Friday, 30 January 2009

Money, but no class

Thank goodness the January transfer window is nearly over. Its just possible that we might get back to talking about football once more - though not likely. The national media here seems far more interested in English Premier League managers slagging each other off, and who's nearer the 'finished' line in the weekly sack race.

One can speculate variously about where Manchester City's coach Mark Hughes lines up in the list of those looking over their shoulders at job (in)security, but his Club have certainly been making monkeys of themselves recently. Being "the richest team in the world" can't buy you pedigree, loyalty or instant success, even in the surreal world of global football wheeler-dealing. Milan said that City's cash-flashing representatives "didn't seem to know what they were doing", and the scrabble for Kaka (and a few other megastars) was as absurd as it was indecent. That said, their actual signings have been strong, and could save the manager's bacon if they work out.

As for 'Sparky': well, he did a very good job at Blackburn, but when he took his new appointment, sky-high with expectations, it seemed to turn his head somewhat. City are creeping up the table now, but their results have been comparatively poor hitherto, and Hughes has not impressed some of the bigger egos in his dressing room. He's also consistently tried to push the blame onto the old regime - particularly the man who gave the side their best finish ever in the Prem last season, before being nonsensically sacked by a disgraced former Thai president... Sven Goran Eriksson.

Sven seems a prime target for wounded English pride, for some reason. Perhaps because he's quiet and, more often than not, good at his job. (He lost just 5 competitive games and achieved top qualifying place in all three international tournaments during his five and a half years as England manager. But that didn't stop the childish abuse at "only" reaching the quarter final in three consecutive tournaments. As if they deserved much more.)

But back to Man City. Not long after arriving, Mark Hughes said he was going to tighten up the "soft" regime he'd inherited. Then he announced that Club visitors would be restricted because Sven had been too hospitable. This was followed by allegations about fitness levels... after the close season. Since then he's stated or implied that his performance problems have been substantially down to the squad he inherited. Yeah, right... where do we start? Brazilian international Elano? Sure, City lost games towards the end of last term, when commitment went out the window while everyone was furious about the treatment of Eriksson, who was hugely popular as well as successful. And strengthening was bound to be needed. But using a crack in the barometer to test its overall effectiveness is a poor measure.

When Hughes has a management record to that's anywhere near comparable with the Swede's, currently being tested again in Mexico, he'll have a right to boast (though it would be better if he didn't). Until then, he'll need to get his head down and try to prove that Manchester City's past owner wasn't mistaken to put him in charge in place of Sven. [Footnote, today, Saturday 31st, the Blues' all-stars lost 1-0 to world-beaters Stoke City. Yes, yes... they've done quite well since then...]

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