IAN RIDLEY: Forget Neville and Tevez, cocky Cook is the real villain here
The scene recalled Tony Hancock in The Radio Ham. There, in a NewYork bar called the Mad Hatter, microphone in hand, stood Garry Cook,chief executive of Manchester City, addressing a 'fans' forum'. 'This football club is without doubt going to be the biggest andbest football club in the world,' he said. 'I will make no excuses forsaying it, as I truly believe it, with the resources and capability wehave.' Should know better: Manchester City's new manager Roberto Mancin (left) with the club's Chief Executive Officer Garry Cook Grandstanding and gloating, he went on to talk of 'when, not if, we are at Wembley, having beaten Man United yet again'. Oh, how they cheered. Which brings us to Tony Hancock, in his backbedroom in those distant days of wireless sets, having just heard acrackly Japanese voice inform him that it was 'a-raining not in Tokyo'. 'Friends all over the world,' beamed Tony, before remembering why he was at his microphone in the first place. 'None at home, mind you.' Classy guy, City's mouthpiece. More from Ian Ridley, Mail on Sunday Sports Reporter... 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If Cook was in New York to grow City's support, he should haveknown that the Big Apple was more interested in their own 'football'team, the Jets, this Championship weekend. He also picked a bad time to stoke the fire in the aftermath of athrilling Carling Cup semi-final first leg and the build-up to an epicsecond on Wednesday. The Gary Neville-Carlos Tevez spat is one thing, coming from two players who have the excuse of the heat of the moment. Quite rightly, the Football Association and the police have urged restraint by all participants with the potential for dangerous scenes in and around Old Trafford, a lid having just been kept on them at Eastlands. Then comes Cook, whose words offend more than anything from Neville and Tevez. Spat: Carlos Tevez Theirs is a spat of the knockabout sort that is the lifeblood of football and will have fans, a big TV audience, executives and the suits at the Football League - seeing their competition revitalised - rubbing their hands. Someone in a position of authority should know better. Chelsea must be thanking Cook for the arrogance that is wresting from them the title of brash new-money upstarts. The problem for United, who along with Arsenal and Liverpool more generally know how to conduct themselves, is rising to the bait. Sir Alex Ferguson did so when he objected to City's 'Welcome to Manchester' poster of Tevez. Most of us thought it was just a bit of cleverness, like those bobble hats with a blue figure labelled 'Local' and a red figure saying 'Tourist'. City being provocative? Perhaps, but those with enduring values rise above it. Have we heard anything out of the United chief executive David Gill? 'Win with grace, lose with dignity' is usually the humble credo of the successful. City and Garry Cook have still to learn it and could yet discover this week that cockiness comes before a fall. In the meantime, United v City needs common sense to prevail. Football stadia are, or should be, places where fans are allowed to vent feelings as long as they do not resort to personal abuse or violence. A man should not be accused of racism after being ejected from Old Trafford for shouting 'Yanks Out'. Thankfully, the courts agreed. Players naturally have a responsibility not to provoke but they also have a right to celebrate a goal. Fans have a responsibility for their own behaviour rather than blaming it on players. Through it all, both in build-up and what should be a tasty match, we need to keep a sense of perspective. And fun. Put the money where your mouth isThe Manchester United ownership and management have roundly, and rightly, been condemned for putting the club £716 million in debt. They have also been ridiculed for handing out prospectuses for their £500m bond issue to players. Was it really such a bad idea, though? Many United players are multi-millionaires and they could have taken some stake. Players who talk of their love for the club would have been putting their money where their mouths are. Perhaps they could even have negotiated a seat on the board. Let's see how sincere is that badge-kissing.
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