The turmoil at Manchester City deepened on Friday as it emerged that players at the club threatened to boycott a planned trip to Thailand and Hong Kong in support of manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
City owner Thaksin Shinawatra has made it clear he intends to sack Eriksson once he has lined up a replacement – a stance that has provoked a hostile reaction from the club's fans – but still expects the Swede to lead the club on their promotional end-of-season tour.
City are due to face a Thailand Premier All-Stars team on May 17 before travelling to Hong Kong in the first major step in Thaksin's plans to establish a global fan-base for a club that has long languished in the shadow of its crosstown rival, Manchester United.
Club sources have confirmed that a group of players, led by captain Richard Dunne, approached Eriksson earlier this week and offered to refuse to take part in the trip.
Eriksson is understood to have declined the suggestions, arguing that it would do little good and be in breach of the players' contracts, but the move does underline the extent of the dressing room discontent with the direction of the club under Thaksin.
The former Thai premier has grown increasingly disillusioned with Eriksson as a result of City's dip in form in the second half of the season, which has left them struggling to secure a place in Europe for next term.
City however remain on course to finish at least ninth in the Premier League table, a significant improvement on their 14th-placed finish to last season.
Fans have also been impressed with the success of Eriksson purchases like the Brazilian playmaker Elano and the Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov and have revelled in home and away wins over United this season.
A poll in the local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, revealed that 97 percent of City fans want Eriksson to stay, while a number of players have publicly voiced their backing for the manager and their appreciation for his style of management.
None of that has made any impression on Thaksin, who believes the club should be challenging for a place in the Champions League and has reportedly identified Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari as the man to succeed Eriksson.
Eriksson's agent has acknowledged that his man is very unlikely to be in charge at the City of Manchester stadium at the start of next season.
The Swede however has little option but to lead the team on the Asian tour if he is not to put himself in breach of contract and jeopordise a compensation package for the remaining two years on his contract, which is worth a reported 1.5 million pounds (3 million dollars) per year.
The backlash against Thaksin among City supporters will intensify if, as seems increasingly likely, Dunne quits the club at the end of the season.
The Irish defender has been outstanding this season but he has only one year left on his contract and is being assiduously courted by former City boss Kevin Keegan, who is now in charge of Newcastle.
Dunne had indicated earlier in the season that he saw his long-term future at City but he is now reported to be considering a move after growing disillusioned over the treatment of Eriksson.
There is also a question mark over the future of chief executive Alastair Mackintosh following the appointment of former Nike marketing executive Garry Cook as executive chairman.
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In 2006 and with over 80% approval ratings and amid howls of protest and Save Our Sven campaigns from England official fan organisations, TheFA “let Svennis go” with suicidal results for Euro2008 (and possibly beyond?). Now Sven has just begun a campaign to replicate his success in filling Lazio’s trophy cabinet for Manchester City with the most successful season in decades and 97%+ fan and player support behind him, that isn’t good enough for Dr Shinawatra? The England players and fans protests did little to save the prospects for our national team and it appears that similar grass root action… Read more »