Author Daniel Slack-Smith on writing his new book Killing The Game
Manchester City combined 'aggression and patience' to become part of football's elite
What surprised you most in researching and writing this book?
I think it surprised me just how much the people that work at Manchester City and City Football Group seem to genuinely love the game. Not just for show, but in a really pure way. I mean, maybe that shouldn’t have been surprising, since they all chose to work in football for a career, but it still stood out to me. I guess I had imagined that, like anything, if you work in football for a living, you might become jaded, or take it for granted, but that didn’t seem to be the case with anybody I met at City. They all seemed really excited to be there, even though it’s what they do every day.
Did the process of researching and writing the book dispel any misconceptions that you had about the club coming into this project?
This might sound like the faintest of praise, but the people at Manchester City are really not arrogant. They’re actually very nice. To be honest, I kind of knew that already, because I’ve interacted with the club on a handful of projects over the years, but even with all of the success they’ve had, and the money that’s been spent, Manchester City still feels like the same down-to-earth place that it was when I first took the train up there from London in 2010, back when the club still hadn’t won anything in more than 30 years.
Throughout the book, everyone speaks very candidly about their experiences. Why do you think they were they so forthcoming?
I think there were a few different reasons for that. Some people knew me a bit already, so it wasn’t like talking to a total stranger, and that probably made them feel more comfortable sharing their stories. However, for most people in the book, especially some of the bigger names on the football side, they didn’t know me at all, but they still spoke really openly. Based on what I saw while working on this book, they all just seem like people that are really passionate about what they do, so if you ask them questions that maybe they haven’t been asked a hundred times before, or come at things in a different way, then it quickly becomes clear that this is something they enjoy talking about.
If you had to summarise the club’s development over the past decade, what themes would prevail? What do you think really personifies the decade?
There’s a scene near the end the book where Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed talks about the importance of combining both aggression and patience in the management of his investments. Personally, I think that’s a really good way of understanding what he has done at Manchester City since 2008. It’s been this combination of saying, “We have all of these long-term goals, and we know that it’s going to take some time to accomplish them, but let’s not be shy about going after them as quickly as possible, or doing things in a different way.” I think that’s been true on the football side and on the business side, and has led to things like the creation of CFG, which wasn’t part of the plan when ADUG first bought Manchester City, but quickly became a reality when Sheikh Mansour decided to do it in 2012.
Do you think fans will think differently about the club after reading the book?
I think this book will confirm what a lot of fans already know, or at least hope to be true, which is that the people running Manchester City care about the club as much as they do, and are genuinely passionate about the game, but also that they’re taking a really professional approach to the management of the club and CFG. Some people don’t like the idea of football as a business, but it’s not a coincidence that some of the most elite sporting clubs in the world are also the most professionally run.
Killing The Game: the inside story behind the transformation of Manchester City and the creation of City Football Group is available to buy on Amazon