When Mark Hughes agreed to replace Sven Goran Eriksson last summer, no doubt he knew things would be interesting at Manchester City, it very rarely isn’t in the sky blue half of Manchester, but I doubt he’d have expected anything like the events that ultimately played out. What with the takeover and the crazy final day of the summer transfer window, with City making 10 bids of over £15 million for players, it was probably the maddest 24 hours the City faithful could remember in years.
After that, he’s coped remarkably well with the media speculation, both about transfer targets and his own future at the club, showing a calm and assured exterior throughout the season. Of course there have been hiccups along the way, the F.A. Cup defeat, losing 3-0 at home to Forest probably the lowest point along with the embarrassment of being kicked out of the League Cup at Brighton on penalties. Yet, this is a team still trying to find its feet and he has added some excellent signings along the way.
Shay Given is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, as hard as that signing was on the promising Joe Hart, Wayne Bridge a consistent and dependable left back. Vincent Kompany has long been touted as one of Europe’s most promising players as is Nigel De Jong and Stephen Ireland has been magnificent all season. Of course, question marks were raised over the signing of Craig Bellamy, but if anyone can get him playing to his full potential, it’s Hughes, their relationship built during his time as Wales and Blackburn manager.
Now the owner has laid down the aim for next season, a top 6 finish, which for a manager who took Blackburn to the UEFA Cup twice and had 3 top 10 finishes in a row, should be a piece of cake with the resources at his disposal. Mubarak’s statement released on Tuesday was a vindication for Hughes and the work in progress that Manchester City should be classed as. It seemed a reasoned and balanced indication of what the owner wants for Manchester City, regardless of the rubbish and speculation that you can read every day about them, such as this nonsense!
City have had some dreadful press this year, with so many lazy journalists writing rubbish about them because it fills space in empty papers. Here in the UK, we have a couple of papers who are renowned for being so far of the mark with transfer stories as to be laughable. Suffice to say, if you see a transfer story printed in either the Daily Express or the Daily Star, chances are it’ll never happen. Last season, they had a success rate of 8% for transfer stories, the lowest in England by some distance.
That’s not to say they’ve not been their own worst enemy at times, Chief Executive Gary Cook has said some eyebrow raising things during his time at Eastlands, the comments about Richard Dunne were especially unkind, “China and India are gagging for football content to watch and we’re going to tell them that City is their content. We need a superstar to get through that door. Richard Dunne doesn’t roll off the tongue in Beijing. Ronaldinho brings access to major sponsors and financial reward.”
Now that may be true but players like Richard Dunne win you titles by allowing the superstars to play and thankfully Cook has calmed his comments down over the last couple of months after the rather choice words used toward Kaka and A.C. Milan. He needs to deliver the players to move City up a level from where they’ve been the last couple of years. A consistent goal scorer is key, as is a fit and skilful left sided midfielder to add to four or five signings to strengthen the squad. Hughes will be looking to shift some dead wood out too as well as tie Stephen Ireland down to a new long term contract.
Hughes now knows his goals, no doubt his list of transfer targets already is on Gary Cooks desk and as soon as the season finishes on Sunday, City will begin the search to add some more quality to the potential they already have on their books. With Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa all showing flashes this season, we could finally get a season to remember in 2009-2010 and not just the same 4 clubs sharing out the trophies once again.