"Don Barrie - 'If the bid fails, or if Shinawatra returns to Thailand to face charges, the club will be in an even bigger mess than before – leaderless, clueless and facing a highly uncertain future'"
Are the good times set to return to Manchester City? It’s been more than 30 years since City won a major trophy but that could all change under the guidance of former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The City board has accepted Mr Shinawatra’s £81.6 million takeover of the club and they are urging shareholders to give the bid their full backing. Under the Thai, debts at the club are set to be covered, money will be made available for transfers and he wants to see City competing with their city rivals United within three years. Everything points towards the good times returning but nothing is ever clear-cut when it comes to City.
Mr Shinawatra has had more than £1 billion in assets frozen by the current Thai government as part of an investigation into corruption allegations and it’s claimed that it may take a further three weeks before the takeover can be completed. With such uncertainty hanging over the club, some City fans don’t know whether they are coming or going, but Jonathan Capehart, secretary of the Huddersfield Manchester City Supporters Club, believes that something major has to change at the club to revive its fortunes and he is right behind Shinawatra’s bid.
“City need to roll the dice if they are to challenge for honours again. We will not get anywhere without taking some risks. Shinawatra offers hope and we need that. As someone who was well aware of Shinawatra before this takeover, I have no qualms about him at all and know he has been a success at everything he has done. So it is very much a calculated risk as I see it rather than a reckless one. I also know that the allegations against him are politically motivated and have no worries on that score either.
“I’ve been very impressed with his interviews to date and he is a likeable man. He is aiming high but recognises that it is a long road to success and that is important. I'm confident he will do his very best for us and I think we have a fair chance of him achieving his aims, in part at least.”
Don Barrie, news editor for the Manchester City newsletter MCIVTA (Man City Information Via The Alps), has had his doubts about Shinawatra but admits that if the deal goes through then it could be the turning point for the club’s fortunes.
“Initially I was highly sceptical about the man. Allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and tax evasion gave a very poor impression of him. I remember the protests a few years back when Liverpool fans demonstrated against Shinawatra taking over their club, they weren’t too keen on him. Also if the man’s bank accounts are frozen, how on Earth can he fund the purchase of our club in any event? And yet part of me is just relieved that someone is prepared to inject funds and some new life into the blue “sleeping giant” of Manchester.
“I first heard Shinawatra speak last Thursday evening, on that tumultuous takeover day. He was on the radio and I have to say, he came across very well. He made all the noises City fans would want to hear – he’ll try and bring in five top players to the club, the club debts are covered, we need to be challenging United within three years and so on. He was quizzed about the allegations of criminality being laid against him. He stated that these claims are politically motivated, and are attempts to discredit him. He was very polished, which is no surprise considering his career as a politician."
He really appears to be on a charm offensive at the moment. Whether City fans are won over by this tactic, remains to be seen.
“If the takeover does go through, I think it could be a turning point in the club’s history – and the whole atmosphere around the club will inevitably change if we become a rich man’s plaything. And there’s no guarantee yet that this takeover will be a success. If the bid fails, or if Shinawatra returns to Thailand to face charges, the club will be in an even bigger mess than before – leaderless, clueless and facing a highly uncertain future.”
Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is being strongly tipped to be the man to transform the team on the pitch and this has led to much debate amongst City fans. England’s lifeless and spiritless showing in last year’s World Cup is still fresh in the minds of some fans and Jonathan Capehart, 46, part owner of www.mancityfanc.net, thinks that there are better candidates out there.
“I am not in favour of Sven and think we can do better. I certainly prefer him to Mark Hughes though if that is the choice! Ramos would be better, but my number one from those on offer would be Co Adriaanse. He could be installed quickly and cleanly and his sides play good football. He also has an excellent record of bringing young talent through, just what we need with our top class academy. Eriksson isn't first choice with many, but a poll on our fan site showed 97 per cent would prefer him to Hughes or Strachan and about 905 would find him an acceptable choice and a good appointment.”
Prior to taking the England job, Eriksson was one of the game’s top and most respected coaches. He’s won silverware at almost every club he’s been at and is the only manager to have won the double in three different countries. He’s an ambitious manager and would surely love to make it four with success in England. Don Barrie, 46, whose first City game was a 4-1 demolition of Stoke City in 1971, remembers the exciting brand of football Eriksson had Lazio and Sampdoria playing in Italy and believes that if he can reproduce that form at the City of Manchester Stadium then the fans would forget all about his torrid time as national boss.
“In order to raise the club out of it’s current malaise, a high profile manager is definitely required and not bosses of the calibre of Paul Jewell or Chris Coleman either! I’m trying not to let my memories of Sven’s last years in charge of England influence me either. I am clinging to my recollections of watching Italian football in the 90s on TV, when his teams played successful, bright attacking football. Both Sampdoria and Lazio, when under Eriksson’s stewardship, played an attacking 4-3-3 formation. Some of that would go down very well at the City of Manchester Stadium.
“If Sven does join the Sky Blue ranks, he’d soon win the fans over by ensuring (a) that City sign some prestigious players (b) that City score goals – lest we forget, we scored a measly 10 at home last season and (c) that City win a few games as well.”
One of the first players linked with a move to City was Newcastle United’s Michael Owen. At 28, Owen has missed the majority of the past two seasons through injury and he may have lost a bit of his blistering pace but this is the kind of signing that would get City fans back in their droves. A proven goalscorer is what they have been crying out for, especially after their dismal 10 goals at home last season. The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker has a good relationship with Eriksson and may be prepared to end his injury-ravaged time on Tyneside to lead City into a new era. However, more recent reports have linked West Ham’s Marlon Harewood with a move north – I know who I’d prefer to sign – but one thing’s for sure, City need an out-and-out goalscorer.
“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a proven goalscorer should be top of the shopping list,” says Don. “It was gratifying to see City immediately being linked with Michael Owen. Even if this just turns out to be speculation because of the Sven-England connection, how refreshing it is to see a transfer target that isn’t a Bosman! Even young Master Owen would struggle with no decent supply – and last season City’s play from wide midfield was pretty inept. For most of the time it was made up of the old, the bad and the lightweight, or Trevor Sinclair and Georgios Samaras if you prefer!
“To correct this deficiency I’d love to see Shaun Wright-Phillips back down the right in a City shirt, with a skilful left-sided player like Mortem Gamst Pedersen of Blackburn on the other side. Having Shaun Wright-Philips come back “home” would be a dream for most City fans, although I’m not sure Shaun might see it was a backward step.”
And Jonathan, who said the highlight of last season was the day the club said Joey Barton would never play for them again, believes they need to sign at least five new players.
“We need two strikers and at least two midfielders. Nedum can replace Distin but we will need cover, so one defender. Get Ball signed up too! Realistic targets that I would like to see are Reo-Coker and Lita. Shaun Wright-Philips would be great if he would come. Would be a big boost to fans to see him back.”
After City’s brief flirt with the drop last season something had to give and Stuart Pearce was given the axe. But despite some truly dire performances Jonathan Capehart, 40, whose favourite City player of all time is Colin Bell, is confident that the club can push on for a top eight finish.
“I look at other clubs with problems and think we would have been ok with or without the takeover. Bottom six maybe but not bottom three. The takeover enables us to set our sights higher. The middle third now looks most likely and I would be very happy if we could get back to top eight next season when I think we can contend for UEFA Cup places but will possibly just fall short.”
City fans have lived in the shadow of their rivals for far too long and a return to the good old days is long overdue. Shinawatra wants to see City competing for the game’s highest honours and if he can help bring silverware back to Eastlands he will become a City legend.