Wednesday, May 16, 2012

City 3 QPR 2: Worth Every Penny

It was in the dying minutes of the match against Newcastle, in the wee hours of a Sydney Monday morning, that I decided to embark on probably one of the most foolhardy, yet most amazing adventures of my life.

In truth, it was an idea that I had much earlier in the season, when City were scoring for fun and running away with the title. If we were three points clear going into the last game against Queens Park Rangers, knowing that Premier League glory was assured, I started to squirrel away some cash with the intention of "ducking over" (ie. hopping on a 22-hour flight) for the match and revel in the celebrations of the first title in 44 years. I wanted to make sure we were assured of winning the title first of course, as this is City we're talking about, if anything could go wrong...

I'm not proud to admit that part of me was internally cheering on Newcastle during that game. A draw or loss would mean that I would escape having to make that huge decision — one that I would most certainly regret no matter what I decided.

And as celebrations continued after the match, conversations got a bit more drunken and with the bravado that only comes after having several pints too many, announced my intentions to the rest of the group.

"Don't bother, it won't be worth it" they derided. "You're crazy, you won't do it".

Taking a four-figure bank loan to fly halfway around the world and back for just over a weekend is hardly the most fiscally responsible thing to do. But if I stayed at home and we won the league, then I'd regret it for the rest of my life…

And you know what, it probably was crazy, but it would have been crazier not to. After all, how good would it be to say that you were there when we were shit won the league for the first time since 1968? Sure, you could be there the next year, or the year after that. But it wouldn't quite be the same, would it?

But for forty-odd minutes of that second half, my internal monologue was something completely different. Standing in position at the back of 116, arms folded, feeling physically ill, too stunned to sing, there was only one thought that kept running through my head.

'You are the biggest fucking wanker that has ever lived. You've come all this way, spent all this money, and we're fucking losing. You're going to be the biggest laughing stock on the internet, your mates are going to take the piss for life. You absolute dickhead'.

I watched with fingers over my eyes as all nine QPR defenders held out resolutely, and Paddy Kenny managed to make save after blinding save. Even as Dzeko headed in at the start of injury time, no-one around me seemed to celebrate. It all seemed too little, too late. Nice goal, but ultimately futile.

And then the moment any Blue that was in the ground on Sunday will never, ever forget.

Because I was stationed of the ground, it was hard to make out what actually happened in the scramble on the edge of the box as Balotelli got that miracle pass away. However I clearly remember time standing still as Aguero took the ball past the final defender — it was like watching that extreme slow motion footage they shoot at thousands of frames per second.

The sheer wall of noise after the goal is burned into my memory. It wasn't a simple loud cheer of "yes!" like most goal celebrations are. It was a deep, guttural sound, louder than any I've heard at or watching any football game. I ended up in the row in front of me, then somehow back into the row behind where I started, between continual cries of "fucking have it" and "fucking get in", as I discovered upon video review. Unlike many around me, there were no tears — I was simply to shocked to adequately digest everything that happened. But every subsequent viewing of the goal in multiple languages on YouTube and again on Match Of The Day inevitably leads to me welling up.

Walking back to town from the ground was a surreal experience. Not too many people were overtly celebrating. There were some making teary phone calls to mates and loved ones, a few tried to start songs — but I, like most, just simply wandered back to Piccadilly in a daze, trying to get my head around just what had transpired. And whether that actually *had* happened or not?

The earlier feelings of disbelief soon made way for feelings of "let's fucking party!" — and considering the amount of alcohol consumed in the hours following, it's a surprise I woke up at all, let alone with the least offensive hangover of my life, still basking in the realisation that yes, we had won the title for the first time in 44 years, and god damn it I was there to see it.

But where can you possibly go from here? There may never be another goalgasm like that again — hell, there may never be another moment like that in football ever again. And no-one can ever take that memory away from those that were there that day.

It cost me an absolute packet, but was it worth every penny. An unbelievable, unforgettable four days, and a story I can dine out on for the rest of time.

Friday, December 30, 2011

WBA 0 City 0: Never has there been such finesse and nostalgia...

Yes, you're eyes are not deceiving you — it's a new post on Lesson In Pride, months after apparently giving up on the lucrative career of professional football blogging (and how can you possibly compete with the 'tatical' observations of one Duncan Jenkins?).

It may seem strange that with the many amazing events that City have been involved in over the past six months or so — qualification to the Champions League, winning the FA Cup, leading the top division at Christmas for the first time since 1929, and of course, the small matter of beating the Rags 1-6 at Vermin Towers — it's a turgid, frustrating draw away at the Hawthorns that has finally inspired me to get behind the keyboard. Okay, it's the culmination of a few things, but yes, that 0-0 is the catalyst for this post.

I haven't done mountains of research into this, and I am more than happy to stand corrected — but I'm convinced that fanzines and blogs are more active when the team is doing poorly than doing well.

Whether people can't be bothered to devote a lot of time and effort to something that will be read by a few hundred people (at best), or the ease of use of Twitter (people's attention spans can be maintained over 140 characters more often than over a whole post), or whether blogging is just not the done thing anymore — but it can't be a coincidence that so many quality Manchester City blogs (as well as this one) have fallen by the wayside over the past couple of seasons. A simple scroll down the fan-sites on will show a large percentage that now lie dormant.

Following City these days is a much different proposition than it once was. Not better, certainly not worse, but different. I know It certainly doesn't seem as fun as it once was. I suppose there's more pressure when you're expected to pick up three points every week, not just enough points to stay up for another season.

There's the constant questioning of your support — worse still if you're an overseas supporter with no trace of a Mancunian accent (keeping an old SeasonCard on your person is a good deterrent from accusations of bandwagon support).

There's the unrealistic expectations of some supporters (whether or not they have been supporters prior to 2008 is another question), who believe the sky is falling just because we've dropped points away to West Brom. Christ, in 2005 we would have been celebrating that solitary point well into January...

Conversely, there's the 'York Away' brigade, who debunk any criticism of the team and their performance with "we're in the top four, just think of where we were back in 1998 and be thankful". As generous as Sheikh Mansour is, I don't think he's spent the GDP of South America to languish in the lower divisions playing Huddersfield Town and Carlisle.

It may be difficult to explain, but the result at West Brom was a reassuring one. Typical City™ hadn't reared it's ugly head for a while, but there it was at the Hawthorns. The pangs of nostalgia I felt when we were chasing a decisive, game winning goal (which would of course never eventuate) were uncanny. As good as it is to win matches by four and five goals (and boy is it good), there's a different kind of emotion when searching for the one goal that you know will decide the match, and the anticipation that comes with it.

I'd like to think I fall somewhere in between the Chicken Littles and the Happy Clappers, and it concerns me that there seems to be these two distinct elements of our support. But I think the exact point where I thought "you know what, this isn't what I signed up for" was in the pub at 3am against Norwich, where a chorus of fans in this season's City kit (none of whom I had seen before) started a stomach-curdling chant of "Now you're gonna believe us/we're going to buy the league".

Gaining new supporters, or worse, bandwagon-jumpers is inevitable as we become a more successful football team and a better club. However, if the majority of our support can remain grounded whilst things are going well, yet level-headed and measured when things are not, then City will hopefully never be as plastic and soulless as that mob up the road.

Merry Topofthetablemas, and Happy Blue Year. Sorry for rambling. And here's to posting more often.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can you please do us Aussie fans a quick favour?

That's right folks, it's time for more VOTING!

Except this time, it's not to get us a free junket to the other side of the world. You'll be doing City fans all around the country a favour.

Fox Sports, the Australian broadcaster, only has the rights (and capability) to show five fixtures on the final day. Unless the Bolton v City match is one of the five selected, then we won't have the chance to celebrate the conclusion of a successful season with a live screening of the game.

So click the link, click the game, and you're done.

Ta very much!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

City 2 West Ham 1; and a gratuitous Bin Laden reference...

Manchester City look to have all but secured Champions League qualification (you can read a bit more about that below) after grinding out a 2-1 victory over bottom-placed club West Ham United. And with Manchester United and Tottenham failing to pick up a point between them, a good weekend quickly turned into a great one for City fans. And Arsenal fans too, I suppose. Well, except for one, of course...

Manchester City were always going to be too strong for West Ham considering the difference in league position, and of course the matter of City having spent almost as much money on players in the off season as the US had in Afghanistan etc...

The task was made even tougher for West Ham before the clash, with Scott Parker missing the match to sign a contract with Tottenham with injury. Not even director David Sullivan could be bothered making the trip up to the match, such was his resignation to the outcome. But aside from a calamitous opening fifteen minutes, in which even the goal-shy Nigel de Jong managed to get on the goal sheet (and not from a mistimed slide tackle, amazingly), the Hammers didn't disgrace themselves by any means.

They could have concievably drawn the game too, had Carlton Cold's late effort found the net. It seems quite apt that a player with that name goes around for West Ham. Just like the beer, the Hammers were a lot bigger in the 90's and struggle to remain relevant today. And I'd hardly describe anything they do on the football pitch as "crisp"...

Carlton Cole — definitely a poor man's Becks...

It looks like "that's yer lot" as far as West Ham go for this season. Professional-overseer-of-relegations and Toad-From-Toad-Hall-understudy, Avram Grant, is still of the belief his side can amass 39 points and avoid relegation — if their season followed that same trajectory (seven points in the next three games) they'd be leading the league by 16 points.

Of course, the chances of that happening are about as likely as those of him being around to celebrate when they eventually attain that tally, in September 2012, are about as unlikely as Nigel de Jong ever scor... oh.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Race For Fourth (Or Third?) — 4 games to go.

Manchester City moved within touching distance of the all-important Champions League place, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over West Ham. Coupled with Tottenham's recent failures against West Bromich Albion and Chelsea, fourth place is really City's to throw away.

It's at this point where the maths become extremely simple.

Tottenham sit on 55 points, with four matches to play — and two of those are formidable fixtures against City and Liverpool away from home.

The absolute most points they can amass from those fixtures is twelve, which would bring their total to 67. Therefore, with Manchester City currently sitting on 62, and with a vastly superior goal difference to the chasing pack — all it will take is five more points from the next four fixtures for City to be almost mathematically certain (massive goal-difference swing aside) of finishing in the top four.

Even the most pessimistic fan would find it hard to devise a scenario where City could now miss out on qualification. Being as conservative as possible, Manchester City should pick up a minimum of four points from the final four fixtures.

Both Everton and Tottenham have presented many problems for City in the past, so it's difficult to predict wins against either of the two — as long as City don't lose on 10 May against Spurs at Eastlands, then qualifcation is all but assured.

4. Manchester City
Games played: 34
Goal difference: +22
Recent form: 4 wins, and 2 losses. 12 points from the last 18 (4th).
Points: 62

Upcoming Fixtures:
A Everton (7th)
H Tottenham (6th)
FA Cup Final: Stoke City
H Stoke City (10th)
A Bolton (8th)
Predicted points total: 66 (4 more)

5. Liverpool
Games played: 35
Goal difference: +15 (7 worse off than City)
Recent form: 4 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. 13 points from the last 18 (2nd).
Points: 55 (seven behind City)

Upcoming Fixtures:
A Fulham (9th)
H Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
A Aston Villa (13th)
Predicted points total: 62 (7 more)

6. Tottenham Hotspur
Games played: 34
Goal difference: +7 (15 worse off than City)
Recent form: 1 win, 4 draws, and 1 loss. 7 points from the last 18 (13th).
Points: 55 (seven behind City)

Upcoming Fixtures:
H Blackpool (17th)
A Manchester City (4th)
A Liverpool (5th)
H Birmingham City (15th)
Predicted points total: 63 (8 more)