Saturday, November 6, 2010

BLUE RINSE

So, here we all are, on the very rim of crisis, the juicy edge of the precipice, where the wet soil is giving way beneath our feet and the slurping noise is not just the soft mud but the jackals wiping their mouths before the feast. Another Maine Road, sorry Eastlands crisis looms large, the whirlpool sucks at our giddy feet, tickling, trickling and pulling us down.

Complete barnacles, obviously, with City sitting proudly in 4th place and making decent headway into the permanent fixtures of the upper echelons, judging by the adverse press and spectator reaction to every move the Blues make. This is Big Four territory and everybody's out to get us.

Cwisis? I'll just get the guitar
Only, when you have followed this club for a little while, even a relatively short little while, you know that a crisis is a furry animal with a very different smell. You have to be a Junior Blue with the meakest of loyalty points totals to be able to say that all you know about City is top division calmness and Europa League chases. Those of us a little older are still taking pills to recover our hormonal balance after the Gillingham play-off final in 99. Those of us a little older again are still having monthly injections to ward off the nightmares featuring alan ball, Frank Clark, Steve Coppell, Phil Neal and a band of merry men so merry you would have to be Fat Santa himself to recognise them all.

++++

Big Mal's replacement is announced
And then there is my generation. Brought up on The Jam, The Sweeny, The Old Grey Whistle Test and The News at Ten, we know a crisis when we see one. We look the thing between the eyes, size it up, then laugh at its temerity. For this is a mere nothing, my friends, a tooth pick in the back of an Alaskan Musk Ox. Manchester City has crisis written through its genes like the message in a stick of rock and to talk of such as we sit half-pretty, half ugly in 4th place in the top division is akin to saying Wayne Rooney might have gone to America to free his mind. Plain daft, Jack Kerouac daft.

Crisis facing a fixture at West Brom is this: your saviour and most successful ever manager has returned and crashed & burned. His contract has just landed in pieces on the pavement after being jettisoned from the top floor of the admin block. The money has not only dried up but turned into a pile of aggressive iou notes and confiscation orders. The ranks of international stars have left to be replaced by Bobby Shinton, Stuart Lee and Paul Sugrue. You will face West Brom and their two hungry new England starlets, Peter Barnes & Garry Owen. Something crucial and fragrant is dripping from the hem of your trousers.

++++

The year is 1980. The Glory years have turned Gory. Big Mal has been sacked. Tony Book, that arch replacer of failures, is at the helm until John Bond has got his suitcases under control. City are bottom three (that's significantly south of 4th). Confidence is shot. We have just lost at Leeds, who are also devoid of hope and health. Book, Captain of City's fabulous trophy team, is himself bruised and battered from Big Mal's rocky second coming. Ken Barnes is coming to the rescue with a packet of Rothmans and a pint of Boddies.

The game at the Hawthorns, on Saturday 11th October 1980, was lost 3-1. A young Brian Robson got Albion's first, as they did the hopscotch allover City's twitching corpse. As the Sunday Express recounted: "Chants of "Swales out" rose from the vociferous band of Manchester City supporters as their team conceded two goals in four minutes midway through the second period of this game...." That Bond duly arrived and , after an initial defeat by Birmingham, soon had City on an unbeaten run that would take us to the Centenary cup Final, a League Cup semi and 10th in the league, demonstrates that even proper crises can easily be blown away if you hold your resolve. We are quick to run out the white flag these days, too ready to jabber hyperbole and far too twitchy about a defeat or two. How many City defeats have you watched? Exactly. So, even if yet another one materialises before our eyes in the West Midlands on Sunday, it won't be anywhere near a crisis. We've been in far too many worse places to even blink at this kind of minor discomfort. Besides, the respectable neighbours are due round for tea and crumpets on Wednesday evening. Let's hope they leave on time this year and don't outstay their welcome.

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