The level of drastic change at Manchester City is among the dominant learnings from the eight-part, fly-on-the-gleaming-and-antiseptic-wall documentary All or Nothing: Manchester City.
The footage of the revamped dressing rooms and sprawling training campus is striking, and it has not evaded the attention of former City striker, Niall Quinn.
The former Irish international spoke to Balls today at the launch of Virgin Media Sport, for whom he will work as a pundit this season. Quinn didn't say he had wasted hours watching the documentary, instead getting to see the level of change and expansion first hand.
I was invited over recently and got a tour of their academy. It is a university in my book, it’s not an academy. The infrastructure that’s there: the physical infrastructure in terms of stadiums... is like landing in another place and looking out the window at these spaceships which are actually mini-stadiums behind closed doors.
Stadiums for the senior team, the women’s team, the under-23s: and I’m talking about stadiums, not pitches. There are 14 other pitches there. There are probably more groundsmen than players. It’s a frightening aspect of their attempt at world domination.
When you compare: we tried to build an academy at Sunderland and it took us nearly six years. We got the planning permission eventually, and ultimately Ellis Short built it after my time.
It was a long, painful slog to get it going. But with Man City things appear to be growing and growing, the brand is getting bigger, they have their other clubs around the world. It’s frightening. It’s a truly global play.
Quinn was given to further comparison: to his days with the club, for whom he played with between 1990 and 1996.
When I look back: we weren’t allowed to swap our shirts. We had a long sleeve and a short sleeve, home and away. After the last game, if you had done okay that year, you could give them away at the end of the season. Most of the time they wanted to keep them for the Reserves the following year.
Our tracksuits were handed down to the Reserves the following years. This was at the turn of the century. This isn’t a hundred years ago, before colour TV and stuff.
Another thing: if you were a young lad at Man City and the kitman gave you another pair of boots, that was a sign that you were getting a new contract. That was a sign: ‘okay you’re staying another year so we’ll give you another pair of boots’.
There was a cobbler nearby, and he was sent boots to stitch up and repair. Suddenly guys started to get deals and so on and it became easier. It’s just a mad world, for me, when I look back. I try not to look back too much as you can get caught up in it. You can just applaud what’s happened.
In spite of this change, however, Quinn says that club have deliberately not lost touch with the figures of its past; an incongruity between past and present far greater than is experienced by perhaps any other English club.
I think they’ve shown great respect to the history, previous teams and past glories. Each time a title is won you see the likes of Franny Lee coming in. They really look after their ex-players.
I know Paul Lake, Ian Brightwell: people like that are given plenty of work, plenty of ambassadorial roles. They understand that it could be perceived as a buy-in for ulterior motives so I think they have been keen to show that they are buying into everything that is good and great in the history of the club.
I got a call out of nowhere at the back end of last season to come and appear pitchside with a number of kids, the day, I think, that Aguero broke the record.
Apparently I was somewhere in the top 10, don’t know how: that will tell you maybe how bad things were at City. But I was asked to be there and it was amazing to see how we were looked after. There were older people than me, people from the great City teams of the sixties and it struck me that these people care that at the very least the order had been sent down to do this thing right and so with all the money coming in there has been a softer landing.
They are giving the fans what they want, trophies, success, great players. It must be a thrill to go and watch David Silva play every week with all that he brings to the party. They had one in my time, Georgi Kinkladze, but it was a different time...Georgi played for three years and we got relegated twice, so you can see the pain that City fans had. They had this God that they looked up to in Georgi Kinkladze but the team got relegated twice.
They were clutching at straws in many ways but now they have this flow of riches and flow of talent; the fact that they understand the club and understand the history, I think it puts them ahead of any other people who have come into change clubs.
Niall Quinn was speaking at the launch of Virgin Media Sport. For more details, visit VirginMedia.ie