The Last Word: Why City no longer belong to me
The Tevez affair has cast a shadow over Blues season and, title or not, has left many fans yearning for purer times
Sunday 13 May 2012
I was at Newcastle in May 1968 when Manchester City won their last championship with a thrilling 4-3 win. But I'm in Toronto today so I won't be at the ground to witness City's moment of glory around five o'clock this afternoon. Apparently, the latest information suggests that City's owner, Sheikh Mansour, isn't going to the match either.
He isn't looking after grandchildren, as I am, and one would assume that neither has he been ringing the box office hoping for a last-minute return ticket for a game that has long since sold out, so we have to assume he isn't that interested.
He did go to a match last year, when City beat Liverpool 3-0. It seems odd after such a convincing victory if he went back to Abu Dhabi and banged on the front door of the palace shouting, "I'm never going to watch that miserable lot again", evoking from his wife a plaintive, "Did they lose again, petal? Never mind. Tea's nearly ready".
I have some sympathy with the man. After all, what can you get for a lousy billion pounds these days? Out of the Champions' League at the group stage, out of the FA Cup in the third round, out of the Carling Cup in the semi-final, out of the Europa League after the second tie; all he can point to for the money he lavished on his blue toy is the Premier League title (we devoutly wish). No wonder he's staying home and watching the QPR match on TV.
Are you detecting a muted enthusiasm here from this City supporter of over half a century? Is it possible that the man who can recite match scores, goalscorers and team line- ups from the 1955 FA Cup final onwards isn't as ecstatic as you might suppose at the prospect of the second League title of his lifetime and only the third in the history of his club? Sadly, yes. For all the hosannas and the hoopla that will echo round the blue half of Manchester today, for all the fact that the red half will be clouded in despair and shrinking with fear of a future that will almost certainly contain more of the same, my eyes will remain undimmed by tears.
When Carlos Tevez refused to play against Bayern Munich, for whatever trivial reason, something died for me. The juggernaut of a team that was being assembled at huge cost finally slipped its moorings from my increasingly desperate attempts to reconcile it to the club whose fortunes have dominated my waking hours for so long. It wasn't just Tevez or Adebayor or Robinho. It wasn't the hypocritical way in which the club betrayed their own initially principled stand in a slavish, humiliating volte face because Manchester United looked like they were going to sneak past us.
It wasn't even the embarrassing departure of the unlamented co-executive chairman whose leaked email made fun of one of the players' mothers who was suffering from cancer.
It was the recognition that somehow this team doesn't belong to me. For years, the City players had embodied my hopes and fears. They were the personification of my dreams. Not just Lee, Bell and Summerbee or Tueart, Owen and Barnes but a lot of poor players whose names would sully the pages of a decent newspaper. Their ineptness frustrated me but they played for my club so what could I do? Now the team stand proudly at the summit of the Premier League and fully deserve to be there. Yaya Touré, Aguero, Silva, Kompany have all had a wonderful season and I admire them enormously. I admire them but I don't love them. Not the way I loved Glyn Pardoe, Alan Oakes and Neil Young. That's my problem.
Last September, when Tevez behaved worse than my three-year-old grandson before bedtime, I resolved to do something about it. I began work on an updated version of my childhood memoir Manchester United Ruined My Life in a desperate attempt to see if I could understand this shift in lifelong behaviour patterns. Manchester City Ruined My Life deals with matters other than football. It deals with the death of my wife and my best friend, both from multiple myeloma. It deals with the processes of bereavement, ageing and dating again in the 21st century as a widower in his late fifties. Above all, it catalogues the gradual change from the ecstasy of the dramatic League Two play-off final victory over Gillingham in 1998 to today's unemotional acceptance of the fact that City are now one of the best teams in Europe and the richest club on the planet.
Maybe Sheikh Mansour can't deal with it either and that's why he's watching it on the telly. Give us a ring after the match, Sheikh lad, and I'll tell you all about 1968 and how I hitch-hiked from Cambridge to Newcastle and back and how I shouted to Mike Doyle when he came across to where I was standing to take a throw-in that Manchester United were losing 2-1 to Sunderland...
Colin Shindler is an Affiliated Lecturer in History at Cambridge University. The second part of his autobiography, 'Manchester City Ruined My Life', will be published by Headline on 24 May, £16.99
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