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Mark Hughes and Manchester City Perform a Solemn and Intricate Dance

Now that Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has issued a statement expressing his sincere loyalty to and unqualified belief in Mark Hughes, the overriding question in English football is whether

a) Mark Hughes will be sacked by midweek;
b) Mark Hughes will be sacked after the weekend match at Hull;
c) Mark Hughes will be sacked at some point during the club meltdown that will occur in a couple of weeks when Man City play Arsenal and Manchester United on successive weekends.

I guess there’s a d)—the new Man City board are completely different from every other football board in existence and do not use the public statement of support as a subtle way to draw attention to a manager’s poor record and acclimate the club’s supporters to the idea of him being sacked. Yeah, d) looks good. Everybody bet on that.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the situation at Man City, and assuming they do decide to sack Hughes (for the record, I think it’s the wrong decision), it’s pretty clear to me what they should do. In the last few months, they’ve: fired a well-known coach whose early overachievement made his adequate later performance look like failure; secured a public coup by hiring an up-and-coming youngish manager whom no one ever associated with them before; seen that younger manager stumble to a disappointing record; gotten jumpy; and started to think about making the panic move and firing him only a few months after they brought him in. Remind you of anyone?

That’s right…time to bring in Harry Redknapp.

Everything moves faster these days, right? Harry’s put in his time at Tottenham, made his money, gotten in some wins; he must be just about ready to jump ship, and the idea of backing a truck up to the richest club on the planetâ„¢ must have occurred to him once or twice in his sleep. As for Tottenham, now that they’ve experienced the dizzy heights of 16th place, they’re bound to start thinking they’re too good for poor old Harry. I see a covert meeting in an obscure thrash-metal club in Zagreb, followed by a phoenix-like re-ignition of every rumor from the last 12 months as soon as they drop two points to Everton. Harry, through his global network of informants, is undoubtedly tracking the ebb and flow at Sheikh Mansour’s Aspen ski chalet, and will sink his teeth into the opportunity the moment he spies a juicy tremor.

I think this could work out.

The rumor on the message boards, somewhat less excitingly, is that Roberto Mancini will be asked to take the job, if he isn’t lured to QPR first in an epic Pipping of the Oligarchs. The tabloids say Mourinho, as ever. But let’s not rule Mark Hughes out yet. He’s been outspoken in the media recently about the need for more English managers in the Premier League, meaning that a certain section of Her Majesty’s commentariat will be primed to interpret his sacking in terms of jingoistic affrontedness. I have no idea whether those sorts of moves mean anything to a Dhabian ownership that seems only mildly interested in securing anyone’s goodwill, but it’s a more sophisticated tactic than anything Juande Ramos had on his map.

English managers may not get you better results, your highnesses, but they can still show a foreigner a thing or two when it comes to manipulating the English press.


Mark Hughes and Manchester City Perform a Solemn and Intricate Dance

by Brian Phillips · November 10, 2008

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