Posted: 7/20/2012
Title: RICHER THAN GOD: THE CLUB THAT ATE ITSELF

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         ABU DHABI means 'The Father of the Gazelle', and is part of UAE, United Arab Emirates and  not so long ago was a British Protectorate, to watch out for pirates on the trade route to India, with pearl diving and camel trading as major industries.

         Then they found oil and two places changed forever, Abu Dhabi and East Manchester. I have been reading a new book by entertaining author David Conn, a lifelong Manchester City fan, a former lawyer and very readable football journalist.  Richer than God: Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing UpQuite a tome, about 450 pages and even if you are not a Blue Moon fan, it is an extraordinary read about the new face of football; money, greed, bad management, fans, multiple wives, meat pies, gourmet dining and public and private finance.

         1958 first oil discoveries and a population of less than 60,000 compared today of 1 million. 9% of world's oil reserves and 5% of natural gas. One of 7 Emirates in UAE and rival to Dubai. AL NAHYAN is the feudal ruling family and over 80% of residents are expats, mosty low paid workers from South East Asia earning just $ US 8.00 a day and can just afford a Manchester City match day programme!! 

          Manchester City was founded in 1880 and in 2003 moved into The City of Manchester Stadium after 80 years at Maine Road in Moss Side. The new stadium was built by the city for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and renovated by the city council at tax payers expense to take out the running track and become the new custom designed home of the Sky Blues.  I first went to a match at their Moss Side home in mid '50's, an FA Cup 3rd Round tie v Blackpool. Mid way through it was stopped due to heavy fog. I returned for the replay on the Wednesday afternoon after lunch at the Kardomah Cafe in Albert Square, and City won..

        Back in 1934 Stoke City played there in The Cup in front of 84,500 fans and that is still an English club attendance record. When United first entered the European Cup in 1956 they played their cup matches at Maine Road since City had floodlights. 10-0 v Anderlecht is one that I remember.

        David Conn grew up in the area as the son of a solicitor in a middle class Jewish family. At the ago of six he was shown the City badge with a ship (on the Manchester Ship Canal) and a Lancastrian Red Rose and the United badge with a scary Red Devil with horns...and he chose The Light Blues

        The Golden Age started in 1965 with the appointment of Joe Mercer as manager and Malcolm Allison as coaching guru. Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell were signed and they won the 1967-8 First Division. Bad fiscal and on field management followed, though one highlight was sending Manchester United down to the 2nd Division, when recent recruit Dennis Law, a former Red Devil legend, backhealed the only goal of the last match of the season at Old Trafford.

        Peter Swales the chairman was eventually hounded out and died young at 62, a broken man. Francis Lee, a former star for City and England came in on a campaign of Forward with Fanny, after 7 years away from the game, and who made his fortune with toilet rolls and went into the race horse biz.  He converted the Kippax terracing to a modern stand and built a lavish place where rich fans could wine and dine expensively whereas directors and guests had been served tea and toast and wives had brought in home made cakes.  It wasn't enough to pay the bills and his reign was remembered as that of a club that almost ate itself to death.

        Eventually Thaksin Shinawatra, the rogue former Thai Prime Minister, came in with lots of promises and eventually went on the run after an international warrant was issued for his arrest. Up pops  Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of 19 sons of numerous wives (he only has two)  and REAL MONEY flowed in.  The first signing was Brazilian Robinho from Real Madrid for 32.5 million and Mark Hughes and then Roberto Mancini spent 800 million and this May the most exciting EPL finish EVER. Two late goals -very late- and City were champions.

       We had a name change to ETIHAD STADIUM named after the Abu Dhabi based airline in exchange for 350 million over 20 years. Sheikh Mansour has visited once and his man in charge is chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, a graduate of Tufts University in Boston. He was also responsible for getting the FI Grand Prix at their new track and the World Club football championships. It was he that confided to the author on a visit to Abu Dhabi, that they were Richer than God.

         

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