As long as I live, I don’t think I will ever see a Premier League season end quite that dramatically. My loyalties lie with a team outside of England’s footballing elite, and even I found myself going through so many different and crazy feelings and emotions, I can only imagine what it must have been like for supporters of all of the sides with something to play for yesterday (United, City, QPR, Spurs, Arsenal, Bolton, Newcastle) because at one point or another in every game the results were either favourable yet things ended badly or they were going badly and ended well. Even the best Hollywood script writers would have struggled to come up with something as dramatic as yesterdays games yet in true Hollywood fashion the biggest twist was saved right until the very end.
Had Manchester City failed to turn things around at the Etihad against QPR I would have genuinely felt sorry for the players, excluding Tevez, staff and fans at the club. (Im not sure I could afford the same sympathy to the clubs owners, more on that later) The City fans deserve this moment, they’ve seen United win the title time and time again over the last 20 years, they’ve seen United be crowned Champions of Europe twice in the same time frame and that’s before you start including all the other silverware that has been won during “The Ferguson era”. Meanwhile, Manchester City were relegated all the way down to what is now League One, stormed all the way back up under Joe Royale and then got relegated. Again.
They then managed to get themselves back into the big time when Kevin Keegan came to town, and said goodbye to Maine Road to move into the state of the art City of Manchester Stadium. It was at this point City were able to feel comfortable in the Premier League but this was still Manchester City, and even challenging United for the title was frankly a far fetched and laughable idea at the time. Hopes were raised when the multi millionare former Thai prime minister took over the reigns of the club and appointed former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson as manager. Things improved and City looked to be heading in the right direction, then all hell broke lose at the club again and the Thai PM was wanted by the authorities back in his home country and had all of his assets frozen. City fans can now laugh when I remind them of the last day of the season one year whilst Eriksson was in charge, an 8-0 hiding at the hands of, you’ve guessed it, Middlesbrough.
How times change.
The story from here everybody knows, the club was bought by wealthy business man who left his cheque book with Roberto Mancini once Sparky had been removed and told him to use it to win him titles. Having that sort of money to spend puts the manager himself in a no win position you would think. If you don’t win, you can close the door on the way out and look out for your p45 in the post. If you do win then people will say that you have simply purchased your trophies. It was the same with Mourinho at Chelsea when Abramovich first came onto the scene, and similarly when Blackburn won it in dramatic circumstances at Anfield 17 years ago, those teams were accused of buying the title back then and I’ve heard people accuse Manchester City of doing the same today.
With respect to the owners who pump money in left right and centre, I really hope the financial fair play rules that are coming in limit their influence significantly. I used to hate Manchester United FC, they used to win the league practically every season and don’t like seeing one team dominate year on year no matter who it is. I used to find Fergie moaning about referees and all his mind games with other managers tiresome and pedantic and there were even some nights I wanted them to lose in Europe just to annoy the United “fans” at school or work the next morning.
Now, after watching Manchester City’s owners come in and buy all the best players and go on to win the league, I take a different view towards United. I now realise that the successes that Manchester United and Arsenal have had are down to those two clubs being run well, bringing through a number of decent youth players and then looking at ways to increase the clubs revenue so that they can afford to buy a few world class stars that would fit into what they already have. I would even include Chelsea in that to an extent, for the 10 years prior to Roman’s millions they were challenging for titles sometimes up until the last 5 games and the season prior to his arrival Claudio Ranieri guided them to a Champions League spot, for example John Terry and Frank Lampard were already at the club by the time Russian Oil Money came to Stamford Bridge.
I’ve already mentioned Man City’s recent history and it demonstrates how far the club have come in such a short space of time, I commend them for what they have achieved but not for how they have achieved it and how I fear they may continue to achieve it.
In spite of all that I have said, I still don’t think accusing City of buying their first title in 44 years is fair. The players still have to cross the white line and earn it, the manager has to mould a group of ego fuelled millionares into a team and then motivate people who can afford to never work again and the fans have to go through every up and down as the Sky Blue faithful no doubt did yesterday.
If Queens Park Rangers (who were accused of buying their way in to the league last season) had of held out for just a couple more minutes Manchester City would have one less trophy and still have spent the same amount on players. There is no way any team can simply buy a title, you can buy all the best ingredients in a title winning recipe but the chef still has to know how to cook.
For years the Premier League was a sterile environment with the same old teams winning everything and I got bored of it but at least it was the clubs doing it off their own back. Maybe United are to blame for ticket revenue no longer being shared in the league and building such a huge worldwide fan base, with all the money that comes from it, the only way teams could compete with the elite was to find somebody rich to pump some money in. One way or another it stops becoming about sport and starts becoming about money, hopefully the financial fair play rules will shake things up a bit but part of me thinks its all the usual smoke and mirrors from those who run the sport and who are ultimately business people themselves.
I really hope City fans have enjoyed going to work today and seeing colleagues and friends who support the Red team in Manchester. I hope the players enjoyed experiencing something they “dreamed of as a kid” as Vincent Kompany put it, but I hope something can be done to change the way that transfer dealings are conducted in the future and that domestic football can one day be about the sport and little else. The American franchise system guarantees healthy open competition with the salary cap and draft systems in place but I worry that it would be too complicated to implement and integrate with lower leagues and other European leagues.
With that in mind, is it time we let the elites get on with it and have their European Super League?
PS – Ive managed to write this whole article without mentioning what a disgrace Joey Barton was in that game and through the season. If somehow you have stumbled across this Joey, you are a disgrace to your profession, if anybody else went to work and behaved like you do they would be sacked. You are a terrible role model for kids and even your own teams fans were applauding Man City’s derisory chants about you. I hope nobody ever gives you a professional contract again. Millions of kids dream of doing your job and you do this with your opportunity. Disgrace. Sorry to end on a sour note, but that needed to said.
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