Like this page?
Send it to a friend!
BBC Radio Manchester Features
Save Our Sven: fans make their point
by Ian Cheeseman
Bewildered - "To confuse or befuddle, especially with numerous conflicting situations." Yep, that about sums it up. I can't think of a better way to summarise what is going on at my beloved Manchester City.
Do things become clearer when we analyse the game between City and Fulham (26 April 2008)?
Sven: is he going? [pic: Getty Images]
The City owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, had invited 50 Thai MPs to Eastlands to enjoy the game with him, which would be followed by a lap of honour by the players. City lost 3-2, having led 2-0 and the supporters couldn't be bothered staying through a tedious aftermatch draw to win a car.
By the time the players re-emerged, most fans had gone. Mr Shinawatra must have been highly embarrassed and it seems that resulted in his meeting with Sven-Goran Eriksson becoming more about the departure of Sven rather than the original, planned, 'way forward' discussion.
Word soon spread that despite achieving target one of the three year plan and transforming City into "a team to be taken seriously" as one Arsenal fan put it on 5-Live's 606, 'Sven was a gonna'.
'Typical City' is an oft-used expression by the club's ever inventive, always humorous, fiercely loyal, and necessarily self-deprecating supporters. Club staff have been told never to use that expression and their PR team have worked hard to change City's image, with a fair amount of success, until the end of April, when that old expression found itself on everyone's lips.
There are lessons to be learned from the past too. Just over a decade ago City had five different managers in one season. Unsurprisingly, 12 months later (in a campaign which only featured two managers), the Blues were relegated to the third tier of English football.
It's bad enough, as a City fan, having 'the world's most famous club', Manchester United, as your neighbours and rivals, but Manchester City, sadly, have developed an image of shooting themselves in the foot.
A new dawn
Maybe the story of the season can end my bewilderment?
City of Manchester stadium
During the summer of 2007, after months of uncertainty, a new dawn was welcomed by the majority of City fans as Thaksin Shinawatra took over ownership and installed the highly respected Sven-Goran Eriksson, as manager.
Time was tight as Sven brought in eight new players to inject flair and goals into a team that would surely have been battlers against relegation during the 2007-2008 season, before the changes of ownership and management.
Shinawatra and Eriksson were one voice as they declared, "It's a three year project. Top half of the table during the first season, UEFA Cup qualifiation in year two and top four in the third."
Things started impressively with a hard-fought win against United and some wonderful free-flowing football, particularly against Newcastle in the autumn. But then the leaves slowly started to fall off.
The festive fixtures proved challenging, especially coming so soon after losing at home to Spurs in the Carling Cup, and slowly the Blues slipped from their top four spot. The "Typical City" tag started to peep over the parapet again when the Blues proved to be a bunch of balloons at Sheffield United.
More ominously City's Thai owner, having verbally supported Eriksson up to that point, started talking about his desire to return to England to, 'tighten the bolts', which the tabloids suggested meant Sven was under pressure.
With pressure building and hopes of European qualification slipping away, partly because of Spurs winning and the 'big four' failing to progress in the FA Cup, the rumours suggested an 'unofficial sounding out' of Phil Scolari, the man most experts believe was Thaksin's original first choice, had taken place.
Then came City v Fulham. 'Typical City' was back on the table. The vast majority of City fans were astounded by developments, defending Sven but stopping short of criticising the man alleged to have made the decision to sack Sven. Afterall, Thaksin has promised to pump millions into City, once his riches are freed up.
So where do City go from here? That hard-fought-for image boost, carefully nurtured by those who work hard behind the scenes, and so well represented by the ever dignified Sven Goran Eriksson, looks to have been destroyed.
I've been watching City home and away all my life and reported their activities on BBC Radio Manchester for the last decade, and I find it hard to express a cohesive view about the future of the club that has always been at the centre of my life. Thank goodness for the Academy and the skilful nurturing of the next generation of City youngsters, oh and thanks Sven for a very encouraging first season - even if it proves to be your only season at Eastlands.
I remember someone telling me, years ago, that an undergraduate at Leicester University had a done a dissertation on the performance of all the country's professional football clubs. He factored in the size of the city or town in which the club was based, average attendance, money spent on transfers etc and then looked at progress in cup competitions and final league positions.
His conclusions were that, averaged out over a 25 year period, 95% of clubs performed to the level befitting their criteria. There were two exceptions. Liverpool, who had over-performed, and Manchester City who were the great under-achievers.
If you're a City fan, that won't suprise you.
last updated: 12/05/2008 at 08:51
Have Your Say
Brian from Warrington