A BELATED review, perhaps, but this fine book by one of the best football writers around deserves reassessment. With Manchester City now, indeed, richer than most sporting entities on the planet, David Conn’s take on the rise of the club he’s supported since childhood is interesting.
You get the feeling that Conn has a personal battle over his City. He’s a man who cares about the place he comes from, weeps for its decline, but he follows a club that has become the epitome of the modern elitist football institution. Like many fans, he loves the success, but questions the moral aspect of an absent owner from a different part of the world buying a football club as an asset class.
That aside, Conn’s City story, while similar in some ways to other fan stories, is more balanced and objective than almost every attempt at describing the bilateral relationship between fan and club. He wasn’t around when City won the league in 1968, but he suffered, like all Maine Road regulars, as successive regimes made a cock-up of the club, making it one of the great under-achievers in the football world.
City, in the late 1970s through to the pre-Abu Dhabi period, seemed like a mess, which allied to the success at Old Trafford in the 1990s and 2000s, must have made life unbearable for City die-hards.
Refreshingly, though, there’s very little rival hate in the book, something which taints many fan-written books, but then Conn is one of the most respected journalists around, as evidenced by his alignment to the families of Hillsborough victims.
This is an outstanding book, one that should be a blueprint for anyone wanting to write about their club. Very few fan relationships are different – they are often a tale of over-expectation, irrational behaviour, failure to prioritise what’s really important in life and a lack of understanding of how clubs are run. Conn, admittedly an informed professional, avoids that well-worn path. However, having ended at 2012, this story has another chapter and Conn’s interpretation of the City era will be worth reading. We await “Still richer than God”.
Richer than God by David Conn is published by Quercus