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This is quite scary. The most chilling line is about Birmingham City. I'd like to see what kind of reception Mr Cock gets at St Andrews should C*ty draw them in the cup!!

 

Gary Cook seeks magic recipe to return Man City to top table

 

His boss is a fugitive from Thai justice. His club’s footballers have lost to some Danish minnows. He has been snubbed by Ronaldinho and Mikael Silvestre. So just how is Garry Cook settling in as executive chairman of Manchester City?

 

By Henry Winter

Last Updated: 10:03PM BST 22 Aug 2008

 

Fresh from Nike in the States, brimming with American lingo such as “I want to throw a net over you and take you on a journey” and ideals such as scrapping relegation, the Birmingham-born Cook makes fascinating company, often worrying, always frank.

 

Even someone who has spent 15 successful years selling trainers does not want to see his employer on the run. Everybody knows Thaksin Shinawatra is a blot on the Premier League landscape, but Cook waits impatiently for an Eastlands fire alarm to die down before launching into a passionate defence of City’s controversial owner.

 

“Is he a nice guy? Yes. Is he a great guy to play golf with? Yes. Has he got the finances to run a club? Yes. I really care about those three things. I need a left-back who can win tackles, get the crosses in and Jo can bang them in. Whether he’s guilty of something over there, I can’t worry too much about.

 

“I worked at a company – Nike – where we were accused of child labour rights issues. I managed to have a career there for 15 years and

 

I believed we were innocent of most of the issues. Morally, I felt confident in that environment. Morally, I feel comfortable in this environment.

 

“He has not skipped bail. He’s not gone back to face the charges. He wants to be at this ground on Sunday [for the game with West Ham] but people may want to come and show their support from his country and he doesn’t want to use this as a political platform. And there has been a threat to his safety worldwide.

 

“The man is embarrassed about the indignity brought on the club and the Premier League. He said to me, 'If you need me to resign from the football club as a director, because it would serve the needs of the Premier League, then I’m fine with that as long as that doesn’t change any other thing [i.e. his ownership]’.”

 

Cook met with the Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, on Tuesday to establish whether Thaksin had fallen foul of the “fit and proper person” test. “It is very loose,” Cook added. “It’s almost a tongue-in-cheek term that you would use for Premier League football over the last 10 years. There are plenty of unfit and improper individuals.”

 

Aware of Premier League unease, Cook wants to restructure the board with non-executive “captains of industry” to restore some credibility. Next week he intends bringing in new investors to help Thaksin through his present cash-flow problem following the freezing of assets in Thailand.

 

“He has some very wealthy friends. I was in Beijing last week, sitting with the owner and the second richest man in China and other guys. They all want to be part of Manchester City. I’ve had representatives of companies from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait on. Some of those representatives have actually phoned the supporters’ club because they couldn’t find the club number. So I get the supporters’ club secretary saying to me, 'So the club is for sale, then, because I’ve got Anwar on the phone from Saudi Arabia?’ This club is not for sale. This club is not bankrupt.

 

“We’ll be as big as Manchester United. If I didn’t have that goal, I wouldn’t be here. Can we win the Premier League? Yes. Will we? It might take a bit longer. Can we win the Champions League? Growing up at Nike, you don’t sit around saying, 'Can we?’ You say, 'We will’.

 

“I’ve got to change the culture here. I talk to my employees about it. You get 'This is England, not America, you know’. And then 'This is Manchester, not London’. And then 'This is City, not United’. So do you roll over, play dead and go home? No. Today you can grow faster than it took United. We just need a superstar.

 

“China and India are gagging for football content to watch and we’re going to tell them that City is their content. We need a superstar to get through that door. Richard Dunne doesn’t roll off the tongue in Beijing. Ronaldinho brings access to major sponsors and financial reward.

 

“Ronaldinho was up for it but he got a call from AC Milan. One day we’re going to be a club that players say, 'Manchester City just called me, I had no choice’. With the superstar, it won’t be this [transfer] window now because they’re too complex.”

 

City replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson, a manager who loved superstars (such as David Beckham), with Mark Hughes, a highly respected builder of teams who believes in the collective, not the galactico. “But we are a global franchise entity,” Cook explained. “Mark and I talk about this a lot and he sort of understands.

 

“We told Mark not to come if he thought we didn’t need a superstar. Mark wants to challenge himself to manage the best footballers in the world. But Mark is from the old school. He would rather overpay for the player he knows than for the player where he’s relying on scouting reports. That’s an endearing piece of what Mark is all about. We can’t have Roque Santa Cruz, which means Mark’s now back in an uncomfortable zone where he will have to bring in someone new.”

 

Hughes was unimpressed by Cook’s attempts to sell Stephen Ireland and Vedran Corluka.

 

“I’m not treating them like a commodity but in the two transfer windows everybody is for sale,” shrugged Cook, who admires youth products like Danny Sturridge (“a great player”) but also knows City need more experience.

 

“When you get to the dead of winter and people start pulling the gloves and tights on and you get five games in 10 days, it’s bloody hard for them. Mark is saying, 'We need some people with some mettle’. Mark will feel he isn’t successful if he doesn’t finish in the top six.”

 

Ambition characterises Cook, who believes the Premier League needs overhauling, starting with the transfer system. “In the draft, there’s no exchange for cash. Here it’s about greed and jealousy. Although I’m not going to use the word 'corruption’, you can imagine that where there’s greed and jealousy then there’s something else as well. That’s mayhem.”

 

Cook is keen to expand the Premier League brand. “In America all the marketing is managed by a separate entity and all the team has to do is play and put people in seats. Here, clubs like United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are dominant.

 

“This is the most powerful sports league in the world but maybe the most undervalued. United haven’t even scratched the [merchandising] surface – and if anyone has a head start, it’s them.

 

“Our merchandising values are a shock to me. There’s a Masters tournament three miles down the road with a team of ex-players wearing a uniform sponsored by a whole bunch of sponsors. They used our name! They used our badge! We were nothing to do with it and we actually went and congratulated them in our own programme [for beating United].

 

“You and I couldn’t set up a pop group and call ourselves The Drifters, because someone owns that. We are about 10 years behind in intellectual property management. Then we get down to players’ image rights, where players don’t understand the responsibility they have to a club. You try to get them to do something and it’s like you’re dragging them out of bed.

 

“The market is worldwide. There’s something not right about sitting in a bar in Bangkok, Beijing or Tokyo and seeing 'Fred Smith’s Plumbing. Call 0161...’ I talk to [Premier League chief executive] Richard Scudamore about this all the time: 'Are we maximising the central entity of the Premier League?’ He rolls his eyes and says, 'If only we would.’ The club chairmen tend to think globalisation is about selling more shirts. It’s about strategic partners in other countries – Red Bull, Thai Airways.”

 

To maximise wealth, Cook craves a slimmed-down elite division.

 

“If you could central-entity the top 10 teams to create a global empire called the Premier League, I would sacrifice my own club [birmingham City] into another division for that. Do Saudi Arabians want to buy

 

Stoke City? Or do they want to buy Newcastle, Villa, United, City? There are 10 clubs. I’d like not to have promotion and relegation. There’s an emotion around those battles but the dynamics by which fans can get their kicks can change.”

 

If Cook had his way, a lot will change.

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"There are 10 clubs. I’d like not to have promotion and relegation. There’s an emotion around those battles but the dynamics by which fans can get their kicks can change.”

 

 

The 10/12 club system works wonderfully in Scotland doesn't it.

 

As for scrapping promotion or relegation, it is the most anti-competitive and anti-sporting concept on there can be. Removing it would be absolutely the worst thing the Premier League could do - let's face it, last season's relegation battle was probably more compelling than the race for the title.

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There is just so much "wrong" in that article. No self respecting football fan would come out with such garbage. The more I think about it the more annoyed I get. The fact that he claims to be speaking with Scudamore about these issues on a regular basis is frightening!!

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To be honest, I dont really have a problem with anything he says, what he is talking about is inevitable, he knows it, and he is just trying to get his employers/company/fanchise in the mix when the ultimate shake up happens. H eis not talking nonsense, or anything inflamatory, just talking business sense and doing his job as a director of a potentially major company.

 

As he rightfully says, america is miles ahead of us in recognising the power of sports branding and marketing, and we will follow. This 'top 10' league is something that will happen, perhaps a top 10 in this country and then getting rankings to play in the inevitable european superleague - its not something that will just happen here, but here, spain, italy, germany - and at the same time, and with a lot of sponsors (and american TV/sponsorship) money behind it - he knows this....

 

This is all old gravy, and I couldnt personally give a toss... they are already so out of touch with a club like ours I couldnt care less what they do... infact I would prefer them all to sod off into this wonderleague which people who never go to matches can pay £20 a pop to watch, with 17 repeats thougout the week... because then, just maybe, the broadcasters other than sky and setanta may realise that the rest of the country want to watch 'proper football' and invest in the UK league.... without Man Yoo, Chelsea etc... who hopefully will piss off so many of their fans that even they will go and watch Oldham, leyton Orient, Rochdale, or Miiiiiiii ....

 

Not annoyed with this at all - its innevitable, this Cited exec know it... it will go global, and become such a different game that TV will go full circle in this country... we just have to be in the championship when this happens to be part of the new premiership!

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