City chairman hails new era under bright young Hughes
Thursday 05 June 2008
Manchester City's new executive chairman believes that the club's successful pursuit of a British manager – Mark Hughes – is vital to the club's attempt to restore stability after yet another chaotic period in its recent history.
Garry Cook persuaded Hughes to join City following a marathon six and a half hours of talks at a London hotel which concluded at 3.30am yesterday morning and the Welshman, who will be unveiled by City at 9.30am today, had a "cordial" 15-minute conversation there yesterday morning with the club's owner Thaksin Shinawatra, calling from Asia.
After spending the night at the Chesterfield Mayfair on London's Charles Street, where the talks had taken place, Hughes is understood to have told the telecoms billionaire that he considered his new role at City to be a "fantastic job".
With an estimated £50m at his disposal, Hughes' response is hardly surprising. He has also responded positively to Thaksin's desire to hire Barcelona's Ronaldinho – a move Sven Goran Eriksson always had doubts about.
Thaksin has spoken before of needing a star to fill City's ground and it was reported last night that in an interview Thaksin said: "You need a star who can play on the pitch, but who can achieve much more for the club. He wants the new challenge... to return to the days when he was really, really famous. The magic is still in his boots. I am hearing good things about his hunger."
In the same interview, Thaksin said he had been dismayed by the 8-1 defeat at Middlesbrough and suggested that Eriksson lacked the ability to advance City quickly enough.
The Thai also wants the side to play with more consistency and urgency. He apparently hopes that the cost of bringing Ronald-inho to City could be paid by sponsors.
Hughes, who arrives at City on a three-year, £3m deal is understood to have gone into the talks with an open mind about Cook and emerged with a real sense that he can work with him. The relationship between the two men – who both outlined their ambitions during their marathon meeting – takes City into a new era, with Cook – a former Nike executive whose appointment was only ratified by City's board on Monday – clearly now Thaksin's eyes and ears at the club.
Hughes is said to be keen to get straight down to work with the players at his disposal and is expected to meet those he can immediately and make telephone calls to those who have left Manchester or holidays.
Though City's attentions appeared to have centred on Portugal national coach Luis Felipe Scolari during the latter stages of Sven Goran Eriksson's reign, Cook has harboured no interest whatsoever in procuring his services and is firmly of the belief that there is a value in welding the club's overseas financial backing with a good measure of British commodities – manager included.
Though Cook has kept precisely to the timetable he had laid out in his pursuit of Hughes – his plan, as The Independent revealed earlier this week, was to appoint Hughes as early as Wednesday to stop Chelsea gazumping City – the uncertainty of the picture at Stamford Bridge has created an undeniable measure of anxiety until the eleventh hour.
City's nerves were most frayed early on Tuesday evening when, after Carlo Ancelotti's revelation that he was not joining Chelsea seemed to leave Hughes a contender for Stamford Bridge. Then the 44-year-old former Wales manager's arrival in London with assistant Mark Bowen – present during the talks – was delayed by heavy traffic on the M40.
Hughes arrived needing to be convinced that Cook was someone he could work with and he was not prepared to make his mind up about the job until he had met Thaksin's new executive chairman. But the discussions appear to have proceeded flawlessly.
Cook said he was delighted to have secured Hughes' services. "In our view he is the brightest young manager in the game and he was our No 1 target for the manager's job," he said: "He made it clear to us from the moment we met that he shared our vision and ambition to make Manchester City one of the top sides in the country."
It is understood that Hughes wants to bring £12m-rated David Bentley with him to City and can also expect the £20m Brazilian CSKA Moscow striker Jo to be on the way. "Mark has already identified some of the players and backroom staff that he wants to see here at City and we will begin the process of recruiting them immediately," Cook said. The picture will be clearer on Ronaldinho when Pairoj Piemsongsant, Thaksin's chief aide, flies to the player's family home in Porto Alegre, Brazil, this weekend
Hughes is expected to be followed to the City of Manchester Stadium by Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kevin Hitchcock with compensation for Blackburn believed to be in the region of £5m. The future of Rovers reserve coach Glyn Hodges is less clear, though he may join later.
Cook will also appear publicly for the first time in Manchester today and the relationship he has obviously formed with Hughes leaves questions over the precise role of the current chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, who now looks a strong candidate to replace Fulham's managing director, David McNally. There are unconfirmed suggestions that the Fulham position is of serious interest to him.
The prospect of Mackintosh accepting American Tom Hicks' offer to replace Rick Parry as chief executive at Liverpool would seem less likely, since Hicks would need his board's approval to remove Parry in any case.
Future executive positions at that club are more likely to be in the gift of Dubai International Capital who, despite the current lack of progress, are highly likely to take over the club eventually.
Blue moves: City's changes of management
Mark Hughes' appointment made him Manchester City's 15th manager in 25 years:
John Benson, 1983: Relegated to Second Division
Billy McNeill, 1983-86: Promoted to First Division (1985)
Jimmy Frizzell, 1986-87: Relegated to Second Division
Mel Machin, 1987-89: Promoted to First Division (1989)
Howard Kendall, 1989-90
Peter Reid, 1990-93
Brian Horton, 1993-95
Alan Ball, 1995-96: Relegated to First Division
Steve Coppell, 1996
Frank Clark, 1996-98
Joe Royle, 1998-2001: Relegated to Second Division (1998); Promoted to First Division (1999); Promoted to Premier League (2000); Relegated to First Division (2001)
Kevin Keegan, 2001-05: Promoted to Prem League (2002)
Stuart Pearce, 2005-07
Sven Goran Eriksson, 2007-08
Mark Hughes, 2008-
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