Monday, 28 January 2008

Champions League - You're Having A Laugh

Painful as it is to paraphrase plastic Preston people, the "Premiership - You're Having A Laugh" chant targeting Derby County fans on Saturday was, in our estimation, the joint funniest chant of the season to date (alongside Manchester United's "What The Fuckin' Hell Is That?" greeting of Peter Crouch entering as a substitute at Anfield). Both, however, pale into insignificance in comparison with Altrincham's politically aware "Scab, Scab, Scab, Scab..." aimed at the Alfreton Colliery fans some twenty years after the Nottinghamshire miners had been naively bought off by the Thatcher regime.
All of which is entirely irrelevant to today's post apart from providing the excuse of a title for this piece.
Manchester City are about to go pear-shaped. As we have frequently posted, Thaksin Shinawatra simply sees the Manchester Blues as a short-term electioneering vehicle for his political objectives in Thailand. Prior to the mid-season transfer window, there were leaks and rumours that the good doctor was going to spend several tens of millions of pounds from his illicit offshore financial booty on strengthening the squad for a push for both the FA Cup and a Champions League spot. And did it happen? Of course not. In came Nery Castillo on a year long loan from Shakhtar Donetsk and, yet, even this was a pseudo-signing in that the player paid his own way to be released from his contract. He's also currently useless, having failed to score during his time in the Ukraine and is looking entirely bemused by the realities of life in the Premiership. After this arrival, there has been nothing of note but the departure of Bianchi and the rumours of the sale of Micah Richards (presumably so Shinawatra can recoup some of his outlay before he does a runner). The atmosphere at the club is apparently halfway between chaotic and listless with Elano having given up the ghost and Bianchi grateful to find proper food following his close encounter with English cuisine. Despite the relief of escaping a fast sinking ship, Bianchi carried his Manchester moods back with him to Rome and he was sent off on his Lazio debut for two bookable offences in the five minutes that he was on the field! Anyway, lets check out the bigger picture...
In the first half of the season, Thaksin Shinawatra bought himself good publicity whenever Manchester City were live on television in soccer-mad Thailand. Prior to yesterday's nonsensical performance, City had appeared live ten times with a remarkable sequence of 6 wins, 4 draws and zero defeats. More pertinently, the refereeing decisions in those games were very heavily biased in favour of the Blues with 90% of the key decisions going in their favour. Obviously, Shinawatra's links with AirAsia (the sponsors of the whistleblowing criminals) had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this statistical anomaly. Really. The publicity evidently helped the hyper-gangster as the offspring of his Thai Rak Thai party, the People's Power Party, won almost 50% of a rigged vote in December 23rd's election. This last month has seen extensive machinations between the military coup leaders and Shinawatra's proxy, Samak Sundaravej, over the ballot box stuffing that went on in the rural areas loyal to Shinawatra. The Election Commission and the Supreme Court were heavily pressurised by Sundaravej and Shinawatra to annul the inquiry into vote rigging and, last week, they finally relented marking the end of the military control of the country.
Sundarajev is described by The Economist as being "fiercely right wing" which in the realms of their shareholder-capitalist-speak means that, like Shinawatra, he is a fascist. Sundarajev is happy to be known as merely a stand-in leader until the gangster returns in a blaze of gory glory and Shinawatra sent his Mrs back last week to test the waters and see how serious the courts were about prosecuting the two of them for robbing the country blind in a series of business sales and land deals while he was in power.
The poisonous icing on the cake for the alleged "real Mancunian fans" is that Shinawatra intends to return to Thailand himself in May, which neatly coincides with the completion of another rigged event - the 2007/2008 Premiership season. This should provide just enough time to balance the cooked books, sell his mansion near London, terminate the relevant contracts and to plan the revenge that undoubtedly awaits the coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new reality for Manchester City and it showed in their performance at mighty Sheffield United. Following the FA Cup Third Round, the FA were horrified by the huge empty spaces at virtually all the grounds - if the teams don't take the competition seriously, you can hardly expect the fans to do so. Prior to the 4th Round of the world's greatest tournament (!?), Brooking's brigade were looking at an absolute maximum of 8 Premiership teams reaching the last sixteen as the competition slowly morphed into a postmodern version of the LDV Vans Trophy. As Derby County were one of these 8 teams and they had been taken to extra time and penalties by the other Sheffield team just a few days earlier, the actual maximum was 7. If Shinawatra had still possessed any strategic intent for his Manchester City project, he would have behaved true to form and simply bought the match. Instead, the game marked the Professional Game Match Officials Board's (PGMOB) own revenge and the match official was changed very late from Foy to Wiley and the rest is history as City joined Derby as the non-qualifiers.
So, what of the remainder of the season? Good question. And the answer is by no means as simple as this post suggests.

As a conclusion, we are introducing our new Dietrological Proprietary Information Service for Football Is Fixed readers a little earlier than originally intended. We have very strong opinions on three of Manchester City's remaining league fixtures and we are selling these advices at £75 apiece (£200 for all three) to professionals and amateurs alike. The advices will be released 30 minutes prior to kick off as we have no desire to tilt the markets and subscribers will be warned of the impending games in advance. To register, simply send an email to declaring how many games you require and we will provide you with the payment details. Obviously, all Dietrological clients will receive such information as part of their membership.

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