I think one of the key themes of the season has been the club finally being able to engage in serious behind the scenes improvements. Driven by Hughes, paid for by Sheikh Mansour, the club's medical, training and now office facilities have been upgraded. The manager is impressed:
"The way the club's set up now in terms of its structure and the people in key positions means that City can only get better and be driven forward at pace," Hughes said. "I was very encouraged by what I heard at the get-together and the plans and structures that are in place for the club for the future that will ensure that when success comes - and it will do - it will be for a long time.
"I am part of the team that will drive this club forward and it is up to us to make sure that we are successful. I'm very impressed by how much progress has already been made throughout the club."
"It's been a huge year for everybody at the club. There have been brave changes when we could have pottered around and remained as we were.
I think this sort of thing is crucial. As a friend put it to me, the key fact of the Shinawatra/Eriksson era was that, for all its turmoil and tumult its changes were essentially cosmetic. There was Elano, and Martin Petrov, there was a relaxed approach to training, but at heart the stagnation and slight amateurism of the Wardle/Pearce was still there. We saw this in the second half of last season: Elano and Petrov stopped performing and it was the core of the Pearce team (sans Distin and Barton) putting in Pearce-era performances. It is only now, with a driven young manager and limitless cash that the internal structure of the club can be brought to where it should be. And from there, we should improve on the pitch. But the importance of shedding the dead wood (not just players but also structures and attitudes) of the Wardle years should not be underestimated.