Recently, I re-entered existence. By which I mean I have returned from Belgium – I don’t mean this to be offensive to any Belgians who happen to be reading this, it’s just something that might, hopefully, raise a smile from one person, a hardcore Belgium existence denier and kazoo player extraordinaire, that I know who might also read this. I suppose I should probably keep in-jokes away from Football FanCast in future.
Anyway, while I was busy not existing, Manchester City’s season kicked off, some more of their transfer targets arrived and Joe Hart put in a bloody good case for keeping the England goalkeeper’s shirt. In fact, I say City’s season kicked off, but the phrase Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0 doesn’t really do the game justice… It’s more Tottenham Hotspur 0 Joe Hart 0, especially after his first half display.
That match was one of the reasons I decided to exit reality last weekend. Traditionally, City never do well at Tottenham, usually bloody losing 2-1 (and I have to email these articles to a Tottenham fan, so I wanted to be in the best place possible in preparation for an opening day defeat), and the fella I went to visit came to watch a City match last time he was here, so I was off to return the favour with his team on a weekend where, after the game, I wouldn’t be stranded at the stadium, 90km from where I was staying.
Incidentally, should you be used to watching football in England and you ever find yourself watching a KRC Genk game in the Cristal Arena when the home side score, the word surreal doesn’t really do the experience justice: The ball hits the net, the crowd cheers, dramatic music plays, the tannoy announcer says the first name of the scorer while the crowd point their hands to the sky and chant the surname, the tannoy announcer says it again and the crowd point and chant again, then We Will Rock You is played as the game restarts, flags are waved and scarves held outstretched and then we’re suddenly back to normal. I got that five times on Sunday.
I also got very wet in a sudden, unexpected downpour on the way there, so even in non-existence I can’t escape the British climate.
The phrase “goal scored by number 32, Carlos Tevez” accompanied by cheering will seem quite bland by comparison when it happens on Monday evening against Liverpool. Indeed, the confidence for the game is brimming over the sides, given that City currently have one more point than I was expecting them to have at this stage in the season.
While the performance at White Hart Lane wasn’t fantastic – offensively, City were as toothless as a slumbering pensioner – the one thing that did show improvement from the team that finished last season was the defence. Especially in the first half, when Tottenham certainly looked like the home side, City’s defence looked pretty solid and, when it was breached, Hart’s form was nothing short of stupendous. Even Shay Given couldn’t have argued with Roberto Mancini’s selection after that display.
The second half, however, wasn’t as one-sided as the first. While City still struggled to create much in Tottenham’s box – the Wright-Phillips chance right after the break was probably the guiltiest of guilt edged misses – Tottenham struggled too, with City’s midfield getting into the game.
I don’t expect all of the new signings to be on the same wavelength without there being some degree of static just yet. And it showed during the first half at Tottenham. With that in mind and considering the performance and 3-0 reverse of the season before, a goalless draw was a good result. Some City fans I know need to remember that Tottenham didn’t finish above City last season by accident and that, just because a whole host of new signings works immediately on Football Manager, it might not work the same way in the real world (even if the part you’re in at the time doesn’t feature in reality).
With both Balotelli and Milner signing too late to play in that Tottenham game – Milner was a long way on the late side, come to think of it – there’s the potential for the same sort of thing to happen against Liverpool. At the time of writing, I don’t know who will feature in the Timisoara game (though by the time you read this, you’ll know the result), but I don’t think it will be too dissimilar to the team that started the season. Those players get to experience playing with each other again, while the two new signings get a couple more days to train with their new squad.
This is the point where you laugh at how wrong I was.
The truth is, however, that this will be the most exciting season to be a City fan since last season, odd as it sounds. But that’s only because last season was the most exciting season to be a City fan since about the fourteenth century.
The squad, which, this season for the first time, has to be trimmed to 25 players, is starting to take shape. It seems like the summer signings are all but complete, the departures may well continue, with Given and Robinho looking like they could be on last minute deals out of the club, and it’s all looking rosy for the future.
Only the departure of Ireland leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth – it feels like a similar situation to the Richard Dunne sale last year, in that the player wanted to stay and fight for his place. The difference this time, however, is that, if Ireland didn’t make the 25, then he wouldn’t be able to claim his place in the side, no matter how much he performed or how hard worked in training. Last season, he struggled to recapture his previous form and it’s nice to see an academy product reach the top, but, as they say, there’s no room for sentiment, especially with only 25 places available.
Nevertheless, what’s done is done and only the future will tell us if it was a good decision to swap him for Milner… Time will also tell us, on a scale of one to Brian Blessed, how barking mad Alex Ferguson’s comments were about City’s (and I quote) “kamikaze” spending. Apart from the fact that he has employed the same spending tactic in the past, this is the same man who has just spent £7.5m on a man he hadn’t seen play and who was available on a free transfer two months previous… Kamikaze indeed.
Good God, I’ve missed the football season.
Written By David Mooney