My last article for this website was something of a coming-clean about why I wasn’t a supporter of the England football team. Dear reader, I am afraid that I once again come to you with something of a confession to make and an attempt to justify myself. Bear with me please.
My confession is this; since the end of the 2013/2014 Premier League season, I have not missed Manchester City. I feel bad about that as well so I feel need to explain myself as much to expunge my own guilt as anything else.
The close season is usually the worst time of the year for a football fan, right? From August through to May, you have your pick of some of the finest sports broadcasters (and ITV) showing top class games (or West Ham v Stoke) from Europe’s finest competitions. You could watch football every day and night if you wanted to. On a Saturday, if watching the games live hasn’t been enough, you can watch the highlights on Match of the Day, followed by the Football League Show. After you’ve slept the day’s football off, you can wake up early and watch the very same games all over again on Goals on Sunday, and so on and so on. It’s an addiction that you can very easily feed.
As you head into May, just before the season ends, everything gets that bit more fraught. If you’re lucky, like us, you get the nerve-shredding title challenge, or maybe your club is involved in a relegation battle. Everything gets that bit tenser, and then it just stops. The season finishes and you’re forced to go cold turkey for a few months. That normally affects me deeply; every weekend from the middle of May to the middle of August has a football shaped void that can’t be filled.
That wasn’t the case this summer though, not for me at least. Last season’s title run-in was incredible but I was glad when the season finished. Primarily that was because it had concluded with City being crowned Champions of England again. There was also the fact that the final few weeks had just been so stressful. From the loss at Anfield onwards, my free-time was spent looking ahead to the next game with both nerves and excitement. Standing on the concourse at Selhurst Park as Chelsea beat Liverpool to hand the advantage back to City was one of the most enthralling, nerve-wracking and euphoric things I’ve ever experienced as a football fan. Then a week later that was all multiplied ten-fold for City’s win at Goodison Park. Then again for the home win against Aston Villa. The season finished with a massive feeling of relief and the release of all that tension, and I was more than ready for a break.
The summer of 2014 did, of course, have something that helped keep the feelings of football-emptiness at bay – the World Cup. The tournament in Brazil was the World Cup I’ve always wanted. When, as a child, I would consume all the information I could about World Cup’s, this was how I imagined them. We were given a month of relentlessly entertaining football (with only a couple of games failing the meet the overall standard). There was an incredible number of goals, breakthrough stars, underdogs surpassing expectations as well as the single most astonishing football result I’ve ever seen (Germany 7-1 Brazil, if you hadn’t worked it out).
What surprised me was that during that time, I barely thought about City. I’d check every day to see if there was any news about the club, but that was it. I largely managed to stay clear of stupid transfer speculation and I’ve enjoyed my summer all the more for it. I managed to take a week away where I had hardly any Internet connection and I loved it. I’d get access for ten minutes every couple of days and the headlines were always the same, “City Still Confident On Mangala”. Yawn. Is there anything more boring than transfer speculation? Conversely, there is very little more exciting than a new signing.
As the season has drawn closer there’s even been reason to be annoyed at City. The club has started releasing ticket prices for upcoming games and, in my opinion, they’re nothing short of scandalous. If you want to attend to City v Liverpool on a Monday night and you don’t have a season ticket, you’ll have to pay a minimum of £57 – that’s just not right to me.
Before you can do that though, you first have to have paid £35 for a new Cityzen membership. That’s £35 just to get in the queue for tickets. That all left me feeling pretty disillusioned. There was a time when I naively thought City might be the club that bucked the trend and didn’t try to milk every last penny out of their fans – how wrong I was. The incredible transition Manchester City has unfortunately seen us head towards becoming just any other big club and it hurts.
If you want to show your support by buying one of the replica kits you can, but it will cost you a minimum of £55 – and they’re not particularly nice. Trivial though it may be, I even found time to get angry that the home kit has blue shorts again.
There was one final factor that contributed to my general summer apathy – pre-season friendlies. Now, I think friendlies are important. I can see that they help a manager prepare his team; he can integrate new signings and get the players back to fitness. That’s all well and good. What I can’t abide is the fact that friendlies now masquerade as real tournaments that are shown by major broadcasters. They are games where results are of no importance, yet, perhaps inevitably, they now feed into the commericalistion of the game. A club must travel the world playing pointless matches to try and build its brand and far too many people lap it up. As such, I actively avoided all of the friendly games with the exception of the Community Shield, which I attended. (Yes, it’s a friendly – any game where you can make six substitutes is not a competitive match).
So there you have it – that’s why I didn’t miss Manchester City this summer. Yet, after all that I find myself excited for the start of the season. I can’t wait to go to Newcastle on Sunday for the opening game, I can’t wait to see the new signings and I can’t wait to spend every week counting down to the next game again. A series of exceptionally well-timed press releases from City regarding key players signing new long-term contracts has helped generate a buzz again too.
I guess then all that’s left to say is welcome back Manchester City – Champions of England.
Written by Richard Burns