Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, you are entering The Zone.

The edge. The edge of The Zone.

Without a shadow of a doubt, dear old loveable rough-and-tumble laugh out loud Manchester City face in the next week and a half their snow-clad Eiger. North Face. Blizzard conditions. Dodgy crampons. No sandwiches. Funny loss of feeling in left foot. Only a beige Balotelli hand hat to keep you warm. This is it. The meaty part of the season. You can almost smell the sizzling hamstrings from here.

Drugs, violence, insanity? Let's give it a go.
Signor Mancini's efforts at pat siege mentality or plain-as-pancakes Year One kidology seem, on first glance, to be a little parched, a little lacking in both cunning and subtlety. "We are all very tired" has never fooled many through the annals of time. Napoleon, Montgomery, Hunter Thompson.They have all gone the extra kilometre when asked. Sure, we have tired legs, just like every other team still in three competitions, still struggling on three fronts, with meagre resources, battered egos and poor facilities. You can only fear for our boys on the cheap treadmills, eating the soggy sarnies at Carrington.

Life can be dreadfully tough.

Steadying ourselves, it is perhaps right to say, we are slightly, very slightly ahead of schedule. The remit was 4th place. Champions League qualification. The reality, as it presents itself to me tonight through the haze of a very decent bottle of Quinta da Alorna Reserva, is that City sit in 3rd place, are to play Dynamo Kiev for a place in the last eight of the Europa league and have Reading as guests on Sunday for a semi final berth not experienced since the days, the glorious days of Tommy Hutch, Joe Corrigan and Nicky Reid. Excuse me whilst I wipe away a tear.
"And Martin, the smell of European glory...Intoxicating?"
Many have been the rumours, the suggestions, the urgings that Mancini must / will / ought to ditch the European gig in favour of domestic glory. Martin O'Neill tried this for Villa not so long ago, I seem to remember and it went down like Lindsay Lohan (the other Lindsay Lohan, from Bradford) with the locals. The answer to any football conundrum can never be "jack in the cup". The answer can never be "jack it in", full stop. Any leader worth half a salt cellar would at this point not be whining about tiredness, but eulogising about sitting on the shoulder of angels. Ten games (or so) from the most unforgettable glory, the most intoxicating release an athlete can have from nine months of intense physical effort. Give it one more big big shot and the moon might just fall in your lap.
City's current form might not suffice. On a grand global scale, sneaked 1-0 wins over frightened Wigan and desperate home draws with Fulham do not a Dublin knees-up make. Yet, there is still room for optimism. United have lost to Wolves, Chelsea and Liverpool , banishing the sweeping-luck-before-them epithets clean out the window and down to the bottom of the drive. Last seen being buried enthusiastically by the neighbour's afghan, slathering and panting as it went. Arsenal, being Arsenal, are dizzyingly, maddeningly once again embarking on a series of intricate one-two-three-fours that will see them sink without trace. Their sterling efforts against Birmingham and Barcelona reveal their penchant for slapstick with no return is alive and well. Bizarrely, the big threat comes from behind in the form of the stampeding buffalo that is Chelsea, a wet, angry beast emerging from the Zambeze with a feather dart in its bottom. So often and so thoroughly written off by the great and good that they must be contenders, as sure as Mark Clattenberg's middle name is Narcissus Maximus.

John Terry centre parting

So things are shaping up nicely. Whilst the cocksure leaders stand gauchely on their own toes, whilst the commentators search grimly for a new angle on this "season of all seasons", whilst Jamie Redknapp considers the prospect of literally shooting himself in the buttocks, we can all still dream. Of Dublin, of Wembley, of jam roly poly with custard. City carry us magnificently into the tail-end of the season, dragging tired limbs but pulling on the resources of the most eager set of terrace dreamers since hope began. Limbs may be heavy, time may be short, but those going that extra furlong are about to be rewarded with a brass plate or two.

..."The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."


  1. Hello, I saw your feature in the Wigan programme last weekend and had a look at your blog. Very well written and entertaining. I was at that afternoon match when we beat Coventry in the Q.F. league cup - I don't think it had a sponsor then - No! I definitely know it didn't. I recall Buzzer's old mate Ernie Hunt - I'm sure he played for Coventry that day but could be wrong. The shirts they wore were actually green and black broad stripes...unusual and smart.The game was special to me because I went with my Dad...didn't do that very often and four years later he passed away.We were in a fairly new North Stand just after they finally got all of the seats in - for a while there was standing in there too. I am back matchgoing after a decade and more of nestling in the woodwork - exciting times lie ahead.
    Alan Richards -
    -one of the 8,015 v. Swindon 1965

  2. Great memories from that time. The conditions for that game made it impossible to identify any of the players on our black and white set. After half an hour both team wore identical dark grey kits. Only the goalkeepers stood out (they kept picking the ball up...) and Frannie Lee with his builder's girth, not dissimilar to Ernie Hunt, although lee was missing the Che Guevara tache.


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