It has never been easy being a Manchester City supporter. When I switched allegiance from the red scum side of Manchester in 1969 a few weeks after City last one the FA Cup (note the “after”) I had no idea that forty years later we’d be dreaming of a repeat! It is fair to say that City fans have been through forty years of thin and even thinner, a laughing stock when we deserved to be laughed at and even when we didn’t! The new abuse is that we have sold our souls for the money and that we are the great destroyers of English soccer.
And... to be truthful... I have lived uneasily with the developments over the last year or so, particularly Mark Hughes’ sacking. I didn’t know whether I wanted City to reach the Champions league or not. Part of the reason for that was that if we had we would have an even better team this week than the one that showed Liverpool on Monday night that they were no longer within a bagel’s goule of the top teams in the English Premier League. If City had had the Champions League to barter with as well as the bottomless pit of cash my fear was that we would have bought our way to the next ten Premier League titles; a monopoly would have been minted. I still think it might be so BUT if we could win the title this year at least it was with one hurdle to jump. I also struggle too to believe that if we do win a few Premiership titles in this next decade that I would then lose interest and start supporting Blackpool instead. Supporting a team that always wins takes something away from supporting a soccer team. I am not sure I like it, though of course I’ve never had the chance.
The money? Well, of course everyone tells us we can’t buy success. My jury is out on that. Chelsea were our relegation and promotion rivals for quite a while in the late eighties and they seem to have bought something! What I do know for sure is that it is no longer possible to have success without money. I have fond memories of the seventies when a QPR, a Watford or a Derby County could challenge for league titles; when there was no such thing as a big four. I would love to have those days back but they are not coming back so if you support the kind of teams who should have a chance of Premier league titles like Everton, Villa, Spurs, Newcastle or Leeds then you are going to have to find a big investor.
I would love that. Ten teams, all well stocked with cash, giving the League twists and turns and a new winner every year for a decade; I really don’t want City to win it, and everything else, every year. Sadly we don’t live in Communist China where we could cap wages, transfer money etc. We live in the west where capitalism has lost all control and accountability. It is not City that has lost its soul, City is a symptom of an entire society. We can’t stoke the fires of greed and wanton injustice and then expect soccer to be some kind of Godly antithesis. Our criticism and protest songs need to target something much, much bigger. Should I continue to support City in the light of what I am writing. You know at times I do not know but that team are part of my identity and so I continue to watch their destiny unfold with this uneasiness as a part of it.
I do laugh at those who point their finger as if City are the first team to spend money. When United bought Rooney from his home club that he loved, did they buy him fairly. No. In the Communist China scenario he would have remained at his beloved Everton with the same wage and opportunity to win honours and play for England. Did Theo move away from Southampton because his ma had moved to London or was money and ambition involved? And Frank leaving his dad at West Ham? Did Torres move to Liverpool for the weather and the accent? Soccer players didn’t become mercenaries when a Sheik bought Manchester City. They have followed the trails of their own career trajectories for fifty years and more. It seems money was OK to buy players until City had more money than everyone else. Well for decades we had less money and that wasn’t fair either!
So my dream would be that we had ten investors of ten big clubs and all would have equal investment. That would be a great league. Until that happens we, as City fans, have an advantage just now and watching City on Monday night against Liverpool was a frightening experience. The touches of class, the vision, the pace, the tackling. City fans are not used to it and once this team gets to know each other’s names they can only lose the success that will be available to them. Fear not though, City has a long history of being good at losing!