I am proud of Manchester City. I like feeling part of this Victorian institution which has stood for generations of people like me. I have invested a lot into them emotionally for three decades, and got a lot out. Most of my mates support them too. As a result, I have always been slightly irritated when I have had to deal with the negative stereotype of a City fan which can pervade. The hysterical small-timer, the unhealthily obsessed, the Bitter Blue. It is even more annoying when in some City fans this stereotype bares out.
It has got worse recently, and seemed to reach a peak around the Champions League game against Roma. Before the game Paul Scholes – who upon retirement has morphed into a cross of Dapper Laughs, Zinedine Zidane and Howdy Doody – amplified the criticism around the ground not being full for what was supposedly a big tie. The reason many gave for the relatively low turnout in response was a nuanced one around City fan’s relationship with the competition: which is valid, but one which sounds shrill when attempting to express it within 140 characters. It would have been more useful to have the courage to admit the fundamental truth that there are better things to spend forty odd-quid on than a game of football with little riding on that single result. It is also probably a more poignant response to a millionaire asking why normal people are not putting their hands in their pocket for something which they are currently viewing for free.
For most though, the problem is not ex-players of rival clubs gobbing off: it’s the fact that they are given a platform by a major TV network for that very purpose. The establishment are after us, you see.
Or so the more unhinged – but not insignificant – part of the club’s fanbase would tell you. It grumbled loudly again last night when a bad refereeing decision led to CSKA’s equalising goal. The Hungarian referee was identified as the latest part of a conspiracy maintained by scores of officials, not to mention governing bodies at national and continental level, as well as dozens of the most prominent members of the print media and the aforementioned broadcasters.
The sheer amount of people required to be involved in this cover up makes hoaxing the moon landing seem quaint and parochial in comparison. If that level of deceit is considered to be too farfetched for winning the space race then involving even more people in order to stop someone winning a game of football is fanciful to say the least.
The fact of the matter is that UEFA does not have to act in an underhand way for the Champions League to benefit certain clubs. It is already structurally geared towards helping the established teams through its transparent seedings and coefficient system. It is a system which will eventually end up working in City’s favour: a process which could be accelerated if City could turn over the second best side from Europe’s fifth best league at home.
“Platini got what he wanted” is now a familiar refrain. The logical explanation of the Financial Fair Play rules has shifted: it is no longer the result of vested interests causing mission creep away from a laudible aim to make football fairer; it is now a vendetta orchestrated by one powerful man who has made it his life’s work to destroy one club. The result of Gerry Gow leaving his studs in during a pre-season friendly and some Moss Side scallies telling him to stop codding.
The complaints are increasingly glib: during the recent draw against Chelsea they received a free kick on the edge of the box and took it too quickly; as soon as the referee blew his whistle to retake the dead ball a man who sits close to me exclaimed that the referee would not have done so had the ball flown into the City goal. This was a throwaway comment, but an interesting one when considering the similar way in which City’s current success has been built to Chelsea’s: the victimisation which is now felt is not ideological or sporting any more: it is just personal.
I recognise that this has now become a whinge about a whinge, and also that the majority of City fans have a better sense of perspective than the types which I have outlined here: they are not as vocal, however, and that is the reason why it is frustrating when the caricaturish aspect of our support speaks on your behalf.
This present position is a product of our past. In the period prior to the Abu Dhabi takeover we prided ourselves on being good fans of a bad team. Most other fans were sympathetic to us and we felt that we deserved some good luck. When a huge slice of good luck came about we felt that we were entitled to that as well as the approval to which we clinged previously.
The answer to this is not to become ‘good fans of a good team’: most interpretations of what that constitutes would be frankly awful, and would be even more distorted from the relationship that I enjoy with the club than the mentality which I have argued against in this piece. Besides this, even the worst proponents of this bitterness do not even believe most of the things which they say themselves. If they believed that the whole thing was a stitch up why would they continue to watch it? Deep down there must be some hope after all, probably because there is evidently so much to be hopeful for. The more real fear is that of failure but who wants to admit that?
Written by Gaz who is on Twitter