Can City’s players avoid the axe?

You can’t help but sympathise with (be jealous of) City fans at this point. Since last year, they’ve gone from despair (going nowhere fast) to joy (Shinawatra) to eventual despair (Shinawatra) and now, on the last day of the transfer window, sheer joy (Abu Dhabi United) again.

It’s enough to drive you insane – and we haven’t even got to Kompany, Jo, Robinho or the ambitions of Dr Fahim yet.

Mark Hughes now officially has the toughest job in the Premier League – he knows he will be axed unless he performs a miracle, and he knows that it will take a year until he gets players good enough to perform miracles, by which time it may be too late.

In addition he has a squad that’s both excited and nervous – since Dr Fahim has wasted no time in insisting that the new owners will spend as much money as is necessary to win titles as quickly as possible.

If you’re Robinho or Richards, you know there’s pressure to perform but you’re also sure you’ll be in the side come September 2009 as long as you play at your best. Even Kompany, Jo, Dunne and SWP can expect to stick around.

For many others, not least the two young keepers or the likes of Ireland, Johnson, Onuoha, Elano, Petrov and Bejani, it’s not so easy. At their best they’re still vulnerable to being replaced as soon as the transfer window opens with better players just because the owners have the money and the will to spend.

Motivating a set of players who know they’re doomed is impossible – Hughes must convince the players (and the board) that if they play to the best of their ability then they will be kept, and use that to motivate his squad into punching above its weight. It’s the only way for City to push on and challenge for 4th spot, and it’s the only way most people at the club will keep their jobs in the next year.

Luckily for City fans, they’re in capable hands where Hughes is concerned. He’s strong enough to handle the pressure and respected enough by his players to get them to do what he wants. And if he can get Robinho to start firing in goals instead of crying, City have exciting times ahead of them.

As for the new set of ‘Blues’ fans – well, it’s the price of buying success. London to Manchester was never too far anyway….

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