Alan Green: Manchester City’s money-grabbers are making beautiful game ugly
You'll have noticed I missed the start of the new season. It was entirely my choice — I have little faith in early results as a guide of things to come.
I well remember being dispatched to Hillsborough many years ago to interview the then manager Howard Wilkinson because his team was ‘top’: after two games. I think Sheffield Wednesday ended up being relegated. And I needed distance from what, you’ll know, I thought was a poor World Cup in South Africa.
So it was only last weekend that I began a new ‘Sunday run’ of 6-0-6 (again, it was entirely MY choice to switch ‘days’).
I was struck by the number of times callers used the words disenchantment or disengagement to reflect their current relationship with the game.
The World Cup was unquestionably a factor in determining the mood but, more important, was their attitude towards money in football and Manchester City in particular.
Now I know that other clubs in the past have effectively ‘bought’ the title.
Blackburn Rovers certainly did so in the mid-nineties under Jack Walker’s largess and, more recently, we’ve had Chelsea under Abramovich.
We can all remember the distaste of the Russian’s early days as Blues’ fans taunted opposing supporters by waving replica ten pound notes in the air.
Perhaps City are no different but, certainly, my late return was partly designed to avoid the daily speculation as to which badge-kisser they’d be signing next. Hasn’t it become tedious seeing them linked with all and sundry?
Of course, the media is partly to blame for some of the more idle speculation but the immovable smug grin on the face of the wholly less-than-likeable chief executive Garry Cook tells me that he and City love all the publicity. And they pay absurd prices because they can.
Let me give you an example. I remember recommending Yaya Toure to a former chief executive of a prominent Premier League outfit when the player was available for just over a million euro from his then club, Olympiakos. So, what would I know? But he isn’t worth £25 million or whatever City paid.
And much though I think James Milner is a good player, he, too, isn’t remotely worth the money that City coughed up.
City are merely assembling an undignified group of football mercenaries.
And, if this bunch doesn’t work, there’ll be another one along in January or next summer or the transfer windows after that.
I don’t think it’s the way to run or build a club, particularly one that has so many die-hard and wonderful supporters.
It’ll dictate how they’re viewed elsewhere: why many otherwise ‘neutrals’ will be delighted to see Sunderland beat them.
And, when you chuck in how supporters generally view players like Mascherano (‘my wife doesn’t like Merseyside and I don’t care that I’m in the middle of a contract’) and N’Zogbia (‘yes I know Mr McLeish that I said I’d accept £40k a week but now I want £50k’) — just two of many examples — football had better be careful ‘disenchantment’ and ‘disengagement’ doesn’t reach epidemic proportions.