Tuesday 2 September ~
There was a time when the natural enemy of the (often rightly) paranoid football fan was the self-serving businessman, coming in and treating your football club as a means to fill his own pockets. But whatever fans thought of Ken Bates or Peter Swales in the 1990s, at least these people worked to a business logic, however warped. Within 12 hours of taking over Manchester City yesterday new owners the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) showed they haven't got time for such frippery as balancing the books and building a strong base for the future of the club. Instead their actions so far seem to be based on little more than that of a spoilt child, motivated solely by making their peers jealous. In the end they only managed to scupper Chelsea’s bid for Robinho, but they came very close to doing the same for Manchester United’s move for Dimitar Berbatov. Why? To endear themselves to fans like a desperate parent appeasing a child in the easiest way possible, with presents.
In January, expect a raft of expensive big name signings heading to Eastlands ("Imagine Chelsea, then times it by at least ten," a source was quoted as saying the Guardian today, a concept that surely doesn’t just terrify Shaun Wright-Phillips) but in the long-term who knows what awaits City? Chief executive Garry Cook seems understandably positive: “Can we win the Champions League? Yes. It might take ten years, maybe even longer. But we will.” Of more worry to City fans will be the words of ADUG frontman Sulaiman al-Fahim: “We don't have a lot of time. The money is not a worry for my board.” Why don’t they have much time, and what will happen if it runs out?
As part of my job I spent the hours from 7.30pm to 12.30am last night watching the rolling transfer news on Sky Sports News to cover developments for a news website. Obviously I wasn’t naive enough to expect a balanced discussion of how yesterday’s news would affect the direction of English football, but it was still painful watching the most ostentatious celebration of wealth, greed and soulless dealing since Dallas.
The breathless adoration on the faces of the anchors and their assorted stooges around the county injected events with a meaningless frenzy as they attempted to convince viewers we were witnessing history. “Phone in work and tell them you will be late, this is going to be a late one,” shouted one pompous chump as if anchoring general election night before another described the moment he read City had had their bid for Robinho accepted with the words “the hairs stood up on the back of my neck”. Which is interesting, as watching last night I have never felt so emotionally removed from football. Josh Widdicombe