Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Summer with the City

It’s the summer. No, really it is. The rain is entirely predictable given that we are now less than a fortnight from Wimbledon – and even if the centre court has a new retractable roof (thus saving us from the chance of singalongs with Sir Cliff) precipitation is as key an ingredient of an English summer as strawberries and cream.

One of the other key ingredients is football gossip and transfer speculation. There are usually even a few actual transfers.

As a long-suffering fan of a club that has spent much of the last 30 years yo-yoing between divisions (I have actually lost track of how many times I’ve seen them relegated), and becoming a laughing stock on and off the pitch, this time of the year has not usually held much attraction – apart from a respite from watching us lose.

“Us”. That’s Manchester City for the uninitiated. The Citizens. The Blues. Citeh. The last one is a send-up of how Mancunians apparently pronounce ‘City’.

I can’t claim to be a Mancunian myself, but the longest period in my childhood and youth spent in any one place was just outside the city, so it’s as near to having a place where I feel rooted as anywhere else.

I don’t know why I opted for City as a team – I was already in love with football by the age of seven – but it happened at some point and hasn’t changed since.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been days when I’ve wanted to change it. But those usually occur in the following manner after yet one more disastrous City event.

‘That’s it. I’ve had enough. I’m not supporting them any more.’


‘Hurrumph. So who shall I support now?’

Another pause.

‘Arsenal? Nah. They always beat us. Aston Villa? No chance – they beat us the first time I saw us play.’

You notice that little “us”? It always gets in the way of my being able to hop on the bandwagon of some other team. Somehow, I now have blue blood. I can’t shake it off.

But summers have been getting much more interesting of late.

It all started two years ago when the club was bought by former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who installed Sven-Göran Eriksson as the new coach and gave him a nice big transfer pot to play with.

The mighty Swede took us to tenth in the league, playing some of the best football we’ve seen in years – and most importantly, beating Man United, home and away, for the first time since 1969-70. But it wasn’t good enough for Thaksin, who sacked him and employed Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes in the post – before selling the club to the Abu Dhabi United Group and disappearing.

Now Abu Dhabi United Group have even more financial muscle that Thaksin ever had – and showed it with the signing of Brazilian star Robinho, to be followed by an up-and-down season that did see us reach the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup.

And now we can realistically contemplate more quality players arriving at the club before the new season starts in August.

But when Thaksin took over, I realised something with a short time. It was like learning to dream again.

Finally, we might actually achieve something – the only question will then be: will it still feel like my club? But I tell you what – I’m prepared to find out!

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