City signing not a Thai political ploy, Suree says

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BANGKOK, Nov 19 (Reuters) New Manchester City signing Suree Sukha insists he was recruited by the English team for his ability and not for the political gain of the club's controversial owner.

Suree said City's chairman, ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had not persuaded manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to make the signing, which took place in Bangkok amid huge fanfare just weeks before a Thai general election.

''I believe in myself, I believe I can make it, this doesn't have anything to do with politics,'' Suree told Reuters, fighting off hoards of excited autograph hunters after Thailand's 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Yemen yesterday.

''It's great that Thai players have this chance. I want to do a good job at City.

''Thaksin is the owner, and he says he wants to improve Thai football -- there's nothing wrong with that.'' Full back Suree, centre half Kiatprawut Saiwaeo and striker Teerasil Dangda agreed three-year contracts with City during a glitzy signing ceremony that included a video address by the exiled Thaksin, who took a thinly-veiled swipe at the generals who ousted him in a coup last year.

Thaksin insists he has retired from politics, although a party run by his supporters is expected to win most seats in next month's election but not an outright majority.

Thai national team coach Charnwit Polcheewin said the signings appeared to be a ploy to win support for Thaksin's proxies but insisted the three Thais, particularly Suree, should not be underestimated.

''We know this is political but this is not the only reason,'' Charnwit told Reuters.

''I saw Suree's performance on trial in Manchester, he was excellent and Sven was impressed. I absolutely believe this was Sven's decision and not Thaksin's.'' Charnwit said he expected Teerasil and Kiatprawut to go out on loan but for Suree to be part of City's first team squad.

''I think Suree can make it because City have some problems in the right-back position. He will improve a lot there.'' Since Thaksin's 164 million dollar takeover of the struggling club, City have had their best league start in a century and are third in the English Premier League.

The Thai junta has launched a probe into how Thaksin financed the takeover, saying the billionaire tycoon bought the club with undeclared assets.

Thaksin denies any wrongdoing.

REUTERS NY SSC1052

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