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Man City fans made to wait for overnight success

SoccerNews in English Premier League 20 Sep 2008


Harry Redknapp may admit to glancing enviously at Mark Hughes' spending power but Manchester City are still waiting for their new-found riches to translate into significant success on the pitch.

Hughes was handed his seemingly limitless budget on transfer deadline day when the Abu Dhabi United Group announced their planned takeover of the club.

That left the manager with just enough time to break the British transfer record by spending 32.5 million pounds on Real Madrid's Robinho and after the enforced international break, the Brazilian finally made his debut last week against Chelsea.

The subsequent 3-1 defeat was a chastening experience for Hughes and his players but at least they had the excuse that Chelsea played like potential champions.

Against Omonia Nicosia five days later City had no such excuse as they stuttered their way to a 2-1 victory in Cyprus in their UEFA Cup first round first leg tie.

Prior to Robinho's arrival, Hughes had already spent ambitiously to bring in Jo, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Tal Ben Haim

And the upbeat mood around the club means that results are now quickly expected to improve in the league starting with victory over Redknapp's Portsmouth side at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday.

“Mark Hughes must be wondering what is happening to him after going there as manager but if you are presented with the opportunity to buy top players you don't turn it down,” admitted Redknapp.

“And it's possible City could become a top side again just as they were, I remember, in the days of Colin Bell, Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee.”

Hughes has been working hard to keep a lid on the growing expectation that was fuelled further last week by the suggestion Brazil striker Ronaldo could join compatriots Robinho, Jo and Elano at City after leaving AC Milan last season.

And the manager was at pains to point out that Michael Johnson's new five-year contract was evidence that the club will not abandon its home-grown youngsters in favour of more expensive big name imports.

“The key message is that if you are good enough you will prosper here,” said Hughes. “Michael, Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge are players who all have a real feeling for the club. I believe that is important if you want to progress.”

Portsmouth were also in UEFA Cup action this week, beating Portugal's Vitoria Guimaraes 2-0, and have recovered well in the league after a daunting opening that included meetings with Manchester United and Chelsea.

Redknapp accepts that the injection of so much cash into City makes it even harder for his own side to challenge effectively at the top of the table and apply pressure to the well-established top-four of Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The demands of competing at home and in Europe are likely to be reflected in Pompey's starting line-up with both John Utaka and Armand Traore expected to be rested after their midweek exertions.

But Redknapp insists success in the Premier League remains his club's primary ambition.

“We want to go as far as we can in Europe because we know how much is means to the fans,” the manager said. “They deserve it after suffering all the barren years here.

“But long term, The Premier League is still the number one because that is how you measure progress of a club like this.

And he added: “We're in good form, three wins in a row now, and although it will be a tough game we'll have a go and be positive, attacking teams when we can.”


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