Mark Hughes Leaves Manchester City

Posted: December 19, 2009 in Sport
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mark Hughes was today released as manager of Manchester City by its Saudi owner, Sheikh Mansour, with the reason cited as “not achieving set goals and targets”. In the same statement that announced Hughes’ departure, Roberto Mancini and Brian Kidd were announced as his replacements. Mancini takes over a squad that is very expensively assembled (summer signings ran to £220m) and should be very talented.

Now, Manchester City lie 6th in the league table, above Liverpool (who lost today heaping more pressure on their manager Rafa Benitez) and 6 points off 4th place with a game in hand. They have lost two games all season, one in midweek where they played very poorly against a fired-up Spurs side and once in the Derby game where they were very unlucky to lose to Michael Owen’s extra-extra-late winner. Unfortunately for Hughes, they also had a run of consecutive draws where they failed to capitalise on early leads. Personally I think the City board have acted very disrespectfully towards Hughes and his whole coaching team, in that they had lined up Mancini before they let Hughes go. In other lines of employment this would be considered constructive dismissal. No doubt Hughes will get a nice big compensation sum out of City for terminating his employment, and no doubt he will very easily find another job in management as a very talented manager.

But what do City gain out of this? The board fail to recognise that building a team takes time and success is not instant, no matter what happened to Chelsea. Hughes has done a very good job to get City to 6th in the league considering he has a whole new team that is yet to gel. His defence looked shaky but his attacking unit were powerful and could dominate teams. He’s made a mistake in the transfer market, letting Dunne leave was wrong, as was the purchase of Lescott for far more than he was actually worth. But Hughes didn’t even get one full season to show improvement, he’s been given less than 6 months by the new owners. Owners that know absolutely nothing about football, except for the fact it can make them lots of money (or is just a very expensive plaything). Ask any manager in the league and they will tell you that three years is generally required for a good team to gel. Sir Alex Ferguson at United got 4 and a half years before his first trophy, and look at where United are today. Would they be there if the board had booted him out after 18 months? Well, it’s hard to say, but I certainly can’t imagine them being the force they have become in English football. Before Dario Gradi quit as Crewe boss he was the longest-serving manager in football, and a tiny railway team stayed in the Championship for many seasons under his guidance, despite no funding and often having to sell his best players. That success didn’t come straight away either, he was given time to develop roots. And that is the key. Roots. Any manager coming in has to be able to develop the club from the bottom up. But when a new owner comes in with bottomless pockets, it’s obvious that that will be thrown out of the window, and the cash used to fund megabucks signings. It’s happened twice at Real Madrid with Florentino Perez throwing the Spanish Government’s money at players, and managers coming and going on a yearly basis. Now if one of those managers was allowed time to set up a proper youth system and build a club with solid roots, Real would be unstoppable given their market force. But sometimes it seems even winning the European Cup isn’t enough to save managers from the chop. Now THAT’S pressure!

I feel sorry for City fans, because no doubt at the end of this venture the Saudi owners will sell up, saddle the club with a massive wage bill it cannot sustain, and leave it to sink to the bottom. We see it time upon time, like with Leeds and Peter Ridsdale. He chased European glory, loading up the club with players it couldn’t afford and when the club failed to reach Europe it found it had no income to sustain its heights. Players left, managers were sacked, the club fell from grace spectacularly. Now though, after a few years in the doldrums of League One, they have themselves a good manager who has assembled a highly talented squad which sees them top of League One and favourites for the title and promotion. The debt is gone, the uncertainty is no longer there, the stable base has been provided thanks to good management at board-level. More clubs need this level of stability and desperately.

Notts County, having been bought by a shady Saudi umbrella consortium, Qadbak Investments, were promised glory and riches. It seemed too good to be true. It was. Sol Campbell came in and quickly left, having got cold feet about playing in League Two every week. The Saudi owners had controversy to deal with as they were forced to reveal who the backers were for the “Fit and Proper Persons” test. Whilst in the play-off positions Ian McParland was sacked in order to bring in a massive name as manager. Hans Backe came in as manager. Peter Trembling then bought the club from the Saudi group for a token fee of £1. Hans Backe left the club. There is uncertainty around the position of Sven-Goran Eriksson at the club, as without the financing of Qadbak his wages may not be affordable. So County have gone from a club with a reasonably solid base, although unspectacular league placings, to a club that is now a joke in League Two circles.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett organised a takeover of Liverpool FC, and for a while things ran smoothly. But it didn’t last, the two co-owners fell out over business matters and the club made news for all the wrong reasons. The Liverpool fans were quick to voice their disapproval at their club being treated like this by the new owners and pressed, unsuccessfully, for Dubai International Capital investment group to take over the running of the club.

The Glazer family at Manchester United bought the club, then transferred the debt incurred in buying United to the club itself. Debts were estimated at £600m which United continue to service but with negotiations over the debt continuing. If the Glazers were to leave they would leave United saddled with this debt which effectively would mean they got United for free.

I am wholly against the idea of foreign owners of our clubs, as most of the time they do not understand what it takes to build a successful football club. There are exceptions to the rule, though. Randy Lerner at Aston Villa has left Martin O’Neill alone to run the club and it’s paying massive dividends at the moment with Villa flying high in the league and a fantastic youth system in place for the future. When O’Neill does leave (probably to take over at Manchester United when Ferguson steps down) he will leave a formidable club for whoever succeeds him. The main crux of Villa’s success is the lack of interference from Lerner, which comes from Lerner’s keen interest in football and understanding of how his club should run.

In Germany there is a rule in place that says that a club cannot be part of the Bundesliga if it is running at a loss. This rule ensures tight business practices and the most efficient control of costs in World football. It ensures that the clubs cannot bite off more than they can chew. There is no such rule in England outside of the administration rule, which states that if a club goes into administration that club will take a forfeit of 10 points from its current total (or the next season’s total accordingly). This isn’t really tough enough, plus it punishes the fans of the club rather than the people responsible for the massive debts. A wise move would be a reform of the registration requirements of the League and the Premiership to ensure that spending cannot be more than income. It’s simple enough to enforce, at the end of each season (say 1st July to give clubs a chance to sort paperwork out) each club reports to its respective league administrator with yearly accounts, and the administrator then sets a budget limit for the following season based on the previous season’s income. To avoid massive bias in the amounts for bigger clubs in each league this amount could be capped at a certain level. Although my idea is a very vague and not fully thought-out idea, I know that something needs to be done to stop our nation’s football clubs going to the wall. We need to ensure the safety and stability of our teams, and stop them becoming the playthings of rich people, to be tossed aside when they are bored. To stop the power-mad chairmen putting clubs at risk with massive spending in a gamble. What happened today with Mark Hughes reinforces that.

  1. chrisy1 says:

    Gonna be tough for Liverpool to maintain a steady position after today’s game. Hats off to Portsmough, two cracking goals and they deserved the victory. Worrying performance from Liverpool mind.

    London derby tommorow with the Hammers vs Chelski!

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