No, not really, but the possibility is explored here by the rather brilliant satirical website Not the Nation.
Archive for May 2008
One of the primary arguments made by City fans enthusiastic about Thaksin Shinawatra’s takeover last summer is that Thaksin is a successful, efficient businessman who will act wisely to steward his investment, to the benefit of the club as a whole and hence the enjoyment of the fans.
That argument is looking increasingly preposterous as days and weeks pass with no resolution yet on Sven Goran Eriksson and the future of City. As Chris Bailey of the MEN notes in this biting column, everyone and everything has been put on hold at the club, awaiting word from Thaksin as to what is next.
It’s a sorry and wholly unnecessary state of affairs. In a “normal” situation, the club should be feeling good about a strong season (including a double over what will now go down in history as one of the all-time great Manchester United squads) and European qualification. Contracts should be getting sorted out for next season. Scouting worldwide should be in full swing, with the aim of signing up some key recruits prior to the price-inflating Euro 2008 tournament in June. Preparations for a preseason campaign that will include early fixtures in Europe should be well under way.
Instead, the club is losing valuable time, and with every passing day and week the likelihood of a disastrous 2008-09 campaign increases. Sven isn’t quite gone, with Thaksin perhaps showing cold feet, though the highly regarded Swede is already on the shortlist at Chelsea. Meanwhile Thaksin’s team is apparently enamoured with Avram Grant, the recently sacked Chelsea boss. It’s hard to imagine a less inspiring choice for City supporters, unless the goal were to hire a manager with as little personality as possible so as not to upstage the maximum leader Thaksin.
Some think that matters will be resolved quickly with the arrival of new executive director Garry Cook from the United States. We’ll see. But the chaos to this point, utterly inexcusable, should cast into serious doubt the notion that Thaksin is a good steward of Manchester City Football Club. Instead, Thaksin seems to regard MCFC as a secondary priority, and an instrument for promoting his own reputation in Thailand–just as this site has suspected all along.
The “Super Match” featuring Manchester City against a Thai All-Star XI wasn’t so super from a City point of view, with the Blues squandering a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1. City featured Kasper Schmeichel in goal and five other players who saw significant time in the starting lineup this year (Garrido, Petrov, Sun, Hamann and Vassell), as well as derby day hero Geovanni. In the second half Eriksson played three Thai trainees.
The result wasn’t great, nor was the attendance, reported to be 25,000 in the 65,000 seat Rajamangala National Stadium. The somewhat lukewarm reception City seem to be receiving in Thailand may cast doubt on the ease with which Thaksin can carry out his plan of turning the club into a commercial powerhouse in Thailand and the rest of Asia. Some City fans who were at the game in Bangkok however have been painting the evening in a much more positive light; apparently numerous fans wore fake replica City shirts to the game. The Nation sports page however reports that “The presence of City owner Thaksin Shinawatra seemed to be the only attraction of the evening as the spectators seemed more interested in watching him rather than the match.”
Closer to Manchester, two ex-Blues had an altogether better day at Wembley: former stalwarts David James and Sylvain Distin led Portsmouth to triumph in the FA Cup final. James didn’t have much shot-stopping to do (apart from a fine 13th minute kick save), but Distin was a rock at the back and also made a memorable run into the box in the second half that brought back memories of his fantastic goal for City against Middlesbrough in November 2006. Another ex-Blue, Trevor Sinclair come on in the final minutes for Cardiff City; Robbie Fowler had to settle for a place in the stands.
The most interesting item on the day, however, may be the Daily Mail’s claim that Thaksin will seek, after all this, to persuade Sven to stay, apparently realizing that upgrading on Sven would be a very difficult task. It’s not considered likely Sven would accept such an offer, but stranger things have happened. The Daily Mail suggests however that Sven is fed up and wants to go; so does Richard Dunne.
In normal times, the big happy news for Manchester City supporters would be confirmation that the club will enter the draw to qualify for the UEFA Cup this summer, based on its position in the Fair Play Table. Sven Goran Eriksson, still acting as manager, issued this statement about the news; Sven’s probably pleased to have something to comment on other than his job or the Boro game on Sunday.
That piece of good news is partly overshadowed by an explosive story which ran in the Daily Express today claiming Thaksin has plans to put the first team squad up for sale, that players received letters criticizing their second-half of the season performances from Thaksin, and that John Wardle had apologized to the players for selling the team. Parts of that story matches rumours that have been circulating on the internet for a couple of weeks.
City however have issued a strong statement denying the story and threatening legal action.
Finally, City have named the squad for the “Super Match” in Thailand tomorrow. Three Thai players signed by City will start on the bench. The club also opened a store in Bangkok selling club apparel.
It’s being reported in various outlets that Sven has been offered a job coaching the Mexican national team, partly it appears at the behest of Nery Castillo. Difficult to say that one coming off as there’s a not a lot to do in that job until 2010, other than lead Mexico through a rather tedious qualifying campaign for the next World Cup.
Meanwhile, Sven has traveled with the squad to Thailand. According to The Nation, turnout to greet City at the airport was sparse (though there was a heavy media presence). Sven refused to comment on his future at the club.
A Thai supporter of City on the Blue Moon message board has posted these pictures of the club’s arrival. It looks like most of the players were having a good time–there are worse fates than a free trip to Thailand.
Meanwhile, Thaksin has decided that hiring a PR firm in Manchester might help burnish his image in England. Good luck on that.
David Conn, lifelong City fan and one of the most important journalists covering world football, weighs in with an assessment of Thaksin’s first year at City. Conn reckons that City fans got what they bargained for, or at least what could have been easily predicted by anyone willing to do a little research into Thaksin’s track record: a ruthless, imperious, and unpredictable owner.
Especially interesting are some tidbits Conn has picked up on Thaksin’s reaction to the loss at Fulham in the home finale.
Also, in the rewind department, I’ve stumbled across a link from When Saturday Comes that quotes and comments on the “Selling City Out?” essay (linked on the right) from last summer that was the precursor of this blog. The writer predicted that if City succeeded on the pitch, sceptical voices about Thaksin would dissipate. He was right about that, but after recent events, the sceptics are back in full voice.
What’s perhaps most telling about all this is it’s now literally impossible to go to any City message board and not find a long, heartfelt (or in some cases, short and bitter) message from a lifelong City supporter saying that they are now ready to throw in the towel, not just on Thaksin but on the club itself (or in some cases, the club until Thaksin is gone). More on that phenomenon and what it may portend in a future post…
No definitive word yet on Sven’s future, as the Swede flies out to lead City’s ten day Asian tour. Sven is expected to be dismissed following meetings in Thailand with Thaksin Shinawatra.
Other reports in Tuesday’s papers note that Richard Dunne is apparently on his way out.
Meanwhile, Thaksin earned a distinction Tuesday he probably wasn’t looking for, being named by veteran writer Henry Winter of The Telegraph as the “worst owner” in the English Premier League this year, an award he shares with American co-owner Tom Hicks of Liverpool. Congrats, Thaksin!
Manchester City supporters around the world are searching for explanations after a thoroughly disastrous, preposterous defeat to a mediocre Middlsebrough 8-1 in the season closer Sunday. City’s 9th place finish in the league was already secure, and even Richard Dunne’s red card apparently isn’t enough to threaten City’s entry into the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play table, but this was a humiliating outing for players, the outgoing manager, and the club as a whole.
The farcical display on the pitch reflects nearly a month of farce off the pitch. Thaksin Shinawatra was not on hand Sunday, but he must bear a large amount of responsibility for turning what was so nearly a successful first year as chairman into an absolute shambles. City played like a demoralized team with its mind elsewhere, and with Dunne gone no one else stepped up to lead on behalf of the shirt.
Suppose, by way of a thought experiment, Thaksin backed Sven publicly, Sven was clearly coming back for next year (and the 8-1 had not happened). City fans would say it had been a decent season that started strong and petered out, that the solution is to build a stronger squad that could withstand long-term absences of the likes of Richards and Johnson, and that the UEFA Cup place would be a nice carrot to dangle in front of potential recruits. City would be headed into year two of a coherent project with year one a qualified success.
Instead, the club at the moment are in an absolute shambles, with the man primarily responsible thousands of miles away, making decisions from afar while those in Manchester are left in the dark. Welcome to the Thaksin era at Manchester City.
City to Take Backdoor into Europe (Again); Fans Rally for Sven in Manchester; Sven Demands Decision on FutureMay 11, 2008
Plenty of news has been unfolding in the buildup to City’s season-close fixture at Middlesbrough Sunday. On Friday, it was announced that England will get an extra place in next year’s UEFA Cup through the Fair Play table, a place Manchester City is in pole position to claim going into the season’s final match. City previously qualified for the UEFA Cup by this route under Kevin Keegan in 2003.
So Sven Goran Eriksson, albeit via the backdoor, is on the brink of delivering European football to City in his first season in charge. He’s still, however, also on the brink of losing his job, as he confirmed in comments during his Friday weekly press conference.
Meanwhile, on Saturday Blues fans gathered outside the City of Manchester Stadium to show their support for Sven. Press accounts of the rally have yet to appear, but poster Markmakaveli from the Mancityfans.net forum has posted some videos on Youtube providing a sense of the atmosphere.
Finally, The Telegraph reports Sven’s comments from Saturday saying he expects as a matter of decency to receive word about his future very soon. This account is particularly interesting and insightful, as it suggests that even City insiders have little clue about Thaksin’s intentions; Thaksin is described as “volatile and unpredictable.”
Goal.com has an excellent piece about the Thaksin-Sven fallout; I don’t disagree with a single point made by writer Graham Lister. He writes
Thaksin and his ilk, the new breed of billionaire club owners, need to take a large dose of realism on board in their new roles. As Harry Redknapp stressed this week, “The trouble is they all want to be winners and only one can win the title. Billionaires do not accept being losers.”
In other news, Sven apparently has put Benfica on hold to see if the Chelsea job opens up, where it’s believed he might be a strong candidate. A brief item from The Sun says Sven will wait to be officially sacked before committing anywhere. Meanwhile, various reports indicate that City’s post-season trip to Thailand is full steam ahead, with Sven to remain in charge.