Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parallel Lines

April 4th 1981

City's pre-occupied and energy-sapped players entered the field for the last game before the semi-final match-up with overwhelming favourites and treble-chasing Ipswich Town. There had been a raft of selection difficulties, but the main one surrounded Nicky Reid and Tommy Booth. Did we want energy and commitment or experience and nous? In truth, did we really want to go ahead with this doom-laden match at all? Like today, some of us were so consumed by the nervous anticipation of the event, that sleep, eating and walking in straight lines had become almost impossible tasks.

Unlike today, however, Blues supporters had not been waiting thirty-something years to see some meaningful trophy action, but it was nevertheless still a time of extreme tension, expectation and no little trepidation. Cityitis, you see, is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. So we hauled ourselves down to Carrow Road....

A supine, nervous and bedraggled performance followed, giving us the distinct impression that we would be blown away by Bobby Robson's terrific trophy chasers. Ipswich's side was packed with internationals: Burley, Beattie, Mills, Wark, Mariner; Talbot. In serious disarray, we were clearly in very big trouble indeed. Ipswich were chasing Liverpool hard for the title, were on the brink of the UEFA Cup final (which they would win in a goal-drenched final with AZ67 Alkmaar) and were our super-confident opponents for the semi-final of the FA Cup. We were very obviously in some serious soup.

The week that followed featured various rumblings about team selection, player capability and commitment plus widescale worries about the inevitable humiliation that awaited us at Villa Park. For those of us antique enough to remember what happened next, we will forever live happy in the shadow of our beloved "Typical City". We will never, or rarely, bemoan sod's law, lack of luck or impending death by a thousand strokes, because we are fully aware what this club is capable of producing before our disbelieving eyes. When the soul is week and the mind fuzzy, there is always a chance of redemption.

For the house built on sand is still upright after all these years. It wobbles from time to time. It has crooked walls and is covered in disrespectful grafiti, but it still stands tall and whilst it does, anything is possible. Enjoy your weekend, fellow sufferers.

SEMI-FINAL DAY: The Holte End is a sea of sky blue as the disbelievers begin to believe again

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