Monday, July 18, 2011


Part 6 - No Stopping at the Zebra Crossing!

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.

Cigar? Check. Champagne?
City welcomed the New Year in with a 1-0 win over Blackpool, Johnson's goal all that separated the teams in a game where there was clearly more than a single goal difference in quality.  Blackpool's much talked about manager proceeded to wave his arms around and fill the interview area with bluster, but the game had been simple enough for City, with an appearance by the captain to scotch the rumour mongers for another 48 hours. He might have wished he had not bothered showing up, however, after Varney's comical attempt to outmuscle the lighthouse physique of Yaya Touré presented City with a penalty, which Tevez did not even manage to hit the target with.

This somewhat  threadbare win was followed up with a dreary shut-out at Highbury, the stalemate triggered great rumblings of discontent from the banks of purists at the Emirates. That City's goal had led a charmed life was without question, with one particular early flurry of activity around Joe Hart's goal resembling Chipperfield's Circus when the monkeys get out and spoil the clowns' ordered presentation of plate spinning, but the point gained would prove vital by the end of the season, by which time Arsenal's supporters would have readily swapped crowing about City's inadequacies and started berating Arsene Wenger for providing them with "yet another" blank season. One was tempted to ask oneself when exactly did Arsenal fans switch from those bushy-bearded patient lot watching Trevor Ross and Tony Woodcock sky chance after chance to the snobbish upstarts of today? More than likely approximately three honey-laden seasons into the Wenger era.

The FA Cup trail started in January with a tie positively framed in used banana skins: Leicester City away.  That the Midlanders were now managed by Sven Goran Eriksson made the possibility of an upset even more mouthwatering to some in charge of media laptops. With the match also designated as a Neil Young tribute - the City scorer against Leicester in our last cup final having been diagnosed with terminal cancer - the stage was set for something beyond the ordinary. This we got in spades, with a terrific match ebbing and flowing through a first minute Leicester goal, a great City comeback, a 24th minute Poznan from the travelling 5,000 City supporters to commemorate Young's cup final winner in the same minute in 69 and an unusually inept blunder from Joe Hart for Leicester's second.  2-2, after a breathless game, was the final score. This, we all agreed., was what the Cup was all about....

What the league was all about was getting back to winning ways and a 4-3 see-saw against Wolves at Eastlands provided little to undermine the doubters' ever-louder calls that City were neither ready nor good enough to challenge properly at the pointy end of the table. Despite the flurry of goals, the introduction of Edin Dzeko, or "27 Million Pound Edin Dzeko" as he would quickly become known to the press, would -we assumed- more than likely help up the goal rate in the coming weeks. When four more hit the back of Leicester's net in the cup replay, a few more doubters were ready to listen, so City headed to the traditionally happy hunting ground of Villa Park loosening up to begin the chase in earnest. 

This match was all about the public's first opportunity to compare the two respective striker acquisitions, Darren Bent and 27 Million Pound Edin Dzeko. Bent, having snatched Sunderland's winner at the death in September, did the dirty again, scoring the only goal in a disappointing defeat for City. No mention of the 24 million pound price tag was made.

Keys looking pleased with himself
As the month drew to an end, Richard Keys and Andy Gray left for the Dinosaurs' Cemetry through the Ron Atkinson Gate after a series of pub teenager asides about sex with females were inadvertently aired to microphones mysteriously left on. Gray had also been filmed trying to get an intern to grope him and, as Keys himself might have said, "they'd just smashed it". 

With nearly 80 minutes of the 4th round FA Cup match complete at bottom tier Notts County, it was clear that City's injection of forward power was not having the desired effect. 1-0 down to their hosts at an arctic Meadow Lane, it was left to Micah Richards to muscle his way down the right wing and swing in a bullet cross to provide a first ever goal for Dzeko to save City from ignominious exit. Ten minutes had existed between the Blues and the end of the FA Cup trail for another year. A collective sigh of relief could be heard in the East Midlands as East Manchester prepared for the replay. Could City keep the run moving past the dark days of winter? We would very soon see.


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