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Blue revolution marches on

01 Sep 2010 09:33:55

| Submit Comments| Comments (17)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapWhen Robinho signed for City seconds before midnight exactly two years ago, it topped off perhaps the most extraordinary day in the club?s history. It is a sign of just how far the Blues have travelled that they now have no worries about being able to do without him.September 1, 2008 was a day that no City fan will ever forget. Blues supporters awoke to discover that the Abu Dhabi Group had bought the club from former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for £210m. Overnight, City had become the richest club in the world, and set about making a marquee signing as an instant statement of intent before the transfer window closed at midnight. What followed bordered on the surreal. The Blues put in a bid to sign Ruud van Nistelrooy from Real Madrid, then made a cheeky attempt to hijack United?s £30.75m move for Dimitar Berbatov. Crowd Manager Mark Hughes, collared by a television crew at the club?s Academy golf day for his thoughts, struck a pose somewhere between composure, excitement and bemusement. And then, at around 10pm, news started to filter out that City had succeeded in luring Robinho to Eastlands from under Chelsea?s noses for £32.5m ? a British record. Despite a promising start ? a debut goal in a home defeat against Chelsea ? it never quite worked out for the Brazilian in Manchester following his move from Real Madrid. But City?s football administrator Brian Marwood dismisses any notion that the club were wrong to splash out so much money on him. ?I wouldn?t call Robinho a mistake,? Marwood said. ?His performances for the national team show you what a talent he is. He?s had performances for City which have lit up Eastlands at times. In his first season here, he got into double figures for goals and was our leading scorer. ?Ultimately, the Premier League is not an easy environment for anybody to come into, whether you?re born in England or Brazil.? As the first signing of a new era, Robinho arguably found himself burdened with a level of expectation which no individual player brought to the club since then has had to face. It would not have helped that, in the words of Brazil?s 1970 World Cup legend Tostao, the playmaker was ?still lacking some maturity as a person?. Spotlight In addition, he found himself at a club who were beginning the long process of transformation in the full glare of the media spotlight. When Hughes and chief executive Garry Cook arrived at Eastlands three months before the takeover, they discovered the club?s infrastructure needed a major overhaul. For Hughes, that meant refurbishing City?s Carrington training complex, which he described as ?rundown? and ?not fit for purpose?. It was symbolic of Hughes? initial struggles at City that his early-season press conferences after taking over had to be held next door at Sale Sharks? training ground, in front of a sponsors board hastily taped to the wall. On more than one occasion, the press conference was interrupted when the board fell down. The Welshman subsequently admitted that he came close to walking away from City before the Abu Dhabi takeover, with Thaksin?s troubles ? he had £1bn of assets frozen and skipped bail when his wife Potjaman was convicted of fraud in Bangkok ? affecting the running of the club. For Cook, there were a whole host of additional headaches, as he attempted to keep City on an even keel amid their pre-takeover financial concerns. Move Under Thaksin, City had borrowed from Standard Bank against future Premier League TV money and bought players on deposit. Cook, who was preparing to move his family over from the United States at the time, found himself sitting in a hotel room in Cheshire wondering if he had made the right move in coming to City. But once Sheikh Mansour had bought out the club ? and paid off their debts ? Cook and Co were able to set about changing things off the field. ?In terms of environment, the club is unrecognisable from what it was two years ago, even if we very purposefully looked to ensure throughout that it has never lost its identity or the soul that makes it so special,? Cook said. On the pitch, Robinho and Co took longer to get things right. A defeat at West Brom meant that City spent Christmas 2008 in the relegation zone. A humiliating FA Cup exit at home to Nottingham Forest led many to speculate about Hughes? future. Robinho?s struggles to perform in away matches ? notably a dreadful display at Portsmouth in February 2009 ? led others to speculate about the Brazilian?s future. In the end, it was Hughes who left first, sacked last December after failing to meet a pre-season points target. Under Roberto Mancini, the Blues came within a whisker of Champions League qualification, then spent more than £100m on six new players in a bid to push them over that line this season. And yet the more the club progressed, the further Robinho was left behind. Mancini allowed him to return home to Brazil to join Santos on loan, and the player could not have made it clearer that he wanted to make the move permanent. Even though that move was denied him, it was obvious that his heart was elsewhere. Now the player who was a big part of a huge day in City?s history has the chance to make a fresh start.


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