WHERE WILL THE CITY FIASCO END?
WHERE IS the Manchester City fiasco going to end; and how soon? There is a certain unreality about the present position, with the sinister Thaksin Shinawatra on the run from corruption charges in his native Thailand, where £800 million of his assets are frozen, while Mark Hughes – who was surely so ill-advised to leave Blackburn, for a club so clearly in potential trouble – insists that he alone is in charge of transfer policy. While the new chief executive assures us that all is well.
All is well, when Shinawatra has of late been forced to borrow upwards of £2 million from the previous chairman, the decent and long suffering John Wardle, who resigned in evident despair from the club’s board this summer? Hughes has just vetoed a £7 million transfer of the Croatian international defender Bedran Corluka to Spurs – Corluka responded by scoring a goal for City at Villa Park last Saturday.
But the way things are going, you could imagine City in the near future being the subject of a fire sale. Shinawatra refuses to return to his homeland; and you wonder whether this Thai government will try to extradite him and his wife, who has already been sentenced to three years in jail.
What, in this maelstrom, of the Greed Is Good League and it uninspiring leader, Richard Scudamore? He informs us that the League’s rules are such that all and sundry potential owners are “fit and proper persons” unless and until they have actually been convicted! In the raucous words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!” As we know all too well, Shinawatra came to Manchester with a shocking domestic record as Prime Minister, accused not only of corruption but of shocking offences against human rights, by Amnesty International. Any sane and sound organisation would have run a mile from him then; yet the Greed Is Good League were hamstrung by their own daft regulations.
Now Scudamore is wondering what will be done next. As if City’s predicament were not enough, there was more woe when the bitterly unfortunate Bulgarian international attacker, Valeri Bojinoy, who missed most of the last season injured, snapped an Achilles tendon before the game had even begun at Villa Park. And days earlier, at home, City had been humbled and humiliated, though admittedly under strength, by an obscure Danish side in Midjtylland. Oh, Mark, who did you ever leave Ewood Park?
AFTER THE recent Communities Shield game at Wembley, Sir Alex Ferguson in his deep generosity actually gave us journos the benefit of his wit and wisdom in the post-match press conference. Something he still stubbornly refuses to do on TV after Match of the Day games or, indeed, after Premier League games themselves. At Wembley, he was perfectly pleasant and responsive, but he seemed to me a little smug, lauding the way his team had played that afternoon even though it had failed to score against a mediocre Portsmouth side which, a week later, one watched being taken apart by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, to the tune of four goals which might have been more.
A day earlier, United were dramatically held at home by a Newcastle side which for years, on their visits to Old Trafford, had been little more than an Aunt Sally. The immense importance to United’s team of the incomparable Ronaldo could hardly have been more evident; though the arrival of Berbatov could clearly be of crucial importance. However, it is encouraging to see how shrewdly Keegan’s Magpies have bought in the shape of their two Argentinians, Fabricio Coloccini at the back, the strong, fast and incisive Jonas Gutierrez, in attack. All very satisfying for Kevin Keegan, arguably talked out of the title by Fergie, when that huge lead melted away, all those years ago.
THE EXTRAORDINARY ability of David Beckham to be taken at his own excessive valuation, on both sides of the Atlantic, was all too embarrassingly shown when, after seven games without a victory, the benighted Los Angeles Galaxy sacked their unlikely top executive Alexi Lalas, once a rumbustious, guitar-playing centre-back, and parted company with the sainted Ruud Gullit. Decisive if not ruthless action by their multi-millionaire owners; but what possessed them to offer Beckham such a colossal salary in the first place? Capello, of course, another sufferer from acute Beckhamitis, had him in the England squad for the friendly against the Czechs. Maybe sooner or later there will be a new TV documentary: Beckham’s Bluff.
STEVE MCCLAREN’S unfortunate image as The Wally with a Brolly seemed to be fading, after his new Dutch club, Twente Enschede, put up such a spirited European Cup show against Arsenal, and scarcely deserved to lose. Only for the silly fellow to make himself a figure of fun again with his almost incredible decision to give an interview to Dutch television, in what he fondly believed to be English in a Dutch accent. Steve, oh Steve; leave comedy to the true comedians, then people might laugh at you less.
OH, PLEASE! Oh, no! Oh give me strength! There is every fear now of Beckham The Musical. Lyrics of supreme silliness and sheer banality by someone called Mark Archer. No mention so far as one can tell of missed penalties, dud World Cup 2006 performances, skilling out of the way to facilitate Brazil’s equalising goal in 2002, not to mention his extra curricular activities, surprisingly tolerated by the skeletal Relatively Posh Spice. As one who collaborated in the musical Underneath The Arches, which opened successfully at Chichester then ran for a long while at the Prince of Wales, I’m tempted to invent some added lyrics. Such as:
Now Fabio Capello
Thinks Becks is still the fellow.
He’ll always be the one
Even if he cannot run.