Bright Lights, Big City: a trip through 2010-11
╬ Chapter Two: Adjusting The Sun Visor
“Newspaper talk of unrest in the camp and the obvious disaffection of Adebayor were already themes taking root in City’s nascent season....”
|Iaquinta opens the scoring for Juve|
By the time the ten game-less days at the start of September had passed, two more moments of significance had occurred. In an early insight of what was to come, the press were delighted to report that new signing Mario Balotelli had wrapped his £120,000 Audi around a bollard on the Chester Road. Another player widely used as a stick to beat City with, the inaffable Robinho, finally dragged himself to the airport to sign for Milan, another big payday and reward for a marathon 2-year display of laziness, petulance and egotism in Manchester.
As a minor intellectual storm broke over the BBC for their use of superstar pundits, who’s lazy “thicko-cool” didn’t allow them to explain anything more simple than a big man coming up for a corner in any relevant detail, City were also coming in for criticism, after a 1-1 draw with Blackburn at Eastlands. Two comfortable away wins in the twin picturesque locations of Salzburg and Wigan (dreaming spires and steaming mires) began to put that right, but a midweek visit to The Hawthorns in the Carling Cup soon brought the vultures out again.
A meagre crowd of 10,000 watched a City second string struggle to find its feet, ultimately being eliminated from the one tournament that the Wise and Good of the British press saw as winnable for City this season. Hindsight, that fickle maiden, tells us that Mancini’s call was spot on, but the ferment of criticism at the time of the 2-1 defeat was impressive. Of the team that took to the field that night (Given; Vidal, Boyata, Mee, Cunningham; Ibrahim, Vieira, Johnson, Guidetti; Jo, Santa Cruz), only Johnson would play a critical role, and that often delivered from the bench, whilst Vieira and Boyata would be frequent squad members and late substitutions in games needing closing down. Perhaps Mancini’s decision on the night of 22nd September paved the way for automatic Champions League qualification and a historic FA Cup victory nine months later. Certainly at the time, his decision was lambasted from all quarters as a foreigner’s who didn’t understand our need for a trophy, pronto.
That the Blues followed this up with a strong line-up winning somewhat fortuitously against Chelsea, thanks to Tevez’s mishit shot, and holding the once mighty Juventus to 1-1 in the Europa League, drew the sting somewhat from the hill of criticism. In the latter game, Adebayor was “trusted” to take part in a high profile game, as the Mail put it, and Johnson slid in a beautifully manufactured equaliser to send everyone home contented.
|What money doesn't buy|
As the month closed, ex-Blue Steven Ireland shared the interior of his palacially robust mauvais-goût with readers of the Daily Mail. Details of the monstrous over-indulgence included heart embroidered seats in his and hers pink and white Bentleys, a black pool table with the word “Ireland” writ large on the baize and an aquarium the size of a Baltic inlet. 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.