Sven Out, Hughes In; The Myth of Thaksin

This blog was initiated as a way to explore, as evenhandedly as possible, the pros and cons of Thaksin Shinawatra’s takeover at Manchester City Football Club in 2007. As a City fan who had watched some pretty dire football in the 2006-07 season, I understood full well the appeal of a fresh new investor with big promises about taking City into the top tier of English and then European football. The primary questions the site addressed in July and August of 2007 regarded the many ethical questions surrounding Thaksin as both a controversial politician branded by respected international organizations as an enemy of human rights and as a democratically elected leader recently ousted by a military coup.

In recent weeks as the Sven saga has unfolded, I’ve been analyzing events through a narrower perspective, namely the impact of the Thaksin regime on Manchester City Football Club itself. As has been stated here repeatedly, and again most recently on Saturday by the Independent, the club did appear to make genuine progress on the pitch for the first 8 months of the season under Sven Goran Eriksson, but has since fallen into a limbo that threatens to take City all the way back to square one.

What’s remarkable about recent events as how many City fans still are backing Thaksin, claiming that the club is in fact better off than a year ago, and that he must have some kind of plan to pull the club out of the current crisis into the bright promised future. After all, Thaksin has publicly promised City fans an awful lot–Champions League football by 2010/2011!–and surely he wouldn’t let Sven go if he didn’t know what he was doing.

What most of those fans don’t realize (or want to admit) is that you can’t treat Thaksin as a normal football owner engaged in an unwritten social contract with the supporters. Thaksin has made it clear he doesn’t really care what City supporters or those at the club think; he’s going to follow his own inscrutable logic.

That inscrutable logic at the moment has resulted in Sven Goran Eriksson being sacked, with the favored replacement the far less accomplished Mark Hughes of Blackburn. Hughes is a respected manager, but hardly possesses the worldwide reputation and contacts of Eriksson, or the experience of managing at the highest level. Hughes of course is also a Manchester United legend, and some City fans will find it difficult to swallow his apparent appointment. At the moment, reactions to Hughes’s candidacy on City message boards are decidedly mixed.

Others of course will hail Thaksin the genius and declare that the plan to lead City into the Champions League by 2010 is back on track. Those fans should be warned that Thaksin has a history of making extravagant promises that don’t ever quite get fulfilled. In 2003, while still prime minister Thaksin boasted that by the time he left office, drugs, social ills, and the mafia all would be eradicated in Thailand. Great rhetoric, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

As for the situation at City, after weeks of limbo and the plainly unprofessional treatment of Sven, some steps towards a resolution is welcome. But the logic of paying off a world class manager respected by fans and players who had delivered what was asked, and then having to make a second payoff to Blackburn to acquire a rather less accomplished manager, remains far from clear.

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3 Comments on “Sven Out, Hughes In; The Myth of Thaksin”

  1. Have to admit the Mark Hughes came as a bit of a surprise to me. Why sack a guy with a proven track record and give a huge pot of money to somebody with potential but is untried at the highest level. Could be a complete disaster for Hughes as well as City, but could also be a stroke of genius. Will be interesting to see how it pans out.
    My thoughts are that despite all the talk he will end up with Scolari

  2. Mike Dowling Says:

    I agree with Fraser. It may work but saying that – IT WAS WORKING !!! My fear now that our players have lost confidence in the club and no manager, however respected, can compete with that cloud. I await with bated breath but will put off buying my 2009 jersey for a while !


  3. Svenalike Says:

    MCFC are diminished by losing Sven (AND his amazing coaching support entourage!) and our national team now have them to contend with for W-Cup 2010…
    Double whammy and a sad day for City and British football….?

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