Wednesday, June 22, 2011

DAYS THAT SEALED A SEASON 3

Bright Lights, Big City: a trip through 2010-11
Chapter Three: Look, indicate, manoeuvre

“Ireland’s season would never raise itself above ill-considered tat, but City’s was about to disappear down another black tunnel where the knives would be out once again.....”

October gifted the mainstream press a gold plated opportunity to stick the dagger in and wiggle it all about. For some of the tabloids’ less fussy pen wielders, the occurrences of Sunday 3rd October were manna from heaven. As Newcastle playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa, already the target of an unprovoked attack of illiteracy from Alan Shearer, steadied himself momentarily in midfield possession, he was clattered by the in-coming Nigel de Jong in a way that we would see hundreds of times as the season unfolded. Indeed many would vouch that De Jong’s tackling was one of the major features in City’s first successful season in terms of trophies since the Spanish Armada was chased around Rathlin Island shouting “rocks ahoy”. Only on this occasion, the opponent’s leg was broken in the challenge.

As a major intellectual sandstorm blew in over The Mirror and The Sun, with Stan Collymore on Talksport calling for De Jong to be “drummed out of football...”, a brief selection of reactions from the pride of the UK tabloid press pack would have given the impression that the City midfielder was guilty of manslaughter, assault & battery and willful wounding, despite the fact that the tackle was neither high nor late. Ben Arfa’s parent club, Marseille, helpfully offered to start court proceedings, whilst Newcastle complained bitterly. De Jong, who’s card had already been marked by many for his chest-high kung-fu attack on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup Final, would take the flak in his small but tenacious stride and, by season end, would feature as one of the main reasons for the successful outcome to City’s travails.

On Friday 15th, news reached us that Malcolm Allison had passed away. For many, the one man who more than any other epitomised the City spirit of adventure and risk was gone. http://downthekippaxsteps.blogspot.com/2010/10/great-chalkboard-in-sky.html told the story of a man ahead of his time, who lived both football and life to the absolute maximum.
 



De Jong prepares to meet his critics
Cheers, Big Mal
As if to celebrate the memory of the club’s most successful and flamboyant coach, City landed at the seaside and proceeded to joust with Blackpool to the delight of the capacity crowd at Bloomfield Road. A topsy-turvy game was eventually sealed by a wave of the magician’s wand (otherwise known as the left leg of David Silva) in a 3-2 win. The away following was loud and appreciative in its eulogising of Big Mal during the match and the next match would see the seeds sown for the birth of another crowd phenomenon to follow in the footsteps of 80s inflatables and 90s club anthems, both of which had their roots in Maine Road folklore before becoming league-wide trends.

When Lech Poznan arrived at Eastlands for a routine group game, the 34,000 present should have gone home talking about a surprisingly alert Adebayor hat-trick, but instead, post-match chat was confined to the antics of the large Polish following, who spent most of the game pogo-ing backwards with their arms linked. An impressive sight, all agreed. We might have guessed what would follow.

October petered out with two defeats. The first a Mark Clattenburg-inspired mauling by Arsenal (where the dramatically self-indulgent Geordie sent off Boyata after three minutes) and the second at bottom-three Wolves, where Adebayor returned to the lethargic ghost we had all come to recognise. With this mini slump, City, missing De Jong and Tevez, also missed an opportunity to climb into the top four. For many, the death of Big Mal and the dip in league form meant November and the snowy road to Poznan and Christmas couldn’t come quickly enough.

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