I originally started writing for the popular Manchester City fanzine 'King of the Kippax' when I was at high school, back in 1997. I became a regular writer for Dave and Sue but had to give it up in 2010 when I was working at the club. This is my first article for them for five years- and I'm delighted and honoured to be back.
The last time I contributed to King of the Kippax it was August 2010: I’d graduated from university, was working for City and was living with my boyfriend of two years. Life had gone pretty crazy; almost like I’d been strapped to a rocket and blasted into the stratosphere. At the time I was just holding on and trying to enjoy the ride. Sadly, because of my job at the time, I’d been told I couldn’t continue writing for the fanzine that was so close to my heart. I was gutted. It’s always been an institution for City fans- and a part of my life since my first piece was published by Dave and Sue back in 1997 (the article was an exclusive interview with Nicky Weaver, by the way).
Things were taking off for City too five years ago. The club had just parted ways with Martin Petrov, Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy and welcomed Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli into the fold. Times were changing: under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, the club were building a squad to challenge on all fronts for major honours after the takeover of 2008 and had just qualified for the Europa League. It was an exciting time. The anticipation and optimism levels were high. Nobody really knew what to expect- or what we were capable of.
Here we are, five years later, and so much has changed: the job, the apartment and the boyfriend. The career-driven mindset hasn’t disappeared entirely, but it’s been replaced with a very maternal outlook. For now I am a Mama to a one year old called Vincent (of course he is named after him!). He is the ever-lasting product of a now-redundant five year relationship I was in. I have since met a new suitor- adorned in blue of course- and eight months later all is very well. Sports journalism is now more of a hobby than career, but never say never. I now work part time in administration and I have to say, have never been happier with the way life is.
It’s strange to think that back when I submitted my last piece to Dave and Sue, Blackburn, Birmingham and Bolton were in the Premier League. An earthquake in Haiti left 230,000 dead. 33 miners were trapped in San Jose 700 metres under the earth. Wayne Rooney was crowned PFA Player of the Year. Wills popped the question and put a finger on it with Kate. Joe Hart made the PFA Team of the Year playing at Birmingham City. The World Cup in South Africa began with an octopus calling the shots, continued with a soundtrack of vuvuzelas and ended with Spain holding aloft the golden trophy. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that Chelsea were reigning Champions. Although perhaps for how much longer I’m not quite sure…
You don’t need a lesson in history to be reminded of just how much City have achieved in those five years. The FA Cup win in 2011 that got the ball rolling, the iconic Aguero moment just a year later that clinched our first Premier League trophy and the 2012-13 season when Manuel Pellegrini won the double. For the vast majority of those five years have been a football fairytale brought to life, making City fans’ dreams come true in blue. We’ve seen things we never thought we’d see at our club; we’ve come so far I barely recognise who we were – but I’ll always be grateful, that’s for sure.
The club as a whole have made huge strides both on and off the pitch. Carrington has gone and has been replaced with the City Football Academy, linked to the Etihad Campus by a huge footbridge. The Academy Stadium is home to both the Elite Development Squad games and City’s Women (who it was widely reported five years ago, were City Ladies and struggling financially, with their begging emails to City going unnoticed. How that’s changed…). Rumour has it the site that ASDA is on has been bought and plans are afoot to develop further there. The City franchise has gone worldwide, with New York City FC and Melbourne City, with more plans to expand into the highly lucrative Asian market. Imagine all this five years ago? Not a chance!
But sometimes it’s a case of careful what you wish for. City fans never seem to be happy. Some of the conversations I hear at the Etihad are mind-numbingly stupid, laughable or mind-boggling. Moaning about the current crop of players that we have, about the influx of new supporters to the Etihad, Pellegrini’s tactics, the weather…no matter what the success, the moaning will never change. It will always be there. Latest scapegoats include Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri, Aleksandar Kolarov (okay, he’s been one for a while!) and Jesus Navas (see Kolarov).
It certainly makes for interesting listening, but it’s such a worthy argument. You can have the key spine of players like City have: Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. But you need the right players around that spine to compliment and conquer. A famous voice and close friend once said to me: look at the starting 11. If you think you could replace that player was one that would only benefit the club, than the player isn’t good enough and needs to be sold. Is it that cutthroat? Or is it unrealistic to have a team filled with such first class quality across the board? Like a Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album; you know the standard that you’re dealing with, but you also expect a couple of mediocre fillers along the way to bulk it out (sorry Noel!).
Take Wilfried Bony for example. He scored 25 goals for Swansea during the 2013-14 season. That’s up there with the figures for the Premier League Golden Boot. Granted he’s had injuries problems at City and Aguero to contend with, but during the Juventus game he looked noticeably inferior to the majority of the standard of the players competing that night. It was a debate that illuminated South Stand Block 117 that evening: Bony or Edin Dzeko? ‘Oh Dzeko’s such a lazy bastard.’ ‘Bony needs time, he’ll come good, just you wait and see. Technically he’s better.’ The debate raged on for approximately 20 minutes, before the fans in question picked their next target.
‘Jesus Navas, oh Jesus wept why is he bringing him on? Why? He can’t cross a box on a questionnaire, never mind a ball!’ Incidentally, Pellegrini opted to bring Aguero on instead of Navas. Nasri didn’t escape the tyrannous wrath of the clearly enraged Blue. ‘Samir, he’s such a moody bastard. He only performs when he can be arsed. We need to sell him; we need to hope that Wenger will buy him back. He offers nothing in midfield: it’s like playing with 10 men when he’s on the pitch.’
At this point, a female voice chipped in. ‘Look, I’ve listened to you guys rattle on now about players who wear the blue shirt and who you think aren’t good enough for long enough now. We are here at a Champions League match. The Champions League! And all you guys can do is stand here and bitch about the players who we need on our side. Do you realise how far we’ve come? Just be grateful of the occasion and never take that for granted, let alone the standard of the players we have now compared to where we’ve come from.’
I smiled to myself. Whoever that woman was, I liked her. There will always be bitching, frustration, a difference of opinion, strong mindsets and players coming and going. We’ve just got to hope that the players who do come give it their best shot towards winning the silverware for us (think Balotelli: an enigma, a Marmite player but he only had one assist for City…). Yes Dzeko had his moments. He could be lazy; he wanted the ball at his feet with impeccable service, but look at the goals he scored for us. Look at his overall contribution and just be grateful he was part of the story. Sometimes there’s isn’t room for sentiment: I was the first person to say that towards Yaya Toure when he looked set to leave at the end of last season. But there is only one Yaya: and again the part he has played in City’s legacy moving forward is simply unequivocal. His goals. His presence. His marauding, blistering runs that always leave him knackered but often result in a goal. When he leaves, City can always buy another midfielder and the number 42 shirt will be worn again. But the memories will live on forever.
Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes we’ve got to be thankful for the memories we’ve created along the way, live in the present moment and remember to enjoy ourselves before it passes us by. You’ll never live another day like today again. You’ve no idea what will happen tomorrow. But we’ve just got to roll with it and embrace the future with a hearty optimism. Sometimes we think we’ve had the best times but they’re waiting for us round the corner. That’s how it’s always been with City: every season, every game, every player. They break our heart, they make us cry with joy and our moods are forever dictated by their results every weekend. But no matter what happens, they’re always there for us.
Life changes: those five years have flown by for me and my life now is barely recognisable. But the one consistency has always been City. The blood that circulates through our veins, that rules our life. That influences the name I gave to my son. That brings together new relationships, binds together old friendships and harmonises marriages. It’s all we know, it’s all we’ll ever know. Some things never change: despite the success, City will forever be our common denominator. It’s good to be back!