Eriksson talks City players out of strike
This article has been included within our articles section
Thaksin Shinawatra's decision to fire Sven-Goran Eriksson is threatening to lead to a dressing-room mutiny at Manchester City after it transpired that the players had offered to boycott the club's end-of-season promotional tour to Thailand in support of their beleaguered manager.
A delegation of senior players - led, it is understood, by the captain Richard Dunne - approached Eriksson earlier this week and offered to put their names to a public statement expressing strong misgivings about Thaksin's ruthlessness and accusing the former prime minister of Thailand of making a grave mistake.
As a Manchester Evening News poll reported that 97% of City's fans were against Thaksin's treatment of Eriksson, it has also become apparent that Dunne is so aggrieved by the current chaos that he is thinking of leaving the club this summer and that the backlash extends to the boardroom, where the chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, and deputy chairman, John Wardle, both sympathise with the former England head coach.
While Mackintosh and Wardle reluctantly accept that they are powerless to prevent Thaksin from changing his mind, the mood among the players is so rebellious that they have held a lengthy meeting to discuss ways of offering a public show of support for Eriksson.
In the heat of the moment the players discussed effectively going on strike in a move that will evoke memories of Eriksson's time as England manager, when the Football Association withdrew Rio Ferdinand from a Euro 2004 qualifier in Turkey because he had missed a drugs test. On that occasion the other England players threatened to down tools before being talked out of being so militant.
The idea put forward by City's players involved embarrassing Thaksin in his native country by refusing to take part in a game against a Thailand Premier All-Stars team on May 17, as well as a match in Hong Kong against a South China Invitational XI five days later. The players, who are due to leave on May 14 and perform a series of promotional duties such as opening a new club shop, asked Eriksson what he thought about them putting together a letter in which they would refuse to travel without him in charge. Though grateful, Eriksson was against the idea, believing it compromised the players' own positions and would do no good anyway.
Since then it has emerged that, farcically, Eriksson might still be in charge of the tour anyway, for no other reason than Thaksin does not believe he will have a new manager in place, his first choice, Luiz Felipe Scolari, being contracted to the Portuguese football federation until the end of the European Championship.
The players, meanwhile, are still staunchly behind Eriksson but have accepted that they should not do anything that breaches their own contracts. Nonetheless, it is likely they will be far more reluctant to satisfy Thaksin's requirements than they have been in the past, most recently when Joe Hart and Darius Vassell were asked to record a video message saying how much they were looking forward to visiting Thailand. The clips were shown at a press conference to promote the event in Bangkok on Wednesday.
It is also clear that whoever replaces Eriksson will have his work cut out winning over a group of players who are so united behind the current manager and that it is quite conceivable Dunne will have left the club. The Republic of Ireland international has only a year left on his contract and, though he has strong emotional ties with City, he is said to be closer than any other player to Eriksson and disillusioned about the direction in which the club are going.