Supporting City Ain't What It Used To Be
Vital Manchester City newbie, discopants28 sent us the following:
It goes without saying that it's an odd time to be a City fan. Presently we're in discussion with one of the top strikers in the world, Samuel Eto'o, who is seemingly considering City as one of a number of options for his next career move. We're also believed to be front runners in signing Carlos Tevez - that's a player at the top of his game leaving Manchester United and coming to Eastlands. I hope you don't mind me saying, on behalf of every City fan out there, WHAT THE F*** IS GOING ON?
I'm concerned. I'm deeply concerned. Did I say I was concerned? The essence of what it means to be a Blue is disappearing before our eyes. Failure builds character and Manchester City's failings to achieve anything noteworthy since 1976 has made us what we are - until now. Last season's takeover has of course changed the destiny of our club. But it's also changed us, the fans.
City now has unlimited amounts of cash, or 'resources' as Hughes likes to call it. We're the world's richest football club. Gone are the days where we could only fantasise about truly world class footballers coming to the club, it's actually happening.
This is of course reason for true optimism. But it also allows us a more 'easy come, easy go' approach to buying players, and adoring them on the pitch.
So let's say Robinho decides to leave for Barcelona. Would we be sincerely disappointed? He may be a genius, but he's not irreplaceable. And what about Stevie Ireland, the pride of our Academy? Would it really be the end of the world if he signed for a different club? It might be a temporary problem, but surely the gap could be filled in the next transfer window. Controversial, but like it or not, true.
I grew up supporting City in the late '80s. I grew to love a football team which rarely resembled a football team. I watched manager after manager spend our limited transfer kitty wisely on football's has-beens and never-gonna be's. It was difficult even as a youngster to get overexcited about the likes of Neil Pointon, David Oldfield, Alan Kernaghan, Fitzroy Simpson, Michel Vonk and Neil McNab. But did I love these players? You bet I did. I loved them because they were so imperfect. And from time to time they would reward me with rare goals or moments of brilliance.
So now I try to imagine what it would have been like if the City of today had been the City of 1985. Would the matches have been more entertaining? Undoubtedly. Would we have played with more flair? Certainly. Would the fans have taken the players to their hearts? I don`t think so.
Future Manchester City players are not playing for the badge. They are playing for a combination of money, status and the chance to be part of something special. And fans` attitudes to these players will reflect this. Imperfection will not be tolerated.
Instead we are becoming more and more obsessed with perfection. Supporting City has become more like playing a game of Championship Manager than actually following a real life team. We've developed an insatiable appetite for devouring supremely talented footballers who demand ridiculous wages and conditions. Their reasons for coming to the club in the first place will be in response to this. And our response to their performance and attitude on the pitch will be in response to that. It's a downward spiral into what will ultimately be capitalist oblivion in football - with Manchester City at the centre of it all.
Instead of being the lifeblood of the club, the fans are just an accessory - a target market for shirt sales and match tickets. As we watch from a distance we will applaud in delight as Robinho dribbles his way through players. We will scream in joy as Roque Santa Cruz scores from 25 yards. But when things aren't going so great, will the fans and the players really dig in? After all - we can always buy more players in the next transfer window. And the one after that. And the one after that.
It feels so sad that footballers will only want to play for City to reap the financial benefits and say 'I was there.' It feels even sadder that young City fans will grow up to think nothing of this, and never to understand the value of a rare piece of brilliance, or the fantastic efforts of a mediocre player who gives 110%.
My favourite City player ever? Shaun Goater. Why? Because he was so awful when he arrived at the club in 1998. No balance, no guile and no visible talent. But one season on and he was transformed.
In our promotion season 2001/2 he scored a truck load of goals and continued his form the following season in the Premier League, scoring twice to help us beat United for the first time in centuries. What a turn around, and what a City legend. Could such a satisfying pattern of events ever happen at Man City now?
Of course, with a desire that burns deeply within my soul, I wish for success at City. But the cost of this method of going about success is more than just millions of Sheik Sterling - what's really for sale here is ourselves.
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