‘Where do you see yourself in five years City?’, asks the delicate flower that is …George Caveney.
Yeah, that dumb question unimaginative employers ask in job interviews. Is anyone really going to say ‘upside down in a ditch covered in my own sick,’ or ‘surrounded by gold bullion and topless Russian beauties in a mountain-top fortress?’ You have to give a modest account of your lowly, achievable ambitions. You don’t point at the smug herbert on the other side of the desk and shout, ‘I’ll be your boss for a start, monkey man!’ – as tempting as it may be.
So let’s try and apply this ‘Santa’s lap’ approach to City’s ambitions for the short to mid-term, bearing in mind the resources behind us, yet acknowledging the constraints soon to take effect on our financial clout. Let’s please, just for today, put to one side the playground crap like ‘you can’t buy team spirit’ or ‘moneybags City ruining football.’ I think it’s fair to say many teams have bought success, and the rest would if they could – and that City’s metamorphosis has been a key factor in shaking up the established order that was getting oh so boring. Even for the fans whose teams were in the top-four fortress. Ruining football? Of course, yes. Sorry, it was so balanced, equal and financially meek before Abu Dhabi Group waded in. At least they haven’t laden it with monstrous debt or scarpered, or both. Yet.
I get it. People want so see us fail, and in some ways yes, the City project self-imploding would be good for the game. As well as giving the jealous, pointy-shouty brigade something to bray about till kingdom come, it would actually shine the spotlight back on the values of belief, determination and bloody-mindedness in grinding out respectable results on shoestring budgets and refusing to cow to expectation. But hang on, won’t these always be the cornerstones of enduring success?
I don’t think this universal truth has escaped the Arab owners. People say we’re bloated with mercenaries and has-beens. I disagree. We have been susceptible to it in the early stages, but I think the squad is taking shape, and there are game-winners in every position. The point is, as well as the mindset, you also need remarkable talent on and off the pitch, and that requires money – at this level, oodles of it – and don’t try telling me this is a phenomenon City have created. While we may have inflated transfer fees and put a spanner in the works with our oil dollars, it’s not like the money floating around the top levels of the game wasn’t already absolutely sickening and ridiculous. Is it only since Sheikh Mansour got involved that illiterate millionaires have been crashing fleets of gaudy cars, dating illiterate money-grabbing hotties and earning more in a week than I will earn in the next five years? Oh please…
Anyway, that’s way off topic. Where can we realistically expect City to be in five years? What’s the middle ground between the abject failure and implosion some pray for in the name of what’s good and pure, and the domestic and European domination many tout us for within two seasons? Well, even based on us achieving a top-four finish and Mancini staying, it’s still a tough call. With Spurs seemingly stable and able, and Liverpool perhaps bouncing back under Dalglish, it’s going to be tooth and nail, which is awesome for the fans and the Premier League. But like it or not, City’s resources – if not their kudos and status – outstrip everybody else’s despite the new regulations. Regulations many onlookers think we haven’t factored into the masterplan. I think we probably took notes, thanks very much.
We achieve top four and it’s on, big time. Mancini will stay. Those key players might hang around a little longer with a shot at the European stage, and while you might expect another minor shake-up of the squad, the board has already hinted it’s time to close ranks and get on with it. Hallelujah. We have the tools, let’s get crafty.
That being the case, I think we’ll still have a job in the Champions League. I don’t expect more than last-16 if we’re lucky for a couple of seasons, if we manage to qualify. But the experience will be invaluable. All we need is the leg-up. Then, I believe we have the resources and wherewithal to stick around. Win it in five years? Who knows? Why not? By 2015/16 I would expect a Premier League title and a couple of cups, and be fighting for our position, not fighting others for theirs. I think that’s reasonable. I think the interviewer will be impressed with these targets. Guarded ambition, and all that. Hmmm, a self-motivator with reasonable aspirations, quietly confident, team player, blah blah.
Of course, you never know. We might be fighting a winding-up order at the bottom of League One with Gazza in charge. Gazza wearing a skidded onesy with stitch-marks across his forehead as player-manager, and sponsored by a dog food magnate. But that’s not an idea we should entertain too much because it’s City. Capable of just about anything.
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