Date: 29th July 2017 at 11:40am
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As Manchester City prepare to play their final USA tour match this evening against Tottenham Hotspurs in the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee they will depart America having established themselves among a group of top clubs which include the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United.

Heady times indeed for the fans of a club who is always conscious of where it has come from and what might have been had Paul Dichov not scored one of the most important goals in the club`s history at Wembley in May 1999. That goal saved the club from defeat against Gillingham Town in the League Two Play Off Final and set the tie into a penalty shootout. The resulting win for the Sky Blues sent them back on the path to the Premier League, the move to the the stadium that had been built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and which made them such an ideal fit for the investors from Abu Dhabi.

But perhaps we ought to go back one step further for an even starker contrast against which to set City`s firm step onto the global football stage??.

Prior to the start of the 1997/98 season City enjoyed an unbeaten pre-season where they played 8 matches scoring 21 goals, conceding only 3. Hopes were raised amongst City fans. This was looking good.

Their tour started in the North West where they played Blackpool and Macclesfield Town before moving on to a 4 match tour of Scotland defeating Livingston and Kilmarnock each 4-0 and drawing against Stirling Albion and Falkirk. They returned to the North West for their final 2 friendlies against Mansfield Town and Burnley where their new £3m signing, Lee Bradbury, scored on his debut. Things were looking bright for the Blues under the management of Frank Clark as the club strived to return to the Premier League??..

46 league games later City finished 22nd and were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in the club`s history. It was a bleak time for the club and the legions of faithful supporters. Things had hit rock bottom it seemed although their were further depths to be plumbed as City faced that 0-2 deficit in the Play Off Final and with added time imminent. There seemed no way back??.then up stepped City heroes Kevin Horlock, Paul Dichov and Nicky Weaver.

Fast forward 20 years and the same club, coached by one of the world`s greatest managers, have just defeated the 2016 winners of the Champions League, Real Madrid, for the first time in their history as they participate in the International Champions Cup. As one of 15 of Europe`s elite clubs contesting the 2017 competition which is being hosted in three countries – the USA, China and Singapore – where they could earn in the region of £10m+ for their involvement they could indeed be said to have witnessed an utter transformation in their fortunes.

It is a far cry from the windy stands of Stirling and Macclesfield Town and a turnaround which many City fans are still adjusting too.

In being involved in this prestigious tournament City could well be said to have taken their first firm step into the bright footlights of the global game. Drawing a crowd of over 93,000 in the L.A. Coliseum and securing a notable 4-1 victory (friendly or not) over one of the biggest clubs in the world will have put a smile upon the faces off the club`s owners in Abu Dhabi as well as the watching City fans. When they chose to invest in Manchester City F.C. the Abu Dhabi United Group saw potential both for the expansion of the club as well as for of the positive enhancement of the reputation of their country. Since the 2008 takeover much uninformed comment had been passed on how City was little more than a ‘rich man`s plaything` and how Sheikh Mansour would soon become ‘bored of his new toy`. Such talk has diminished in recent times as it has become apparent that the owners are not going away, they are here for the long haul and they have ambitions for the club which sees regular invitations to this sort of event as a an essential part of their plans.

Rubbing shoulders with the elite teams in world football as one of the participants of a competition which is being broadcast in 170 countries is exactly where the development strategy of the owners would have wanted to see them placed as we approach the end of the first decade of their involvement with Manchester City F.C. This participation and exposure also provides the opportunity and leverage to further their aims of growing the overarching City Football Group through the development of partnership deals with grassroots football organisations such as the Goals Soccer Centres, the world`s largest operator of dedicated, 5-a-side pitches. Building upon the ownership of New York City F.C in the MLS, the CFG have developed community programmes on both the East and West Coats of the USA and established a foothold in one of the fastest growing markets in world football.

Results are important. The style with which they are achieved is important. But so is growing the reputation of the club & the CFG.

Involvement in the International Champions Cup is a sign that Manchester City F.C. have stepped out from the shadows of world football. We may still be blinking in the lights of our new surroundings and have a way to go yet – sustained success in the Premier League, more league titles and securing a major European trophy remain on the ‘to do` list – but we are no longer over-awed.

We are on the stage with the other big players.

For more on the importance of the ICC this BBC article explains why Europe`s Elite clubs have finally embraced the idea of a short term ‘Super League`:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40753139

 

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