After Manchester City’s desperately disappointing showing in the Champions League last night I was left scratching my head wondering how we have got into this mess once again. Quite where to start was something of a problem but one thing I was certain of was that the atmosphere in the Etihad Stadium last night was not a mitigating factor in City’s defeat.
If you, like me, watched the game on Sky Sports you may have come away with the impression that the City fans in the stadium could and should have done more to rouse the players. They could have most certainly made more noise, that much is probably true, but the underlying implication of their commentary was that the dull atmosphere and City’s atrocious performance were connected.
When the fans chanted “we love you City we do” towards the end of the game Sky Sports’ Alan Smith declared it is as “too little too late”. It rounded off a series of observations from throughout match where Smith linked City’s poor showing to the crowd. Quite frankly, his implication is way off the mark. The fans do not owe the players anything. The fact is that most fans pour money that they barely have into supporting the club whether that be by attending home games, away games, buying merchandise or paying subscription fees to watch their team on television, the suggestion that the fans should sing slightly louder in the hope that the players may demonstrate a modicum of effort is absurd.
Let me make it clear, I wholly acknowledge that there are issues with a lack of atmosphere at the Etihad and, as a rather quiet fan myself, I cannot point fingers at other fans for not giving themselves sore throats in support of the club at every game. The lack of vocal support didn’t seem to affect the players in the first half of the away game at CSKA (where there were no fans) where they were in total control so I cannot fathom how someone of Smith’s experience as a player and a commentator can think the two issues are linked.
Last night was never going to be a great atmosphere. Away fans are largely responsible for generating the atmosphere at most football games as they exchange taunts with the home fans. As there were no away fans allowed last night what did the likes of Alan Smith expect? As has been discussed at length on these pages, swathes of City fans have a sense of apathy towards the Champions League and it is high time the players gave the City fans something to shout about. When they put on a disjointed and petulant performance like last night it only serves to alienate the fans further from the competition.
If the management and the team put on a decent performance in the Champions League a decent atmosphere may well follow. The idea that the City fans are somehow responsible for City’s underwhelming performance last night is wrong. In the words of Morrissey “I don’t owe you anything but you owe me something. Repay me now”.
Written by Rob Toole who is on Twitter