Monday, 21 September 2009

David Conn on Sparkyisation

The third and final part of David Conn's 'Inside Manchester City' series came in Sunday's Observer. This article is more football-based, and discusses the changes to the team under Mark Hughes. Back in March I started to use the word Sparkyisation to refer to the process of changing the mess that Hughes inherited into a team built in his image: competitive, physically fit, experienced and burning with a will to win. Of course this started with his first day in the job but the beauty of the ADUG money is that it has given Hughes a free hand to do exactly as he wanted. (It is rare in football that a manager's preferences and intentions are as fully revealed as Hughes' have been over the past year, as every other manager has to measure what he would like up against what he can afford. Hughes' unique position has been a fascinating insight into his true intentions.)

We are now one year into Sparkyisation and the evidence of the season so far has been positive. Wins away at Ewood, Selhurst and Fratton Parks, goals from corners in the second and third of those games, four consecutive clean sheets, three equalisers at Old Trafford etc etc etc. Both Khaldoon and Stephen Ireland - the two men most important to Hughes' keeping his job last year - agreed:

"Mark came into an imperfect situation," Khaldoon accepts. "The balance within the squad was extremely erratic and it was very important to add depth in every position."

Stephen Ireland, one of only three players – the others are Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Philips – in Hughes's first-choice team who were at City before Mansour's takeover, is flourishing under Hughes. "The happiest and most content I have ever been at Man City. Before, I always felt on edge, like I'm not sure what's around the corner."

Ireland says the dressing room was "cliquey" last season, divided by the influence of Elano, who, although "a great guy and very talented player", was, Ireland believes, over-indulged under Eriksson. "The gaffer [Hughes] took some time to get a grip of the club," Ireland says. "He had it tough; he came into a club that had been damaged down the years, with players not having a winning mentality, accepting defeat, accepting losing away from home, accepting things that just weren't right. Mark Hughes came in with his own staff and worked to make that right."

The battle between Hughes and Eriksson - with Elano as Sven's proxy - has been the main story of the last eighteen months. In this summer's spending spree - and cull of all but the last three remaining Eriksson buys - Hughes finally won out. There is now no question of whether or not this is Hughes' team, and unlike last year whatever happens is the ultimate responsibility of the manager. There are a few other interesting bits in that article - including the revelation that Khaldoon had 'an interesting debate' over the signings of Shay Given and Craig Bellamy. Do read it all, and the first two as well.

1 comment:

Ambient said...

The "interesting debate" shows that Mark Hughes is prepared to stand his ground and no one can now argue that both signings have been excellent.

Also revealed in the article is how close Mark Hughes came to walking away from the City job.

Its also important to remember that our team on Sunday, lacked Robinho, Adebayor, RSC, Kompany and Johnson.