Football

Balls Remembers: Shinawatra's Insane 12 Months As Owner Of Man City

Balls Remembers: Shinawatra's Insane 12 Months As Owner Of Man City

Manchester City are now one of the genuine powers in world football. Managed by Pep Guardiola and with a structure in place that trumps any other football club, they are capable of taking on their rivals in all facets of the game.

However, it is not that long ago that they they could only have dreamed of being in this position. We are not even talking about their time in the lower leagues, it is something much more recent than that. The influx of money from the UAE wasn't the first attempt to vault the Manchester club up the footballing ladder.

Thaksin Shinawatra bought the club in 2007, promising to pump massive investment into what was then a lower mid-table team. The former Thai Prime Minister arrived with a questionable reputation, having been exiled form the country in 2006 after he was overthrown by a military coup.

Still, City fans were hopeful that he could lead them into the Champions League. He put his money where his mouth was during that first transfer window. He spent around £44million on new players, no small amount at that time.

A combined £23.5million was spent on Rolando Bianchi and Vedran Corluka, while the likes of Elano, Martin Petrov, Valeri Bojinov, Javier Garrido, and Geovanni also came in.

Then you had the manager. The one and only Sven-Goran Eriksson would be brought on board, bringing a European pedigree and no shortage of sex appeal.

The whole squad looked a bit thrown together, but maybe they could put it all together on the pitch? Things started well.

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Geovanni banged in a cracker to secure a 1-0 win over Manchester United in only their second home game of the season, giving hope that a huge season could be ahead.

That result spurred them on. They were in the top four for much of the opening few months of the campaign, although they did fail to secure positive results against the other big teams in the league. Things were looking rosy.

Shinawatra insisted that City sign three obscure Thai players, only for all of them to be denied a work permit. They were immediately sent out on loan and failed to make an appearance between them for the club. More money was spent in January on Benjani, Felipe Caicedo and Nery Castillo, but City's form nosedived after the turn of the year.

It all went to shit.

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The dressing room quickly became an unharmonious one, with Sven's Swedish charm failing to unite the strange mix of personalities for too long. It was no coincidence that results also began to deteriorate at this point. Here's City's form from January 1st of that year:

It all culminated in that horrific 8-1 loss to Middlesborough on the final day of the season, but problems behind the scenes had plagued the club in the weeks before that game.

The Thai Government had frozen the assets of Shinawatra, meaning it was unclear how he was supposed to care for the club financially. There were rumours that they were on the verge of bankruptcy and that he would be forced to sell the club. The owner had also fallen out with Eriksson, meaning it was expected he would leave the club at the end of the campaign.

Despite their collapse over the finals months, they still managed to finish ninth in the 07/08 season.

Still, they managed an end of season team holiday to Thailand. Didi Hamann recalled that trip in his autobiography, The Didi Man, a number of years ago, summing up Sven-Goran Eriksson with one remarkable story.

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As the 2007-08 season came a close with Manchester City, we all knew these were almost certainly Sven’s last days as manager, yet during our time on a post-season tour of Thailand, he never changed his demeanour at all.

One morning when I was on a sun lounger by the pool, he walked towards me with a bottle of champagne and two glasses on it.

It was still only 10 in the morning. I looked up and said, ‘Boss, what are we celebrating?’ expecting him to make the triumphant announcement he was staying.

He turned to me and smiled that gentle smile of his and took the air of a Buddhist philosopher, as he said, ‘Life, Kaiser. We are celebrating life’.

With a glass of champagne in hand he stood and looked out towards the horizon, then spoke in that higgledy-piggledy Swedish accent:

'You know Kaiser, I like this place. I think I will manage for another five years and come back here and live with two women. Yes. I think I need two beautiful women.’

He was a man who loved life and it was impossible not to like him and love being in his company.

Shinawatra soon admitted that he would not have the funds necessary to support the club in the long run, but he did stick around for the majority of the summer window in 2008.

That was another one in which they splashed the cash, also appointing Mark Hughes as manager. Jô (remember Jô?) was signed for a frankly ridiculous £20million, going on to score one goal in six months before being shipped out to Everton on loan. Shaun-Wright Phillips was also brought in for big money, but they did make two signings that would define the club's new era.

Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta were signed for a combined £15million, two incredibly shrewd pieces of business. Shinawatra would sell the club in September of that year, with the new owners signing Robinho on deadline day.

Thus began City's actual rise up the footballing ladder.

We all know what would happen over the next decade or so, but a part of us can't help but long for the days of Thaksin Shinawatra in the Premier League. He probably longs for those days himself, considering he has been embroiled in a long legal battle in his home country that nearly saw him sent to jail last year.

Geovanni will forever live in our hearts.

SEE ALSO: Having Began His Career With A Broken Back, Darragh Lenihan Now Enjoys Weight Of Responsibility

Gary Connaughton

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