Tuesday 18 December 2018


I was recently asked to go on a radio show to dissect the Chelsea-City game. I’ve been asked on a few times and the presenters are usually lovely. This time, it was different hosts though and I will spare them their blushes by refraining from naming said show and host here (it wasn’t Cheesy, but that goes without saying!)

After name checking me, the host opened the conversation with the question:
‘So Emily, would you like to congratulate Chelsea on their win?’

I mean, it was 7:20am on a Sunday morning, but did I actually hear that right? Would I like to congratulate a team for beating us? Would I like to congratulate Chelsea on winning a match? Would I? Would I?

It felt like the question spun round in my head for a good half an hour, when in reality it was a matter of seconds. But I was brutally aware that I was live on air and had to give a rational, respectable response to that abomination of a question.

‘Well yes, why not?’ I retorted. ‘Congratulations on the three points, but it’s a title race between us and Liverpool. The three points will serve well towards Chelsea’s battle to secure Champions League football next season.’

After the interview concluded, I made a brew and reflected. Actually, the more I thought about that question, the more enraged I became. I felt like a boiling kettle. Would he have asked that question to say, a Wolves fan that had just got beat by Southampton? Can you imagine it, ‘would you like to congratulate Southampton on their win?’ Of course, it wouldn’t happen. Perhaps if the team had just won the Premier League title or the Champions League final, but certainly not for winning a game of football in early December.

Is this what it has come to? Is this really what it feels like to support a team who is a scalp for everybody and a scapegoat throughout the media? Is it really that much of a monumental event in world sport if we lose a game? The delight opposition fans take when we do; the sheer glee, the revelling up and down the country and across social media. So this is how it really feels to be City? It’s time to start growing a thicker skin if this is the new norm.

It isn’t paranoia on my part. I do genuinely feel like the club has taken a battering recently, especially after the Der Spiegel FFP ‘leaks’. Many a journalist quite happily participated in the media hysteria the ‘scandal’ had whipped up – demanding that sanctions were placed against City for their ‘blatant disregard for FFP’. Ferociously stomping their feet and wagging their fingers over a week-long set of ‘revelations’ that didn’t really reveal much of note whatsoever, apart from throwing yet more mud in City’s direction. The ‘reportings’ only served to add to the media and rival fans’ distain for the Blues.

Then we’ve got Danny Baker – gobshite mouthpiece who keeps bragging about having been on I’m A Celeb despite being voted first out – giving it the big ones on Twitter, comparing the Premier League to Formula One. The tiresome man was trying to claim that City’s domination is making the League ‘boring’ and ‘dreary’, and that ‘elite clubs’ should ‘f**k off to their Euro Super League’.

He’s so factually incorrect it’s laughable. He seemed to insinuate that the title was a foregone conclusion and that, from his tweet, you’d think that City commanded a colossal lead over their rivals. In fact, how City can be dominating to that extent when actually, as I type, it’s Liverpool who are top of the League, is beyond me. It’s almost paranoia on his part, because the media have yet again hyped up the possibility of City having an invincible season, when most sensible people know that would never happen.

Did we have armies of people complaining during the 1980s, when Liverpool thrived and dominated? Was there a huge stink (apart from us Blues of course!) when United, under the guidance of Fergie, swept everyone aside to storm to their greatest ever trophy haul during the 1990s? Apart from Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers, the Premier League years have always tended to have one team who have come along and, for at least a couple of seasons, been hugely successful. United, Arsenal, Chelsea and City are all part of that formula. So to only now state that it’s City that’s making the League boring with their successes is completely baffling.

Of course, it’s not baffling. It stinks of bitterness and jealousy. Blackburn Rovers - who won the Premier League back in the 1994/95 season – took it to the last day of the season to pip United to the title. They had Kenny Dalglish as manager and their secret formula was the magical partnership of SAS – Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer. Sutton scored 15 goals, but it was Shearer who was the talisman, scoring 34 goals to help them lift the silverware. Colin Hendry, Graeme Le Saux and Tim Sherwood all made it into the PFA Team of the Year for them, acknowledging their efforts towards the title win.

The quite unlikely achievement was celebrated because then owner, the late Jack Walker, had invested millions of his own money into Rovers. His estimated net worth was £600 million: he took over the running of the family sheet metal business, Walkersteel, and from that began to invest heavily in the club. His millions went towards new ground infrastructure and new training facilities, not to mention towards signing new flagship signings at Ewood Park. The fans were overjoyed, the media delighted at the sight of his tears of happiness on that final day of the season at Anfield (the only time that ground has ever seen a Premier League title win might I add!) What a story – Walker’s millions made dreams come true. What a hero.

Leicester enjoyed a similar, quite extraordinary fairy-tale Premier League title win. Their 5,000-1 odds at the start of the season showed the extent to which nobody had remotely considered them capable of winning the League.

Under the guidance of manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes emerged as the surprise package of the 2015/16 season. The late owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, had injected millions into the club from his King Power duty free empire, enabling Leicester to invest- and really shake up the status quo.

It was the England striker Jamie Vardy that grabbed the headlines with his 24 goals, distinctly and vivaciously assisted along the way by winger Riyad Mahrez’s (wonder where HE is now?!), with his 17 goals. Other players worth a shout included N’Golo Kante, Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater and Christian Fuchs. Once the team had hit the dizzy heights in the table, belief began to grow and, with the momentum behind them, they took their fans on an astounding journey that culminated in them lifting the Premier League trophy. Proof indeed, that miracles can and do happen.

I’ll lump Chelsea, Arsenal and United together, because their stories are all reasonably similar. Chelsea, with the notorious might of Russian chairman Roman Abramovich’s Roubles behind the club, have won it all. With ‘captain, leader, legend’ John Terry at the heart of their defence, Frank Lampard in midfield and Didier Drogba upfront to name but a few, Stamford Bridge was a trophy haven, and in the Mid 00’s, no trophy hadn’t been graced with the Royal blue and white ribbons of Chelsea.

Arsenal – well, Arsenal were simply a joy to watch. Their foreign signings greatly enriched the Premier League more than any football fan could’ve realised they ever would. What City fan could forget being at Maine Road for that 4-0 drubbing? Yes, the where Carlo Nash’s touches of the ball were just picking it out of the net after each and every Arsenal goal. Say what you want, but at that time, they were an absolute joy to watch.

Under Frenchman Arsene Wenger, the Gunners enjoyed their infamous ‘Invincibles’ season during 2003/04, and won the League and Cup double in 1997/98 and 2001/02. The League was graced with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg – who all helped Arsenal to their trophy haul – back in the days when it was catfights aplenty between Wenger and Fergie.

Now, the final team mentioned there, United, I’m not going into their trophy successes in such detail, of course. But, throughout their glory years, they spent millions and millions of pounds on players to help them secure silverware. Yes, they had their home-grown talent, but they wouldn’t have remotely enjoyed such dizzy heights had it not been for such serious, heavyweight squad investments. In fact, they’re still at it these days – spending obscene amounts of money, just not enjoying the same accomplishments.

I’ve made my point in such a detailed way, as to illustrate the intolerable hypocrisy of not only Danny Baker, but of every single fan, critic and journalist who dares to highlight our spending. I know it’s nothing new, but for us to still be on the receiving end of pelters for it is beyond tiresome.

The word ‘boring’ is being thrown around a lot – how can we be making the League boring when it’s absolutely wide open right now? How can our football ever, and I repeat, EVER, be described as boring, when it’s some of the most technically astute, accomplished and visually sensational the Premier League has ever been blessed with? I say that, consciously, with no shred of bids, because every word of it is true.

The extent of fan jealousy towards us is at fever pitch and it’s no surprise that it happens to coincide with us playing some of our best football. Did anybody ever pick holes in Jack Walker’s spending? Who knocked Leicester City when they won the title with a lot of help from King Power along the way? It was all ‘a breath of fresh air’, ‘what a fairytale’ and ‘how amazing for Leicester’.

Arsenal? Spent millions. Chelsea? Spent millions. United? Spent billions. Yet every fan has the audacity, or sheer idiocy, to make Sheikh quips towards us. Where would any of those clubs I’ve previously mentioned be without the money they’ve invested and spent? In fact, where would any club, or on a greater scale, any business be, without spending money. Everybody worth their salt knows you have to speculate to accumulate – this is not a new notion – and it’s certainly not something that City are pioneers of. It’s been going on long before Trevor Francis became the first British footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee back in 1979 (Birmingham City to Forest, in case you wanted to know).

I think I’m just sick and tired of the stick City constantly seem to get these days. I’m almost at the point where I’m starting to become immune to it. You have the usual suspects – Duncan Castles, Neil Custis and the host off Good Morning Britain who I’m not even going to flatter enough by mentioning his name, because his ego is out of control enough. But there are plenty of others – Matthew Syed, Ian Herbert, James Ducker and many more who led a shamed crusade, via the Der Spiegel links, to encourage action from UEFA to sanction City. John Dillon even incredulously insinuated that City and David Silva had used the horrifically sad circumstances of the Spaniard’s son’s birth, and subsequent recovery to full fitness, to spin negative attitudes towards City.

Sadly, journalism seems to be an industry these days led by ‘clickbait’ articles. The more controversial, misleading and scandalous a story sounds, the greater the reader hits. Even if the story angle is spun, the journalists show no desire to backtrack or apologise. More so, a journalist I have previously worked with (and who I shall keep anonymous), admitted that newspapers tend to lead with stories on the headline grabbers, because they know it gets them the numbers they need online and sells papers.

It’s a truly sad state of affairs – one that has been highlighted all the more through the recent racism furore of Raheem Sterling at the Bridge. I won’t go into it in depth, because I’m sure others have in this issue, but I will say this. The media have made Sterling a scapegoat for the past couple of seasons. They are culpable for brainwashing society’s ill-washed with their complete gutter press and open bullying of the 23 year old.

It’s therefore no surprise that Sterling gets booed at most stadiums he goes to. It’s wholly unjustifiable and hugely unwarranted – here is a young, successful footballer who left Liverpool to further his career. This decision has already proved to have paid off massively for him, with both his personal career progression and his contributions towards helping City achieve silverware. But it’s no surprise because the press have managed to turn him into a pantomime villain. How dare he shop at Greggs, Poundworld and Primark? Outrageous that he bought his Mum a house? Ludicrous he has a tattoo tribute to his late Dad! The headlines become more despicable the more successful Sterling becomes.

Sterling has since come out on Instagram, asking for the media to ‘have a second thought about fair publicity and give all players an equal chance’, saying the press ‘get their message across’ differently for ‘a young black player and a young white player’. He knows the score, he knows it’s a race issue, fuelled by it being also a City issue. It’s made furthermore bizarre because, at the time of writing, the club have issued no statement publicly backing or supporting Sterling. You may say they don’t need to, why should they? You’d just like to think, even know I’m adamant and know for a fact they look after their players and have a duty of care to come out with a message of support would be a good standpoint to deliver. Radio silence it is at the moment though (but we all know the club HATE any slight negative angle towards them).

With great power, comes great responsibility. With great success, comes constant scrutiny. Maybe I’m just not used to it, perhaps I should be by now. I will always, with every breath in my body, continue to fight the good fight and publicly condemn any injustices towards City in the media. But it’s the hypocrisy and short-sighted lunacy that riles and disturbs me. When they won the treble the season we were promoted from the then Second Division, they were the darlings of English media. We win silverware and it’s always tarnished with derived nonsense.

It will continue inevitably, but so will our sensational, mesmeric football.  But I suppose we do come across this in real life. Some people delight in seeing others do well, but a minority absolute loath it. They despise it. And it’s that bitterness, envious and poisonous stance that is trying to take away from the incredible achievements City are enjoying. But it won’t taint us – it will only serve to make us stronger and less tolerant to the bullshit surrounding us.

And long may our successes and achievements continue. Because they will – and I can’t wait to watch those moronic imbeciles squirm while we carry on lifting trophies for the foreseeable future.

No comments: