Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Some Things at City Never Change

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Some Things at City Never Change

Article excerpt

My friend N-, with whom I've been going to watch Manchester City for the past eight years, was worried about the Queens Park Rangers match. He was concerned not just about the outcome--the night before the game, he'd had an anxiety dream in which City's captain Vincent Kompany was kidnapped--but also that he might not actually get to see to see us win our first league championship in 44 years at all.

N-is an actor and had been in Leeds all week filming a drama for ITV. When he got his shooting schedule, he noticed with horror that he was due to film an important scene at just about the time he'd hoped to be getting on a train to Manchester. But N-is a persuasive fellow and a few days before the match he texted me triumphantly to say they'd moved his big scene. He'd be alongside me at the Etihad Stadium on 13 May to watch what we hoped would be City's procession to the Premier League tide.

Cups for cockups

After 70 minutes of the game, we would rather have been anywhere but in our seats in the South Stand. QPR were 2-1 up, their first goal the result of the kind of defensive howler that used to be City's stock in trade.

I'd lost count of the number of times Francis Lee's line about "cups for cock-ups" had been quoted in the papers beforehand, but had rather suavely dismissed all that stuff about "Typical City" (our sublime ability to snatch disaster from the jaws of good fortune) as a crutch that the football writers would have to learn to live without. This team was different, I told myself too disciplined, too serene, too good. We'd gone to Newcastle the previous week and made them look like a pub team, for God's sake.

Hubris? It felt like it as City threw themselves ineffectually against an unyielding nine-man Rangers defence not noticeably weakened by the expulsion, after 55 minutes, of that absurd pantomime villain 4, Joey Barton. N had gone quiet. I squeezed his arm consolingly and whispered that we could still do it. Twenty minutes to score two goals. Hadn't we scored lots of goals in the last quarter of games this season? He didn't look convinced.

Meanwhile, the man two seats along was raging operatically. "Why do you do it to us, City? …

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