The tortured history of Manchester City managers – 17 of them in the last 20 years – is littered with examples of a successor being lined up before the incumbent has been seen through the revolving door.
Joe Royle wrote with meaning in his autobiography when he described waiting for Frank Clark to leave, in 1998. "It was so embarrassing that I had to sit in the car park," Royle said.
Different ages, different media and, in Garry Cook's defence today, a different, less perfidious landscape, with no one on hand to leak details of City's clandestine, back-channel meetings. Cook occupies another place. His attempt to dispense with agents and unilaterally drive through a deal to sign Kaka last January has made him some enemies happy to provide all the little details on his discussions with alternative managers.
For Cook, the result has been a 48- hour blizzard of criticism that has swept away the recent talk of the tangible commercial benefits that he and his Abu Dhabi proprietors have delivered to the club. View the decision to dismiss Mark Hughes as you will, but it should not detract from the £15m investment in the infrastructure of the club that Cook, an individual wholly in touch with the fan base, has presided over. Media is such a black-and-white business. Has Cook really become a bad businessman overnight?
It is puzzling how the individual who overhauled a human resources operation that involved simply "a payroll clerk" role when he arrived two years ago, and who has produced a staff messianically driven at times, could have chosen to dismiss Hughes at 5.30pm on a match night when the 47,000 people outside already knew the fate about to befall him.
Cook has surely learnt that he should have sacked Hughes a day before hiring Roberto Mancini – and before the leaks got out – and perhaps installed the new assistant manager Brian Kidd for a day. If that had been done, he should and could have prevented all those little back-channel details. There is neither shame nor scandal in Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan meeting Mancini in London on or around 2 December, considering the money he was investing in this new employee and the fact that City, desperate for fourth place, can arguably not afford a managerial interregnum.
Instead Cook made two errors at Eastlands on Monday evening. He kept those little London lunch details out of his pre-prepared speech and, more significantly, he stayed in the building to reap the whirlwind. Cook first tried to respond to an error of his own making with some levity. Then he banged the table a bit. And still things slid. The more he spoke the worse it got because Cook just cannot do group communication.
Cook should have known he has a man who might have done some of this for him. Sheikh Mansour's special adviser, Simon Pearce, is a smart operator who has chosen to remain deep in the background of Abu Dhabi's takeover at City. When the Kaka deal went wrong last January and Cook was struggling to articulate the complexities of the image rights deal that City had tried to translate from basketball to football, Pearce stepped up with some words of informal explanation. It was a command performance that helped turn the tide back to City.
Cook was doing yet more impromptu communicating yesterday, unbeknown to those who coordinate City's communication – and it will make for more uncomfortable headlines. Now is the time for him to slide into anonymity and someone else to talk. Or else a decent, driven, innovative individual is going out the same way his first football manager did.Reuse content