First Of All May I Say I'm 'So Sorry'
Keith sent Vital Manchester City the following:
I'm so sorry that at this critical time of the season my thoughts drift to season's past, the hope the expectation, the failure, the inevitable let down.
The past is another country, for City fans that could read 'The past is another City' because however much fans like myself with long memories try not to get carried away, it's there staring us in the face.
City at home in the FA Cup v Reading - a good side but in a lower league.
I have been watching City for nearly 30 years and this isn't my first quarter final.
The first quarter final I can remember is the League Cup against Everton at Goodison in 1988 - we were a good Second Division side and Everton triumphed comfortably.
The same season we played their neighbours at Maine Road, but Liverpool were the dominant force in football at the time. In my naivety I believed we could cause an upset against them, (aside from a Craig Johnston handball that led to a goal), we were hopelessly outclassed and they trounced City 4-0.
Fast forward 5 years and its 1993, Spurs at home, we were a good side going well in the league but that our talisman Steve McMahon (yeh I know!) got injured and we all feared the worst, yet were still positive we had enough talent in the team to do it.
We scored first through a glorious Sheron header and then proceeded to throw it away in time honoured fashion, 4-1 down at home to an average Spurs side, and much like the Cup Final replay 11 years previously, we scored the better goal (the individual once in a lifetime goal by Terry Phelan) but we ended up losing but this time we had a pitch invasion to try and get the game abandoned so we could regroup and try again- it didn't work!
I was absolutely gutted, raging against all our attacking talent who didn't bother turning up on the day, we had a midweek game that week, at home to Coventry and we won 1-0 but I have never since experienced such a flat atmosphere such as that, and as irate 20-year-old I spent the whole game shouting abuse at the players I blamed the most - Quinn and White- why? I have no idea; they just didn't seem interested against Spurs.
It's still the only game I have watched City where I have abused them from the start and not been a supporter- even in our darkest days against Bury at home I was too numb to abuse.We didn't make it to the sixth round again until 2006, when we were given a plum tie, again at home against West Ham United - not a great side, difficult but you had to fancy your chances against them- and we did.
Stuart Pearce, for the first time in my memory played a virtual reserve side against Wigan on the Saturday before the Monday night tie, (to rest our first 11) however, we had a severe striker shortage so Georgios Samaras was on duty for the Wigan game - at the time he was looking our most potent striker (!!! again how times change) but as his competition was Darius Vassell and a young Bradley Wright Phillips, that wasn't saying much - Samaras got injured and with no time to recover we started the game with no physical presence up front to speak of, the omens did not look good.
And so it proved, sometimes life can prove you wrong but as I climbed the stairwell to my seat, I had an unnerving feeling that 'Typical City' would be used that night, typical that we rest virtually an entire side and the only one who gets injured will be the one most required. As we know, we lost 2-1 to a Dean Ashton brace and the feeling of FA Cup loss engulfed me 13 years after it last paid a visit.
Under Stuart Pearce we again reached the quarter finals of the Cup, this time it was Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. I didn't meet any City fans who fancied our chances but then when has that ever stopped us going all out to support our lads? We sold out the entire stand- 7,000 I think and we were thanked by a being very charitable, damp squib of a 'performance' one in which the team were roundly booed off.
So there you are a brief history of City in the quarter finals and how we can conspire, usually at home, sometimes away to not beat the odds, to defy becoming another scalp, defy history, ignore league form, and ignore the chance of glory, of repaying our loyal fans.
It won't happen again this Sunday. I know it won't.
Many thanks Keith. A thoroughly great read.