Marky Mark, Mancini, Mario, Mourinho and the mayhem that is modern-day MCFC…
George Caveney finds himself completely alliterated with the beautiful game.
I’m so observant, right, that I noticed several key ‘things’ associated with my darling club begin with the letter ‘M’. Alliteration – the pinnacle of sports journalism, with a dose of sarcasm for good measure.
There are others, like Micah, Marwood, matches, mud and misguided transfer purchases, and of course the money. Money, and lots of it. It hasn’t bought us anything tangible thus far, bar a few headaches and a lot of speculation, ridicule, jealousy and a much higher position in the league than this generation of faithful supporters will be used to.
I’m not complaining. If the modern game must be such an unbalanced, somewhat grotesque circus, I’m happy queuing for what can at times be one of the eeriest, gaudiest freak shows in the park. I’ll get my ticket price back in spades, and I don’t want a teddy or a goldfish. I came for the thrill, the nausea, and the free-floating uneasiness.
Things clearly aren’t settling as quickly as we’d hoped, and we’ll go into the reasons why in a mo. But I think there is still a sense that the sideshow at Eastlands is affecting the main attraction. The run-in has crept up on us, we lost at Stamford Bridge and we’ve several players out or spluttering through injury, seemingly innocent use of a banned substance, or out-and-out chicken-hat madness. In time-honoured fashion, I’m a bit queasy again. Maybe the international break has given me time to worry my head back up my bum again. Maybe a good display against Sunderland will give us the impetus to stay in the top four. Who knows?
But that’s not what I intended to talk about here. It’s the ‘M’s. We forget that in the space of a year, we changed owners and managers twice. Robinho then arrived much to his and Mark Hughes’ surprise. The following summer we spent well over £100 million on players and lost plenty more shipping out some of the lost causes.
Within four months, Mark Hughes was out, and replaced four minutes later by Mancini, who has already out-spent Hughes in the transfer market. In hours and minutes, this already seems a long time ago, but in the greater scheme of it all, we’ve made pretty swift progress in the blink of an eye. Even if anything but fourth or above this term is deemed ‘a failure’.
That said, though, many still ponder where we’d stand today had things been oh-so-slightly different. Pointless, admittedly, but natural when you’re crapping yourself about impending doom and looking for excuses already. What if Mark Hughes had stayed, at least till the end of what was already looking like a promising season? What if Mancini had invested differently and avoided Mr Train-Wreck-o-telli himself? What if Mourinho had come, as so many wondered he might? (I know – but let’s use it as a way to make a point).
My point, and I’m not making excuses already, is that it didn’t matter as much as we thought it did then, and doesn’t matter much right now, who’s got say in what and whose blue shirts we see more of on the pitch. Manchester City is still probably the most difficult job in the EPL, perhaps in Europe, simply because there is so much change still afoot. For all Mancini’s skill in creating the professional bubble that Hughes couldn’t for one reason (Cook) or another (Cook), there is still an extraordinary gurgling sense of change and upheaval at the club, that even the Special One would have struggled with.
He may have been better at wrestling control out of the hands of the non-football savvy element of the backroom staff, but until the club settles – whenever that may be – the big managerial names, the proven players and the fervent global marketing can only make so much difference. Embarrassments like coup-exile Shinawatra and his handling of Sven, Cook’s gaffes, Robinho and the faintly pathetic, however misunderstood Balotelli, Tevez’s contractual spaz-out, the Rooney and Kaka sagas, and so on – are sadly par for the course we’ve taken.
But I for one don’t mind, because we’re sticking to it and it seems the owners aren’t as daft or anxious as originally feared. Baffled, perhaps, but not daft. My overriding fear is that without a Champions’ League spot, we’ll be caught in a vicious cycle of said nonsense and just keep throwing money at the wrong things.
But hey, the proverbial fat lady hasn’t even got an audition yet, and there are 24 points still to play for, so I’ll belt up for a bit. Spurs, and two trips to Merseyside aside, it’s not a bad run-in, and win or lose at Wembley on 16th, it will give us a fighting spirit we’d perhaps already lost a bit this time last year. A cup would make the neighbourhood a lot more peaceful, too.
But if Mancini’s job rests on fourth, I hope we get it for his sake. All things considered (bar believing he could tame Balotelli – a boy Mourinho is genuinely unsettled by) his achievements so far are more than worthy of the chance to show us what’s possible with a modicum of stability. I rate him, despite his occasionally conservative tactics.
What the owners and fans must appreciate is that the difference between fourth and fifth may be massive in terms of revenue generation, marketing opportunities and transfer market clout – but it’s no more than a whisker in terms of managerial or footballing ability. To anyone with the long-term interests of the club at heart, Mancini will not have failed if we miss out for another season. Another season to bed in is better than another knee-jerk upheaval where it’s least welcome.
The other option, of course, is Charlie Sheen, whose ‘winning’ mentality and disinclination to suffer fools gladly might be just the ticket (putting to one side for a moment the crack-induced psychosis and other baggage). And appropriately enough, he’s actually called Carlos Estevez. It’s a sign! Send Cook over to discuss it with him! That I’d love to see.
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