Garry Cook was CEO of Manchester City from 2008 – 2011. In that time, he oversaw the sale of the club from disgraced Thai politician Thaksin Shinawatra to the Abu Dhabi United Group, lead by the phenomenally wealthy Sheikh Mansour.
During his stint at City, Cook became known as much for the regular nature of his foot-in-mouth statements as for the actual work he did. He was at the forefront of the Blues mega bid to sign Kaka, at that point still regarded as one of the best footballers on the planet. After that transfer collapsed, he famously accused Milan of ‘bottling it’. He undoubtedly helped lay the foundations for the golden era that City are currently living through, but a series of gaffes have ensured that many will acknowledge the good work he did, just with the caveat of a large ‘but…’.
Typical City’s David Mooney recently sat down with the former CEO at a meeting of the MCFC Disabled Supporters Association to discuss Cook’s time at The Etihad Stadium. That interview was aired in two parts on the Bluemoon Podcast. The links to download those episodes are included at the bottom of this article.
On behalf of Typical City, I would strongly recommend any reader takes the time to listen to the interview – Cook proves an engaging and highly interesting speaker. There is the sense that every word is carefully considered, though when he opens up he is utterly compelling. As a taster, we’ve selected a few key parts of the interview for you to enjoy here, before you go and listen for yourself.
On City’s Attempts to sign Kaka
“It was a representation of our ambition. It was an attempt to try and get one of the biggest players in the world at the time to come to the football club. There’s a realism to knowing it’s a slight chance”
“I think what it did was, it made a lot of people go, “Well hang on a minute, maybe these guys are serious” which impacts the players, impacts the fans, impacts the employees and the world of football was starting to look a little different. All of a sudden there was a new kid on the block and really, that was what we set out to do”
“I’ve actually bumped into Kaka and he’s said, “Sometimes, I wish I’d come”. I was allowed to have a point of view and I was allowed to say they bottled it, because I thought they did”
On The People That Matter
“In my mind there are four communities (to a football club); there are the owners, there’s the media, there are the supporters and there’s the employees. You can’t please all of them. A lot of people in football satisfy the needs of the press and their owners and they sacrifice the supporters and the employees.”
“Being a big people man and believing in people and loving people, because everybody has to want to get up in the morning and want to do something, I went the other way. I said, “Employees and fans – they’re the two most important components to being a great football club”.
“The media add nothing, other than extracting value from a football club. It’s disrespectful of me to blanket the entire media but as a model it’s about getting a story out of the football club. I didn’t need to satisfy their needs, although I did, inadvertently”
“I have loads, but not only at this football club, but about life. There’s a difference between working in a public space and working in a private space. I didn’t change who I was, I was still the same person and I was prone to mistakes – but I think we all should be. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying. So my regrets are some of the mistakes, but I would never ever sit back and say ‘Well, I never made a mistake, therefore it was much easier and it was much better’, because I probably wouldn’t have been trying hard enough”
On How Close City were to signing Wayne Rooney
“Like anything, you’d like to think there was an opportunity for us. Once you start to see the success coming you are interested in players (and) agents are interested in you as a stalking horse. I can safely say that we thought perhaps we were closer than maybe they did, but that’s irrelevant because you never really know the truth. I don’t even know the truth, but he’s a great player”
“If you want players to change the dynamics of a team, Wayne Rooney was one of those guys but anyway, he seems to have done alright for himself”
“I always called it ‘the journey’. A journey in most cases has a beginning and an end, you just don’t know where the end is. On that pathway I felt that there were about five or six phases of development. You always have to paint the blue-sky picture – what’s the biggest and the best thing that can happen? Clearly you have to start winning football matches and doing some things along the way but you build facilities and all the rest of it. I think if you were to manage those five or six phases, we’re not even at phase two or three”.
On His Resignation
“(I’m) somewhat regretful. It’s easy to sit and point fingers and blame others and I think I live every day with the knowledge that there was more than just an issue between Mrs Onuoha and I, bless here, unfortunately she passed. There are no excuses and I won’t make any for my actions because I’m regretful of them, they were poor and they were misjudged.
“There were also forces at bay around it that were making it more than it probably needed to be. Mrs Onuoha and I corrected our differences and we left at a point where we both said to each other, ‘I respect you and we should leave our differences there”, and that’s good enough for me”.
On Missing City
“I find it hard to come back, I find it hard to be here at the stadium, I find it hard to see the people that I worked with for such a long time. It wasn’t a job – it was really a passion. When you engage so much of your time and your commitment into this and you walk away and you’ve not got it anymore it hurts.
“The reason I took my time out and needed to get away was I was starting define myself through being a CEO of a football club called Manchester City. I wasn’t defining myself by being a father of two and as a man. That had an impact on me at the time and it still does. I’ll never get over the impact that this football club has had on me, my family and my personal life. Professionally, I would never have missed that opportunity. Personally, I wish some of the things that happened didn’t happen. I’ll live with that, but I miss it dreadfully”
“I feel like it’s a bit like a divorce. You miss all the good bits and you forget about the bad bits. Believe me, there were some bad bits”
You can listen to the interview via the Blue Moon Podcast by clicking here.
The Interview was conducted by the always excellent David Mooney, who you can follow on twitter
written by Richard Burns