There are two teams in Manchester.
The continuous public house prattle debates this statement. Others would have you believe that there may be only one team in Manchester, though the colour of their strip isn’t clear.
As a fan of a team over t’hill there probably is one team in Manchester and another in Salford. It doesn’t matter really, but still we have the sufferable banal discussion as to who is the most successful and who deserves to be so.
For those not following, Manchester’s two major football teams are Manchester United and Manchester City. Manchester United enjoyed an extended period of success at a time when the company Sky started to pump excessive amounts of money into the sport, with the more successful teams pocketing the most money making them one of the richest football teams on the planet. Mancheter City were in a much less successful spell as a team until the second of two large money takeovers led to them being offensively more wealthy than every other football team in the league.
Prior to the takeover, the opinion between the two clubs for other fans was quite clear. Manchester United were the successful, ostentatious big team that people resented. Manchester City were the small, family club focused on community and their local supoorters; plucky perennial strugglers who garnered respect from supporters of all teams. The takeover of City allowed them to align themselves with the bigger boys. The playing field was levelled. The community team were now a global brand.
For Manchester City fans the takeover could only be seen as a positive. The opportunities were widened. They were more prevalent; more visible. They had the buying power of their once bigger rivals. They brought increased quality football to this country. They were a success - a consistent success - and could only have become one with the extra injection of finance
So why weren’t those outside of the club pleased for them?
The image of Manchester City amongst other fans changed. It may have been perceived as jealousy but it wasn't the case. The huge injection of cash made them a different proposition and disliked as much as thier gaudy neighbours. Fans of City couldn't quite understand why this was.
“We won the lottery” the Manchester City fans in the pub would say “and if you won the lottery you’d spend it, right?” Of course. Yet that is exactly what it was – a lottery. It could have been any team. It just happened that these investors chose Manchester City.
“We’re only doing what Manchester United did to win trophies.” Not true. Yes, Manchester United bought players during their period of 90s success, but that success bred income. That income was then used appropriately on further players, a bigger stadium, marketing etc... This led to more income. It wasn’t a huge investment and an over inflated valuation of the club that led to overnight riches. It was, as previously stated, a lottery win.
“We deserve this for all the hard work. We were at Gillingham.” The strangest argument of all. Hartlepool United spent the 2017/18 season always just a day away from closing. I used to live in Hartlepool. The fans were proud and passionate. They were so close to losing the club they loved. Do they deserve to be dissolved? Are they less deserving of investment than Manchester City?
You will not hear fans of other football clubs say that City somehow deserved investment more than another club.
As with many interests, people choose to enjoy it as they see fit. In football, people love the story and the romance. The local lad who became a legend. The Roy of the Rovers clichés. The Leicester City dream. “The fairytale season has a happy ending” stories, as a commentator once saidat the end of the 2017 Championship play-off final.
Manchester City’s current victories do not have that same feeling. Sure, as a fan of football, I can appreciate a crisp David Silva through-ball or a fresh Sergio Aguero strike but I will never enjoy it as much as I would if the takeover had never occurred. It will always be tainted. It will never be as enjoyable as seeing Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton win the league.
There is also fear provoked from previous stories of a similar ilk. Chelsea, a club in London, went through a similar takeover five years previous. Some of the tactics undertaken by that club sowed the seeds of dislike for big financial backing. In that time, acquisitions of certain players such as Scott Parker and Mohammed Salah were only completed to prevent rival clubs having access to them - a little market disruption if you will. Using financial muscle to prevent smaller teams from improving is a common tactic, yet people don't think ther is a problem with takeovers?
There will be some football fans who do not have that feeling, who ignore the boardroom chatter and just focus on the football. They aren’t wrong. But there a lot of fans who feel like I do. Then there are the fans of Manchester City who just shrug and refer to their many recent trophies.
But all of that is pub talk; at-the-bar chatter. The City fans I often go for a drink with know that this is my feeling on Manchester City and their takeover, that as an outsider I can never have the same affection for their victories, that it isn’t quite the underdog story they think. It is all psychological and opinion and we share a few beers when talking about it. It isn’t aggressive. We don’t shout each other down. People are allowed to feel differently about things.
The company I work for is the main sponsor for a local non-league football team. We were in their version of the hospitality suite for a game last season when the match was inevitably called off. Making the most of the afternoon we had a kick around on the pitch with some of the board members at a time when the match should have been played. They joined us for some drinks afterwards. Some of the players arrived too.
It is when you have already tasted that communal atmosphere that you resent the day when the gates are closed, the pitch is strictly out of bounds and the board are nameless faces who do not wish to know you either. The focus of the staff turns to the hospitality suites and large sponsorships.
For some it is a feeling that can’t quite be explained. Maybe it doesn’t need defining. Some like the honesty of sharing a pizza and an eight year old Schlenkerla Doppelbock, whilst the dogs run around the brewery, late into the evening with the owners. Surely people can understand why people feel sad when the day comes when the dog isn’t welcome anymore.
This is quite obviously not a football post. Do not start @ing me defending your football teams. Thank you.