Man City, Abu Dhabi and history’s warning


Are we all now going to despise Man City?

Well, I already had it in for them a bit after they trounced us without breaking sweat on Sunday, ruining my trip home from Abu Dhabi.

Next day, of course, I heard the same news as everyone else about the takeover. I would be flying back that night to a city that had suddenly become sky blue.

And City fans are now wondering whether their club, almost as underachieving as ours in modern history, is about to become as hated as Chelsea.

I have given my own answer to this question in a column for Abu Dhabi’s National newspaper today. Read the full article here or settle for this extract:

Among the birthday gifts handed to me a few evenings ago, at a party in the stadium of the English Premier League football club I support, was a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Against Modern Football”.

The “e” in modern had been replaced by the pound sterling symbol. I instinctively warmed to the theme, smug in the knowledge that my club – Sunderland – stood on the uppermost terrace of sport’s moral ground, clinging high-mindedly to “real club, real supporter” principles in defiance of the market forces turning association football clubs into multinational brands.

But I was also aware of the spectacular hypocrisy of my stance. In common with virtually all my fellow supporters, I would dearly love to see Sunderland rejoin football’s elite after 70 years of exclusion……..

……..But commerce does not have to drive all romance, or element of chance, out of the Beautiful Game. From the history books, I can even introduce a note of caution for supporters of Manchester City now contemplating a future dominated by the finest players money can buy, and the trophies and titles their brilliance will ensure.

Between the late 1940s and the late 1950s, Sunderland were known as the Bank of England Club because the men then in control were able to splash out large sums on the best footballers around. A glance at the records offers no sign of resulting championships, cup final victories or European triumphs. The period began with a humiliating early exit from the FA Cup on the sloping pitch of the non-League Yeovil Town; it ended, in the spring of 1958, with the first relegation in the club’s 79-year history.

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