Morrissey's dirge might have been aimed at either Manchester or Turin, twin Northern industrial bulwarks which will host eagerly awaited Europa League ties between City and Juventus before the end of 2010. The first game, set for The City of Manchester Stadium this midweek, cannot come quickly enough for the Blue three quarters of Manchester after their thrilling defeat of Chelsea in the Premier League.
Well maybe we can wait a day or two. Revenge, after all, is a dish worth serving stone cold after 35 years, which is almost how many years it is since these two last locked horns.
Sep 15th 1976 Manchester City 1 Juventus 0 (Kidd)
Corrigan; Docherty, Donachie, Doyle, Watson, Conway, Barnes (Power), Kidd, Royle, Hartford, Tueart. Att 36,955
Sep 29th 1976 Juventus 2 Manchester City 0
Corrigan, Docherty, Donachie, Doyle, Watson, Booth, Keegan (Lester), Kidd, Royle, Hartford, Tueart Att 55,000
With low gear home and away wins over the Romanians of Timisoara putting City into the misty environs of the Europa League group stages, and a win in Salzburg in their first group A game elevating them to the position of early leaders, an historic meeting with Juventus looms large on the horizon. This is a match to savour for those of the blue persuasion, fed a meagre diet of TNS and Midtylland in recent forays abroad and nothing but crumbs for 30 years before that. Between the late 70's of Kidd and Tueart and the 2003 match with Total Network Solutions of Wales, not a sausage, bratwurst, chorizo worth its name in anybody's language.
Now, however, we prepare for the mouth-watering prospect of one of Europe's elite giants showing up for a game with City's talented squad in our own backyard. Away with the gremlins of Groclins and the double decker bus press "building" in Lokeren, be gone tiny Aalborg and noisy Omonia, this is what we have really been waiting for. This is were we have to sit up and concentrate, mind our manners and remember how to behave at the top table.
For the Old Lady, even in her new low budget blouses and sensible shoes, represents much of what City are not - old Europe, old money, trophy-heavy, aristocratic elite from the parched south of Europe, where the Ultra turn anything good into a deified form. The tiaras and the dancing shoes may have been put back in the old Stadio Communale cupboard, but this old spinster still knows how to throw a move or two.
"Call me morbid, call me pale, but we've spent 34 long years on your trail..."
Images of the besuited Agnellis and Bonipertis flash across the mind, the striped gods of Bettega, Boniek, Rossi, Platini, Scirea, Sivori, Cabrini, Tardelli, Causio, Zoff and the Gentle Giant John Charles are easy to conjure in the mind's eye, draped in history, glory and the honeyed fog of all those unforgettable European nights. These names are the rich history of Italian football. Today's society demands have taken something of a chunk out of this Italian institution, with financial and bribery scandals reducing the empathy and warmth traditionally reserved for this great old team. Money matters, of course, more so in football these days than ever before and, In Juve's case, it matters especially when your rivals appear to have more of it than you do. Times are less opulent than they once were. Now even City are a kind of rival of Juventus and one, incredibly for some of us still pinching ourselves to wake up from the nightmare of relatively recent league visits to Northampton Town and Wycombe Wanderers, being taken increasingly seriously by the continent's big hitters.
Rather than shuffling along the well worn path of the tawdry and the costly in Serie A game arranging, we should make this an excuse to turn the clock back. To Wednesday 15th September 1976, to be precise. City, with a team full of international pedigree drawn to play Juventus in the first round of the UEFA Cup, an unlucky quirk of the draw in the days before seeding and money kept glamour games away from the early stages. On a raw Manchester night, City did the raucous Maine Road crowd proud. With the Kippax belting out the slightly unusual chant "we hate spaghetti" and following it up with a thumping rendition of "Fish and chips, fish and chips, fish and chips", not only was the electric atmosphere giddy with that famous Maine Road mix of gallows humour and slapstick but the men from Turin were in danger of being rocked out of their composed stride
|The Kippax cranks up some old-fashioned noise|
CITY FALL INTO IL TRAP
|Italy line up circa 1978 with 8 Juventini|
New England manager Don Revie sat expectantly under a tartan rug in the Main Stand with a notepad marked "Tueart, Royle, Kidd, Barnes, Doyle, Watson, Corrigan...", the new pretenders, whilst Juventus coach Trappatoni, embarking on what would stretch to a ten year stint in charge, strode around the muddy edges of the Maine Road pitch with a small piece of paper marked with a single vital word - "catenaccio". If foreign tongues were anathema to the mean streets of Rusholme in those days of pie and mash, we would soon enough understand what this bit of Italian signified.
Tony Book would later admit that this was a well-laid but hardly unforeseeable trap that the Blues had marched straight into. With the Kippax heaving and City leading through Brian Kidd's soaring header, a win was considered well worth celebrating. It was not every day, after all, that Manchester City dealt a blow to the pride of a team so swollen with foreign international names. We had practically beaten Italy for heaven's sake! The nagging doubt remained, however, that having Juve on the ropes on your own patch, with the Kippax baying for more, might just be seen as a missed opportunity rather than a heroic episode in what we laughingly hoped would be a thick volume of similarly outstanding European adventures.
THE OLD ONE-TWO
Well-steeped in European two leg tactics, Juventus knew full well that a 1-0 deficit could easily be turned around in the boiling bearpit of the Stadio Communale in Turin. And so it transpired, with City unable to steel themselves, unprepared for the iron-clad defensive shut-out that was necessary, instead attempting to give the striped Juventini a game, playing open expansive football, which the home side quickly picked off. With the score at 2-0 in a rainy Turin, City had no answer and the Italians played out the rest of the remaining minutes with their familiar defensive aplomb. Book had been right to say beforehand that the winners of this tie could go on to lift the trophy, but it was Juventus who would do so and not City.
|Kidd heads the winner in Manchester|
CAT & MOUSE
So, now finally a chance for revenge. Having danced a tactical foxtrot with Chelsea and revealed a penchant for caution, closed ranks and safety-first, City under Mancini are proving a tough unit to get past. Delneri's men might well ponder their leaky offering against Palermo this week and wonder, just for a minute, who it is these days that are the kings of catenaccio...