PANIC is the word that best sums up Manchester City’s week so far.
While City have turned to Lord Pannick KC to get them off the hook from the Premier League charges, many of their star players are in a flap about their futures.
Certainly, there was much to ponder as most of the squad enjoyed a day off yesterday — with their club’s whole future up in the air all of a sudden.
Boss Pep Guardiola faces a tough task to get their minds back on a huge few weeks in their season when they reassemble later this week.
On Monday, they heard the news from the Premier League as they prepared to head to the Etihad Campus.
There had been no mention of it when chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and other execs visited the away dressing room at Tottenham some 15 hours earlier.
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Yet club sources insist they had been given no heads-up about what was coming down the line.
So the squad turned up for a warm-down session in the afternoon to recover from the disappointing 1-0 defeat to Spurs.
But before they hit the training pitches, chief executive Ferran Soriano addressed the squad in the first-team building at the City Football Academy.
Just as he did when Uefa banned the club from the Champions League almost three years ago, he insisted they have done nothing wrong — and will clear their name.
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The former Barcelona executive was right that time — the punishment was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport five months later.
City players, staff and fans around the world will be keeping everything crossed for a similar outcome this time.
Yet after training — when the players headed for home — the enormity of the situation started to hit them and it is going to feel uneasy for some time.
For the next few months at least, and possibly longer, there will be a huge cloud over the Etihad… and not just the traditional grey ones.
The prospect of the club being kicked out of the Premier League is real and the extraordinary ride City have been on over the last 15 years could be about to come to a crashing halt.
If they are found guilty and hit with the harshest sanction, where will that leave the first-team players?
Most of them joined City for the chance to play in the Champions League — not the Championship.
Not many will have ‘relegation clauses’ in their contracts, as few agents would have deemed it to be necessary.
That hardly matters as without the TV riches, the club could not afford their wages and would need a firesale to balance the books.
Yet, somehow, they must put it all to the backs of their minds when returning to training.
As unlikely as it may be given their current form, they are still in the hunt for three trophies this season.
Nobody can be certain at this stage whether the response will be a girding of collective loins and an increased determination to make a point on the field.
Or, if the threat creates a sense of resignation and doom that means players will not run the extra yard that can make the difference.
So far, we have not heard from Guardiola or any of his players about the charges relating to 115 alleged breaches of Premier League rules over more than a decade.
Guardiola, as he was three years ago, will be the one whose head is first above the parapet when he holds his press conference on Friday.
But City fans will look back on the leadership and focus that the Spaniard demonstrated back in February 2020 — and hope they see a repeat now.
Back then, Guardiola deployed the sort of tactics of which Sir Alex Ferguson would have approved.
Fergie was the master of fostering a siege mentality, making any perceived slight against his club and players as a cause he expected the entire dressing room to buy into.
That was very much the pose adopted by Guardiola — at least for the consumption of his squad and the wider City supporter base.
When he gathered his players together in the immediate aftermath of the ban being announced, Guardiola looked them in the eye and told them all: “Whatever league we’re in, I will still be here.
“Even if they put us in League Two, I will still be here. This is a time for sticking together.”
And a few days later, he told the world’s media: “I’m completely sure of the commitment of our players.
“It’s about what they’ve shown for many years. Nothing changes.
“At the end of the season, nobody knows what is going to happen. With calm, we’ll decide what we want.
“But for the next three months, the commitment will be incredible.”
It got the response he wanted. Nobody will forget their brilliant and thoroughly deserved 2-1 win in the Bernabeu against mighty Real Madrid less than two weeks later.
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By a twist of fate, the last game City had played before the ban was announced was an unexpected Prem defeat at… Tottenham.
Three years later, it is history repeating. And it will be a similar response that Guardiola needs now.
Source: Soccer - thesun.co.uk