It’s been a recurring nightmare for nearly 50 years, but since yesterday I can really say that I’ve vanquished an old ghost, banished a demon for ever and ever. A 13-year-old boy is so vulnerable, so impressionable – especially at school. My recurring nightmare featured my old French school, in South Kensington, and how I got psychologically clobbered, emotionally battered, the day after the night before.
It wasn’t your ordinary night before. It was a night of high drama, when my schoolboy heroes at Manchester City were being knocked out of a glamorous European competition, at a stage where the number of teams still playing to win could be counted with the fingers of one hand, excluding the thumb. Those of you who are geographically erudite, when it comes to placing English football teams on a map, will have guessed that the French Lycée I went to was in Chelsea territory, big time. It won’t surprise you then, that the cause of my emotional trauma was a match between City and Chelsea, in the semi-finals of a European competition. The European Cup Winners Cup was a European competition for national cup winners, and City had won it the year before.
City was trailing 1-0 from the first leg in London, and the tie was far from over because City on home soil were a force equal to none. But this time was different. Most of the sky blue angels who graced many a football field, were nursing their injured wings in the City infirmary. The young City goalkeeper, filling in Joe Corrigan’s gargantuan boots, fluffed and puffed the round leather ball into his own net, and my nightmares began. I’ve never hated any team like I hated Chelsea – not even Manchester United!
Just picture yourself in a schoolroom on a Thursday morning, a lone City supporter having to endure the relentless grins, laughter, and celebrations, emanating from a wild hoard of uncontrollable Chelsea supporters. That vision has never left my psyche.
But the present-day sky blue angels have put my psychoses to rest. When David Silva, the Spanish wizard, threaded so delicately a ball to Zinchenko who produced the cross for Raheem Sterling to score City’s sixth, I was cured.
Come on you schoolkids, where are you now? And, by the way, even if Chelsea do beat City in the League Cup, I’ll be disappointed of course, but only as much as for any other fixture they may lose. Chelsea have ceased to torment me, and have become an opposing team like any other. About bloody time!!