This time I know it’s for real. Again.
A year ago, Hughes was the man for City’s future. Things were looking on the up. Bedding in a little, even. There had been a further shift in mentality and another sea change in how clubs, players, agents and fans across the footballing world perceived City. Frantic cheque scribbling and the “concentration of three seasons’ worth of transfer activity into one pre-season” as it was lauded at the time – in unwavering support of Sparky’s vision for the near and middle-distant future.
And then… blammo! Despite sixth position (albeit due to other results going in our favour and hiding the truth behind several p*ss-poor draws) Hughes’ sacking hit him via the media long before his excruciating shuffle to the gallows after Sunderland. Seems he’d lost the dressing room and faith in himself. Oh well, we soon forgot.
And we’ll never know whether he’d have done better or worse than Mancini – although we all have our opinions on the matter. Mine being that with the benefit of hindsight, the decision was 100% correct, as much as I disagreed with it at the time, and how it was dealt with.
Once again, on the run up to transfer deadline day, managers, agents, players, fans, columnists, bloggers and hacks like me are talking up City’s impending blitzkrieg on the market and the increasing likelihood of glory. We’re once again courting and capturing some of the game’s best-established and up-and-coming talent – if they are to be believed, inspired by our ambition and not the stratospheric wages. At this stage, who cares? If they’re coming here now, what’s it going to be like when we get into the Champions’ League?
If you’d asked us 12 months ago if we’d have a new manager, Ya Ya, Vieira, Jerome Boateng, Silva and Johnson, plus one or more from Balotelli, Kolarov, Donovan and Milner likely on the way with weeks still to play with, even I’d be a bit sceptical. And I’m not sceptical at all, me. Pffff…
What I mean is, just when we started thinking (a la City) that we were a bit over-ambitious (again) and impatient (as ever), the machinery behind the scenes at City starts working overtime again, making the Holy Grail seem within reach once more, and closer this time. And sure, the established order of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool continue to scoff, as do others, but let’s be honest, they’re a bit more scared every time we make our intentions clear.
When it comes to City, everyone’s got their fingers crossed for different reasons. Our rivals – that we still don’t gel, that it’s perpetually too soon for us to climb, and that we still can’t shake off the dyed in the wool fear and uncertainty that has made us so frustratingly inconsistent at crucial stages of the season. That when it comes to the crunch, we wilt and look on while that slice of true greatness evades us once again.
And us, the fans? Directly the opposite, one would hope, but with less gritted teeth and without the spare pair of undercrackers in our coat pockets. I think our rivals are bricking it more than we are for a change. And that we are more confident in direct proportion.
I’m more excited than I’ve ever been as a City fan. While I’ve been hooked on the painful panto it has so often delivered in huge scoops over the years, I’m equally anxious to be behind the team that changes the face of the EPL and kicks a big sky-blue hole in the predictability of the final standings. And I don’t care one bit how we achieve it. To be indignant and outraged by a club’s change in fortunes is to be jealous – pure and simple. And there’s plenty else afoot that’s helping the metamorphosis, anyway.
The changing fortunes of Spurs and Liverpool for starters, although that remains to be seen. I think Hodgson will do very well, and Spurs need to be careful. I believe City will be the major catalyst for change this season and for the next three or four. Even if it’s gradual, and regardless of what it takes – I’m looking forward to it in a different way this time.
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