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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Books – Richer Than God – Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up by David Conn

Star rating – 9/10

I admit that I am a proud Manchester City supporter, still relishing the taste of being Premier League Champions at long last, but with many more battle scars from the years of disappointment and failure. And so I was always bound to love this account of my club’s history by Guardian journalist David Conn. But this book is much more than a supporter’s handbook – it is a serious look at the politics and, perhaps more to the point, the economics behind our beloved beautiful game.

Only Manchester City fans can tell tales quite like this - of the ups and downs we have had in the past couple of decades supporting our glorious club, and Conn, a true blue since boyhood, is very good on the detail, told with humour and heart. The promotions, successive relegations, sell outs, buy outs, stars and flops are all here. Only my club with our famous Joe Royle coined disease, Cityitis, could have made such hard work of things. Conn is very good, for example, on the massive let down that was Franny Lee, who came back like a knight in shining armour as a star of our past, only to sell ‘our best players to pay for restaurants.’ And as someone who was part of the Kippax sit-in to get rid of the hated former Chairman Peter Swales, that particular piece of disloyalty and greed still cuts deep with me.

But Conn is also very concerned with the overtaking of the whole national game, not just Manchester City, by money men who can buy and sell clubs, can load them with debt to finance personal fortunes, and who are collectively raising ticket prices and ruining its soul, for this author at any rate.  It is very well written and well argued. And with the tragedy of Rangers unbelievably unravelling not so far away over the border, it could not be timelier.

Conn is one of those City supporters who lost their way and stopped believing religiously in their club, as these changes in the game occurred. This is perhaps understandable for a journalist who has to cultivate an altogether more dispassionate viewpoint. I wish all our clubs could be collectively and communally owned like in Germany or the mighty Barcelona, but they are not and I cannot see that happening any time soon. So I am not sorry that my club has been bought by a rich sheik - and I defy football fan of other clubs in our position to spurn the riches, and yes the success, which we enjoy now (although of course many say they would).

And although I have never stopped believing, and still get the same buzz out of the roar of the crowd at the Etihad as I did when I first went to Maine Road over twenty years ago, this is still a book to really appreciate. Obviously it will appeal to City fans, but I do hope that other people concerned about the future of football, and its place in the fabric of our society, will read it too. Now roll on the start of the season...

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