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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Do you remember when the Abu Dhabi Group completed their takeover of Manchester City? It was all very exciting. Thaksin Shinawatra, one of the stupidest men to control a football club in recent years, was edged out and replaced by a very large pile of money and some amusing promises.

Not for City the modest heights of the big four. No, they were out for world domination. Bids were mooted for John Terry, Fernando Torres and, most entertainingly of all, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world," said Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim archly, "so we will see in January if he is serious."

Now, regular readers will know that I bow to no-one in my disdain for the giraffe-necked one. Excellent player, terrible role model and all that, but even he isn't that stupid. Leave the biggest club in the world for their success-starved neighbours down the road? Stop being so silly.

The only thing funnier than these very public delusions of grandeur is the sight of City this week, teetering just above the relegation zone. It turns out that money can't buy you everything. Robinho has been fantastic, Shaun Wright-Phillips is back to his best and Stephen Ireland is playing the best football of his career, but Mark Hughes' side are still losing games. For all of that spending and all of those promises, City are on the same amount of points as Sunderland.

When the new board of directors meet to discuss targets for the January transfer window, they may find themselves with more pressing issues to discuss first. So far, the only comments coming out of Abu Dhabi have been defiantly loyal, but that was before the club started slipping towards the dropzone. How ruthless will they be in protecting their investment?

If they have any sense, and in these wild times, that's an 'if' the size of Peter Crouch, they'll hold their nerve. There is no doubting the quality of Hughes. As Paul Ince is very kindly displaying, getting results out of a club the size of Blackburn Rovers is no mean feat. Hughes built a team that could compete with the best and he can do again here if he is given time and patience.

All the key components for success are in place at Manchester City, but you wonder if the new owners can see it underneath their rash promises. No club can count on more loyal support. It takes a special kind of lunatic to support City and 30,000 of them stuck around to watch the club in the third division. There's also the academy, City's most valuable asset and ironically the one most likely to be cast away or ignored. Who needs local talent when you've got a big chequebook?

Everyone in the boardroom needs to take a deep breath and consider a couple of facts. They need to spend wisely and patiently. Chucking money around at superstars will only unbalance the dressing room. Martin O'Neill, currently placed 4th with AstonVilla, has shown how to do it. They must also realise that stability breeds success. Manchester City do not need to start the hunt for their fourth manager in under two years. They have a real chance to build carefully towards a glorious future, but they will throw it away if they panic now. Hughes must stay.