Book review: Richer Than God by David Conn

Richer Than God, the recently released book by renowned journalist David Conn, is tagged as 'an authoritative, provocative, investigative account of Manchester City's history, culminating in its transformation as Sheikh Mansour seeks to spend the formerly miserable Manchester club into the European elite'.

Conn is an award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster, specialising in investigative work on finances and ownership within football and was the 2010 Sports News Reporter of the Year. He has three times been named Football Writer of the Year by the Football Supporters' Federation for his investigative work.

The book is not a look solely at City, but they are placed firmly in context in his look at a journey from young football fan at a time of greater innocence (think echoes of ‘Fever Pitch') through to the modern day game; one which is awash with money at unprecedented levels - and that has become even more prescient given the new TV deal announced by the Premier League that kicks in from 2013/14.

The title, coined from a phrase he heard whilst out in Abu Dhabi preparing to meet and interview the owners and was meant to indicate the financial prowess and muscle that City now possessed. He looks at the takeover in great detail, from the early ‘statement' signing of Robinho through to the more studied approach of late, culminating in the Premier League triumph just over a month ago.

Conn doesn't enjoy universal favour from City fans, perceived in some quarters as on occasion being anti-City for his views on ownership of football clubs (Conn very much favouring the supporter-owned model) but from what I understand, he has unparalleled access amongst British journalists to the ownership group and this book is far from critical of the current owners. In fact, he appears to have a great degree of respect for them and affords plenty of credit for the majority of the work and initiatives that have taken place post-takeover.

His distaste of the Thaksin Shinawatra era is clear, as his unease over the acquiring of the City of Manchester Stadium; a deal Conn writes was heavily skewed in City's favour and he undergoes much soul-searching and questioning throughout the book.

Conn looks in depth at the power-brokers now at the club, at Khaldoon al-Mubarak's role and importance, through to the involvement of Garry Cook, Simon Pearce and Brian Marwood in helping to deliver the aims of the 'project'. What is apparant is that there are clearly high stakes involved at City and with that come high demands. An air of professionalism now exists where there once existed chaos and shambles.

Of particular interest to me in the book was Conn's look at the takeover of the club by former-player Francis Lee. He readily admits that he too (like many of us) were sucked in by the ‘Forward with Franny' campaign, riding along on the wave of nostalgia and euphoria after the sour end to the Peter Swales regime. This period coincided with Conn's formative forays into the world of investigating football clubs and what he found was not to his liking. The book illustrates in no uncertain terms that, in hindsight, that period was clearly laying the foundations for plenty of the troubles that were to come.

The book iscertainly a thought-provoking read and whilst it digs deep into the heart of the club it is not overly intense, the threading of his early years as a fan and how his attachment to the club grew makes for an equally interesting read.

'Richer Than God' by David Conn is published by Quercus and available to order here.

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