Saturday, April 20, 2024

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Patience is a virtue, particularly when you have more money than sense

When viewing the current Premier League table it wouldn't be too much of a push to imagine that we have gone back a few years in time. The relegation zone is littered with some usual suspects that have dealt with the stress of being a 'yo-yo' club, if you ignore the on-going Newcastle soap opera, and sitting precariously above them is Manchester City.




Being a Manchester City fan over the course of the last two seasons must have astounded even their most long-suffering fans, the club is bracketed as one of those 'sleeping giant' clubs where the usual qualification is a substantial lack of any major silverware over an extended period of time. So much has been promised in the last eighteen months with varying degrees of success, and yet with very nearly a third of the league season completed Mark Hughes' team are a mere point above their relegation rivals and instability is as rife as ever.

When the club was acquired in the summer of 2007 by Thaksin Shinawatra, there was an excitable air of exuberance amongst the supporting faithful. No attention or real care was given to the dubious history of the former Thai PM or the ongoing corruption scandals that hung over him. Indeed Shinawatra was very effective in appeasing the fans quickly, the former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson was ushered in as a replacement for sacked Stuart Pearce and he wasted no time in spending lavishly on the squad.

With a host of new signings and a squad that looked more solid than it had for many, many years, Sven managed to have an immediate effect on team performances and results. For the first half of the season Manchester City followers found themselves in the unusual position of witnessing their team occupy the Champions League spots. Inevitably this stunning run of form could not continue but it certainly lasted longer than most doubters initially expected, and coupled with this there were wins both home and away in the league against their bitter rivals Manchester United. This in itself was something not achieved since their last successful era of the 1970's.

When it came to the final few games of last season there were rumours abound that Sven was due to be sacked, this was despite pre-season expectations being achieved and an eventual Uefa Cup qualification through the fair play league. The decision that followed in the close season confirmed the removal of Sven and instigated understandable disenchantment with Shinawatra. It cannot be any kind of coincidence that this kind of upheaval is rarely viewed amongst the big clubs. Even with the slight supporter unrest towards Manchester Utd's and Liverpool's American owners, there has been a semblance of continuity and stability which has been transferred upon the managers and players.

Manchester City have since dealt with the inevitable moving on of Shinawatra (to an 'honorary' position on the board) and a second takeover within two years along with their second manager in Mark Hughes. Sometimes such constant changing is at least partly understandable, for example when a club is clearly struggling and needing new guidance, as Fulham found last season when appointing Roy Hodgson. Their gamble paid off in more ways than one as Hodgson slowly turned around the team's performances and relegation was avoided.

The changes at Manchester City though were not required like they were at Fulham and have instead clearly destabilised the progress made last season, at least for the time being. Mark Hughes is not necessarily fully to blame but excuses are already being attributed to him. He is supposedly worried about his squad, even though it has improved from the one that was twelve points better off at this stage under Sven last season. The way in which Manchester City has been run since and including the hardly warranted sacking of Sven, is perplexing to say at best. Why is attention not given to the examples of Manchester Utd and Arsenal, where Ferguson and Wenger have built their legacies over a period of time that is rarely allowed these days. Ferguson was famously rumoured to be a result away from the sack in 1989, how different would Manchester Utd be now if that had occured.


The examples are not only with the big clubs either, Aston Villa so long an underachieving club far removed from it's heyday nearly thirty years ago, are now following the blueprint for building success. They have an owner who clearly cares for the club and is not willing to enforce his ego onto it, and likewise in Martin O'Neill they have a manager who with the correct support and patience can push the club towards better times. There are many ways to achieve success in football, and Manchester City may well push on towards a glorious future. They will do well however to pay heed to becoming an English equivalent of the Real Madrid gallacticos, where money and success was not a guaranteed formula and they paid the price for ridding themselves of Vincent del Bosque.

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