In 2008 when Manchester City were handed all the money they could possibly have hoped for, the fans dreams had become a possibility. The signing of Robinho was a statement made by the club to prove City were about to become a world force.
The Sky Blues went on to make even more of a statement with further additions, whether it be winding up rivals United with Carlos Tevez or simply buying world class players in David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. Many City fans go on to argue that they’ve made bargain signings in Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany, and that many other football clubs have been splashing the cash for decades. But I’m not here to contest City’s transfer spending. I'm writing this as I feel the owners of Manchester City are using their cash in the right way and perhaps don't get as much credit for it as they deserve.
Manchester City may have been a team buying their way to the top of the league, but now they’re a sustainable club doing the right thing, in the right places for their community.
It can be argued that they'll struggle to fill the third tier being put in place at the stadium, especially for Capital One Cup games, however the prices of these seats are reasonable – especially for the champions of England at just £299. When you look at other large clubs like United, Arsenal and Chelsea – that’s peanuts! City may be splashing the cash with the expansion, but they’re doing it to save the cash of the working class fan. But the expansion isn’t the most impressive bit of construction City are doing – just take a walk over the newly built bridge from the stadium and you'll see a new training complex.
In 2008, on taking over the blues, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan said “we are building a structure for the future, not just a team of stars,” and now this is becoming evident. He's stuck to his word.
December 8th 2014, after three years in the making, saw the unveiling of a colossal training complex, putting the rest of the world in its shadow. Even the City fans would not complain if the owners of City would have stuck it out for a couple of decent seasons, and put City back in the hands of a relegation battle. But they haven’t, they’ve stuck by the club and have now created a sustainable model. Of course, this may rub other supporters up the wrong way - City splashing the cash yet again, but it's all positive and for the future.
However, put your arguments about where the cash has come from to one side for a moment. Now that Manchester City do have the cash, this is just the kind of project they should be spending it on.
England’s national team have seen its side slump out of competition after competition. Many things are to blame for this, but one reason is definitely the lack of English players making their way through academies at big teams and into the Premier League. A complex like this, built by the current English champions, is perfect to try and resolve this problem. With two thirds of its monumental space and resources simply being for youth development, England are surely going to benefit from this. And there’s no worries of a lack of English talent at the academy either – 75% of the talent at Man City are from Greater Manchester alone. Forget England – the whole national team could be made up of Mancunians.
With City being current Premier League under-11s, under-14s and under-18s national champions, and the FA WSL Cup champions with the women’s team – they will go from strength to strength, and even possibly improve the perception of women’s football also. Furthermore, the disability team with the City in the Community Group, established in 1986, will also be training there.
Pete Bradshaw, head of infrastructure on the project summed up how this will be for the youth of Manchester; “young kids kicking a football about on the street should aspire to be part of a training camp and an academy. They should be able to see it; touch it; smell it, and with 450 individuals trained there a week, it is definitely somewhere reachable."
Another thing Manchester City have managed to help with in this project is unemployment in the local area. With the building new complex comes new jobs. Manchester City hired 70% of its workforce simply from Manchester, and 80% of the construction supply chain was sourced locally. A working class club at heart giving jobs to working class people. City contributed £3,000,000 towards new community facilities in this one project also. Not to mention, they also built Connell College for 600 students to study at, something the area was crying out for, along with the East Manchester Leisure Centre.
The land prior to Manchester City building on it was a wasteland. After years of industrial usage over 100 years ago, nobody had built on the acidic land due to the problems it caused. But, after a 98% approval rate from the local community, City put in a request to build on the land – and boy did they do that!
The complex itself is quite magnificent. 16.5 pitches (I’m yet to discover how you can have half a pitch. Is that like having a half a hole?) dwarves the amount of pitches at training camps for the English national side, Barcelona and liccle Real Madrid. That isn’t all too – 80 acres of land includes a TV auditorium room for reviewing games, four star accommodation for players before a match, classrooms for youngsters and a 7,000 capacity stadium for EDS and the Women’s team. And that’s just the beginning.
As a football club, it’s important to get the right blend of a corporation and a club for the fans. Forget having an injured Sergio Aguero – the men in suits trying to mix that blend have the hardest job. Manchester City seem to be doing it perfectly – splashing the cash in all the right places, without perhaps getting the credit they deserve.
By Harry Newton – Manchester City fan – @