Man City: The club we love to hate.

Robinho: the embodiment of the 'Man City problem'

Everyone hates Man City right about now, don’t they? Well, aside from the City fans that is, but deep down, they’re wondering what happened to their club. The club with fight and spirit that went all the way down to Division 2 (in old money) and still attracted a full house to Maine Road, and the club that bounced back again. I wonder what those fans, the fans I saw when I went to watch City against Burnley (don’t ask me why) during those dark days, make of their beloved club now.

Because we, as football fans, have good reason to distrust and dislike Manchester City at the moment. As an Everton fan, I’ve had a front row seat. After having watched Joleon Lescott join us from Wolves, establish himself first as a first team player at Everton, then as one of the League’s most consistent defenders and a great goal threat to boot, then to rise to an England international. Then City came calling with all the class of Pete Docherty, and I watched Lescott sink into mediocrity, and Lescott watched the World Cup from home, before being told he could leave Eastlands.

You see, it’s not just the transfer market that City are currently in the progress of wrecking. Nor is it just the idea of player loyalty, the way that they’re perpetuating the already inherent problem of greed in the modern footballer. Or the fact that a club is doing its utmost to buy their way to success and thereby relegating the quality of football and of spirit to a secondary importance, though they are doing all of these things.

What City are also doing is ruining the careers of players. Lescott has taken giant strides backwards since he left for supposedly greener pastures. The same could be said of players like Adebayor and Santa Cruz. These big name players joined the Man City revolution and yet they’ve fallen by the wayside because in football there is always a bigger name, and City’s owners are never satisfied. The only thing greener at City than at Everton, Arsenal or Blackburn, is the currency.

Then you consider players like Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha and Michael Johnson. These are young players who were earning rave reviews a few seasons ago playing for City. We were marvelling at the talent that was emerging from City’s youth system and looking forward to a generation of young English players who could make the step up over the next few years, to breathe some much-needed fresh impetus into the national team. South Africa proved that such impetus is still required, but City’s youngsters are no nearer to providing it.

Joe Hart is the latest example. After a phenomenal season on loan at Birmingham City last season Hart was England’s number one in the eyes of the entire country except the one man that mattered. However, despite being a top class ‘keeper in his own right, Hart looks like he may well end up sitting on City’s bench and watching Shay Given keep goal for the Eastlands outfit this season, because why should Mancini suddenly change his mind about Given whom he preferred last season?

Which means that if he isn’t prepared to sanction another loan move for Joe Hart, England’s brightest goalkeeping prospect may find his progress stunted – just like his replacement at Birmingham, Ben Foster, found at City’s Manchester rivals. Of course, this problem is in no way exclusive to Man City, young talent the country-wide is being cast aside in favour of foreign options, but as in every other respect, City are doing it bigger and better than anyone else.

Nor is it entirely their fault. After all, the above players who joined Man City knew exactly what they were doing. By signing on the dotted line they knew they were becoming mercenaries, selling themselves to the highest bidder and hoping to buy their way to success. If they looked deep down inside themselves they’d have known they were taking a risk, that it might not be the right mover career-wise, but great piles of cash has a way of distorting rational perception.

And here’s the real source of the problem. Such wealth is quite simply unethical. Footballers have been paid too much for years, we knew that already. But while there remained some semblance of loyalty, some illusion that they appreciated what they were getting and were at the same time interested in playing for the club and the fans, that they understood the passion that was required, we were willing to put up with it.

But by trying to usurp the already inflated wage structures of the Premier League in their quest to find a just-add-cash recipe for instant success, Man City crossed a line and exacerbated the problem tenfold. Footballers now make no pretence about being concerned for their club and respecting their fans. All of that business, however tenuous and however false has gone out of the window now. The riches on offer now are so great that when they get a sniff these young guys abandon all pretence and dignity.

The truth is, we were willing to accept a little self-delusion. We knew that mostly our players weren’t playing for the crest they wore on their shirt, but if they at least pretended like they were that was OK, and they often even ended up caring by accident. Now though, we’ve been made to see through any such delusion, and it is transparently obvious that every footballer – bar one or two, who are very, very few and far between – is little more than a mercenary.

Why do we resent that so much? Because it makes us feel foolish. Because we care so damn much about our clubs, it pains us to see these spoilt, talented little bastards treating them like shit. We would give everything we have to be out there wearing our clubs shirt, fighting for every ball, and to see how little it means to the people who actually have that privilege cuts us deep.

That’s why everyone hates Man City. And that’s why the real Man City fan, deep down, probably hates what their club has become even more than we do. The 40,000 other people who were at Maine Road watching the Div 2 clash between City and Burnley a few years ago, are you truly happy at what has become of your club? Will success, which may very well come, have been at too high a cost? Please let me know, because if it were my beloved Everton… well, I don’t think it would be my beloved Everton any longer.

6 Responses to Man City: The club we love to hate.

  1. Steve Burrows says:

    It’s a shame the person who wrote this didn’t leave their name, but perhaps they didn’t think it would be read by anyone except the most diehard Toffees fan and so would escape comment. There are some decent points towards the end of the article, but I would hope though, that those with a little more knowledge than the author would see through the many untruths in this article, which are as follows:

    1. City “came calling” for Lescott in exactly the same way and with just as much class as you did when you took him from Wolves;

    2. Lescott was injured for most of the season which is why he watched the World Cup at home. It also partly explains why his season never really took off, although that has more to do with the ineptness of Mark Hughes. He started to look much more like the player he was in the second half of the season under Mancini;

    3. He has not been “told he can leave Eastlands”;

    4. We are buying our way to success, just as Liverpool, Manure, Arsenal, Chelsea and Blackburn have done before us. We are yet to spend as much money as some of those have, so we are currently just catching up. It wasn’t us that first ruined football;

    5. Adebayor, despite being shot at and banned during the season, has arguably played much better than he did in his last year at Arsenal, where he was booed by his own supporters. Santa Cruz was an expensive waste of money, who was injured before his arrival and remained so all season, and was presumably bought by Mark Hughes to fill the squad with players he was comfortable with. He hasn’t got worse or better – he just hasn’t played (hopefully Fulham will now take him off our hands);

    6. You have a point with Nedum Onuouha who hasn’t been given enough of a chance, but Micah Richards is at fault for his own slide – he doesn’t have his head in the game anymore and since Mark Hughes’ arrival has become a complete liability. Mancini has correctly said he needs to get his head sorted before he can progress. Michael Johnson, as anyone with any football knowledge knows, has been perpetually injured – we all hope to see him back playing one day, but playing for England for him isn’t even on the radar yet until he gets playing again;

    7. Mancini didn’t prefer Given to Hart last season – he didn’t even have access to Hart who was on a season long loan at Birmingham!

    8. “Footballers now make no pretence about being concerned for their club and respecting their fans” years ago, long before City had any money. I remember the shambling performances of Fowler and McManaman in blue shirts – at least the current crop of ‘mercenaries’ show far more desire than they ever did for us. Even further back, Nicky Summerbee or Nigel Clough used to take the mickey out of us and they were on a fraction of what today’s lot are on;

    Now, paragraphs 9 – 12 actually echo much of what I feel about football these days too, but you have mis-directed your anger at us at City. This has been going on for years, and seems likely to continue until the whole thing one day hopefully implodes. However, are you going to look me straight in the eye, knowing that it is all wrong, that football is as corrupt and mismanaged now as it has ever been, and tell me that if some Sheikh comes along and gives Evertonians a brief glimpse of what the ‘Big Four’ had up until now had sewn-up for them, that you wouldn’t take it? Or do you really naively believe you can ever win anything again the way the whole system currently is? If getting in billionaire after billionaire is the way of getting it all to come crashing down around their ears then so be it. The football authorities, the media and Rupert Murdoch don’t care, so as I am powerless to do anything else but respond to articles such as this, I’m going to enjoy the rollercoaster ride while it’s here knowing that I’ll still be here when the money men are long gone.

    • red says:

      typical city fan trying to justify that terrible club who have no principles. Neither liverpool, united (manure? great imagination you petty blues have) or arsenal ‘bought’ their success. try reading a football history book before you ride in all knowledgeable and prove everyone else wrong. enjoy sinking to the bottom of the football league when mansour gets bored with his new toy.

      • Steve Burrows says:

        And they used to call us ‘bitters’!!!! Well, I’ll keep it simple, because judging by your grammar and punctuation you don’t have a lot going on upstairs, and it’s quite obvious that you didn’t read my response (can you read?)
        All the clubs mentioned ‘bought’ their success to the extent that the English leagues, even prior to the Premier League, have rewarded financially those achieving FA Cup finals, winning the league etc. When the Premier League, and then the re-introduction to European competition occurred, the shift towards greater rewards for those at the top continued so that anyone in the ‘top four’ nowadays has an income to ensure they stay there. Only crap managers, bad chairman decisions or bad buys can dislodge them, so City always had a lot to do to catch up with these clubs. Okay, Liverpool haven’t built successfully on the financial advantages they’ve been given, and Wenger prefers these days to get the financial rewards of being in the CL rather than actually winning anything. Oh yes, and Sheikh Mansour is here for the long term – but perhaps you’ve not seen what is being built in East Manchester for our academy and the future.

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