Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thoughts on the cusp of a new season

It's a funny old time of year. August is, traditionally, the hottest – and certainly the most humid – month in Britain. It's the height of the summer season; of the school holidays.

And yet the new football season, which seems one of the major harbingers of autumn, is almost upon us. Today, I forked out a crazy £51 for a ticket to see Manchester City's opening Premier League fixture at Tottenham (at least the travel will cost me next to nowt!).

Since the season is so near, and the transfer window remains open for less than a month, gossip is rife.

Actually, it's quite funny. Until the 2007 close season, City rarely featured in such gossip. The fact that now, with rich owners, we're never out of it, is amusing for someone who has spent the best part of 35 years supporting a team that, by and large, has been regarded fondly, but also as something of a laughing stock.

I cannot imagine what I'd be like if we actually won something serious – I went bonkers enough when we won the Division II play-off final against Gillingham in 1999 – but there are things that I can see as unpleasant side effects of any success.

• bandwagon jumpers. I had a colleague at one time who had been a Liverpool fan throughout the 1980s. Then, in the 1990s, he became a Manchester United fan. I do not look forward to the idea that, if we actually become successful, we'll start getting bandwagon jumpers;

• humour. I really hope we don't lose our sense of humour. Usually, it's been gallows humour. I remember a Saturday afternoon match at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United. They were chanting: "We hate Wednesday, we hate Wednesday", referring to their local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday. We piped up: "We hate Saturday, we hate Saturday."

Or on another occasion, having lost 6-0 in a midweek cup game to Liverpool, we found ourselves getting trounced 4-0 by them in a league game at the weekend. Our response? "We'll score again, don't know where, don't know when, but we know we'll score again some sunny day", to a familiar Vera Lynn tune.

Perhaps surprisingly to many, having very rich owners hasn't meant that the club suddenly feels that it's not ours any more. The Peter Swales era, when we owned by a local businessman, taught me long ago that local does not equal good. It was a great day when we got old shredded wheat head out.

Rebuilding has taken time. Even given the vast improvements since 2007, I've still seen more dross on the pitch over the years than otherwise. But what happened in the summer of 2007 was that suddenly, the close season ceased to become a break from the torment of being a City fan, but a time of excitement and speculation and hope.

And yes, it was the first time in years when we'd started to dream again. And dreaming is what it's all about. Until – just perhaps – those dreams start coming true.

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