Friday, July 8, 2011


The Alan Appreciation Society
Chapter 5: Select First Gear Looking Sheepish

"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."

December opened with the visit to Manchester of Alan. Here was a footballer, who may never reach the heights of the world game, may never set any records, may not even set too many pulses racing, but on 1st December  2010 in a freezing cold northern English city, he played the game he will never forget for the rest of his life. It is not an easy task imagining him as an old man in a knitted cardigan in Belo Horizonte regaling his grandchildren with the story of the night he played for Salzburg (who, Pappi?), in the Europa league (what, Pappi?) lost comprehensively (oh, Pappi), only entered as a 2nd half sub, but had the whole ground serenading him for 20 minutes (but why, Pappi, you were always so shite?). Alan, we saluted you.

England's World Cup bid, headed by the unimaginably comic trio of Prince William, Prime Minister Cameron and the wordsmith David Beckham (" give it us, we was there at the of football...") failed against the might of bent ballots and Russian/Qatari oil fortunes. Ironic really. The world immediately began to try and force up a picture of what a World Cup in Qatar might possibly look like. The ghosts of Paul Breitner, Rudi Krol, Garrincha, Eusebio, Giacinto Facchetti, Mario Kempes and Mick Mills revolved once and fell off the stage. Gay, Jewish, alcoholic supporters with asthma and allergies to dried fruit began booking holidays in Magaluf instead.

Please, Sir, can i leave the club?
After back-to-back wins over Bolton (Tevez) and at West Ham (no Tevez), the football community wet itself as news leaked that City's Argentinian captain had asked to leave. Speculation as to why was immaterial in these early stages, whilst journalists made hay with the copy. "The Project" as many continued to insist on calling it, was derailed and defunct. The little South American, meanwhile, cossetted and cajoled by his coterie of oddball advisers and an Iranian with self-delusional images of grandeur, grunted at the press and departed. It later emerged that Tevez was aiming to be the first ever professional footballer to leave his club owing to relationship difficulties with a board member.

Juventus away. Here was a European fixture that many of us had been waiting a long time for. A hark back to the semi-glorious seventies of Brian Kidd and Asa Hartford. Well, football has changed, Ladies and Gentlemen. There was no Scirea, no Tardelli, no Zoff, not even a Stadio Communale. No baying 60,000 crowd, no Enzo Bearzot. Instead we were treated to a bunch of glove-wearing small-names in front of a 6,998 audience (1500 of which had travelled all the way from Manchester),  an equaliser from top-notch Jô and first place in group A. Times, in many many ways, were-a-changing.

"Well surely it will be a funny game"
Back home in the snow, a win in our next fixture would have put us top at Christmas for the first time since The Rocket was running the Rainhill-St Helens commuter line full of black-faced miners munching dripping sandwiches. There was only one hitch. This is 2010, the age of salmon and dill wraps and the match would be against Everton. David Moyes made his usual mealy-mouthed disparaging remarks and left with the points as pre-ordained by God herself. Tim Cahill, City's official anti-Christ got his annual goal, whilst at the other end magnets and a daring array of trip wires seemed to have been employed to keep the ball from going in past the blaspheming Tim Howard.

Despite the annual bout of bed-wetting against Everton,  the end of year sheets continued to look reasonably pristine and fragrant after efficient wins over Newcastle and Villa (3-1 and 4-0) put City well in the hunt as 2011 hove into view.  Balotelli claimed the world's first hat-trick without running ten metres in the latter game, whilst Tevez returned to score in the former. With the FA Cup about to start, pitting City into a curiosity-laden tie at Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester City, thoughts turned to Niel Young's sweet left footer at Wembley in 1969. With David Bernstein the surprise choice of FA head, some were beginning to picture his face in June if he had to hand the cup over to Carlos Tevez. To most cup victories in May seemed a very distant dream. Even having Tevez for the next match at home to Blackpool seemed a long shot at this point.

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