Just when you thought it was safe to come out from behind the sofa, just when you thought that it was all over for another year and you could relax, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what happened until the end of the season, it would never happen again, we find out that it’s going to happen again. No, I’m not talking about Jô finding his way to the Manchester City bench, but rather the Manchester derby. That game wot I done said I hate. Well, it’s back.
Except this one isn’t going to be in Manchester; rather, it’ll be hosted at Wembley, meaning that the journey for the United fans will be much, much shorter and more convenient (fnar).
It might also be an idea to try a little extra harder to get past Kiev. Y’know… Just in case…
Though I will concede it’s nice to be visiting Wembley with City because it has been a while, let’s be honest, I’m not convinced that Wembley is the best location for the semi-finals. I see the point about more fans being able to get into the ground than into Villa Park or The Emirates or St James’ Park or Old Trafford (although, obviously, this couldn’t be used as a neutral venue for this semi-final). But it does dilute the sense of achievement and occasion of reaching a Wembley final. And the travel costs more. And accommodation, if necessary. And probably tickets (though I’m no expert on FA Cup Semi Final ticketing given that lack of action in that department during my lifetime).
The cynic in me would say that the semi finals are scheduled for the national stadium these days to earn revenue to cover the cost of its build. Then again, though, the child in me is excited for City’s trip to Wembley. We’ve not been to the new one, after all.
And, in a roundabout way, that brings me to the City fans. I wrote, not so long ago, that I was beginning to lose patience with a small segment of blues fans. But, having lost that patience, I’m not convinced any more that it’s a problem confined to a small segment. Perhaps this puts me in the wrong, I’m not sure, but I would like to think not.
The atmosphere on Sunday wasn’t the best around Eastlands. Partly because of the apprehension and tension of the cup tie hurtling towards an unwanted replay and the knowledge that a victory would set up a Manchester derby down south – did the draw really need to have been made before all ties had been played? – but it was also partly the attitude of the fans. Something has changed in the last few months and not for the better.
There are moans and goans with misplaced passes. There’s the overwhelming sense of disappointment when things aren’t going to plan from the off. There have even been one or two boos greeting the half time whistle when the game is at 0-0. And that’s ignoring that every single referee in the Premier League is part of the anti-City global conspiracy to stop the club in their tracks – apparently.
The problem (if that’s the right word) is the sudden investment in City’s team has produced a rapid improvement on the pitch. It’s easy to forget that 2006/07 was only four seasons ago and that was the year that we only managed 10 league goals at home, the last coming on New Year’s Day. The progress from that season is astounding and is still happening – City are by no means the finished product. With progress comes a heightened expectation, but it’s too much to expect that, because x number of millions have been spent and the opposition are below City, then we will be three goals up inside 20 minutes.
And when the fans become agitated that it doesn’t appear to be going right on the pitch, it becomes harder for it to go right on the pitch. Players are human; if the people supporting the club are on edge then that feeling can extend to the people representing the club. Then, the harder they try to force things to go right, the harder it gets and the more on edge the fans get and it becomes a vicious circle.
No team will play well every week and even the most hardened City fan will concede that we haven’t been hitting top form recently. But that recent non-top-form has still kept the club in a Champions League position and has seen them progress to the FA Cup Semi Final. So it shouldn’t be too bad when that form returns. And, at the end of the season, nobody will care which games City did and didn’t play well in as long as targets have been achieved and it’s been entertaining along the way.
And it’s been pretty entertaining so far.
We now find ourselves in a very crucial week of the season. Kiev will come to Eastlands and defend their two goal advantage, looking for an away goal on the break. And they’re good on the break, as we saw in Ukraine, so they will be very dangerous and they shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s not an easy tie and it won’t be a walkover. City need our help to get into the next Europa League round; if that sense of anxiety and tension is in the stadium during the game and the moans and groans arrived within fifteen minutes, then it’s going to be no help at all.
And following Kiev is a trip to Stamford Bridge. With Chelsea two points behind City and with a game in hand, it’s a vital game in the competition for third place. If Chelsea win, not only do they go ahead of City, but they have another game in which to extend that lead. If City win, the gap will be five points with them having played a game more. And a draw would actually do little for both teams, but it would probably benefit Chelsea slightly more with that additional game.
Though I’d take a draw right now.
The business end of the season is fast approaching and if we want City to be successful and if we want to start to see a return on the investment that has propelled us to this level, then we need to get behind the team and be that pick-me-up when things aren’t going too well. Moaning, groaning, booing, shouting that suchabody is rubbish for making a bad pass, screaming for the manager’s head… All of this in unhelpful and, frankly, it can wait.
If we get behind the team now, this could be the start of something good.