch’. You can see the current MCFCfans members’ views on Thaksin’s ownership of City by looking at the poll on the Thaksin Watch page.
It is only fair to balance out the rampant on-pitch excitement with a reflection of MCFCfans members’ views over this man called, “Cook”. Our man Scribbs calls him the “hand puppet!” Where on earth did they find this guy?! I’d sooner have Alistair Darling’s huge eyebrows at the helm than this fruit. His only redeeming feature is that he appears to be utterly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It’s just a shame that he feels the need to spout more crap than an extremely concerned scooby-doo staring down the barrel of a gun.
The ongoing debate over Richard Dunne is an interesting one. I’d take it as a sign of a club on the up that fans are questioning his place in the side, let alone his captaincy. It can only be a good thing if players are challenged to push harder.
One thing that Mark Hughes will be looking to address, starting at Sunderland tomorrow, is City’s potential for poor away form. We need to take control of the game tomorrow against difficult opposition. Two ex-United players will be looking to come out on top and it will be games like this that will define City’s season.
So what’ll it be tomorrow? Well my money is on a draw and a 1-1 score. Boring I know. Looking at Betfair it’s interesting that Sunderland are pretty clear favourites (home win 2.3 – 2.32, draw 3.35 – 3.4, City 3.65 – 3.75 as at 18h00, 30 August 2008.). The screen shows about £4k of unmatched bets on Sunderland right now whereas City has sub-£1k hanging around. Is it telling that the draw has over £10k waiting for a home? The correct score 1-1 shows 7.2 – 7.4. Hmm, a bit short so others are obviously thinking the same thing. I hope I’m proved wrong with a stylish display.
Keep smiling, he really is back!
Lets open the league account at home
Manchester City go into Sunday’s opening home game of the season with the benefit of putting a tough away game behind them. There were enough signs of positive play against Villa to suggest that chances will be created at home. We’ve also got the media writing us off, which is always a boost.
The lack of attacking options up front certainly presents a challenge. Bojinov, Jo, Vassell and Benjani are all unavailable. But at home, with enough fire and determination elsewhere, this could motivate others to get on the score sheet.
A big bonjour and bienvenue to Vincent Kompany (see video on home page) from Uccle in Belgium. Thinking of Uccle brings back fond memories as my mother used to live there. Many a night was spent with mates in Uccle’s St-Job square getting sloshed in the 24 hour bar there. Kompany will likely get a start if he is cleared to play with Dunne out suspended.
Thierry Henry is the latest ‘superstar’ to be linked with City. Reports suggest that Mark Hughes and Garry Cook have come to some kind of arrangement on transfers (Guardian article). Reading between the lines, it may be that the ‘superstar’ signing is left to Cook whilst Hughes gets on with the players he feels we need. No point in discussing the financial side - more chance of Gordon Brown starting up front for City than there is trying to figure out City's current finances.
I had a bad feeling about the Uefa cup game against the Danes and I had a bad feeling about the Villa game. But the vibes are good for this game. Petrov and Johnson hold the key to opening things up. City to win 2-1 (Betfair 10.5 - 11) with a late winner that lifts the mood at the post-match curry.
Betfair @ 21:53 Friday 22nd August : City 2.42 - 2.44 Draw 3.4 - 3.45 West Ham 3.3 - 3.35
Contains all of the latest videos, pictures, blogs and the MCFCfans live poll asking fans' current view on Thaksin - support or get rid.
Thaksin points at biased Chelsea fan at Stamford Bridge last season!
Manchester City’s game against Villa on Sunday was largely one to be forgotten for City fans. But it was pleasing for one reason in particular. Both fans and players appeared to leave off-the-field issues aside, and focus on supporting and playing respectively.
City now have a home game against West Ham on Sunday. As we pause for breath in between games, MCFCfans has been trying to gauge City fans’ feelings over the Thaksin situation.
In trawling blogs and chatting with fans it’s obvious there are divisions of opinion. Generalising completely, there seem to be broadly two groups of fans' opinions, with a long list of subtle variations thereafter.
There are those fans who were against Thaksin taking charge all along and who now feel that their worst fears are beginning to materialise. Most fans in this category are not taking an, “I told you so,” stance right now. They are genuinely worried about the future of the club based on their interpretation of the situation.
Then there are fans who can see a funny side to Thaksin’s decision to go ‘on the run.’ It brings back memories of Nick Leeson in a City top! Joking aside, fans before the Villa game interviewed by Al Jazeera English showed their support for Thaksin. (Al Jazeera is clearly taking an active interest in this story and their latest video along with others can be viewed on our new Thaksin Watch page).
Somewhere in the middle there are fans who can’t make their mind up, who feel that they don’t have enough information to make their mind up, or who are slowly travelling from the supportive group to the concerned group as they learn more of the facts.
One thing is certain: nothing is certain. There are simply more questions than there are answers and since the team need to get winning some games that is probably a good thing for now. It’s conceivable that quite a few of the open questions on fans’ minds will probably never be answered.
Our view, based on the average lay attempt to brush up on Thai politics and the Premiership rules, is that much depends on the UK government’s interpretation of how legitimate any court decision to convict Thaksin is. The stance they might take is far from clear. The Premier League seems certain to follow the UK government’s lead. The Premier League must be pooping themselves at the possibility of having to enforce the rule and make Thaksin sell.
Thaksin’s next moves now, in relation to City at least, must surely rest on his judgment as to how this will all turn out. If he thinks he has a chance of being forced to sell because everything goes against him, then surely he’ll be looking for a buyer now so that he doesn’t have to sell at a knock-down price. But that’s before we’ve thought about all of the other permutations. Could he find new investors, dilute his stake, and do a deal or wangle a pass with the Premier League, which would allow him to continue as chairman? A loan in the meantime starts the bank-rolling debt cycle off again (Times article just out)
Whatever the outcome, MCFCfans has setup the Thaksin Watch page in an attempt to help fans find information, facts, reporting, and commentary about the Thaksin situation, and to create an area where members can air their views. The page is intended as an information centre and sets out to be neither anti-Thaksin nor pro-Thaksin (@ City that is!). A poll is also on the page asking for your current view on Thaksin.
Keep the faith.
August 17, 2008
The football has started and the first game of the season is out of the way. Manchester City lost 4-2 to Aston Villa and the train journey home is somewhat depressing. But don’t let the doomsayers and biased media fool you into thinking this was a drubbing.
It was a game of two halves with City playing much the better football as the first half wore on, even though Villa had the better chances early on. Joe Hart denied a couple of chances and others went wide, but City were beginning to show fluent passages of play.
City started the game without Bojinov who was injured in the warm up. He now looks to be side-lined for six months adding to the current striker crisis. But on paper this was always going to be an uphill struggle for City even with Bojinov. That City got to half-time at 0-0 was an achievement.
Ched Evans started up front as lone striker. Kelvin Etuhu, inexperienced as he is, lacked the confidence to push onto the by-line. One could only feel sorry for him at times because senior support failed to arrive. Petrov was the attacking outlet, and Elano and Johnson tried to fashion attacks from his distribution.
Where did it all go wrong? Well City gave the ball away in dangerous positions and allowed Villa players out wide to put crosses in to tall, unmarked danger men up front. In seven minutes Agbonlahor struck a hat-trick. It was extremely poor for City to concede as they did. But it was no capitulation. However, we’ve now conceded 12 goals in our last two league games.
Villa’s tall attack served by unchallenged crosses was a threat to a new central defensive pairing, who suffered from players in front giving the ball away too easily. We maybe missed Hamman’s clean-up operations. That said Tal Ben-Haim looked far more comfortable in central defence than he did at left-back on Thursday.
The City crowd was impressive and it didn’t feel as if the gloom that has surrounded the club for the last two weeks was the reason for the poor result. It felt like we lacked squad depth, midfield aggression, and up-front firepower. We’re desperately short of the right players in certain positions. But these are things that hopefully we can resolve given time. It also feels as if we’re in something of a transformation from Sven to Hughes in terms of tactics and regime. It will take time but sure it’s a far cry from the optimism of the first half of last season.
The game’s most humorous moment came from the front of the City end by the pitch. A City fan dressed in a maroon golf shirt had extended negotiations with stewards about one thing or another. Anecdotal evidence suggested the stewards may have sworn in front of his kids when addressing him, which didn’t go down too well. Villa fans monitoring the situation in the neighbouring end cottoned on to the maroon golf shirt before chanting, “Who’s that in a Villa shirt? Who’s that in a Villa shirt?...”
It was not the best start to the season but we’ll take issue with Claran Baynes, reporting for Setanta. “The Villans dominated the game from the first whistle with City on the back foot until they were awarded a dubious penalty as Michael Johnson fell in the box under the close attention of Luke Young.” Claran obviously wasn’t watching the same game.
Drop the expectations. It’s going to be a tough season. But this game was not necessarily the barometer we thought it would be. There was renewed promise following Thursday’s defeat, the players clearly need to adapt to the Hughes era, and the odd signing wouldn’t go amiss. One thing is certain, we won’t be ordering the new orange shirts.
P.S. Our 'Thaksin Watch' page has now been launched. We're keen to attract opinion about our owner, the current situation, and how it will play out for City on the page. Please let us know if there is good quality commentary elsewhere that we can add to the page.
What a big test we face in our first premiership game of the season. Martin O’Neill achieved 6th in the league last season and proved that his slow and careful squad building based around hard-working English players is paying off. Holding onto Gareth Barry so far will also be a boost to the rest of the team even though the saga seems set to continue.
We can only look on with envy at an owner who keeps himself to himself most of the time and seems to have footballing interests at heart (Randy Lerner: A Case Study on Foreign Ownership, Footballing World, Nov 2007). We’re already craving the stability he has brought to Villa.
City go into the match having avoided defeat on their last six league and cup visits to Villa Park but there is much to be concerned about, starting with the lack of fitness. I didn’t see the Villa match on Thursday for obvious reasons, but how our fitness and match sharpness compares to Villa will be key to this game.
Nowhere more so than in defence. With Richard Dunne suspended, Ben-Haim and Richards will have to be well enough versed with each other to cope with the pace Villa have up front. Young making his debut for Villa may keep Corluka fairly pinned back, which leaves Ball (probable left back) and Petrov as our most likely source of success out wide.
The remaining question is whether to start with two up front with Sturridge and Bojinov, or to leave Bojinov up on his own with Elano playing off him. Given the lack of striking replacements if things go wrong, I would tend to agree with Danny at ‘Bitter and Blue’ that it seems more likely Hughes will opt for safety first and keep Sturridge on the bench.
If there is any thread of light to go on then it will be the nature of the defeat on Thursday night that should jump the players into action. How the players approach this game and how the manager’s body language plays out throughout the match will be a strong indicator of our potential performance this season given off-the-field issues. We have the quality to match Villa on paper but it's whether that quality is 'switched on' or not. I’d be happy with a draw in our first game but happier still if the players put up a solid fight and show some real potential.
Villa : best Evens; Draw : 12-5; City : best 3-1
Betfair @ 13:44, Sat August 16
Villa 1.88 - 1.89
Man City 5.3 - 5.5
Draw 3.5 - 3.55
Selected Morning Articles
(put that headline up in the dressing room!)
Sturridge vs. FC Midtjylland - Hands off Chelski
I spent much of Thursday mulling over whether to write a match preview on the Uefa Cup game and ultimately decided against it. Sometimes it’s damned if you do damned if you don’t when surmising things before a match.
The constant media speculation over the last two weeks has been tiring. In fact there was so much noise that we decided to ‘keep stum.’ Why add to the media and cyber frenzy of speculation. More on that in later blog posts. But all the same, most fans would probably agree it has softened the usual beginning-of-season excitement considerably.
Compounding concern about the game, Danish friends and clients were calling me Thursday to report that we should be worried. Members and fans will not be heartened to hear that this worry was most pronounced when discussing how comfortable FC Midtjylland is when playing at home. The return leg will not be easy.
A beginning-of-season re-union with a City mate and member of MCFCfans.com did nothing to help matters. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he said before going on to report recent FC Midtjylland successes. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ though was reading a betting prediction in a newspaper that boldly recommended its’ readers to back both City and Villa to be leading their respective opposition at half time and full time. “In fact it’s so much a dead cert you might as well put them in a double as well,” it finished. Well if either team was going to spoil that double it was going to be City!
City started as if they were in a friendly game. Not just any friendly game. The first friendly game of the pre-season when players’ minds are still on the beach, the pool, and the beer. The body language was noticeably lackluster. Passes went astray and the defense was disorganised.
Olsen’s finish (video on our home page) was top quality but it was gifted by poor defending. It was City’s wake up call to get some attacking going and there were some positive moves around at times. We could have scored when hitting the bar twice but it always felt as if we lacked a real threat to the Danish goal.
Petrov stood out, Kelvin Etuhu’s pace is something to look forward to, and we know Sturridge has real potential. But Elano seemed distant, Caicedo was pointless, and too many moves needlessly broke down, sometimes to fruitless show-boating.
Hughes has since pointed to the real lack of fitness in the side. "We are trying to get a group of players up to match fitness and that was evident the other night in the Uefa Cup," Hughes said. "It will not happen overnight. Maybe we will have to wait because our training is different from what they have been doing. It is about making players able to cope with the demands of the Premier League. To compete in the Premier League you have to be athletic, dynamic and sustain that performance from the first game to the last." He went on to point out that the new regime may be a shock to some of the players.
What is a big positive now is that the football is starting in earnest. The off-the-pitch concerns are very real but there were there a year ago. The time to protest was back then. There may be a suitable time to protest again in future but only once we've observed more events and facts. There is much to the situation off the pitch and we will try and cover this in a later post. The team itself is in tact. We’re chasing strikers and new players albeit with cash that is possibly not available (see Telegraph story of 13th August). Arguably we have a better manager in Mark Hughes, even though the messy episode to replace Sven did our reputation no good. Hughes probably has what it takes to see us through a possible future change in ownership. Whether he judges that sticking it out is in his best interests only he knows. It is likely that he has seriously considered his position, but let's hope he's prepared to wait and work on the team in the meantime.
What is most important now is that we back him and the team. We must get playing well on the pitch and as fans we play a part in that with the tone of our support. We're in a difficult situation, but for now it's probably best to keep the terraces focused on the pitch.
PS. Check out the profile and new photos of the MCFC Babies in Ghana on our MCFC Babies page. We’ll be following the team’s progress with the help of team coach and member of MCFCfans.com, Peter Amoabil. The Under 12s recently won a trial game against Kanvili FC 4-2 and will play them again away from home this Sunday. Here’s hoping the application to the league is successful.
There we have it. After weeks of speculation, when most of us got tired of watching out for news, Sven makes his departure with the usual lorry load of cash that seems to follow him around. It was a PR disaster but it has now finally been concluded, Sven is history.
Waiting for all of this to pan out, having the head buried in Gary James’ book, “Manchester – A Football History,” has maintained a sane state of mind (book review and opportunity to win a copy will follow later this summer.) In many respects the club was fortunate to get going in the first place but did so thanks to a combination of luck, geography and believe it or not, some good decision-making.
Fans’ patience is being tested to new levels now. But this is a broad Premier League trend that is making football history today. It’s just that City’s way of entering into a new phase of football history must, by historic definition, be more comical relative to our rivals.
Enter Mark Hughes. Welsh chappy isn’t he? So the 72 caps suggest anyway. We all kind of knew that one of the big big names such as Mourinho were beyond our reach. So who better to turn to than a man who left school and joined Manchester United. Lets put the United thing to one side for a second.
He’s a young manager. He became Wales manager in August 1999 and managed the team fairly well for 5 years. He then took over Blackburn Rovers on a miniscule budget, survived relegation, made an FA Cup semi-final, and then managed a top 6 finish in the Premiership having made some good value purchases in the transfer market. The subsequent UEFA Cup performance was reasonable given the resources available. A 10th place league finish was followed by a 7th this season. All in all not bad.
He is someone who we can expect to put the fire in the belly of our players. Most fans point to the second half of the season when we dropped off after the derby game, and we can speculate that this would not have occurred under Hughes. His knowledge of the Premiership is better than Sven having played and managed in it for longer. His transfers have been good on a low budget, but he may not have much say in the bigger names being targetted anyway. There is an argument for saying that Sven could attract big name players, but there’s a counter-argument for saying that Hughes would have avoided some of the players who don’t always put the effort in. Sven has a much more distinguished club career behind him plays the counter-argument that he may not be appropriate for today's Premiership where some of the younger, grittier managers seem to be succeeding outside the top 4.
In short Hughes looks like the best choice we have right now and actually could be an interesting choice given a bit of cash to spend. We need to get on with it though because time is running out before the new season starts. We need to lock down the uncertain players and get the new management in. Another frantic pre-season beckons.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen that worrying about Hughes is really the burning issue of the day.Sure it’s a concern that if things don’t go too well under his management for a while then he is more vulnerable to a fans reaction because of his past. However, it is clear that Dr.Thaksin’s “learning-on-the-job” will be of much greater importance to the club’s success as the next few years roll on. He must give the new manager a chance, and not give in to the temptation of becoming the man making all of the signings.
Vote in our manager poll now : Link
Manchester City are in Europe !! Dust down the passports and get ready for another European adventure. What a result and a pleasant distraction from all of the recent speculation. We were fairly sure we had it in the bag. It would have taken some seriously harsh "respect" markings from officials for us not to get the place.
In the meantime, the Manchester City media roller-coaster rides on. It's becoming clear that because Shinawatra controls everything himself and is usually engaged in all manner of non-City related functions, it leaves a communications vacuum in the media. This in turn results in an absolute frenzy of speculation that is not confined to us fans, if Micah Richard's BBC column (link) today is anything to go by. Who knows how his latest PR company has been involved lately. Not at all by the looks of it.
Where does this leave Sven? Well as has already been suggested, it would appear more likely that Sven will stay now that we're in Europe. But this is by no means a certainty. The fire sale of players has thankfully been firmly denied today but that won't stop clubs swarming all over our best players until the manager situation is resolved. But if Shinawatra isn't completely bonkers, then perhaps he is taking a rationale approach to working through last season's issues with Sven in order to feel comfortable that Sven is the man for the job. Then again maybe he's just waiting for answers from prospective managers. The more time goes on the more it looks like the most obvious trick was to keep Sven for the Asia tour so that he has a plan B.
Either way the last few weeks have been a media disaster. He can't continue to run the club in this manner as it's unsettling to all and sundry. However, he probably will so you'd better get used to it.
The current MCFCfans poll seems to send a simple message: if you don't have Mourinho lined up then it's Sven or else. Scolari and any other potential managers get minimal support. Our poll closes on Sunday so please vote now by clicking this link if you haven't already done so.
Have a great weekend.
Manchester City fans are hanging on tenterhooks today waiting to hear the outcome of both Sven Goran Eriksson’s future and the final calculations of the Premier League Fair Play League, which will ultimately decide whether or not City pick up a UEFA Cup spot next season. However, it looks like neither decision will be forthcoming until the end of the week at least as reports emerged that Jose Mourinho’s return to coaching is imminent.
Yesterday’s drubbing at Boro and the ongoing manager saga has begun to leave a bitter taste in the mouth over an otherwise successful season. It’s a depressingly well-trodden path of turmoil for the club and we can only hope now for a swift resolution to the Sven situation.
Perhaps fuelled by yesterday’s result, a divide of opinion is now opening up among City fans with some unhappy that Sven appeared to have given up yesterday. Questions are now being asked about his motives over the last couple of weeks. Others prefer to point to the inevitability of yesterday’s collapse following the recent events. We can’t escape the difficult truth that our new owner has in one season both rescued the club financially and then thrown it into immediate end-of-season turmoil.
Whatever happens, Thaksin Shinawatra needs to act swiftly and decisively before the situation at the club gets any worse. We’ve lost the credibility we had built up over the season in the space of a few weeks. The club is in a sensitive situation, needing ongoing nursing out of the depths of lower league football. The vultures are circling around our best players, some of whom we’ve been nurturing for years.
As if the script-writers hadn’t already been second-guessed enough, a UEFA cup spot is a possibility through the Fair Play league. There appears to have been a fair amount of mis-reporting on this subject. Certainly Richard Dunne’s red card didn’t help. However, the latest Fair Play league table doesn’t include the penultimate game of the season when Fulham picked up two yellow cards and City had none. In any event when the numbers are crunched these cards will not make a huge difference. It’s the more subjective scores around respect for officials and opponents that will make the difference. The final decision is not expected to be announced until the end of this week, or early next week.
Will Thaksin hold on until the UEFA Cup spot is announced before he makes his decision? Will it make any difference? Is there any chance at all Mourinho will sign up? Who knows anything any more? It’s easier to predict a 10-game accumulator on the coupon than to figure out what might happen next at City. Ric Turner sums up well in the Times Online. Balloons, Thai politics, hanging on the Fair Play league, maybe sack the manager. We’re breaking new ground here. But lets keep a sense of perspective. The sun is shining and we’re still in the Premiership.
Finally, our poll asking if City fans would consider a home games boycott closed this morning. 83% said “Yes” they would consider boycotting home games next season if Sven is shown the door. We’re looking to guage a fresh view in our new poll. Please take a look and vote now by clicking this link.
What impact does the potential for UEFA Cup football next season have on Thaksin’s decision? Well if Thaksin has any sense left it will prompt him to enter into a “clear-the-air” discussion with Sven and his managerial team. A discussion that should include an apology for the way Sven has been treated, a commitment for investment in new players, and a return to "the project" that all concerned signed up to at the beginning of the season. MCFCfans feels that Thaksin’s comments in recent days show that his position is weak and a climb-down is possible. Sure we might be dreaming but nothing is cut and dry in this saga (Eriksson In?, King of the Kippax). How frustrating though, that our club’s future could rest on a wealthy man’s ego.Whatever happens, the potential for UEFA Cup football may give City an unlikely insurance policy that helps to retain and attract players if the managerial farce that is expected comes to pass.
MCFCfans supports a peaceful but vocal pro-Sven protest on Saturday when a petition that currently has over 18,000 signatures will be handed to the club. The Support Sven Rally will be held at 2.30pm at the City of Manchester Stadium.
This weekend is the last chance for all concerned to give our end-of-season panto a happy ending: for the fans to protest on Saturday; for Sven and the players to play fair and win on Sunday; and for Thaksin to back down.
Last chance Thaksin, the game’s up, leave our Sven alone.
Manchester City's fans showed loyal support to Sven Goran Eriksson at Anfield today, with many holding up the "Save Sven" back page of the Manchester Evening News, Sven masks, and Swedish flags.
The City players hardly helped their manager's future, however, giving the ball away far too freely in a game that Liverpool should have won by more than the 1-0 scoreline. Liverpool allowed City to come back at them in the latter stages of the game and were denied more goals by Joe Hart's excellent goalkeeping.
The weak City performance was a blow to those backing Sven, but MCFCfans believes the support being shown for Sven should continue into the final game. Whatever Thaksin's final decision turns out to be, he should be made aware of the way the fans feel. Reports that Thaksin has been surprised at the impact that club ownership has had on his wallet add to the farce. We all know that sacking Sven won't be cheap.
Eriksson refused to be drawn on his future but everything in his body language suggested that the end of his short managerial career at City is just around the corner. “I have been told nothing regarding that. At my age I do not need to be told these things, I have my own ideas." And it's these ideas that most City fans believe in. Building a team around talented young players. A long-term strategy that happens to reconcile with sensible financial planning. But no, that would be too straight-forward.
We have one of the country's most successful Academies, one of the world's best club managers, and have made significant progress this season. Fans should continue to show support for Sven is so that Thaksin Shinawatra understands the gravity of the decision he is making. Manchester City is a football club with a beating heart - lets continue to show Sven our support - even if we believe the decision is made. Fans may be irrelevent in today's Premier League, but that shouldn't stop us from having our say.
As Manchester City fall over themselves to remain tight-lipped about the Sven saga, City fans are mobilising support for Sven and various protests are planned. MCFCfans continues to cling onto the hope that Thaksin Shinawatra sees sense and backs Sven for another season. However, it seems that a major recruitment search is well underway and we speculate that Thaksin's ego won't back down.
While Thaksin is frantically searching the globe for a replacement, City fans are doing everything they can to support Sven. Last night's impromptu protest near St.Peters Square in Manchester, seemingly arranged online, was reported on MEN to be fairly poorly attended. The Save Sven page on MEN's website carries a video of a fan at the protest. MCFCfans is not sure that the protest had quite the right speaker leading the event.
However, The Save Sven Goran Eriksson from the sack petition will have over 13,000 signatures before the day is out. A rally is planned by the MCFC Official Supporters Club (supported by CSA, MCIVTA, and King of the Kippax) on Saturday 10th May outside the City of Manchester Stadium. The away end at the Liverpool game on Sunday looks likely to be dominated by Save Sven protests. There must be flag sellers shipping in large batches of Sweden flags as we write. Get your Sven mask here for the Liverpool game.
The decision when it comes will be a leading indicator of how City's new owner intends to run club affairs. What is so baffling to many is that his original objective of a decent league finish in season one has been achieved. Fans are questionning whether Thaksin would have run one of his businesses like this. Achieve objective, sack manager.
Conspiracy theories aside, two themes have emerged. The first is the belief that Thaksin has a basic lack of understanding of how a football club is run and what it takes to make a club successful. As an owner of a business this is usually fairly important. Successful leaders tend to surround themselves with personnel who do have the expertise and can therefore guide affairs in the right direction. By most accounts this advice was, and still is, forthcoming but is being ignored.
The second point is simply that Thaksin's ego is not going to back down following the less than cordial meeting that took place between the pair.
MCFCfans continues to believe that a change of heart still offers Thaksin a solid face-saving option, particularly if big Phil says no. The list of reasons of why not to sack Sven are endless as are the list of reasons why not to hire most of the rumoured candidates. If Sven is shown the door we will have witnessed one of football's most ludicrous management decisions. Only at City.
P.S. Currently our poll shows that most fans would consider boycotting home games next season if Sven is sacked. Keep your votes coming !
We've had 16 managers over the last 21 years. Thaksin comes along with his dodgy millions and delivers us one of the world's best club managers. He performs what can only be described as miracles with a team that could barely score a goal at home last season. We have what is quite obviously our best season in years. Not just in terms of the derby results, the league position, and better performances on the pitch. But in terms of the very real excitement about a management team that actually knows what it's doing. Sven and his band of smiling Swedes have a footballing knowledge operating at the highest level. If anyone can, Sven can.
There is essentially no argument. 97% of City fans polled on the Manchester Evening News believe Eriksson should stay. The 3% can surely only be attributed to either United fans or "fat finger" error. The League Managers Association has made a statement expressing concern. This is not just a "Typical City" story. The people forming the groundswell of opinion against the new owners of Premier League clubs and their impact on the game are interested parties. That the rumblings start building after the last home game only increases the anger. In fact never mind after the last home game, what about after the season ticket deadline?
Manchester City season ticket holders have setup an S.O.S. - Save Our Sven - petition. Join the over 6,000 signatories from City and many other clubs now if you feel Sven should stay.
What is the end game? Mackintosh is alleged to be considering resigning his position. As the weight of the backlash built up today, Thaksin's son announced that Sven would lead the team to Thailand. Playing for time while they sound out possible replacements? Scolari is the favourite. Will he take Thaksin seriously given the treatment of Sven? Of other names mentioned we can only dream about the potential of Bilic, Allerdyce, Hughes and others relative to Sven.
The reaction of club staff and fans may leave Thaksin with few options. Keeping Sven after this circus of speculation will bat the ball back into Sven's court. Thaksin would save face and stick to his 3 year plan with the pressure on Sven to deliver. Surely he will only show Sven the door if he knows for sure he has a top replacement. Or will his ego get the better of him?
In other news, the latest MCIVTA newsletter reports that a City fan who plays cricket for "a" Shanghai based team (surely there isn't more than one?!) is off to North Korea to play a game and fly the flag for City there. No doubt all the talk in Pyongyang will be of Sven's fate.
City Manager Tombstones:
Sven-Goran Eriksson 2007- ?
Stuart Pearce 2005-2007
Kevin Keegan 2001-2005
Joe Royle 1998-2001
Frank Clark 1996-1998
Phil Neal 1996-1996
Steve Coppell 1996-1996
Asa Hartford 1996-1996
Alan Ball 1995-1996
Brian Horton 1993-1995
Tony Book 1993-1993
Peter Reid 1990-1993
Howard Kendall 1989-1990
Tony Book 1989-1989
Mel Machin 1987-1989
Jimmy Frizzell 1986-1987
Gary James' hard graft spanning most of a lifetime has produced another footballing history book called, "Manchester - A Football History." Although we haven't yet read the book, it looks like it could be a corking read. Gary's passion is Mancunian football and his book covers stories and history on clubs in the region, either within the M60 or in boroughs where the M60 exits into. Gary has previously written books on Manchester City's history and the history of Manchester derby games.
We're eargerly awaiting our copy so that we can review the book on the blog. Why not buy a copy and join in the comment. The book is out 1st May via the usual online outlets.
Welcome to MCFCfans.com,
We have created this site to respond to the new era of fansites and hope to increase the accessibility of fan sites to everyone. This new site syndicates photos, news and videos from all over the internet as well as creating a meeting point for fans.
Our hope is that it will develop in to a thriving constructive community with a wealth of knowledge on the club's history along with high quality coverage of the club & its' games.