My Big Mouth: Manchester clubs’ changing fortunes and City Sheik’s lasting legacy… the Etihad campus

By Andrew Bardsley

What a difference thirteen years can make.

As Manchester City began their journey from the footballing wilderness with a Second Division play-off final victory at Wembley in May 1999, 950 miles away in Barcelona their city rivals were completing an historic treble. 

After United were pipped to the title by City in the dying minutes of the 2011-12 season, the realities of both clubs existence is now beginning to hit home.

United continue to be used as a cash cow by the Glazer family, with a significant chunk of the profits of a recent share issue going directly to the owners.

Meanwhile City announced last week that work will commence on their new 80 acre, £100million training complex adjacent to the Etihad Stadium.

As well as creating a new base for the club, the investment will help to regenerate the local area, with 5.5 acres of the development being reserved for the use of the community, with a sixth form college and leisure centre set to be built.

It is admirable that a club owned by United Arab Emirati billionaires is focusing on the impact of their investment on the local community.

Meanwhile across the city the Glazer family remain detached from the club and surrounding areas, provoking a furious Green and Gold campaign aiming to oust them from their position.

There is an evident need for a project of such magnitude. A report by the Church Urban Fund published in May 2012 found that in the Eastlands area 53% of children live in poverty, whilst 55% of adults have no qualifications.

The club has said that a minimum of 70% of jobs created by the project will be given to local residents, in construction and areas such as site management and security.

Although many of these jobs will not be permanent, this comes as a welcome boost to the local economy at a time of economic strife.

Council Leader Sir Richard Leese described how the project will affect East Manchester.  “It drives forward the regeneration of the area, building on the legacy of the Commonwealth Games a decade ago,” he said.

Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano outlined the club’s community as well as football based outlook. He said: “The development of young and home grown players is central to our strategy of creating both a winning team and a sustainable football club.”

With the construction of their new training facility, which was inspired by Barcelona’s famous La Maisa complex, City have set a new benchmark for elite clubs to reach.

In considering the local community whilst forming their plans, not only will they hope to produce a new generation of talented footballers, they will also help to create a new generation of prosperous Mancunians.

Disillusioned United fans will look on at these plans with envy. Whilst the Glazers may suck every penny out of the club, Mansour will leave a lasting legacy on the city.

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