Sunday, May 12, 2019

TO ALL THOSE WHO...


To all those who have shared the pain, 

to all those sent insane,

to those, who drank it in,  

to all those who believed what they saw

to all those who couldn't believe their eyes;

to those that toasted with champagne, flat beer, stale ale, Russian vodka, Spanish sherry, Portuguese wine, prize gin, a nice cup of tea or a glass of grappa.

to those on the Hobec, the Delirium and the Alpha Super Dortmunder  

to those who hugged, bumped, shuddered, cried and bruised their legs at Wembley 99, 

to those who gaped at Oldham when Big Andy flexed his neck; 

to those who saw the pie hit Peter Willis 

to he who launched it

to those in the snow of Walsall and the rain of Hillsborough and the howling gale at Vicarage Road

to those getting sun burnt and to those catching a cold

to those who got washed out on the perimetre wall at Boundary Park when Smith missed his pen, 

to those who swore at Lincoln they'd never come again; 

to the bloke who ripped up his season ticket book on the pitch v Bury,

to all those who have resorted to the creme de menthe and pastis 

to those that have run around dazed for days, 

to those in a beer-sodden haze

to those that have laughed, cajoled, persisted and wished us on from afar; 

to all those that supported us, put up with us, slapped our backs, kept us sane, avoided eye contact, didn't say what they were thinking, left things unsaid; 

to all those that sang their hearts out, wrote, sympathised, phoned, emailed, messaged, reflected and thought of us; 

to all those in the Oscar Wilde in Berlin when City played Blackburn and the Lord smiled on us;




to all those in fancy dress at the Victoria Ground

to all those refs who we questioned

to all the linesmen we abused

to all those parents of refs who we doubted existed

to all those in Sale and Brooklands, in Cheadle and Prestwich, Collyhurst and Stalybridge

to those in Moston and Altrincham, Gorton and Ancoats

To glorious Stockport and rainy Denton

To all those Everton fans singing Blue Moon

to all those left behind in Amsterdam, in Alkmaar, in Dusseldorf, in Luzern, in Ballasalla, in Valencia, in Barcelona, in Lisbon, in Gonçal Bocas, in Alicante, in The Hague, in Porto, in Clermont Ferrand, in Haarlem, in Ponsacco, in Baltimore and Denver; 

to all those sharing a moment at 3 o'clock every Saturday; 

to all those who doubted, poked fun, poured scorn, cried foul; 

to all those who believed, believed some more, hoped, lost sleep, threw up, fell out, jumped in; 

to all those who waxed lyrical, shouted from the rooftops, bellowed, cried and stood firm; 

to all those that went home and away; 

to all those in The Comfy Cushion, The Parkside, The Whitestone, The Vine, The Navigation Inn, The White Hart, The Broadfield, Terry Neil’s, Mary D's, The Sale Hotel, The Blarney Stone, The Green Man, The Boardroom, Yate's, The Pumphouse; The Funzel, The Little B, The Proeflokaal, The Glue Pot, The George Hotel and The Lancashire.

to all those that propped us up, put an arm around us, bought us a drink, put up with our moods, pretended to listen, spared us a thought; ruffled our hair; bought us a consolation pint of Terribly Bitter

to all those with oil money and no history,

to plastic seats and plastic fans

to those who were at Rotherham when King Colin scored

to those who saw Bert bend his neck

to those in the biggest Maine Road crowds, the men and boys, girls and mums who really existed, but never count

to those who were not really there, time and time again

To Gerry Gow and Ian Bishop

To Tommy Hutch and goals at both ends







to all those at Ewood Park, The Den, Saltergate, Bootham Crescent; 

to all those who tackled, blocked, saved, scored, headed, came on, came off, jumped, challenged and played out of their skins;

to all those who sang long and hard deep into the night;

to all those who dared to dream;

to all those who still dream;

to Dickov and the Goat;

to all who cheered themselves hoarse at Wrexham and Stoke;

to all who ran the gauntlet at Huddersfield and Wolverhampton;

to all those on the pop at Meadow Lane

who felt the joy and felt the pain, 

to all those who sang louder the worse it got;

to all those who renewed for Division Three

when City were buried beneath a tree

to the 30,000 that turned out for Blackpool; 

to the fans who never were and never will be

to all those on the InterCity to Newcastle;

to all those in the minibus to Swansea

to all those hitch-hiking to Plymouth 

to all those on the boat to Bilbao and in a van to Enschede

to those that never came back.

to all those in Gelsenkirchen and Copenhagen, Liege and Santander 

to all those on the fishing smack to the Faroes 

to all those in the double decker at Lokeren;

to all those enoying a Gaudino drive,

to all those dead and alive,

to all those who empathise, sympathise, chastise, romanticise;

to all those who tried to understand despite everything;

to all those who support United, Everton, Leeds, Chelsea but put up with us as mates on non-match days;

to Rodney Marsh and to Tony Towers 

to Glauber Berti and Robinho

to all those who support MSV, Schalke, Sporting, Napoli, Benfica, Juve, AZ, Ajax, Belenenses, Valencia but now support City a little bit too;

to all those who have caught the bug

to all those that offered a hug;

to all those who send text messages when we lose

to all those who have it in your hearts to say "come on Blues" just to make us happy

to John Aldridge and Phil Thompson

to all those with logic and compassion

to all those writing, thinking, posting, tweeting;

to all those who were there and will be there

to all those who have watched our boys at Wembley

to all those who knees didn't go all trembly

to all those who wish they could be there

to all those new to the throng

to all those who can never go again

to all those wizened, cracked, broken and chastened

to all those for whom hope is the killer

to Paolo Wanchope and Kevin Horlock

to Micky Horswill and Geoff Hammond

to the unsung heroes and the bottle washers 

to all those who find a treble bittersweet

to all those that find that quite a feat

to those that dare not look 

To all the captains and to Tony Book 





to the kitmen and the carpert cleaners;

to all those driving Lamborghinis

to all those prematurely thinning

to the change from losing to winning  

to Nigel de Jong and Mario Balotelli

to guvnors and young guvnors

to all those who have played like we dream

to all those who have dreamed

to all those who have had a nightmare

to Jamie Pollock and Neil Heaney, to Jason van Blerk and the boy Beesley

to all those for whom a Blue Moon rising sends a little shivver down the spine;

to all those who climbed the fences at Villa Park;

to all those who saw next to nothing at London Road;

to all those who watched six go into the Norwich net;

to all those who clapped Big Mal across the turf

to all those who flew with Steve Mackenzie;

to all those who sank with Ricky Villa;

to Paul Power and the Goodison mud

to all those whose limbs went thud

to Bobby Mac in goals 

to David James upfront

to Neil Young and Arthur Mann, to Malcolm Allison and John Benson;

to Roy Paul and Don Revie, to Genial Joe and Tommy Caton;

to Whiteys two, Quinny and Lakey;

to Roy the physio and Beanie the horse.

to all those who waved a banana and sang Blue Moon;

to all those who cheered in the rain in the Prater;

to all those who took a punch on the nose at Barnsley

to all those asked the time at Millwall

to all those who played on through the pain;

to all those who watched four goals go in on Tyneside;

to Stan Gibson and his pitchfork;

to Bert Trautmann and the never-say-die spirit;

to Buzzer, Franny and Colin the King;

to the indomitable spirit of Pablo Zabaleta

to those who have walked Claremont Road;

to those who have raised a glass at the City Gates;

to Kevin Reeves and Paul Sugrue;

to Bill Taylor and Peter Swales;

to Bernard John Halford and Terry Cook;

To all those who dare not look

To straight-faced Ron Saunders

to all those who have risked food poisoning, drank too much and never regretted a moment;

to all those hemmed in at Bradford, on the hill at Blackburn, behind the wire at Wednesday, in the sheeting rain at Huddersfield

to all those who entered enemy territory;

to the guy who jumped on Keith Curle at Old Trafford;

to quiet Mel and out of his depth John, to squeaky Alan and confused Phil;

to Uwe Rosler and Steffan Karl;

to our Asa.

to all those who played bit parts;

to all those who scored off the far post;

to all those that thought we could coast

to those that put 5 in the United net;

to those that made it six

to those that thought the sun would never shine

to those that saw Dickov slide in the rain;

to those that stayed and those that left and those that turned back and came again

to Bondy, Jimmy Frizz and Big Billy Mac

to Georgi Kinkladze and Murtaz Shelia;

to all those who watched Kernaghan, McNaught and Davidson and still raised a cheer;

to the legendary 8,000;

to all those that sank 12 pints with Bobby Mac and Gerry Gow

to those that swayed on the Kippax, bawled in the Platt Lane, chanted in the North Stand and launched pies in the Main Stand;

to those Chaos Coaches from Prestwich and Whitefield 

to those that got on the pitch at Loftus Road

to Binman Bob

to Mark Lillis' shorts and Gordon Davies' dance steps 

to all those who saw the glory of Wrexham and Real Madrid

to Captain Vinny, here's to you

to Freddie Pye and Trumann's steel

to all those who craned their necks, asked who it was, smiled, tutted and shook their heads;

to all those who saw Dennis fly at Wembley;

to those who had a surreptitious leak;

to those who wet themselves;

to those who hung on and have hung on until now;

to those who never gave up;

to those who came back;

to those who can't take anymore;

to those who went away;

to those who are there in spirit;

to all those who will not see what happens next;

to those who don’t know how long they’ve got

to all those who have seen enough already;

to those who will take what comes

to all those who packed the boozers at West Brom and Watford, Carlisle and Nottingham;

to those rubbing their hands and eyes at Gay Meadow and The Shay;

to all those for whom Górnik Zabrze means something;

to all those raising the forest roof in Apeldoorn

to Peter Barnes and to Dennis Tueart; 




to Denis and his back-heel;

And to how that made you feel.

to Barney Daniels; to Stuart Lee

to all those that like history

to Gerald Sinstadt, David Coleman, Barry Davies, John Motson, Brian Moore and those who have put silken words to our deeds;

to all those on the quays in Porto and shivering in Red Square 

to those drinking sherry in the Mercado San Miguel

to Captain of Captains Mike Doyle;

to Dom Sullivan and Gordon Dalziel

to Barry Silkman and Dave Wiffill

to all those with too many blue garments;

to all those who refuse to wear red

to all those who refuse to remove their lucky underpants;

to those with their sleeves rolled up

to those with a clenched fist

to those with a welcoming hug

to all those in their match gear

to all those who don't really know how to cope,

to all those who don't understand why we do it;

to all those who have spent their last pound on a ticket;

to all those at the Full Members Cup and the Auto Windscreens;

to all those at Darlington and York;

to Edin Dzeko and Kolarov

to Kevin de Bruyne and Demichelis 

to Pete the Badge and Elvis the seagull

to those who love not knowing what comes next;

to The Elephant of Bondoukou

to all those who fret and worry

to those who take it in their stride

to little El Mago and his pirouettes

to all those who keep on coming

to all those drinking red wine on the Bakerloo Line

to all those on the port in Porto

to Big Joe and to Helen and her bell

to the Kings of the Kippax

to those with memories of Maine Road

to all those in the 93rd minute v QPR

to all those climbing the steps at the Nou Camp

to those neutrals who will us on

to those who couldn't give a shit

to those who can take it and those who cannot.

to Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane

to Gary Owen and Tommy Booth,

to all those memories that grate and soothe

to fedoras and ski hats

to shellsuits and flat caps

to those that prefer the simple bar scarf

to those that preferred to streak

to those having a very public leak

to those on the hard shoulder

to those left in the lay-by

to those on the pub roof in Nottingham

to those climbing lamp posts in Sittard

to those on the gin

to those living in sin

to those who smell of curry

to those who can only worry

to Ron Healy and Perry Suckling

to Kevin Ellegaard and flexible John Burridge

to ginger Keith and Daniel Sturridge

to Stephen Ireland's gran and Elano's slam

to big Richard Dunne and the year of the ton.

to clocks that run to 93:20 and to those who thought survival was plenty.

to the Brightwells, the Morleys and the Futchers

to those that hang around training for a butchers

to Glyn Pardoe and Kenny Clements

to Riyad Mahrez and his twinkling feet

to Sergio and Carlos Argentina neat

to those who tweaked muscles, broke bones, cracked heads

to those that surged forward, to those that chased back.

to Fernandinho, to Ilkay and to all out attack.

to those that didn't make it and to those that will come

to those that felt rain and to those in the sun

to basking at Stoke and v Bournemouth only to lose out

to leaping at Ewood and shouting the good shout


to all those freezing on the Scottie Road

to those in the throbbing mass at Villa Park 

to those in plenty of space at the Autowindscreens

to all Full Members and Simod Cuppers

to all who were there when we were on our uppers.

to Richard Jobson and Spencer Prior

to those that speak truth and not to the liar

To the class and style of Roberto Mancini

To the charm and guile of Manuel Pellegrini

To Frank Clark and his guitar

To those watching from afar

To Jamie Paradise with his 3 out of ten

To Bennett, Dave and Thatcher, Ben

To Foden Phil of Stockport town

To Pep the king

Who makes us sing

To all those at Elland Road

To all those who bear the load.

To Gerry Creaney and the law of averages

To Colin Viljoen and Micky Channon

To all those who gave the Liverpool slant

To those that offered bullshit and kant

To those that gave us credit and those that pulled the plug

To those that read Alyson Rudd

To Roger Palmer and Nicolas Anelka

To Derek Potter and John Bean

To the Lees Bradbury, Mills and Francis

To the Summerbee and the winter wasp

To all those that count the cost.

To all those that can’t afford

To those that live like a lord

To John Aldridge and his ceremonial sword

To David Phillips and Derek Parlane

To all those that felt no shame

To Kevin Keegan's might men

to Berkovic and Little Ali a proper gem

To Neil McNab, to Willie Donachie

To Dave Watson and big Mick McCarthy

to the balls that flew and those that popped

to those that lied and photoshopped

To Bramall Lane and Valley Parade

To Paul Stewart and the flashing blade

to Bernardo Silva, Rony Lopes and the Benfica gang

to all those that bawled and sang 

To those that sniffed and those that smirked

To those that doubted and those that hurt

To all those that put sweat on the shirt

To Steppi Stepanovic Come on You Blues

To the exhortations you choose to use

To chicken balti and warm Lamot

To Jesus Navas who's got the lot

To those in the sun of Seville

To those in the rain of Vienna

To Fiona Richmond in the bath

To Groenendijk and having a laugh

To Peter Reid and Clive Allen

to Nicky Reid and Clever Trevor

To Trevor Morley and Raheem Sterling

To the Gareths Barry and Taylor

To Nelly Young and Alan Oakes

To Liam and Noel and other blokes

To National Express and British Rail

To Tom Garner through the wind and hail

To Jo

To Kakhaber Tskhadadze

To all the other letters of the alphabet

To Gordon Dalziel and to Arthur Mann

To Les McDowall and the Revie Plan

To Paula and Lucas and little Sam

To to all those who breathe and weep

and live and sleep

Manchester City.

to all those who dared believe one day we would come out into the summer sun;

You played your part, City have won.



Friday, May 10, 2019

BRIGHTON BREEZY

All smiles as Bond announces his resignation
As Manchester City gear up for a momentous afternoon on the South Coast this weekend, some minds will drift back to the last time the club entered the city of Brighton followed by a long trail of supporters emitting a variety of squeaking noises as they walked.

Almost 36 years ago to the day, City staggered into a date with destiny at the dilapidated old Goldstone Ground. It had been a torrid season. City, 2nd in November after beating Southampton at Maine Road, had dropped slowly but surely to the very edge of the relegation places. The descent had been exacerbated by manager John Bond's departure, ironically after an embarrassing FA Cup 4th round drubbing in the same Brighton stadium City now needed to win in, an embarrassment orchestrated by ex-City forward Michael Robinson and Tony Grealish, who would show briefly in Manchester two and a half years later. As usual the planets were aligning to make City look like a special brand of thoroughbred doughnut.

"John Benson is the perfect choice to take over from me..." - John Bond signals that his assistant should be the next manager, the day he announces his resignation from the City manager's post.
Bond, a curious man, who veered between big stage vanity and a like for spouting strangely homespun metaphors, had left the sinking ship in the less than capable hands of his assistant John Benson.

Benson, an introverted man with little to say for himself, had loyally and seamlessly carried on Bond's work with a stultifying 0-4 reverse at Coventry and a home defeat to Notts County, for whom Justin Fashanu - the target of several attempts by Bond to bring in on loan - scored the winner.


Benson managed to prolong City's winless run right through to April. Included in this litany of gaffes were horrendous back-to-back drubbings at Swansea and Southampton, City conceding four at each venue. If football clubs could look like shipwrecks, then City had the unmistakable sideways listing  of the Mary Rose.

Suddenly, after a ten-game run of startling sparseness, City conjured a rickety 2-0 win at The Hawthorns, with goals from David Cross and Kevin Reeves. "Just what we needed!" shouted the banner headline in the Sunday Express, as Benson came out of his shell to announce to the waiting world that "the better side had won". This indeed had been a feature of his tenure up to this point.

The next game brought the customary home drubbing by Liverpool, however, followed swiftly by defeat at Stoke, where this time the irony-laden goal was supplied by ex-Red and future Blue Sammy McIlroy. The defeat in the Potteries gave the hapless Benson his first opportunity to wheel out the notorious relegation-manager-in waiting quotes. " We Won't Go Down, Says City Boss", made the back pages the next day.

Incredibly, the win put Stoke 5th with only six games to play, while City had nestled controversially into 17th spot, just above Norwich and Luton Town. The five point gap to the first of the relegation places, occupied by Swansea, seemed comfortable enough, especially when the next game brought a resounding home win over West Ham, but trouble was brewing.

As City sank to embarrassing defeat at Highbury, John Bond, ever keen for the warm glow of attention from the cameras, was seen parading the press area offering quotes to the gathered hacks. "I feel for the manager John Benson," he chirruped, " because I brought him to City. It's sad to see him in charge of a team like that." The irony that Benson's sloppy, half-hearted side had been entirely bequeathed to him by Bond seemed to escape him, as the journalists gleefully listened to a string of denials that he was coming back to City to help stave off relegation in the final three games. Wins for Luton, Brighton and Birmingham that afternoon left City looking anxiously at the cloud of dust looming in their rear view mirror. Stalled in neutral, panic was beginning to set in.

With most people suggesting one more win from the last three would be enough, City faced Nottingham Forest on a sunny April 20th at Maine Road. A desperate, mistake-ridden 1-2 defeat brought a thick bank of despair over the club. The leak City appeared to have sprung was not going to be plugged with a bedraggled hairpiece from chairman Peter Swales. Here was a hole of some size and water was pouring through it.

Tommy Caton congratulates scorer Kevin Reeves
It seemed like an unstoppable decline had been set in motion by Bond's disappearance. Only two summers before he had been responsible for one of the club's greatest ever cup runs, sailing through to the Centenary Final against Tottenham with a band of youth teamers and bargain basement signings. Allison's Crystal Palace had been sent packing 4-0, Bond's old club Norwich 6-0 and Everton and Ipswich removed in the latter stages, yet here were City looking threadbare and needy, with just two games of the 82-83 season left.

City set off for the South Coast in poor shape. Injuries and a complete crisis of confidence meant most were apprehensive to say the least. Brighton, heading for the cup final against neighbours United, also needed points for survival. In a match of towering tension, Kevin Reeves' slow looping header with a quarter of an hour remaining sealed an unlikely City win and dumped Brighton into Division Two. Benson, looking like a man who had been mauled by hungry chipmunks, reeled out his relegation quotes again. "I am fairly confident we can now stay up, " he whispered to John Motson for the Match of the Day cameras. John Bean, writing in the Monday edition of the Daily Express - in those days a fine carrier of football news and views - seemed to echo the general view when he wrote,

"The verdict on board City's coach as it sped away from the scene of their great escape was that one of England's major clubs had kept their first division status by the skin of Kevin Reeves' forehead…"
Luton Town, thrashed 5-1 on their own ground by Everton that same afternoon, had an extra game, but it was at Old Trafford and nobody could see them gaining anything at United, who were about to finish 3rd behind champions Liverpool and runners-up Watford. Luton duly lost 3-1 in the first of their Manchester double header and returned to the city for a nail-biting finale, knowing only a win would keep them up. City, still without a visit to the three relegation places all season, needed just a point, thanks to the heroics at Brighton the previous week.

What happened next scarred an entire generation of City fans and is part of the reason they find it wholly normal to worry their fingers down to the bone in the present scenario. Despite Pep Gaurdiola's star-studded team and the prize at stake being as far from the relegation dungheap their predecessors slid in all those years ago, you will still find plenty of City fans refusing to count even one chicken before kick-off at Brighton's shiny new ground on Sunday.

The ghosts of Brightons past, of Bond and Benson and poor old Tommy Caton, are still vivid enough to provoke a scream or two in 2019.

Reeves is chaired off by exultant City fans on the final whistle at Brighton. 



 

Friday, May 3, 2019

DISPATCHES FROM THE OTHER SIDE 21


Notes on the 2018-19 title race with a different perspective. Writing with (and about) the enemy. By Henry Jackson and Simon Curtis

And now for the sprint finish...
 
"Exhaustion" by Rafi Talby

18th April 2019 It feels like the planet has been revolving more slowly during the last few agonising weeks of the season. Enduring City’s win at Turf Moor was a typically unpleasant experience in this regard. You wait all week for the next game to come along, then – once it has started in all its crushing multicoloured tension – you can’t wait for it to be over. Still no government health warnings issued inside your matchday programmes at Anfield and the Etihad. It’s bordering on an NHS scandal.

Pain and suffering all the way. Finger nails bitten to the quick. Personal relationships eroded. Personal hygiene called into question. For some of us, there is only gin left between the end of the football season and a swift descent towards complete madness

Liverpool’s quest has – as the days have passed – become slowly more tricky. City’s game in hand, a tough-looking contest at Old Trafford, gradually turned into a cakewalk against the worst United team I can remember since they went down to the old second division in 1974. Burnley proved much more difficult and millimetres separated success from disaster for City. Those legions of Liverpool fans hoping against hope that United could produce a derby shock were disappointed.

While City had managed on several occasions to steal unlikely points at Old Trafford in the Ferguson era, with a side often dismally short of talent, United could not find the wherewithal to do something similar in 2019. What all of those desperate City sides of the past had had was character, an element almost totally lacking in the current, expensively assembled United squad. To see Raheem Sterling jumping to beat Paul Pogba for an 84th minute header deep in midfield was to see both sides of the coin: commitment v laxity; effort v. doziness; hunger v. vanity. An eye-catching moment. To Pogba probably a lost cause in a safe part of the pitch. To Sterling a ball worth fighting for despite the lack of inches and the likelihood of missing out to the giant alongside him. It is on this incredible hunger that Guardiola has built his City dynasty.

Liverpool’s 5-0 walk in the park against a demoralised and frankly hopeless Huddersfield side had set the weekend up again. Second season syndrome has fallen upon the Yorkshire side like a truck load of coal and they managed to go through the motions for less than a minute before caving in to Liverpool’s lively attackers. Mane, the scorer of two more goals in this game, has clearly been this season’s best of show from the front three, with Mohamed Salah’s quirky ability to ride strong challenges everywhere but the penalty box, where he inevitably crumples like a paper bag in a monsoon, bringing a more negative press his way than was the case twelve months ago.

But now we had a different slant. The extra game had been played and the league table now represents where we are with two to go for both sides. That Liverpool are clinging on at this stage is a major achievement, as has been said since Christmas. To be behind after a season’s exertions of this calibre must be all the more galling for Klopp’s squad. They could hardly have been asked to do more than what has already been achieved.



The plaudits have rightly come their way for a sensational title tilt and perhaps less so towards a City side. whose dominance has seldom been matched in the recent history of domestic football in England. To have gathered 192 points in two seasons is a phenomenal feat worth shouting from the highest steeple, but the press has been slow to come forward with the praise. Maybe everything effusive that could be said was said last season, but to come up with a season almost as dominant as the previous one is something else. A level of consistency that blows the mind. Steady, churning power, allied to the grace and élan of that startling midfield creator Bernardo Silva.

The little Portuguese so frail and brittle-looking, has been City’s tormentor in chief this season, taking on the role played so admirably by David Silva for nearly a decade. Vincent Kompany too, has come back in to help shore up the defence. It was pointed out on Twitter that Kompany’s stats from 2011 demolished those of Van Dijk from this season, but Kompany successfully avoided any of the monsoon of praise showered on the Dutchman this season. No deflection away from Van Dijk’s sterling work. He has made all the difference to a Liverpool side that was too open last season, but perhaps another small example of how differently the press treats Liverpool and City.

One thing is certain, whichever side finishes in front after 38 games deserves the highest possible praise for their efforts and those finishing second should not be forgotten..

Simon Curtis


2nd May 2019 –  Football is cruel, at least if you’re a Liverpool fan.

To be honest, it’s getting me down a bit now.

This side are brilliant - the best I have seen in 25 years of supporting the Reds - and yet they are now heavily odds-on to win nothing this season. People will mock it, articles will be written labelling Jurgen Klopp and his player ‘bottlers’ and it will all be deeply unjust. This lot deserve to be remembered for years to come. I can stomach Liverpool falling short because of true greatness up against them, however, which is what has happened to the Reds this season, as their timing has proved typically unlucky.

I sat and watched my team outplay Barcelona at the Nou Camp for large periods on Wednesday night - when does that ever happen? But they somehow lost 3-0. Why? Well, some questionable finishing certainly played a part, but Liverpool also happened to come up against the greatest person to have ever kicked a football. Lionel Messi was the difference yet again and that free-kick was a moment of pure artistry by comfortably the best there has ever been.

Call me rude, or a know-it-all, but if you don’t think he is the so-called GOAT, I fail to respect your opinion on football.

If Liverpool had Messi and Barca had Mohamed Salah - you’re great too Mo, don’t get me wrong - they would have annihilated the newly crowned La Liga champions. But we don’t, though, and it looks set to be the difference between European glory and no European glory for another year.

I’m a bit cranky, can you tell?

Anyway, let’s talk about City, because that’s what I’m primarily here to do.

Where Liverpool's luck ran out?
If Liverpool are up against a footballing genius in Europe, they find themselves tussling with English football’s most dominant team ever in City, in my opinion. Perhaps they need to do this for a few more years and win at least one Champions League crown, to officially merit that title, but I’ve never seen a team be so dominant in domestic matches. That last time we spoke, the Manchester derby was fast approaching: one that I correctly predicted would end in a City victory.

While United gave it a go for a little while, they are so vastly inferior to their local rivals that I was genuinely questioning the mental state of those predicting anything other than an away win in the days leading up the game. And there was that man Bernardo Silva again making the difference - a man I have waxed lyrical about all season, and someone I am starting to dislike as much as I admire. That’s a compliment, because the best players for your rivals should leave you tearing your hair out and finding reasons to loathe them. He’s an absolute nark and I’d love him in the Liverpool team.

A special thanks to David de Gea for deciding to stop being a goalkeeper just as City come to town, by the way. I couldn’t possibly have seen that coming!

The Reds, meanwhile, had seen off Cardiff by the time the derby started, and then thrashed a hapless Huddersfield side two days later, returning to the Premier League summit. It was pressure back on City, but as the weeks have ticked by and it has become increasingly clear that Pep Guardiola’s side are performing like men possessed in the league, a trip to Burnley was another guaranteed three points. Those are the words of a footballing pessimist, of course, and there were many tipping the trip to Turf Moor to be the day that City came up short.

I was sat in the pub with mates on Saturday night - one United fan, one Tottenham fan - as they told me all about what a tough ask it was going to be for City and how they thought this was still going to be Liverpool’s year.

You’re not kidding me lads, I’ve seen this all before. The football Gods have no time for Liverpool and it’s something I must accept. I sat watching the Burnley game with a truly sickening hangover and my hazy mindset probably helped me endure it, in truth. Not for a single second did I expect anything other than City to triumph, and if Sergio Aguero’s goal hadn’t crossed the line, they would only have scored soon after. Their level of dominance after the break was ridiculous, but I can’t blame Burnley for that, who did their best.

It was all very predictable. Of course, the current narrative is now surrounding balls and goal lines, with Liverpool agonisingly deprived of a goal at the Etihad in January and Aguero benefiting at Turf Moor.

That will now apparently be the reason Liverpool don’t win the league, or potentially those draws against Everton and United. Either way they’ve blown it, right? Good one. The fact of the matter is that the only reason they won’t be crowned champions is because of City. Without their remarkable feats, the Reds would have sealed glory weeks ago.

Summing up the true immature tribalism that exists among fans in the modern game, this Liverpool outfit will suffer more mocking for missing out on the final day than if they had tailed off in February. I have no doubt that Guardiola is staggered that Klopp and his players have lasted the course of the entire season, keeping up with a truly relentless force. They are the second-best team in Europe, regardless of the Barcelona result. Fellow Liverpool supporters can whinge at me for uttering this next line, or accuse me of not being a ‘proper fan’ and saying I ‘don’t deserve’ this team, but the title race is done in my eyes.

I simply don’t see where City slip-up from this point on, and if anything, the Reds’ trip to Newcastle on Saturday looks like the game where the dream could officially die. That Barcelona defeat will have hit the players hard and I would not be shocked to see them struggle to pick themselves up at St James’ Park.

If they do, securing three more points in the process, I won’t be holding out much hope of Leicester doing Liverpool a favour. The Foxes are a good team, with good players and talented, if slightly odd, manager, but their style will play into City’s hands. Brendan Rodgers will attack, the space afforded to City will be laughable and they will probably win handsomely in the end. That’s life.
An in-form Jamie Vardy: reasons for Liverpool optimism?

We will reconvene before the final day of the season next week - here’s hoping the title race is actually still alive at that point, because the Champions League is looking like a lost cause I don’t feel angry and heartbroken by Liverpool likely falling short in both competitions, but my god it all feels desperately unfair.

We used up all our luck in Istanbul.

-       Henry Jackson




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