Call me spoilt, but I hate it when the final day of the season is a pointless game. The fans arrive at the stadium knowing that their team is safely in their league position and ain’t going to be moving anywhere quickly. Half of the fans have only turned up because they’ve paid for their ticket already, while the players run around for 90 minutes purely because they’re contractually obliged to. The season is over and whatever happens that afternoon will change the square root of c*ck all.
I remember taking my seat in time for kick off ahead of last season’s final day dead rubber against Norwich and thinking, “right then, let’s get this over with and go home, shall we?” Whatever happened on that pitch that afternoon, it just didn’t matter. City could have scored ten. Norwich could have played six goalkeepers. Roberto Mancini could have named himself in the team – and he’d been sacked a week earlier. Just didn’t matter.
City fans have been fortunate in recent seasons that, with only the odd exception, there’s been something to play for on the final day. In 2010-11, the Blues could have finished third or fourth, meaning the last day was critical in deciding if their first year in the Champions League would begin in the qualifiers or in the groups. In 2011-12, the Premier League title depended on it.
Following results of the last weekend, the final day of 2013-14 will decide the outcome of the title, too. But there’s something to be said for the end-of-the-year meaningless match. Here’s some of my favourites (in no particular order).
Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea, 2001
Joe Royle’s City had been promoted to the Premier League earlier than had been expected. A year after scraping out of the third tier, the Blues secured automatic promotion to the top flight by finishing second in Division One. However, defeat at Portman Road exactly 12 months on from that 4-1 win at Blackburn relegated the Blues, still with a game to play.
Chelsea travelled to Maine Road with the home side unable to escape the bottom three. With the pressure off, City could have put on a display, but, in keeping with the season, they just weren’t quite good enough and ended up losing 2-1. The only standout moment was when goalkeeper Carlo Nash came racing out of his area to try and beat Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to the ball. He didn’t and the striker went around him – and, despite there being several covering defenders slowing the attack down, Nash knew it didn’t matter so he gave up and walked back. The striker didn’t score.
It was such a non-important game that whoever wrote the BBC’s official match report couldn’t even be bothered to finish filling in the key incidents box on the right hand side of the page.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Manchester City, 2007
It was one of the worst seasons the City fans had ever endured. Goal after goal after goal wasn’t seen at the City of Manchester Stadium because the Blues only
netted ten times in the Premier League at home that campaign – 30 per cent of them came against Fulham and 20 per cent of the grand total was scored by Bernardo Corradi.
It came as no surprise that manager Stuart Pearce no longer had that adjective preceding his name after the full time whistle at White Hart Lane – there were tribes in the deepest parts of the Amazonian jungle that expected the board to terminate his contract come full time the decision was such a clear one.
The game was that bad that all I remember is an Emile Mpenza header dropping in when he had his back to goal. Oh, and that I went upstairs to phone the bank to pay a credit card bill midway through the first half.
Manchester City 1-0 Bolton Wanderers, 2009
I wasn’t even in the country and I made absolutely no attempt to see the game or hear the result it was that unimportant. Christ knows what actually happened.
Manchester City 3-2 Reading, 1997
The entire division played the final game of the 1996-97 season on Sunday 4 May, but because Reading’s visit to Maine Road was so utterly meaningless, the Blues played the Royals on Saturday 3 May for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
The 30-odd thousand crowd was more concerned with whether Georgi Kinkladze would remain in Manchester, with interest in the Georgian from several much more highly ranked clubs than City being reported daily. His name was sung throughout and somebody must have said something truly remarkable to him because they managed to convince him that it was worth another year, despite the club plummeting faster than an aircraft with no wings, propeller, engine, or pilot.
The final score was 3-2, not that it mattered.
Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City, 2008
It finished 8-1 to Middlesbrough. 8-1. Eight. Middlesbrough scored eight goals. Eight. From Middlesbrough. They had Gareth Southgate in charge. And they scored eight goals. Alfonso Alves scored a hat-trick and Middlesbrough scored eight. Eight.
City’s target for the game was not to do anything that would jeopardise their chances of getting into the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play League, so naturally Richard Dunne got himself sent off with 15 minutes played.
The Middlesbrough scored eight. Eight!
Elano netted the best goal of the day, mind, but it made it 7-1 and it was so much of a consolation that you kind of got the impression from his celebration that he’d rather have missed than belted it into the top corner.
Eight goals, though.
All season before that game, Middlesbrough hadn’t even scored more than two in a game. Sven’s final match in charge was so meaningless for everybody in blue, that Southgate’s men were able to tw*t Andreas Isaksson for eight and the best response City could offer was a meagre shrug of the shoulders.
Written by David Mooney