City Past And Present – Hello Or Hola?

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This may be a controversial post for some, an unreadable one for others. Insults may fly out of Facebook. But don’t worry, I’m tough and, in any case, my present involvement in Facebook is very limited so that the chances are, I won’t read your comment anyway. I found it interesting to compare yesterday’s City line-up (you know, the one that lost to Wolves) to the one in the 1974 League Cup Final (you know, the one that lost to Wolves).

In the City line-up for the 1974 final, there were no fewer than 8 English players and the team was managed by an Englishman. Yesterday’s line-up against Wolves featured 3 Englishmen of which only two were in the starting eleven, and a Spanish manager.

So what can we say? Are we watching the English Premiership or the Spanish La Liga? And does it really matter to die-hard City supporters?

I’ll be honest and say that I used to love Manchester City. You know what I mean. I’m referring to the team that played with its heart and not for money. The team that never won anything and still managed to capture your imagination. The team with little English wizards running down the touch-lines, an indefatigable workhorse in midfield, a constant menace in the box, and a classy rock at the back. Yes, comrades, this was the stuff that legends were made of – English (and Scottish!) legends.

You may very well think that I’m not a true City supporter. And maybe you’re right. Maybe the only real supporters are those who never question loyalties. Those who freeze in the stadium watching eleven overpaid children running after a football, spurred on by a classy manager who speaks the language of Cervantes with nonchalant ease. Maybe that’s the stuff your dreams are made of. But not mine.

Deep in my heart, I want the City of old. The City that also played with flair and imagination, but in a most English way, with all the failings that the English way entails. I want to be over the moon when City are third, unsurprised when they’re tenth, and a little bit worried when they’re fifteenth. Back then, if I wanted to watch the Continentals express their playing philosophy on a football field, I would have to switch channels.

It’s the uniformity that has fueled my dwindling interest in a game that used to light up my Saturday afternoons. It’s the fact that the team sheets contain similar-sounding names that echo continental holidays on the Costa Brava and exotic world cups in Guadalajara, rather than a stake and kidney pie on a cold winter’s day. Not that I like stake and kidney pie. How could I, I’m a continental par excellence!

And that’s just it, you see. Being a continental, I’ve been saturated with continental football, and it’s all the same – variations on a theme. I want City to remain a reflection of who I was and, most likely, who you were too. I suppose that the real reason is that I’m getting old, and am falling into the trap that all that is old is good. I’m probably being sentimental because the mere mention of the names, Marsh, Summerbee, Law and Bell open the floodgates to an incessant flow of memories from my most tender years. Forgive me, then, for rumbling on about a past that can no longer be captured.

But just ask yourself this, and think about it for a moment. Who can you identify yourself with – Mike Summerbee or Riyad Mahrez, Colin Bell or Kevin de Bruyne, Francis Lee or Sergio Agüero? 

Difficult, isn’t it?