THE most extraordinary comment I have seen so far on the Thaksin Shinawatra saga has come from a fan on the Manchester Evening News website, who writes:
“This is no big deal. Frank has taken his eye of the ball recently as anyone else would if their family was being faced with prison. He’s back now for good and can fully concentrate on City. Watch out for some signings!”
Ah yes, the old ‘fleeing your home country after skipping a court case amid fears for your safety’ scenario. I think we’ve all been there.
Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than such a blase comment was just how calm Thaksin looked when he was photographed shopping with his family in Guildford yesterday afternoon, having earlier told City executive chairman Garry Cook that he wanted to stay at the club for another 10 years.
These are confusing times for Manchester City. A club official told at least one journalist last week that Vedran Corluka was joining Tottenham; only for Mark Hughes to react with genuine bemusement when this was put to him.
Then Danny Mills, commentating on City’s friendly against AC Milan on Saturday for (Channel) Five, revealed that Stephen Ireland had been pulled out of the squad because he was about to be sold, seemingly to Sunderland. Hughes slapped down that story.
Amid all of this, Thaksin’s court case in Bangkok has rumbled on in the background, as it has done for months. Those of us who assumed it would be quietly sorted out when a party sympathetic to Thaksin won the Thai elections in December have been proved very, very wrong.
With his wife on bail after being jailed for three years for tax fraud, and Thaksin facing a warrant for his arrest, no one – not even the most insular football fan – can claim this is just a storm in a tea cup.
What happens now? Thaksin and his family will, it seems, seek political asylum in Britain. If he is found guilty of corruption by the Thai court in his absence, the Premier League will take advice from the Home Office and the Foreign Office as to whether he still passes the ‘fit and proper person’ test applying to club owners. The Thai authorities will press on with extradition proceedings.
Amid all of that, City will play FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, and then Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday.
And meanwhile, Cook will try to get on with his job.
“City’s future is not in jeopardy,” Cook told the Manchester Evening News today. “In the short term, it is business as usual. We don’t rely on Dr Thaksin’s money.”
That matches with Hughes’ comments in a lengthy piece on Sunday’s Observer. Asked what effect Thaksin’s attempts to find investors for the club might have on his transfer spending plans, Hughes said: “None whatsoever.”
The story isn’t over yet.