I sat down to write my latest article for King of the Kippax and had a startling realisation that the last time I managed to write anything was February. February. Safe to say, it feels like the whole world has changed since then. I’m not sure even I can be so succinct to summarize it all, but I’ll give it a go. Let’s start with the talk of world football…
Dave emailed me to say that he was holding off on this month’s deadline to allow for the CAS verdict to come in - and what a masterstroke that was. The news came in – the proposed two year ban in Europe overturned and the fine reduced to £10 million. I’ve subsequently spend all morning on the social media channels trying to educate rival fans on why they should be applauding this outcome instead of condemning it.
We all know that Financial Fair Play was dreamed up by the UEFA ‘elite’, to attempt to protect the old world order in football. The fine imposed is apparently due to City’s initial lack of co-operation into the investigation – but who can blame them for playing hardball, when the evidence was obtained in such an underhanded and illicit manner? No wonder they weren’t forthcoming! FFP was a concept conceived post-City takeover. Coincidence? I think not.
It really frustrates me when I see fans of other teams so uneducated towards City and their financial conduct. We’ve been very astute in the transfer market: we pulled out of the Harry Maguire, Fred and Alexis Sanchez deals, because we disagreed (quite rightly might I add!) with the valuations and figures involved. Just because we’re Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour, doesn’t mean we will be taken for a ride and allow clubs to exploit our financial situation. For the three transfers mentioned there alone, it’s proved to have been incredible foresight and I’m happy that the club conduct themselves with integrity and respect.
But the fury and venom that other fans have been spitting is, depressingly predictable, but nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve been astonished that people act like City are the first club to ever spend money in football. Have these people been living under a rock? Can they see any City players in the top 10 transfer records? It beggars belief. I expected a reaction, but some of the vitriol and vile I have read (and been subjected to, because I have dared to defend the club) is incomprehensible.
So, what now? Finishing second in the League means Champions League football next season. Could Pep sign an extension, galvanised by the CAS outcome? Perhaps the best form of ultimate revenge will be trying to win the competition that UEFA pride themselves on so dearly. Not much of a team talk needed there. The cream always rises to the top. Go and get them lads. The draw was interesting: beat Real Madrid and we then face Lyon or Juventus in the quarter finals. The semi finals will be Napoli, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Chelsea. There is a bright side – get through them, and you’d have to fancy us as favourites. They even attempted to move the game to Portugal instead of playing it in Manchester – a concept so non-sensical because Portugal isn’t on the Government’s fly list. So the City team and staff would’ve had to quarantine on their arrival back into the United Kingdom.
I have a feeling UEFA won’t take this lying down, but what can they do? Surely it’s the end of FFP – I just hope Newcastle fans are ready for the backlash if their takeover goes ahead. They’re a good bunch, I welcome the idea of another takeover in the League, but they’ll have to have their tin hats ready. Every other fan has slated City since 2008 – because deep down, they wish it would’ve happened to their club.
WE’RE NOT REALLY HERE
What a truly bizarre/astounding/terrible/baffling few months it has been. I could never have imagined having been to Wembley and Hillsborough; that those would be the last football matches I’d be attending for a fair while. Those games feel like a lifetime ago. The pandemic has been awful: we lost our neighbour and my boyfriend’s Grandma to it. They are both gone far too soon and such senseless losses to us.
It’s been a lot to get our heads around: my eldest son, Vincent, had just started in primary school this year and was enjoying greatly his reception year. I have to admit that I’ve absolutely loved having him at home. I’d really missed him since he started school and, although the home schooling has been a real challenge for me, on the whole I’ve looked at it as a particularly special time for us. It’s been a time in our lives that we will never replicate and always treasure, for the good times and the bad.
As for the football? Where do I start?
Initially I was incensed by the idea of football being allowed to return behind closed doors without fans. Who wouldn’t be? When you’ve based your life around the fixture list for as long as you’ve known, to be told that the game can return without you, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I didn’t believe in null and void. I’d (painfully) made my peace with Liverpool winning the League, this wasn’t about them. We were still in two competitions – the FA Cup and the Champions League. With the Community Shield (!) and the Carabao Cup already sewn up, all was still to play for. But the thought of us, the fans, who’d been a constant through thick and thin, not being allowed to be there, seemed so radical initially. I was so against it.
As time ticked on and the lockdown was gradually lifting, resumption of the Premier League arrived. I watched the Arsenal game and felt a bit sick when I saw the players walking out of the tunnel at the Etihad Stadium to be greeted with a sea of empty seats (cue the tiresome jokes). We should be there. It didn’t sit well with me at all and it just felt so alien, so wrong.
But then the game got underway. The passing started. The players I’d missed, the football. I didn’t think I’d missed football that much until I watched City and realised – I really had. It’d been a life less ordinary. The constant had been missing. City were back – just not as we knew it.
The results – barring Chelsea and Southampton – have been incredibly impressive. Some of the football we have played has been astounding. Which makes it even more baffling as to how we’ve lost nine games (at the time of writing) this season. Individual errors, wasteful in the final third and Laporte’s injury – three factors that have contributed hugely to the never-ending 2019/20 season and put paid to our title chances.
We know when City play that there is no other team like us. Our passing, pressing, movement and ingenuinety. Nobody plays like City play. I was pleasantly surprised at how sharp the players were and at our fitness levels. Kyle Walker, over his blip in form, is now a world class right back. Raheem Sterling is now enjoying is best ever goal-scoring season, with 27 goals after his hat-trick against Brighton. David Silva rolled back the years with a vintage display during our win against Newcastle, with a beautiful free kick to boot. Kevin De Bruyne – what can you possibly say that hasn’t already been said? Surely he will be in line to win the Ballon D’or one day. Aymeric Laporte – a Rolls Royce of a centre back – so calm and assured , always level-headed and offers so much reassurance in the back line.
Pep has also been keen to include the youth after the restart. Phil Foden – I am such a huge fan of the confidence Foden has. He has confidence backed up with ability. When he plays, he doesn’t look remotely out of place amongst the big boys. You can tell he’s been learning from the best – some of his first touches, vision and passing his been exemplary. Nobody could ever replace David Silva, but it’s good to know the options are thrilling for when David does depart. Foden is exciting – he makes a nuisance of himself and always offers a threat. He’s not one for the future, he’s one for now.
Eric Garcia is another player that has really come into his own. I’ve loved seeing him getting more starts. We’ve been linked heavily with a move for the Napoli centre back Kalidou Koulibaly: he would be a fantastic signing for us, there is no doubt. A few have question marks over the fact he’s 29 years old, but I think we need an established, experienced and strong centre back to partner Laporte. We need consistency in defence moving forward. But that’s not to say there isn’t a place for Garcia. He’s in a perfect position, should Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones decide to leave. He’s proving to be a competent and mature talent. But Garcia has been linked with a move to Barcelona – and after the Sane saga, who knows?
Cole Palmer, Tommy Doyle, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jayden Braaf are all top young prospects from the academy that have been promoted to the first team squad and I’m looking forward to seeing the part they play moving forward for City. Let’s just hope we can avoid another Jadon Sancho situation – we don’t want that level of ability going through our academy and ultimately leaving us.
The games have made me excited for what might be next season, but also for the FA Cup and the Champions League games to come. By the time you read this, we will know the outcome of the FA Cup semi final game – against Arsenal. Again, a very peculiar feeling having no hotel or plan pencilled in to go to Wembley, but in these strangest of times we have to go with safety and that is priority. It’s Pep v Arteta and we all know the prize that faces us if we manage to get passed the Gunners – either Chelsea, or a Manchester Derby FA Cup final. I know who I’d prefer to play! I don’t think my nerves could take it.
Who knows when it will be when we’re allowed back into a football stadium. Pubs have opened, hairdressers are the busiest they’ve ever been and you can go and get a City crest tattooed on your arm if you’re that way inclined. Yet we can’t go back to watch our football team play.
How long will we have to wait?
Rumours are that the new season will be starting in September and the Carabao Cup will be sacrificed due to the 2020/21 season being condensed. I have missed the social aspect of football the most. I miss going to the pub before my mates and trying, but failing miserably, to predict Pep’s starting line-up. I miss all the faces I see around us in the South Stand. I’ve missed the camaraderie. For me, that’s what makes football, and City, so special. The characters we have, the friendships that we’ve made and the lives we have shaped because of the club. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re allowed back and we might, just might, have even more reasons to celebrate together by then too.
Just make mine a pint, yeah?