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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Everyone expects a rush of transfer activity on deadline day, but even the most seasoned of observers would have been surprised to see an entire football club change hands yesterday. Only Manchester City could provide such drama, but the joy felt by its supporters today is tinged with sadness for the rest of us.

Not since the departure of Jean-Alain Boumsong has English football had to cope with a loss as grievious as the exit of Thaksin Shinawatra. How will we cope without the good doctor and his antics? Has a dafter man ever wielded so much power?

Shinawatra came into possession of Manchester City with less slightly knowledge of football and its workings than I have of Thai tax laws. His first move, hiring Sven Goran Eriksson, was a good one, but that was obviously beginner's luck. After a promising start faded into inconsistency, Shinawatra fatally undermined his manager and crippled any hopes of success for the club.

Eriksson was forced to rebuild an entire club at short notice and he did it well, scooping up gems like Elano, Martin Petrov and Vedran Corluka. Not all of his acquisitions were as successful, but when you throw so many new players into a team at once, that's only to be expected. Eriksson was putting down foundations, but Shinawatra wanted the house finished before the ink had dried on the blueprints and sacked him at the end of the season.

The former Thai Prime Minister must have known all along that there was a danger of his assets being frozen, John Burridge had predicted that outcome in these very pages, but it didn't stop him from reportedly setting up the same kind of instalment-based transfer deals that sunk Leeds United. When the new Thai government moved in on their former leader, City's very existence was in the balance.

That isn't to say that Dr Al-Fayed of the snappily-titled Abu Dhabi United Group For Development And Investment will be any better. The 31 year old tycoon is no shrinking violet and has been described as the Donald Trump of the Middle East, having just launched his own 'Apprentice' style TV programme over there. His first act has to been to voice a desire for a top four finish this season, proving once again that Manchester City are the only club to attract chairmen with less realistic ambitions than their fans.

But his intentions are for another day. For now, it's only right that we have a moment of silence for the man who thought that English football could be dominated with relatively modest spending. A man who hired one of the most experienced, succesful managers in the world and then dumped him after doing the double over Manchester United, qualifying for Europe and finishing in the top half. A man whose senseless behaviour could have doomed a proud club to extinction. Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, we salute you. Now don't let the door hit your bum on the way out.