Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A crazy end to a crazy season

Those are the words that have been used by all and sundry to describe what happened on Sunday 13th May 2012 and it's taken me 2 days to be able to even sit down and compose anything that resembles a coherent series of words to describe it.

I had to watch the game in the pub, and I sat there just wishing I could be there at the Etihad Stadium to share this momentous occasion with 47,000 other Blues. But in a way, it didn't matter where you were on that day as we were all there in spirit, willing the comeback of all comebacks to come to fruition, #Together.

In the room adjacent to mine was another screen showing the United game, obviously full of United fans. I could see through to where they were all sat, all looking as nervous as we were. That's something you don't see very often on a United fan's face.

One woman shouted through "Come on QPR!" before kick off, obviously sharing the sentiments of the other Reds that she was sat with. Not a single City fan asked for favours from Sunderland, we knew we had to do this on our own.

Kick off came and City totally dominated, the mood lifted as we saw that although this was going to be a game almost entirely of one their defence against our attack that very few teams had stopped us before and City were in fine scoring form added to their incredible home record since Mancini took over.

Despite this growing confidence there were a few nervous glances as the cheers game from the other room. Rooney had been gifted a goal by some Sunday league defending by Sunderland. But we still had the belief.

Then 6 minutes before half time, the only outfield player not to have scored in any competition this season popped up. Pablo Zabaleta. Silva knocked the ball into the box to Toure who instantly moved it on to Zabaleta as he stormed past him. Bang, straight at Paddy Kenny. But he didn't catch it. The ball looped into the air for what seemed an eternity, we held our breath, almost expecting the ball to loop over the bar, but it didn't.

Ecstasy, an eruption of joy exploded through the room, a mirror of the scenes at the Etihad. If there was one player who deserved a goal for his hard work and attitude, it was Zaba, and he got it.

Half time came, another drink was bought and a conversation with my uncle about how Lescott had improved under the tutelage of Mancini and playing alongside Kompany. I said "He's always been a good tackler, but his reading of the game and composure have improved a lot in the last 2 years."

I'm not superstitious but I wish we hadn't had that conversation as it was an error of judgement by Joleon that gave Cisse a clear run on goal to make it 1-1. I sat, stunned as my heart sank. The screen showing just what that meant to Lescott, he looked devastated.

7 minutes later though, City were given a boost as Joey Barton, well, was Joey Barton. Elbowing Tevez in the face in retaliation for Tevez climbing over his back to try and force his way fast him and catching him in the face.

I didn't even see it the first time round but the linesman did and the replays were clear. Then one of the most unsporting things I've seen in a long while happens. Bobby Zamora walks over to Bart, they have a little conversation and Barton points towards Aguero and walks back over to him and Tevez to have words of his own now. We later find out that Barton was told by a team mate to take a City player with him as it was clear he was going to be sent off himself. Looking at the replays, it would appear it was Zamora who said it.

The ref then returns, shows the red card, Barton walks behind one of the smallest guys on the pitch and knees him in the back of the leg, Kompany barges in to move him away and Barton, now being pulled away, tries to headbutt him. Words don't adequately describe this moron.

He doesn't deserve to be in the privileged position he is in. He's a bully, a thug, and claims to be a pacifist! A man who has been charged and convicted several times for assault claims to be a pacifist. What an absolute bell end.

The last thing I will mention about this little episode is how Micah Richards ran onto the pitch from the sidelines to pull Barton away. Possibly the only player who could have done so without escalating the situation even further. He showed outstanding maturity and composure and I for one am proud of the way he reacted to that situation.

Now QPR were down to 10 men, surely it was only a matter of time before City broke through.

But then it got worse. For all the huffing and puffing City were doing, nothing was coming off. Shots were wild, or Kenny was stopping them, crosses were inaccurate, and then out of nothing Traore breaks down the left for QPR and fires a ball to the back post, bypassing every City player and lands square to Jamie Mackie who duly obliges to break every single City heart with a well taken header.

I didn't even react, it was a surreal moment as those next door celebrated the news while I was in my own little bubble of complete despair. I think I even forgot to breath for a few minutes as I couldn't quite understand what was going on.

I said last season that the 'typical City' tag should have been consigned to history along with the '35 years' banner. But here I was trying to banish the thoughts of "is this club really cursed" from my head. City, who had topped the table for so long, and had worked so hard to get back into contention after falling behind were now going to fall at the final hurdle.

In the next 10 minutes Mancini went for broke, Tevez came off and Dzeko came on, Barry went off a few minutes later and Balotelli strode onto the pitch.

Mario looked to be in the zone, his work rate and desire was there for all to see and he seemed to act as a catalyst as City attacked with renewed vigour.

QPR were totally pinned inside their own 18 yard box, never mind just their own half. Wave after wave of attacks, crosses, and corners were fired in. Mancini looked apoplectic on the sidelines as he screamed out in a mixture of Italian and English every time an attack was stopped.

89 minutes gone. Yet another corner fired in by Nasri, tipped behind for another corner, Silva fires in the next. Balotelli! No! Saved again!!! My head dropped into my arms folded onto the table in front of me. Heart pounding in my chest, barely able to breathe properly.

The board was held up, 5 minutes of time added on. Largely thanks to Barton's antics. Those 5 minutes will go down in football history as the most extraordinary end to a season.

Another City corner, Silva once again swings it in. Dzeko!! GOAL!! "YES! YES! YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH" went my reaction, scaring my son half to death.

Is it possible? Can it be done? Aguero grabs the ball and the whole team just runs back to their own half. A signal that these players will not give up on this title.

Shortly after, I hear the final whistle go in the other room, United fans start to filter into our room to watch the end of the game, or more likely to gloat at the final whistle. The woman who shouted before, shouted again, this time with a slightly more desperate tone of voice. "Come on QPR!"

"F**k off" I thought to myself in a mental reply to her as QPR took their time in restarting, now with only 2 minutes or so of extra time left. This is absolute agony.

City easily repel a rare and half hearted attack from a QPR throw in and De Jong collects the ball and carries it just past the half way line. Aguero drops off and receives it 30 yards from goal, turns, knocks it to Balotelli on the edge of the area and keeps on running. Balotelli is nearly knocked off the ball but manages to knock it back into the path of Aguero.

Everyone stopped around me, time slowed, Aguero took one touch to take it past 2 defenders and shoots...

It's a GOAL! An explosion of elation, euphoria, a rhapsody of sheer triumphant exultation. The table nearly flew across the room as I jumped out of my seat. The room that got rather cramped with United fans suddenly felt empty as they evacuated.

Blue Moon began to ring out from the jukebox. I tried to breath, note tried. I couldn't. 44 years (27 of my life) of being 2nd best to United was booted into nothingness by the right foot of Sergio Aguero in the last minute of time added on of the final game of the season with City's 44th shot of the game.

The boldest of script-writers wouldn't have dared write that for fear of ridicule that no one would believe it. But here it was, Manchester City doing the unexpected once again leaving thousands with tears, but this time it was tears of joy.

The Sunderland fans celebrated City's goal as United were preparing to celebrate at the Stadium of Light. The QPR fans celebrated City's goal as they knew they were now safe regardless of the result. City fans celebrated, and boy did they celebrate.

I was totally dumbfounded, left speechless as it dawned on me that City were Premier League champions. After all the flack the club and the fans have taken, this was it thrown back in the faces of those who mocked and scoffed at the project that Sheikh Mansour started.

My son, Oliver (4), climbed up onto my knee  a few minutes later with me still sat in total shock at what had just happened, and hugged me. He said "They did it Dad, they won." with an innocence only a child could have, totally oblivious to just how enormous that victory was. It is up to us to teach the next generation of City fans just what it means to be a City fan and the years of torment we went through so they learn to respect what the club has now.

It is only a shame that some were not there to witness it, whose time stopped short of this magnificent championship. They will be forever remembered. But others from the class of 68 were there and it fell to Mike Summerbee and Tony Book to walk out of the player's tunnel with Premier League trophy. It was a changing of the guards, a handing on of one legacy to another, and a sign that City's past hasn't been forgotten despite what some may think.

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stated in his end of season interview that the tag of typical City has been consigned to the history books. And it well and truly has. This is a squad that has shown time and time again this season that they will fight to the very end, typified by the very final game of the season.

In many ways history repeated itself this season as well as history being made with a number of league and club records broken by City and this squad will go down in history as one of the greatest ever squads City have been blessed with.

There is one quote from our history that fits perfectly right now. The late City legend Malcolm Allison once said; "Four years ago... if I mentioned Man City, they laughed at me. Who's laughing now?"

I'll tell you who, Big Mal. Manchester City, the Premier League champions 2011-12, and all who support them.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot 

Monday, 7 May 2012

One more game...

Just one more game. Forget the biggest ever and most watched Premier League game that was the Manchester derby, forget the FA Cup final, THIS is the biggest game of my lifetime, and no doubt many other fans' too.

If you thought Newcastle was a big game, and believe me it was, then the last game of the season against QPR is of gigantic importance for the Club.

We've been told that City would never be favourites in a certain manager's lifetime.

We've been told we have no team spirit.

We've been told our players just play for themselves.

We've been told we blew the title when we lost to Arsenal and Bet Fred paid out on United being league champions.

We've even been called glory hunters and been asked where were we when we were sh*t. Oh how we laugh at that one.

We've been told United have all the experience when it comes to the end of the season and our players don't have any. Although the excuses were coming out last night against Swansea about 'all the young players' at United who don't have the experience we have been told they have for the last 4 months.

Now we're being told we're only winning games because we influence the ref! Are you sure about that Alex? How stupid you look when you come out with things as hypocritical as that.

Well all of this can be thrown firmly into the faces of every single doubter we've ever had and make Alex Ferguson's nightmares of him losing the league on goal difference true. We could end 44 years of hurt and ridicule. We could make history by winning just one more game.

City have done most of the hard work, sprinting off into an early lead that was maintained for most of the season. Then losing pace and falling behind only to muster up an extra burst of strength and speed by exceptional courage and focus. Now the two front runners are neck and neck with City edging it, just.

One more push, one more cheer from the crowd to spur on one more lung-busting drive to the end. One more, just one more, we dare to dream, together we believe.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

This is how it feels to be City...

650 million people across the world tuned in to see United made to look ordinary by City once again this season.

In recent weeks we've seen current United players claim they would wrap up the title at the Etihad, while ex-players have banged on about Fergie and his mind games and how Mancini simply couldn't match him if he went toe-to-toe with him.

While Ferguson has tried to heap the pressure on City in the follow up to last night's game, Mancini has brushed it off with consummate ease and refocused the players into producing some fine performances. Last night was no different.

United started the better side but after an early shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany I can't remember a meaningful shot on goal and United were left without a single shot on target throughout the whole 97 minutes of game time. They only managed a total of 5 shots shots all together and 2 of those came from corners.

Apart from one very soft booking, and one needless booking for dissent (again), I'm struggling to find anything to complain about. Sod it, why try? It was a fantastic performance from the whole squad. Not a single one of them let us down last night. Each and every player put a shift in; Silva getting stuck into tackles as well as plaguing United's defence with Nasri, Aguero and Tevez, Zabaletta totally bossing the right flank with Clichy doing the same on the left, Barry grafting as hard as ever and so on and so on.

But of course, how could I not mention one of the best club captain's City has ever had. After being wrongly sent off in the FA Cup the last time the two teams faced off, he was the one who exacted some revenge by powering a header past De Gea, leaving him flailing around like he'd just dropped a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

As for signs of cracking under pressure, you just had to look at the sidelines after De Jong got entangled with Welbeck. Cut to scenes of Fergie totally losing it and United's kit man pulling him away as Mancini gestured to him that he talks too much. That in itself was one of the highlights of the match. Go on, I'm waiting for it, yes I'm a bitter blue, of course...

You had to laugh at the post-match interviews too. Mancini was calm and collected, still playing down the pressure on City and tactfully dealing with questions about the touchline spat with Ferguson without making a big deal of it. Ferguson on the other hand, face as red as ever, complaining that Mancini was pestering the officials throughout the game.

Ferguson moaning about another manager doing that is like Katie Price declaring the glamour modelling industry is cheap and degrading to women, or Rooney whinging about another player getting him sent off.

I didn't think the win could get any more pleasing but this morning, after seeing what Gary Neville had to say last night about losing the league on goal difference being Ferguson's nightmare did just that. What better way for City to win the league than doing it in a way that Ferguson feared the most? I'm not sure my nerves could take that though, but despite a couple of tricky games for both clubs yet to come, that's how it could end up.

We have the squad who have the desire. We have the manager who is beginning to best Fergie at his own game despite what United fans and the media say. We have everything in place when United set up to disrupt your game instead of imposing theirs, you know the tide is turning.

Come on City, finish the job and become Premier League champions.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot