Tis the season to jingle your bells, deck your halls, eat, drink and be merry. Christmas is here and (this goes to print before the Derby game) CITY ARE STILL UNBEATEN! No I’m not hallucinating, I’ve not had too much mulled wine- we really are still unbeaten. With 13 Premier League wins in a row, City will set a record if they beat United at Old Trafford.
I know, I know, that’s a huge if. But it’s safe to say, we’re going into the game in the best form of our lives with everything to play for. There’s never been a better reason to be confident for Derby Day.
But – this being City – we are all waiting for that banana skin. Go the season unbeaten?! Now that’s a funny joke. This is City, masters of our own demise, there’s no possible way fans that are seasoned fans of the club could ever be serious about being invincible all season. That defeat is going to come. The run will end. As long as it doesn’t end at that place, I’ll be rather happy.
NO CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Well wasn’t November just a joyful month to watch football? We started with an incredible performance away to Napoli in the Champions League. Bonfire Night brought a comprehensive and confident win against Arsenal, followed by an assured win at Leicester. Then came Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham: teams who set up to sit almost their entire team behind the ball, with the sole purpose to stop us from playing football. Of course, for some teams that’s the only option they have. They’re scrapping for their lives – a point against us would be huge to them. We’ve been there, we know the score.
We’ve got to expect that. Speaking about banana skins, I went into all of the above games fearing the worst. It’s the Typical City in me, what can I say? It’s not logical: the players we have, the form we are in and the way we play is enough to encouraged every ounce of confidence in you, but there will always be that nagging thought at the back of your mind. What if.
‘It’d be Typical City if we lost this.’
Maybe it would’ve been Typical City if we lost it. But we didn’t. All three games we didn’t. Huddersfield not so much, but Southampton and West Ham were games when we had to come from behind to win. Both teams employed a very similar approach: time waste at any given opportunity, sit every man as far deep as you can and absorb every wave of City attack. Snatch a goal and defend for your lives. It’s not football, I don’t agree with it, and I’m not sure how fans of those teams quite happily pay money to sit and watch that shite every week.
It’s depressing as it is predictable to watch. It’s anti-football at its worst. But in both games, City came from behind – and won. We must learn to expect this kind of approach from certain teams and brace ourselves for it. We’ve got to be able to adapt our game plan and show the strength in character to be able to absorb such tactics without heads dropping or patience running thin.
That’s exactly what the two games demonstrated. City two seasons again would’ve lost both of those games. It’s the belief that Pep has installed in the players. The will to win. The focus and determination to keep going, keep probing, keep asking those questions. To never give up. That’s a lot too for the younger members of the team – it shows how much desire and character we have – and how strong the team spirit is right now. They’re working for each other, helping each other and digging deep (if not leaving it late) for those three points.
The worrying trait about recent games though, is we have looked oh so leggy. The long, congested run of fixtures looks like it is starting to take its toll and certain players look in need of a rest. It’s took us a while to get going – in both cases it’s taken us going a goal behind to actually kick into gear and go on to secure the points. Hopefully it’s a trend that can be bucked, because we’ll have to be there from kick off for the Derby, there’s no doubt about that. But I’m sure Pep will have the players well prepared for Jose and those famous dirty tactics of his.
You could see what it meant to the players, particularly after the Southampton game. Raheem Sterling, scoring that absolute beauty with the final kick of the game, Pep going crazy with his backroom staff and Mendy pulling a Usain Bolt, sprinting/limping down the touchline to join in with the celebrations. The photographs in the dressing room afterwards: we’re all in it together and there’s a different belief this season, the like we’ve never known with City before. In a way it’s akin to that of the Mancini title-winning 2011/12 season – and if it goes the way that did, I think we’ll all be pretty happy come May.
RAHEEM THE DREAM
I watched John Stones on Sky Sports before the game against West Ham (we were at the game but we always Sky+ it and watch it back when we get home) and he admitted that he thought quite a few players had improved under the guidance of Guardiola. One of the players he mentioned, of course, was Raheem Sterling, who is in the form of his career right now.
I’ve praised Sterling a lot in the past couple of months and rightly so. He deserves every bit of credit he’s getting. He’s become a more intelligent, determined player. You can tell his attitude has changed: he’s fiercer, he thinks more on the ball, looks around more – and is much more accurate with both his passing and his shooting.
He’s level on Premier League goals with Aguero – with nine goals so far this season – and two assists. He’s scored in four out of five Champions League games so far. Only Ronaldo has scored more in the whole competition. He scored late winners against Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Southampton for us – that’s nine points he has been directly responsible for. Without those late winners – it would’ve been three points instead of nine.
It’s a huge difference to the team and the position we are in right now and it’s all down to self-belief and confidence. Sterling is flying and you can see he’s in his element playing with that ability and energy around him. You get the sense he’s excited to be a part of something special at the club – and he’s grown so much with Pep as manager. He’s fulfilling the potential the price tag suggested – in fact, right now that fee is looking like a snip (much like De Bruyne and Stones).
So we thought we’d have a little laugh. Seeing as Sterling is flying at the moment and we all like to sing about him being ‘top of the League’, we thought we’d make him top of our Christmas tree. That’s right – we bought a star and stuck a photo of Sterling to it, adorning said tree on top of our tree. I took a photo of it and put it on Twitter – much to the general hilarity of everybody.
It was meant as a tongue-in-cheek joke. With Christmas quickly approaching and City dazzling everybody with their football prowess, it was an obvious joke to me. So imagine my astonishment when the man himself – Sterling – put the photos of my ridiculously tiny Christmas tree (trust me, if I had space amongst the toys in my front room, I’d have a much bigger one!) on his Instagram story for all of his 2.9 million followers to see. He said it made him laugh, which I’m definitely happy with!
After a day, a lot of Blues had commented to say it made them laugh too, but as is ever the case when we are eight points ahead in the title race with a lot of red-eyed, envious monsters baying for blood, I started to get grief off a lot of United fans. Grown men offering me out for fights, telling me I was pathetic, even mocking my children. All over two photographs of a Christmas tree. I mean, you pick your battles, but what started as a joke, quickly turned sour. I blocked the idiots and had to delete the photos. It just wasn’t worth the aggro I was on the receiving end of.
At least Raheem liked it. If he keeps that form up, we’ll all be laughing.
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
It’s a really weird feeling being a City fan at the moment. On the one hand, we are witnessing the best football most of us have ever had the pleasure to witness in a sky blue shirt. Win after win after win: week in, week out, we are being dazzled by beautiful football. It’s football the way football should be played: technically brilliant, creatively spectacular and monumentally superior to anything else on offer in the Premier League this season.
On the other hand, we are experiencing the downside that can only come with being eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. Opposition fans, pundits and critics alike are almost chomping at the bit for our winning run to come to an end. Martin Tyler could hardly hide his devastation when David Silva scored the winner against West Ham.
‘City’s run continues,’ he snarled, through gritted teeth. West Ham fans going into the stadium telling us to keep it respectable and ‘only score six past us please’.
So this is what it feels like. I remember when City were everybody’s second team – mainly because people felt sorry for us. We used to be the butt of all football jokes; a team looked at both in pity and with mild affection. Now all the jokes focus on money. How rich our owners are. How disgusting it is that City are buying their way to success – why you’d almost think we invented the notion of purchasing players that enhance the way your team plays in order to put you in the best possible position to win trophies!
It’s hypocritical, short-sighted and resent in its purest form. Why you’d not want to give out praise and credit where it’s so rightfully due because the team in question have lucrative owners makes no sense at all. The media fawned over United and Barcelona during their best years. Same with Arsenal during the Henry-Bergkamp era.
It’s simple. Every team who wants to be successful needs to spend money to get there. You need to speculate to accumulate. We’ve just spent very wisely: we’ve identified the weak spots in the team, waved goodbye to players that aren’t good enough and brought in the best available players in the sought-after positions to get the job done. Perhaps it’s hard for me to understand why anybody who enjoys and is a fan of football as a sport wouldn’t be giving a standing ovation to the football being played by City right now.
Examples of this behaviour come in many different forms. A Burnley fan on Twitter giving us fans grief, asking if we miss the ‘emotion’ of football. She’s obviously never experienced an Aguero 93:20 moment in her life – it doesn’t come much more emotional than that! The focus before the Huddersfield game being on the comparison of squad costs – I’m pretty sure they didn’t do that before the United game. Then the amount of Huddersfield fans who took to social media to berate City, throwing out insults typically like ‘oil money’, ‘Arab so and sos’ and the timeless classic ‘you’d be shit without money’.
Of course we won the lottery with the takeover. There’s not a day goes by when the City collective aren’t grateful for that. But it could happen to any team. Opposition fans are just bitter that it didn’t happen to theirs, and that’s something we as fans have to face up to and contend with on a daily basis. We’ll just keep doing what we do, enjoying this stupendous ride we’re on and learning to grow an even thicker skin.
It is bloody great though, isn’t it?! #pinchyourself
TAXI FOR POGBA
A lot of City fans had an understandably disgusted reaction when those quotes emerged recently from Paul Pogba about us. In an interview with the BBC’S Football Focus, Pogba said that he hoped that City’s season would be disrupted with injuries to important players, as to help United’s cause.
‘I hope - and it's bad to say things like this - but I hope they will get some very important players injured like what happened with us.
People don't see this, don't speak about this, but every time we have important players that get injured when there is important games.
So if that starts happening with them as well maybe we'll get a little difference. A little touch that makes them weaker.’
There’s so much wrong with even thinking this, let alone coming about to the press and being officially quoted with it. It beggars belief. A professional footballer wishing injuries upon his fiercest rivals in order to gain an advantage – surely if you’re a professional, you’d want your opponents to be full strength, so you’d have no excuses?! But no, not Pogba. He’d be quite happy if City incurred injuries if it meant disruption to our title charge.
A note to the not-so-wise Pogba, but that’s already happened to City this season. Mendy has been ruled out for the majority with a ruptured ACL. Kompany has had spells out. Aguero was involved in a car crash and was out. Stones is currently out for six weeks after pulling his hamstring. The injuries have happened – are happening. Stones has been a crucial player for us this season. But we adapt; the show must go on. We don’t sit around moaning about it, we squad rotate. The Frenchman should do his homework or better yet – show a little bit more respect.
But karma worked a treat for Pogba after he was sent off for what can only be described as a hideous tackle on Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin. The red card means that Pogba sits out the Derby – couldn’t happen to a nicer man. Maybe next time he’ll think before he speaks – I won’t hold my breath.
THE LOYALTY POLICE™
I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little bit fed up of other City fans telling others how to support the club. I see and hear it all the time and it is such a huge bugbear of mine. I even saw it in this fanzine last month – the cheek! Back in the day when I was young and naïve, I would’ve been banging that drum of ‘how dare you leave the ground early’ and ‘you surely can’t miss a game, what are you playing at? Call yourself a blue?!’
Let’s get one thing straight: if people pay their money, they have the right to do whatever they want. If they want to go at 82 minutes past, that is entirely their prerogative and who are we to judge. Likewise, if they can’t make a game, they shouldn’t be chastised and cast off as a part timer. It’s absolutely ludicrous, tedious and childish.
Yes City are the best thing since sliced bread; they are the love of our lives and we remain devoted to them, planning our lives round the fixture list every season whether we have owners who own a country they’re that rich or whether we play a goalkeeper upfront because we don’t have strikers good enough (it was done for the height, but you get my drift).
But people have commitments outside of football that often dictate how they follow the club. Finances are a huge thing for most people. Work commitments too. Family life: I have had a season ticket for years, but had to give it up when I became pregnant with Vincent, because at the time I was a single Mum. Now I’m with my partner and we have baby number two, we share a season ticket and take it in turns between games. It often works out very well and fair – that’s just how we have to do it for now, because we have two small children. On the odd occasion when we have a sitter, we can go together. Night games are near-on impossible. But those are my circumstances and if you think I’m any less of a fan than Joe from Stockport, who is 18 with a disposable income and no commitments that allows him to go to every game home and away, you’re completely in the wrong.
Circumstances determine how many games we can attend. Similarly, they dictate when people have to leave games. Some people leave early because they have to rely on public transport: buses and trains commonly. I’ve seen people moaning recently at the amount of people who leave before full time – shut up, focus on your own support for the team and have the decency to respect the fact that every fan is an individual with their own reason behind their actions. Who are you to judge, seriously? I don’t leave early, but I can understand people who do because getting away from the ground through the traffic is an absolute nightmare at full time. Fair play if you want to leave to skip that and get away sharpish – you may risk missing a last-gasp curler from Raheem, but that’s the risk you take. More often than not because they have to.
I have no idea why people choose to be obsessed by other people’s behaviour. Likewise, I’ve no idea why people obsess over attendances and empty seats. But if it’s not affecting your life directly, then leave it. If you choose to stay and clap every player off until the team disappear down the tunnel, that’s up to you. If you’re lucky enough to afford every game home and away, fantastic, but don’t look down your nose at other fans that can’t.
It doesn’t make people any less of a blue – we’re all in this together, remember?
MISTLETOE NO WHINE
I do love this time of year though and I’m super excited for Christmas with my boys. Vincent is three now, so he’s much more aware of Father Christmas and the naughty/nice list. He’s especially aware of presents – funny that, isn’t it? Noel is one on 13th December, so he’s still a bit small and will be more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the presents he’ll receive! But I’m making it adorably festive for them both and we plan on spending the day itself with my partner’s family in Bury.
Christmas is a hugely important time of the season, so the fixtures of curse dictate our plans for the festive period, but we plan on getting copiously merry and *hopefully* we can all enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. Generally, on paper, the fixtures have been kind to us, but if we’re all still expecting that banana skin, you just never know.
Let’s keep our glasses of alcohol half full for now – and let’s just enjoy it! For this is the best season of football we’ve watched in a while and Pep’s present of choice to all of us would be to bring the New Year in with City in pole position for the Premier League trophy come May.
At the time of writing this – pre-Derby Day – it’s looking really good.
Keep that glass half full – and raise it to an amazing season so far.
Merry Christmas, Blues!