Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Northern Grit


"And it's Robbie Fowler stepping up to take it....."
Cort McMurray tries to find the reason why we may well never be happy whatever happens. 

Canadian man of letters Robertson Davies was not describing City supporters when he wrote, “We are an ironic people; irony and some sourness is mixed in our nature. It is a matter of climate. We are a northern people. 

But it fits. 

The current braintrust, Mr. Pellegrini and those impeccably tailored Emerati who employ him, need to know this about us. We are not fully happy, unless there is lurking somewhere underneath the small but vital prospect of disaster. It is who we are.

We come by this partly by heritage – we are a northern people, after all – and partly by circumstance.  Until an improbable, insane afternoon in May, when for once the boys pulled Victory from the mouth of Defeat instead of the other way around, two generations of City supporters have mostly made do with irony and sourness, our clay-footed heroes – Richard Dunne, with his stevedore shoulders and his grim air of Irish fatalism, scoring yet another own goal, or Robbie Fowler, confidently pushing a penalty well wide of the net – reliably breaking our hearts. For a while, the closest thing we had to a star was Joey Barton. Joey Barton was less an attacking midfielder than a kidney stone in football boots, cutting his painful, miserable path across the Premier League, the blue half of Manchester firmly, if uncomfortably in his corner. Defending Joey Barton takes a lot out of you.    

"The ball was slid across and Dunne just stuck a leg out and in it went....."

It’s not that we enjoy disappointment; we expect it. Victory is sweet, but disaster is inevitable. City is, after all, the only club to be relegated the season after becoming First Division champions, the only club to score 100 goals and concede 100 goals in the same season, the club for whom the touchstone moment in one of its most momentous victories is not a spectacular goal, but Bert Trautmann’s broken neck. Joy and despair. Pleasure and pain. Irony and some sourness.      

This is no plea for failure, no fit of nostalgic masochism. I am not saying, “City are only City when we're losing 1–0 to Dagenham and Redbridge. In a driving rainstorm.” That’s Colin Shindler’s territory. 

Win, you natty sheiks, by all means win. Dazzle us with trophies, Mr. Pellegrini. Make the rest of England forget that there ever was a manager named Ferguson. Dominate Europe like Bonaparte, before he got it in his head to invade Russia. Give us your Brazilians, your Argentines, your huddled Spaniards, yearning to be creative.

Just remember that we are happiest when the whole thing seems like it’s about to fall apart. Give us Aguero and Silva and Negredo, but save a few roster slots for players who think the way we do, who understand that Things Go Wrong and Life is Hard, and that always, no matter how decisive the victory, Something Untoward is just around the corner. Save a spot or two for players who accept that sometimes, you just can’t help putting the ball past your own 'keeper and there’s nothing to be done but put your hands on your hips and stare stoically down the pitch and move on. Give us some Northern players.

Maybe some Poles.

By Cort McMurray.

You can of course follow Cort on Twitter

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