There are five months to go, and the competition is fierce, but Garry Cook, the chief executive officer of Manchester City, may have uttered the most preposterous sentence of the year, in the world of sport or any other.
Commenting on the club's 10-year, £120 million deal with Etihad Airways, who have acquired naming rights for the City of Manchester Stadium, Cook explained his gratitude in language that occasionally came within nodding distance of plain English. "In addition to delivering significant revenue at a key stage in the club's evolution," he said, "the agreement creates exciting opportunities for our two organisations to co-operate more deeply commercially and on media and community initiatives in the future."
Deliver, create, co-operate: it seems this is what chief executive officers do by day and by night. However did the game get by for so long with mere club secretaries? The real clincher, though, is that dread phrase, "exciting opportunities", which brings to mind Kingsley Amis's splendid volleys at British Gas and other public utilities who bombard householders with "exciting offers" – two quid off your next bill!
In City's case they round things to the nearest million. Sheikh Mansour (of the Collyhurst Mansours) has apparently thrown £1 billion at the City "project", in transfers and wages, since he bought the club three years ago, and he is not about to stop now. The last big signing, a Bosnian centre forward called Edin Dzeko, was acquired for £27m six months ago, but he is already in the stiffs, awaiting deportation to a friendlier home. Still, it's only money.
It's easy to mock, and mock we must, for laughter helps to bring the likes of Garry Two Rs, a former Nike salesman, to account. In the week that City mourned the loss of Mike Doyle, who gave 14 years of his life to the club, and played in a side that is still remembered for the brilliance of its football, we must also mock that big cry-baby, Carlos Tevez, who has let it be known (again) that he wants out of Manchester. There are only two decent restaurants there, he bleated, although as he also said he never left his house we are not obliged to take his word on culinary matters. He had spent two years in Manchester, at Old Trafford, before he switched camps, so it has taken this dim boy a very long time to work out what a dump the place is.
"Loyalty is what they stuff you with", goes the old saw, and there used to be some truth in it. For decades football was a feudal business, with the players cast as serfs. Now they are the masters, and think nothing of claiming "loyalty" bonuses merely for observing the terms of their contracts. If Tevez really wants to be with his daughters (his latest reason for upping sticks) he has only to return to Argentina. They have football clubs there, we are told, and all those other amenities that sad old Manchester is unable to provide. After five highly-paid years in England Carlos the moaner certainly doesn't need the brass. Perhaps he could use some of it to open a restaurant of his own. "Here's something I discovered in England – Manchester Tart". Nay, lad, the joke's on you.
City have bent over backwards to accommodate their mardy child, and he has repaid them with insult upon insult. He is not alone, of course. Not many footballers have a sense of the world beyond their narrow cloisters. They take their wealth for granted, and there are always hangers-on to tell them how good they are; ladies of easy virtue to provide the usual services. What a seedy world it is!
If Cook really wanted to make himself useful he could "deliver" a boot to a plump Argentinian backside, which would be an authentic community initiative, for it is plain that the majority of City supporters can live happily without the services of this spoiled brat, gifted though he is. Then he can get back to the arduous task of finding a sentence of pure wind to match this week's stupendous effort. The formbook suggests that if anybody can, he can.
Take last look at Indian masters
After three months of shadow play the cricketing summer flickers into life next week when the Indian tourists arrive for a four-Test series that promises to be memorable. For the first time lovers of the game in that cricket-daft land can say they have the best team in the world, over 50 overs or five days. That said, England will back themselves to emerge as winners when the final ball is bowled at The Oval next month. They've become quite a good side, too.
Everybody will be glad to see Sachin Tendulkar one last time. Everybody, that is, except England's bowlers, who have a chance to test themselves against the highest run-maker in Test history, who, mirabile dictu, seems to have got better in the past couple of years. For his part Tendulkar will be searching for his first Test century at Lord's. It takes some believing that neither he, nor Ricky Ponting, nor Brian Lara, the three supreme batsmen of the past 20 years, have reached three figures there.
Another great batsman is coming to England for one last hurrah. Rahul Dravid has spent his career playing Gielgud to Tendulkar's Olivier but nobody who holds cricket dear can deny that he has been a great cricketer. Look at the record: 32 centuries in 152 Tests, the latest against West Indies at Kingston last month; more runs (12,275) than anybody in Tests except Tendulkar and Ponting, at an average of 52.
Like Tendulkar, Dravid has never made a century at Lord's. He came within five runs, on his debut in 1995, so he too will hope to leave one last mark on a game he has served so nobly. If you have cricket in your blood, wish this outstanding man well. Dravid, who has never drawn attention to himself, is one of the greatest of all cricketers, and he deserves to go out with a bang.Reuse content