13 years ago almost to the day Manchester City and Stoke City were relegated into Division 1. Or Division 3 as some of us still refer to it. Since then the fortunes of both sides have been transformed.
Unfortunately, the fortunes of Manchester City have been transformed by the lavish spending of the comically wealthy Sheik Mansour and the global ambitions of the loathsome and frequently risible Garry Cook. Cook, once of Nike, seems to have decided to employ the exact same tactics at Citeh that were used to catapult his former employers’ brand into the global corporate stratosphere; spend whatever it takes to ‘buy’ the biggest, best and often most controversial stars to represent your brand, and then flog the guts out of it.
It’s a shame because Manchester City had always been a club rooted in their local community and run, often hilariously badly, by local businessmen. Now they’re just another product to be sold all over the world to promote their owners’ other business interests.
Increasingly I’m of the opinion that any club owned by foreign interests should bugger off and play in a Sky Super Soccer Global Product Globetrotters League, leaving a level playing field where proper football clubs can battle it out with an intensity and excitement from the first day of the season to the last which is only really found these days in The Championship.
Mansour and Cook won’t remember the pain of that day 13 years ago and thus will have no concept of what winning the cup really means to the 30,000 Citeh fans who went to every home game in Division 2
The Championship, with the single exception of the Billionaires Consortium FC, (the team formerly known rather quaintly as Queens Park Rangers FC), is where you start to find the heart of British football, where success is not for the benefit of some absentee landlord for whom it’s just another franchise, no different from your local KallKwik or McDonald’s but for the local town or city and its people.
Stoke City, I’m delighted to say, are one of those clubs, and Stoke is one of those cities. Like so many others in the North, it’s an economically depressed area with the unhappy distinction of having the lowest income per capita of any city in the UK.
Where once it made things, important things, beautiful things, from the invaluable natural resources of the area, it is now little more than a giant warehouse at the heart of the country from which the likes of Screwfix distribute their wares. The people of Stoke-on-Trent, who once had so much to be proud of, have had little or nothing for the last 30 odd years.
What the Coates family have done for Stoke, the club they’ve supported all their lives, they’ve done not just for themselves or even just the football club, they’ve done it for the whole area and its people.
This is how a football club should be; a symbol of local achievement at the heart of the community, a place where a local kid can find himself playing right back in an FA Cup Final for the team he’s supported all his life. A football club should be a source of pride and hope for the people it represents who’ve supported it through thin and thin, and the occasional bit of thick. A football club should not be a symbol of the obscene wealth, greed and ruthless self-interest of a few individuals.
Mansour and Cook won’t remember the pain of that day 13 years ago and thus will have no concept of what winning the cup really means to the 30,000 Citeh fans who went to every home game in Division 2. But the Coates Family remember, and they know EXACTLY what victory today will mean for not just the fans, but for the whole of Stoke-on-Trent. As this interview shows.
And it’s for that simple reason, and that reason alone, that you should all be supporting The Famous Stoke City today.
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