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Book Review: Living The Dream ... Or Enduring The Nightmare?

The cover of the book 
In short, to summarize my thoughts after reading this book is - thou shall not treat a football club neither as a toy nor as a money spinner.

Citing two similar cases which were studied by author Bob Holmes - Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, it is not difficult to tell how foreign owners of these two clubs made a grave mistake for not to appreciate both are not merely football clubs but being a significant heritage and indispensable part of the community fabric of the vicinity where they are based.

When both Al-Hasawis and Venkys paraded themselves to supporters of Forest and Rovers respectively after they bought the clubs, many promises were made to lift their teams out of the doldrums with some seems way beyond their means to deliver those dreams like the audacious bid to land Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho to Ewood Park in 2010.

One of Mrs Desai's famous quotes after took over Blackburn Rovers 
A few pages into the first chapter on Portsmouth FC were enough to realise the "Fit and Proper" check on those potential buyers of any English football clubs by the relevant authorities had failed its task to ensure the Pompeys in a safe pair of hands.

Described as a "grenade" by a former chairman of the 2008 FA Cup winners to Holmes, Portsmouth was literally being tossed around by those uninterested parties that nobody wants before a dramatic effort from the supporters' group ensured the club fallen in the hands of those who cherished the most - the fans.

At the meantime, things seems to be on the right path when American Randy Lerner bought over Aston Villa from trigger-happy Doug Ellis in 2006 with the building of a new training ground and various improvement works around Villa Park.

Dramatic efforts were made to save Portsmouth from extinction 
But things turned sour shortly after the mishaps in the UEFA Cup campaign in 2008-9 season that eventually saw everything started falling apart with the resignation of Martin O'Neill which coupled with Lerner's off the field woes resulted the sale of the 1982 European Cup winners to Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia in June 2016.

A futile attempt to replicate clothing giants Benetton's marketing success on Queens Park Rangers to transform the modest London side to a "boutique club" by Flavio Briatore failed to strike a chord with their traditional fan base who were disgusted by those antics of the Italian and his co-owner Bernie Ecclestone and they were more than happy to see the horror ended when Air Asia's Tony Fernandes (despite being a known West Ham supporter) was named the new owner at Loftus Road in 2011.

Many foreign owners like Lerner realized own a football club is a thankless chore
The book also covered on more significant examples on Chelsea and Manchester City, although it would be good to include Leicester City's part as well as many good things were said about the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who left behind an etched legacy in East Midlands for having bankrolled to uplift the Foxes to their unprecedented Premier League title victory in 2016.

Holmes put in a great effort to talk to many of those who are familiar with the subjects he wrote in this book and shed interesting insights that were largely unknown until one read it, e.g. how former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness drove an unknown guest to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United played Juventus in November 2002 who turned out to be Roman Abramovich and not before long pocketed Chelsea in June 2003 to change the way football is played on and off the field.

Perhaps, the newly-appointed Philippines national team coach Sven-Göran Eriksson sums this phenomenon of foreign ownership of English clubs pretty well when he told Holmes:"A lot of football was controlled by men who knew nothing about the game."


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