Some matches are made in heaven, while others need to be worked at. Then there are the ones that defy all logic like the fat old farang with the young Thai nymph. Could it be that Thaksin Shinawatra is playing a billionaire’s sick joke? Or is he taking his twisted revenge for the millions of blighted reputations of his upcountry cousins? Either way, a perverse reversal of roles is unfolding in the blue half of Manchester. While we all know the story of the lust-crazed farang wooing the impoverished Thai farmers’ daughter with bundles of cash, this time it’s a power-crazy Thai benefactor using his cash to shaft a poor English maiden. But the blue honeymoon is well and truly over as “Frank” Shinawatra has got City fans singing the blues.
Thaksin supposedly wanted to buy an English Premier League Club so that Thai players could go and play there. Did any of his advisors mention to him that that’s not quite how it works? The greatest Thai footballer of our generation Kiatisak “Zico” Senamuang managed to get a brief trial with Middlesbrough before ending up getting kicked off the park in Huddersfield’s reserves. Did Thaksin think that just because he owned a club, he could pick the players? The answer is, of course, yes.
After failing to buy Liverpool and Fulham, he took over at Manchester City. Even after the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) froze his assets while he was in exile in London, he claimed to still have enough money for the takeover because he had stashed some money in his kids’ accounts. Ring any bells? Didn’t he escape prison by denying that earlier?
As the Man City takeover was building to a head, I wrote a couple of times to a Man City Internet forum warning them of what they were letting themselves in for, but my comments were never printed. The City fans, disillusioned by years of mediocrity and a lifetime of living in their neighbour’s shadows, were just blinded by the thought of a major cash investment. All that glittered was gold. It reminded me of how Thaksin won over the rural Thais.
What was most worrying was that Thaksin’s lawyer had said that the money for the takeover would be enough to ensure that the Shinawatra family could decide on the club’s managers and players (yes, players). The warning signs were there but all the City fans could see were pound signs.
Thaksin’s lawyer later retracted this statement, saying that some of the frozen assets may be needed for the deal. He continued with his irrational spin by saying that if the Man City deal fell through, it would be the fault of the ASC. This is like saying that if I burgle someone and they prosecute me and send me to jail, it is their fault that I can’t burgle other people. Thaksin and his men are masters of spin. They leave the rest of Thailand streets behind in this respect.
When Thaksin did finally take over at Eastlands, he was hailed as a messiah as he threw around some spare change to bring in new players and a management team headed by ex-England boss Sven Goran Erikson. It all started off well with City hovering around the top of the table for the first time since, well, since…erm. They also did the double over their more illustrious neighbours and the fans were over the blue moon. Sven was their hero and Thaksin was their sugar daddy.
Towards the end of that first season, City lost some of their momentum and slipped down the table to a still very respectable 9th. This was too much for Thaksin and he made it known to all that Sven was on the way out because of the slump. City fans were up in arms and rightly so. This was their best season in living memory. Things were on the up. There was a solid foundation to build on. The future looked bright. Getting rid of Sven made no sense.
Oasis front man and lifetime City fan, Noel Gallagher, spoke for his fellow supporters with his usual eloquence. He surmised that Thaksin was “tripping” and “a bit of a nutcase”. Indeed.
The talk is of Phil Scolari being brought in as a replacement but this is Man City we are talking about. Even with Thaksin’s cash, it’s still Man City. Getting Sven was a real coup (pardon the pun) and it seems crazy to get rid of him after just one season – the best season in many fans’ lifetime at that.
Like the desperate bar girl with the fat old farang, City fans could slowly be waking up to the fact that not all rich foreigners are knights in shining Armani.