What’s the worst thing you could hear at a football match? “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the pitch, performing her new single, Lily Allen,” is right up there in my hit list of terrible, soul destroying sounds, but alas, this time, it’s not that. So is: “Hello, I’m Graeme, I’ve just bought this seat next to you for the season and I love steam trains.” But, again, it’s not that.
The most awful noise at a football match follows the point when your SODDING football team leaves a player from your BLOODY closest rivals totally and utterly unmarked in the BLEEDING centre of your own penalty area, seventeen seconds from the end of the BUGGERING game.
Sorry. You’d think I’d have grown acclimatised to it by now, what with it having happened for the THIRD TITTING TIME this season, but, clearly, it seems not. Clearly, I’m still quite irritated by City’s inability to defend when there’s only seconds to go… In truth, though, the more painful part of the day was watching Tottenham not lose to Chelsea – the saving grace post City defeat was that Tottenham probably wouldn’t win, so everything would be okay.
That one turned out well, eh?
I mean, how do you not see Paul Scholes, anyway? It’s not as if he was hard to miss: He was wearing a bright red shirt in the middle of blue territory, he had to run past several City players and he has a rather distinctive hair colour, after all.
It’s almost as if there is some footballing God making City and Tottenham’s seasons come crashing together in one, penultimate-game-of-the-season decider. Incidentally, I can only assume, as one does, that, if there is a God of football, someone at City did something awful a long, long time ago and the club is still having to face up to the consequences to this day. Maybe a former manager killed a man or something.
I expect it’s because the season isn’t over with just four games to go that means I’m both more nervous and more terrified, yet at least 147% more excited than I have ever been before when watching City. I shouldn’t be this nervous… this is a good thing; yet I’m falling to pieces because, feasibly, there are still four teams who might finish in the final Champions’ League place.
And there are only four games to go, this isn’t right. Who cares about who’s staying up or who’s winning the league when there’s this going on smack bang in the upper-middle region of the league?
I suppose the most surprising aspect of the last few weeks, one that I’m certainly not going to fall for again, incidentally, is that Tottenham have six points from two games – against Arsenal and Chelsea, following a disaster against Portsmouth. To be honest, they’ve gotten more points from those two games than I expected and have deserved those points, too. That makes this Saturday one of the few legitimate times when I will have to support Manchester United – if Tottenham’s run of victories extends to three despite their last three games, then they’re going to be feeling unbeatable. And rightly so, really… You can’t argue with that form.
Confident as I am of City’s ability to go and attack Arsenal, I’d like to think that the reward for a victory at the Emirates tomorrow would be leaping back into fourth spot. But I’m not confident that Tottenham will leave Old Trafford with nothing… That turn of events may well tip my anger at United to breaking point and I might have to smash something to compensate. Inanimate objects are often not safe in my vicinity when football is concerned, as various mugs, phones, PlayStation pads, DVD cases and light blue plastic seats can vouch for.
But Arsenal have been hit by a new wave of injuries. Missing from the squad to face City will, most likely, be Gallas, Vermaelen, Almunia, and Denilson; and, from his recent performances and involvements, Van Persie doesn’t look like he’s back to the peak of his fitness, while Arshavin is touch and go to make it. There couldn’t really be a better time to go to Arsenal, with them also, effectively, out of the title race.
And from a City point of view, there could hardly be a better time for Tottenham to visit Old Trafford. Ironically, thanks respectively to Tottenham’s success and City’s defeat last weekend, United are right back in the title race and will have everything to play for as Spurs visit. With their run of form, though, Tottenham could be making me smash something come tomorrow evening.
This has been a season for surprises, though – City doubled Chelsea, as unlikely as both results looked; relegation fodder Birmingham should finish in the top ten after taking everyone on the blindside; and Charles N’Zogbia was released on bail after being arrested for allegedly cheating on his driving theory test.
The most surprising thing about the Manchester derby last weekend, however, was probably not the last minute winner. Those have been something of a given this season, so I suppose no last minute winner would have actually been the unexpected. Indeed, the most surprising aspect was when a group of players, for argument’s sake we’ll called them Manchester United players, surrounded an official, we’ll call him a referee, in an attempt to get an opposition player, we’ll call him Gareth Barry, booked – one of which, who we’d give a name to if he wasn’t the wrong side of the referee from me and I could see who it was, waved an imaginary yellow card. Then again, it’s just typical Englishmen, eh?
Then there’s Nigel de Jong, who, aside from having a cracking game and being the best player on the pitch, discovered that he has healing powers to rival those of Jesus. I don’t mean that to be offensive in any way, but I think he was the nearest player to the fifth or sixth roll of Wayne Rooney after Vincent Kompany’s yellow card challenge. Once that yellow card was produced, though, Rooney was fine to leap into the air and sprint away.
The irony of it all wasn’t that Sir Alex Ferguson then tried to defend his actions by claiming he was trying to make sure Kompany wasn’t sent off… Quite an insulting suggestion, given that a red card was never actually in question. It was an, albeit poor, challenge for the ball and not like hacking down a player off the ball, like, say, Rooney on de Jong.
Maybe it was the Dutchman’s healing powers that stopped him from rolling around.
Ferguson then pointed out that City targeted Rooney’s injured ankle cynically, just as Bayern Munich had done in the Champions’ League tie. As an argument, it’s flawless… That is, of course, until you take into consideration that, in the corresponding fixture from last season, Shaun Wright-Phillips wasn’t able to run more than six yards before he was forcibly introduced to the ground by a United player that hadn’t already been booked. It’s give and take; you can’t have cake and eat it.
This is probably where City have been falling down all these years (aside from the various amounts of mismanagement both on and off the pitch, obviously). City have only just started to use Craig Bellamy to referee the match for them, in the same way that, for several years, United have used Rooney, Chelsea have used Terry and Liverpool have used Gerrard. If City had used Bellamy to ‘help’ and ‘encourage’ the referee to make the ‘right’ decision all season, then perhaps fourth place would have been a formality by now.
Not that I condone it, but sod it, everyone else does it.
As it stands, it’s going to be very close. We’re still none the wiser as to who’s going to finish there, and I’m running out of things to say about it before we get to the end of the season. As much as I don’t want it to, it looks like there’s going to be no getting away from City vs. Tottenham for the decider.
I just can’t wait.
Written By David Mooney