Garry Cook can lose 'incompetent' tag if he stands by City manager Mark Hughes

26 February 2009 08:46
Cook's wife was also present, also bemused why a man who enjoyed such a successful career in the States, who was then head-hunted by a marquee football name, should now be ridiculed. Simple, really. Cook's heart seems in the right place, and the unaffected way he and his wife celebrated Craig Bellamy's goal revealed they are catching the City bug, but he must learn the softly-softly art of building up a club and a team.

Evolution beats revolution every day in the tradition-filled village of English football if not in the Nike-town where Cook hails from. So is the much-maligned executive chairman fit to govern a major institution such as City? Cook's competence now rests on how expertly he mans the barricades to defend Mark Hughes, their outstanding manager.

 Related ArticlesSomething for the Weekend

Premier League team news

Top 10 football superstitions

Milan deny City sale link

Bellamy: No revolt at Man City

Hughes praises Bellamy

Speculation persists about Sparky's future. Is he strong enough to deal with big-name, moody Brazilians like Robinho? Wouldn't the Special One, Jose Mourinho, or another Portuguese speaker, Big Phil Scolari, extract more from such talents? During Thursday's board meeting, Cook underlined to the Abu Dhabi owners why they are right to keep the faith in Hughes.

Everything is in place at City: respected manager, fine stadium, loyal fans, great academy and fistfuls of petro-dollars. With sensible stewardship, with continued belief in the manager, City can flourish.

The board confirmed that Brian Marwood, formerly of Arsenal and England, will arrive from Nike to coordinate football administration, liaising with the dressing room, academy, sports science department and even organising protection for players' houses while they are away on European duty (a sensitive issue in the North West after attacks on the properties of United and Liverpool players).

He is not a technical director. Repeat not. Knowing he would have to explain Marwood's role to Hughes, Cook used the apt analogy of a winger serving a centre-forward. In City's new chain of command, Marwood reports to Hughes. A popular figure within football, Marwood could prove a real ally for City's manager. Along with Bellamy, Nigel de Jong and Shay Given, Marwood represents a smart signing by City's executive chairman. Furious at losing such a valued employee, Nike's top brass went ballistic with Cook.

Slowly but surely, City progress along the road to harmony and prosperity. The journey would be smoother if those on the terraces engaged more with the man in the dug-out. As a United legend, it has not been easy for Hughes and the City faithful to embrace.

Yet a sign of Hughes's compassion emerged during last week's Uefa Cup trip to Copenhagen. Ian and Lisa Nolan, season-ticket-holders from Middleton, took Jack, their City-daft seven-year-old, to the Parken Stadium on the off chance of seeing the players heading in to training. Hughes wandered past, got chatting, and invited the Nolans in.

After introducing them to Robinho and the rest, Hughes commandeered a Uefa car to drive the Nolans back into town. Even better, he arranged for Jack to be mascot the following night.

As Lisa cried her eyes out, Jack led the team out, departing home with Robinho's jacket, Pablo Zabaleta's shirt and unforgettable fairy-tale memories from Copenhagen. 'You've made our life,'' Lisa wrote in a message of thanks to Hughes.

City are in good hands with their shrewd manager. By backing Hughes, Cook will shed that 'incompetent'' tag.

Nothing can dent Pompey pride

Some Portsmouth schoolchildren have left some dents in the FA Cup. Good. In an age when it seems the Hoodies have replaced the Goodies, nurturing respect for property should, of course, be encouraged, but in their clamour to touch the Cup at Fratton Park these youngsters were actually paying a rather wonderful homage.

They wanted to get close to the Cup, to feel the history and in their haste they accidentally knocked it off a table. So what? Like scars on a footballer's leg, the bumps in the silverwork are a badge of honour.

Pompey deserve praise for making the Cup accessible to local kids, passing the magic on to the next generation.

They have also called in the silversmiths so the trophy will be returned gleaming and blemish-free to Soho Square. Pity. The marks should remain. After all, the Cup left a lasting impression on the pupils of Portsmouth.

League Cup final needs forward planning

Now that Michel Platini has completely messed up the Uefa Cup, and his pending Europa League version of a once-prestigious pot looks an equally interminable hybrid, the time has come for the English authorities to act.

The Football League and Football Association must inject some breathing space into this chaotic stretch of the season by staging the League Cup final before Christmas.

Wembley will undoubtedly be a lively occasion on Sunday; the noisy supporters of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will see to that.

But the League Cup final is in danger of becoming lost in the thick of European, Premier League and FA Cup action.

An early December date would make it a bit more special.


Source: Telegraph