Football: Flat season that makes you cry into your pint

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The Independent Online
A season is like a drinking session and this one has so far brought on a severe case of delirium tremens. Just as it takes the correct personnel for a good drinking session, so in the same way, at the start of each season we look to our team and ask: have we the players who can do the job?

The second requirement is good beer, preferably slow-settling pints of Guinness. The football equivalent is skill. It is also essential that there are no ulterior motives beyond enjoying a good session. In terms of a team, what we are talking about here is commitment.

Most importantly, a good session needs no time restrictions or any other limitations. It must have the potential for development. So with a football team - provided there is some sign of progress, at least we have hope.

So how has it been at Manchester City so far, in terms of personnel, skill, commitment and potential?

Lee Bradbury looked likely to solve our scoring problem. Gerard Wiekens promised to be a creative force in midfield, and Tony Vaughan was rated one of the most promising defenders in the First Division.

But no - Bradbury and Vaughan are the footballing equivalent of the lad who starts puking after the first pint and spends the evening on the porcelain 'phone.

Wiekens is the character who starts with a good few yarns, gets maudlin and withdraws for the rest of the night staring into his pint.

Georgi Kinkladze is the man who has a wealth of anecdotes but who, because no one laughs at his first joke, refuses to tell any more because his audience is not worthy of him.

The personnel are sadly deficient. What about that vital lubricant, skill?

Kinkladze is the freshly brewed pint, lovingly coaxed from the pumps. But he, too, is temperamental and the slightest unfavourable condition can disturb his delicate equilibrium. If things are not right, he turns into one of those alcopops, all flashy outer show with little substance. His work-rate has compared unfavourably with that of Homer Simpson.

Tony Scully and Wiekens apart, the skill level of the others is the equivalent of mild into which a disreputable landlord has dumped the previous night's slops.

And commitment? Paul Dickov is exempt from any criticism because his dedication to the cause is beyond question. Wiekens, Kit Symons, Scully and Barry Conlon cannot be faulted for effort. But the rest make things go with a swing in the same way that a pickling jar of cirrhosis-riddled liver would aid the sale of hard liquor.

Is there any hope? Any pattern of play developing? Any emerging stars?

Scully and Conlon have potential, Michael Brown and Jeff Whitley have promise, but the team are changed every week, tactics altered virtually every match.

Denis Smith, the manager of Oxford United, said a point against City was a poor result. At first outraged, I realised that the League table and the match itself showed that he is right. That, more than the fact that such giants as Stockport, Crewe, Bury and Bradford are above us, is the true indication of our present position.

This session has already become a wake. This season, young as it is, is already dead.