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Hughes Sacking Again Shows Garry Cook Does Not Understand Football


Mark Hughes sacking by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi based ownership group has been reportedly pushed for weeks by club Chief Executive Garry Cook. Cook, the former Nike Executive who claimed dumping the Citizens best player of the past five years (Richard Dunne) was about shirt sales, again demonstrated his naivety about English football with this move.

Once again a foreign ownership group that passed the “fit and proper test” by the Premier League has brought the game into disrepute. This time it wasn’t mounting debt or a blatant disrespect for the legacy of English football, but instead it was a bungled sacking and the hiring of a foreign manager with zero management experience in English football.

It appears the impetus for this sacking, came from the club’s Chief Executive, who is English but also from outside football. This should be worrying for all fans of the game. Businessmen in suits whose sole interest is marketing are now overrunning football clubs and even the boardrooms which were often made up of former players and other locals.

Cook has been focused on the branding of the club, and still has little understanding of football itself. So, the fault perhaps lies with the ownership group for sticking with Cook, whom like Hughes, was inherited, when the club was purchased. Cook, after all comes from Nike, who despite unrivaled financial success, has moved from one bungled public relations mess to another.

Returning to discussion of the actual sacking, winters in the Northwest of England are brutal, and specific tactics and style of football are needed to survive this time of the year. By sacking a manager with such experience and hiring one with none, City has turned a potential top four campaign into one that could flirt with relegation.

Roberto Mancini, despite his success in Serie A, (at a time we must recall that both Juventus and Milan were caught in scandal) has never managed a single British footballer before and may force a continental brand of football on a group of players unwilling or incapable of playing such a style.

Hughes had focused largely on players with experience in the Premier League with his buys. That led to a team made up largely of British players and footballers who have spent the bulk of their professional careers in England.

Mancini, on the other hand spent four matches as a player in England on loan to Leicester City, and has never defeated an English side in European competition as a manager.  The hiring of Brian Kidd as his Assistant Manager is somewhat reassuring, however. Kidd, fulfilled the same job for Manchester United for many years, before his move to Blackburn and his high profile falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Mancini is certainly among the best available managers City could have hired. But this hiring would have been easier if done in the summer, not in the dead of winter, with the club struggling. The manager could have acclimated himself to the English game more easily with the lead time Summer training and friendlies provide.

Mark Hughes deserves our sympathy for his unprofessional sacking, but perhaps not for his track record as Manchester City manager. The last several weeks “Sparky” appeared to have lost it on the touchline, which resulted in Arsene Wenger refusing the shake his hand after a League Cup match, and unsubstantiated accusations that official Mark Clattenberg had mentioned to Hughes, that Craig Bellamy was a trouble maker.

Additionally, Hughes is a manager who sold Vedran Corluka, and Elano at cut rate prices, while buying Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Bridge, Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott, for well above fair market value. The manager also employed a 4-3-3 tactical setup which leaked goals at the back and created chaos on City’s backline, both seasons he was managing the club.

The Blues regularly lost their shape at the back, and midfielders who were forced to cover more space in the 4-3-3 were regularly out of position. Gareth Barry has in particular struggled with the formation and his responsibilities in the City midfield.  Conversely, Barry is solid enough to play a much more comfortable and confident role for Fabio Capello’s England in a 4-4-2, and turned in several man of the match performances last season with Aston Villa.

This is not to mention the almost weekly mistakes from Bridge, which began shortly after his transfer from Chelsea last January, nor the consistent on the pitch misunderstanding between Toure and Lescott. Right back has also been a problem since the sale Corluka, after Hughes had purchased the inconsistent Pablo Zabaleta and saw a decline in form of Micah Richards, a product of City’s excellent Youth Academy.

All of Hughes missteps do not excuse the way he was sacked, or the continued degradation of a proud club by its current chief executive. Eventually, City’s ownership may realize Garry Cook is bad news, but until then expect more Public Relations missteps around Eastlands.

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  1. timmyg

    December 21, 2009 at 10:29 am

    “Not that City’s explanation for Hughes’ sacking read as the reasoning of football club. ‘Infrastructure’, ‘targets’, ‘favorable conditions’ all featured in a briefing that only required minor tweaking to work as an end-of-year report for a multi-national conglomerate. At its heart was the verdict that City had lost faith in Hughes’ ability to deliver the ‘fundamental change’ required to meet their ‘targets’. Whilst that opinion is not unreasonable, Saturday was not the time to deliver it when victory over Sunderland propelled the club into sixth with a game in hand. It’s hard to imagine how City could have handled this worse.”

    via F365. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. YoutwatGaffer

    December 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    You know Garry Cook played for Aston Villa for a while right? In the reserves and started a game or 3. He’s bound to know at least a little football having played for an EPL team no?

  3. brn442

    December 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    The writer actually makes some sense albeit with a tediously long article, I thought I was reading the new testament. However, I suspect Hugh’s sacking had little to do with Cooke. He is just a figurehead. It had the owners’ signature written all over it.

    As someone astutely pointed out on BBC’s Sportsweek – the timing was indeed poor, it’s not as though the club was in free fall or had any dressing room issues we know of.

    The Club had a golden opportunity in a World Cup summer to get a class manager once the embers of the tournament were out if they really wanted a new manager, although based on the EPL this season, Man City were capable of finishing in the top 6, even the top four, however unlikely.

    Mancini’s record with Internazionale was less than impressive in Serie A, in spite of a couple of Scuddetti. It was down right disappointing in Europe. He’s no Hiddink, more like Juande Ramos again – he doesn’t speak the language, nor does he have any experience with the harsh winter pressure of running a (Northern) English club, and with reports of Given and Bellamy storming the boardroom upon news of their Gaffer’s sacking, Mancini will have his hands full keeping the players’ morale together. I hope Kidd’s help is useful, the Italian will need all of it.

    • Huh

      December 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

      ‘Mancini’s record with Internazionale was less than impressive in Serie A’

      Brn, are you sure your facts are right on this as he is quoted as being their most successful manager for 30 years. In 4 seasons with Inter he won 8 trophies and Mourinho has not done any better in Europe with basically the same team, is he a bad Manager because of this?. Italian clubs do not have the pulling power that they once had in the 90’s therefore they will struggle to win the Champions, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Placed League.

      • brn442

        December 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

        It probably says more about Inter the last 30 years. Yes, as I’ve said, he won two titles but with a scandal ridden Milan docked points and a relegated Juve. The team went weeks on end playing lathargic, flat football with loads of draws. However you look at it, he is not yet a top manager – I hope he succeeds. Yes Serie A is not what it was 15 years ago, that’s why his lack of success in Europe exposed the true quality of the Inter team.

        • Huh

          December 21, 2009 at 5:14 am

          brn, He won 3 titles not 2 and only 1 of those to my knowledge had seen points deducted and Juve relegated that was for stealing the points in the first place by cheating and paying people off!!! His so called lethargic football clocked up his team 80 goals in one Serie A season the most defence minded football league on the planet! He has had six years in a top league and picked up a cup every year but for me his biggest attribute is his ability to handle the big egos. behind Mourinho and posably Hiddink (simply not available) he is the next best choice. I think he will do very well for City.

  4. A Footballer

    December 20, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Mark Hughes has had more than a fair share of his time at Man City. 18 months is a long time in today’s football world. I keep hearing people say Man Utd should have fired Fergie 20 years ago to prove that a manager needs more time, but this was 20 years ago. We live in a totally different football eco-system nowadays.

    Mancini? Honestly I don’t know. When Mourinho and Hiddink came in we heard the same theory that they lacked EPL experience. Let’s give him benefit of the doubt!

  5. Simon Burke

    December 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Just how much time did Hughes need? As far as I am concerned he has had forever in football terms.

    He has had 2 full transfer windows and was gifted Robinho just before that. Under Thaksin’s regime he spent 19 million on players like Jo.

    Paul Ince didnt have enough time, Dowie at Charlton didnt have enough time – Mark Hughes spent gazillions and had plenty of time.
    Had he been there for 10 years he may have won 7 titles (and should with his cashload) but I think its very fair to say that a different manager to Hughes could have done much better than he has to date at City.

    As for Mancini – won 3 Italian titles and may have more clout than Hughes with overseas stars in the transfer market. He is a proven winner.
    Will he do well in England? I dont know but anyone in charge of that transfer kitty ought to do very well.

    Hughes never had the defence right – even with Given bailing him out his side frequently shipped 3 goals a game. Lescott and Toure were bad buys. Bridge has proven a bad buy. Who should be blamed for this? Who bought them?

  6. Robbie D

    December 20, 2009 at 11:03 am

    It seems that the move to replace Hughes (which I do not disagree with, however the timing is terrible and the replacement a joke) really started to pick up speed around the time of Gary Cooke’s “foot in mouth” appearance at the supporters club dinner when he welcomed Uwe Rossler into the Manchester UNITED hall of fame.
    Under pressure and needing to shift the spotlight it seems the con man Cooke has managed to make Mark Hughes the fall guy for his own shortcomings………dont tell me he was reponsible for signing Tiger woods to Nike!!!!!!!!!
    Unfortunately same old City……we are doomed to this sort of laughable drama for ever it seems …..BLUEEEE MOOOOOON

  7. Ed

    December 20, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Well done article, and I agree with all your points save one. To suggest Man City could be flirting with relegation is a huge stretch. Bottom half of the table? I could see that. Dropping behind any of the 5-6 serious relegation candidates (Portsmouth, West Ham, Wolves, Bolton, Hull, etc…)? No chance.

  8. Tyson

    December 20, 2009 at 8:48 am

    While I disagree with the Hughes sacking I can understand why they would feel unhappy at a lack of progress but they are replacing him with MANCINI?!?

    Mancini is a complete and utter joke AC Milan were running circles around Inter Milan while that idiot was in charge and when Mourinho showed up it wasn’t long before Mancini was sacked for being crap at his job and a liability for Inter Milans chances.

    You are talking about a reject who drowned a team that has won their domestic title twice since being under new management.

    Manchester City don’t have a chance in hell under this manager. I wonder if they just took him because he’s out of a job and no team will touch him?!

    I still have no idea how they came to the conclusion about Mancini though it makes no sense at all hes so bad at his job no football club wants anything to do with him since he got thrown out of Inter Milan.

    • Huh

      December 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

      Tyson’s still talking rubish I see!!!

  9. The Gaffer

    December 20, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I agree that Hughes shouldn’t have been sacked, and I also agree that Mancini is poor (and odd) choice for a replacement manager given his lack of experience in England (it’s going to take him a LOT of time to adjust), but I don’t think City will skirt with relegation this season as a result of the change.

    The Gaffer

    • Huh

      December 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

      Gaffer what experience in England did or doe’s Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and many more have? Come to think of it what experience of English football did Alex Ferguson have? The answer is none!

      This article is quite poor and looks like it has been sourced from the very English red tops that last week were saying Hughes will not hold on to his job if results don’t improve, and are now strangely shocked that he has gone. I do think he has been a touch unlucky as I feel he could have hit the targets that were set by the owners (but the could part is the problem), but as he was not their man in the first place. I feel his head was always going to be on the block as he was brought in by the previous owner. Mancini will reap the rewards of parts of Hughes’s labour but will also tighten up where it is needed i.e. Defence. I feel he will be a good manager for City because unlike Hughes he is more than capable of dealing with so called problem players he is a hardliner and takes no prisoners. His record is a good one with an Italian Cup win with Fiorentina a club having major financial problems at the time, this in turn got him a job with Lazio where he also won the same cup. Then he was headhunted by Inter Milan where he won 2 Italian cups, 2 Super Italian Cups and 3 League titles (one albeit by default). After being knocked out of the European Greedy Money Cup he resigned and then changed his mind but was promptly told tuff luck we’re getting Mourino your fired. I like the Italian defences they are the strongest in the world, add this to the attack at City and here we go!

      If Hughes had done as good of a job that so called useless Garry Cook has done with the marketing side he would still have a job. Although I agree the guy is a major tool and his foot slips into his mouth a lot, but he has done his job very well.
      Football became big business a long, long time ago with the SKY TV money and Manchester United taking the lead in becoming a PLC and many others followed for the MONEY not the FOOTBALL! So why try to make out that it is something new that arrives with City’s new owners? I supose you think Dave Whelan at Wigan sells his best players every time a few quid is offered for the love of football! Nothing to do with business or money ehh?

      “Once again a foreign ownership group that passed the “fit and proper test” by the Premier League has brought the game into disrepute. This time it wasn’t mounting debt or a blatant disrespect for the legacy of English football, but instead it was a bungled sacking and the hiring of a foreign manager with zero management experience in English football.”
      How have they brought the game into disrepute? This is a total pile of steaming dung, why would should a fit and proper test be even mentioned? I thought that it was the English that were Xenophobic ones not the America EPLtalk writers! (Well according to many on here anyway)
      It’s pretty simple really, sorry Mark not quite good enough over the last 11 games 2 wins is just not good enough so your sacked, good luck with whatever you do in the future. Was this bungled? If so how? If there are any answers please use facts and not the speculations of lazy old hacks and red top rambilings.

      • The Gaffer

        December 20, 2009 at 10:10 pm

        Huh, yes Mourinho, Hiddink, Ferguson and Wenger have been successes in the Premier League, but they have been a ton of foreign managers who have failed miserably too such as Juande Ramos, Christian Gross, Alain Perrin, Egil Olsen and many more.

        The Gaffer

        • Huh

          December 21, 2009 at 5:51 am

          Gaffer, with the exception of Ramos (who was removed by player power and never won La Liga) the people you mention are not exactly big league winners are they? Swiss, French and Norwegian league managers, are you comparing these levels of success to Mancini’s in Seria A? If you would have said Ericsson maybe, but there are not that many who have managed at the top level in one of the top leagues who have failed .

  10. Guilherme Lessa

    December 20, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I disagree. Hughes is an awful coach and deserved to be sacked.

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