Manchester United fans once popularised the old Monty Python song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ as a stadium chant but it is their neighbours at Manchester City for whom those words have become almost a way of life during the past 32 years without a trophy.
It looks like City supporters may need to draw on their famed reserves of black humour once again given the current uncertainty surrounding the future of their club.
When former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived at Eastlands during the 2007 close season—having passed the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper person’ test for club owners—there was bold talk of City playing Champions League football in the not-too-distant future.
Hopes of a bright new dawn were enhanced by the installation of Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager and a spending spree of around 40 million pounds.
Although the fans may not have liked Thaksin’s treatment of Eriksson—the Thai dismissing him for his failure to achieve a top-six finish—the appointment of the highly-rated Mark Hughes in June went down well (despite Sparky being a former United hero and often mentioned as a possible successor to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford).
The new man’s vow to “challenge at the top table, not only in this country but in Europe” persuaded many fans that further progress lay around the corner.
Two months on and Hughes must be wondering just what he has got himself into. His arrival after a successful stint at Blackburn Rovers came at a time City were spending a record fee on Brazilian striker Jo and making loud noises about signing Ronaldinho.
The former Barcelona man is now at AC Milan and City appear to be in limbo. Thaksin’s announcement that he has gone into exile in Britain may spare his wife Potjaman a jail sentence for tax fraud—she had been freed on bail pending an appeal—but it also means most of his assets remain frozen in Thailand.
Where this leaves City’s spending plans remains to be seen.
“I was at Blackburn for four years and I knew exactly how things were done, the lines of communication, what have you. At the moment, it’s not quite as it was at Blackburn,” Hughes was quoted as telling the Telegraph.