Monday, June 27, 2011

DAYS THAT SEALED A SEASON 4

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: A TRIP THROUGH 2010 - 2011
╬ Chapter Four - look Left, look right, pull away, stall 

"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". 


November. The curate's egg. Just when City needed a bit of stability, a bit of consistency, in wafted instability and inconsistency, just like it was what we had always prayed for.  



With the papers busy linking the club with any superstarlet from South America, any wandering big name without a sense of direction and any player at all that they could attach an eye-watering fee of at least £30M to, the tale of Shaun Wright Phillips' efforts to boost his earnings to a sloppy £100,000 a week might have slipped beneath the radar, but thanks to an ever-alert tabloid pack, a rat was smelled and the story went public. The fact that Shaun was playing like a bricklayer with a family of badgers going at it in his pants meant most observers thought the quoted figure to be "a little on the high side". His step-father, writing in his capacity as a brain surgeon in The Sun suggested the contrary.

With player unrest, a million and one transfers and Shaun's Wage Demands propelling City onto various backpages, a lethargic and defensive display in Poznan, resulting in a 1-3 defeat, meant the next day's papers had knives at the ready that were sharp enough to separate an elk from his antlers. Journalists, punters and the great and good of sausagemeat production all had an opinion on Mancini's "Italian mentality" and most now agreed "it was too defensive for the premier league". However, the self-same writers prodding sticks now would be dusting down their very best quill pens come May.


Roll up, roll up, for the greatest show on earth

Back from the arctic wastes of Poland, the sun made an appearance at the Hawthorns. This seemed to be to Mario Balotelli's liking as he wafted in a double to seal the points. Around about now, with bad news stories from Poznan beginning to dry up, the papers brought the nation's attention to the snood, a woolen garment worn outside the shirt around the neck. Resembling a black Labrador curled up asleep in front of the fire, it is worn - we were reliably informed - by "more of the soft foreign mercenaries at Manchester City" than anywhere else in the Premier League. It was also around this time that it became obvious that somebody in a velvet-lapelled coat and cork Ted Baker mocassins had told Roberto Mancini that the English league is always (that's always) referred to as "the Barclays Premier League". Mancini duly called it thus every single time he was interviewed until the end of the season (17,843 single mentions according to Opta).
Barclays, goddammit, Barclays!!

With yet another international break, the papers descended on Carrington en masse and, depending which one you perused, City were buying Dani Alves, Edin Dzeko, Keanu Marsh Brown (no, really) or Sime Vrseljko (yes, yes) or offloading Wayne Bridge, Adebayor, Jo, Rocky Santa Cruz or either from the penniless Wright-Phillips to the snood wearing misfit Balotelli. Kolo Touré also found himself quoted as saying players were "cheating" the club if they didn't fight for each other, this an early example of the door that bounces back and smashes you in the nose (or belly, if that happens to be hanging out further).

Zabaleta smacks in number 2
Two drab and scoreless home draws against United and Birmingham did nothing to prepare us for the blistering display of attacking football City put on at Craven Cottage. With Jo starting for the first time, City were three up after half an hour, a coruscating show of powerful, vivacious and cunning one-touch football sending a message to the anti-Mancini scribes. By Jiminee, this team can play! Zabaleta's missile and Yaya Touré's finish to a 24 pass move were the highlights of a sterling show. That it was Mark Hughes warming the home team's bench did not go unnoticed, his face remaining a picture of the most awkward discomfort throughout.


The month finished in the snowy wastelands of the Potteries, with a last minute Etherington equaliser depriving City of all the points. It would not be the last time we would lock horns with Tony Pulis's agricultural side, but it would be the last time they got any change from this Manchester City team.


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