This is an article of mine that I wrote in June last year (2011).
Since Manchester City’s takeover by the billionaire Shiekh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, their rise to being the third best team in the Premiership is looking very similar to the one that Blackburn Rovers encountered in the early to mid-1990’s.
In 1991, Blackburn were struggling in the old Second Division before having hordes of money invested into them by life-long Rovers fan Jack Walker who almost immediately brought in a former great player – like City have done in bringing in Roberto Mancini – by appointing Kenny Daglish to take over the managerial reins. He signed Colin Hendry and Tim Sherwood soon after being sworn in, won promotion to the Premiership in his first season and in turn and in time attracted other good players to the club like Alan Shearer , Stuart Ripley , Henning Berg , Greame Le Saux , Tim Flowers, David Batty and Chris Sutton.
Of course there is a difference between the two clubs – Blackburn were in a division lower than the top tier when they were propped up by Walker whilst City were already in the ‘Promised Land’ at the time of their financial investment. Blackburn’s progress was stark: rising from a finish of 19th in 1991 to gaining promotion via the play-offs the next season in 1991/1992. From then it was quite a steady progress, finishing in a very commendable 4th place in their first season back in the top flight, to runners-up in ‘93/94 then ultimately the title in ‘94/95.
In January this year, at the time of Daglish’s second instalment as manager of Liverpool, Rovers legend Alan Shearer, who played such a big role in their rapid transformation, said that, ‘‘playing under Kenny Daglish was the main reason for joining Blackburn.’’ It is a similar sentiment that can be vouched by some of the superstars who have joined City in playing under Mancini. Fellow Italian Mario Balotelli is one of many current City players who have said that the former Sampdoria great was a big pull in joining the Blues.
Manchester City could be treading a similar path to the one Blackburn strode upon. They finished 10th in the 2008/2009 campaign. It was then 5th in ‘09/10 then 3rd last time round. No doubt the influx of money helped both these clubs progress up the table and although City’s financial clout is substantially more than that of Blackburn’s, don’t forget that money didn’t play such a significant part in football in the early to mid ’90′s compared to what it does today; money naturally rises over time and players were cheaper so the comparisons are valid.
One could look at it from the same perspective as the Blackburn ‘model’ – it took Rovers just four seasons to win the Premiership crown from when Jack Walker ploughed his wealth into the club and the coming campaign will be City’s fourth since their monumental takeover, but whether Mancini’s side wins it or not, will they crumble like Blackburn did after winning the coveted prize? They never finished higher than sixth after their title win, suffering relegation only four years later in 1999. Or will they do a ‘Chelsea’ and sustain success or at least consistently challenging for honours after having won the league? OR, while we’re at it, end up like Leeds United in spending vast amounts of money, only for it to backfire in the form of huge debts and relegation? Although with oil tycoon Sheikh Mansour as part of the City hierarchy – a self-made billionaire from the goldmine that surrounds the Gulf – that appears unlikely.
Reminiscing about those Blackburn players, they were a very good side for those few years, arguably as good, if not better than the current City team assembled by Mancini. People may scoff at that opinion, but honestly, go and watch some footage of them in their prime and you will see where I’m coming from. Their names may not have been as illustrious as the one’s that regularly struts its stuff at the City of Manchester stadium, but they were as compact as any title winning side seen in recent years. It should be taken into account that at the time of Blackburn’s success, there was only one Champions League place up for grabs and that was reserved, rightly I feel, for champions only, so even though the competitiveness for a spot in the top-four is now maybe more hardened, having to compete with far stronger opposition than what Blackburn encountered in the mid 1990′s, City will only be deemed a real success if they can finish on top of the pile either at home or in Europe or both.
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This is where it was originally published.