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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Manchester City

It's all getting a bit out of hand, isn't it? Manchester fucking City I mean.

Throughout history, there have been only two reasons why anybody supported Manchester City. Either they wanted to make a statement about how much they hated Manchester United, or they didn't really like football but when pushed, opted for City because they liked the colour of their shirts. Seriously, you often hear that all real Mancunians support City. This isn't true. In Manchester, support for the two teams is split about 50/50, and up until recently, those that supported City seemed to be vastly more interested in whether or not United had lost on a given week than whether City had won (my research being broadly based on the brief period when I was a bookie in the North. Don't ask.).

Now, however, Manchester City have achieved something pretty difficult and special, which they have every right to be proud of. By which I mean, they have achieved the status of most hated club in the English Premier League.

Regular readers will know that I hate Liverpool, almost (but not quite) fervently enough to get the words to "In Your Liverpool Slums" tattooed on my actual arse. There are other teams I hate too, some for obscure and quite personal reasons (don't get me started on Reading). But at this moment, nothing makes my blood boil more than the mention of Manchester fucking City. And I would wager the Greek national debt that you're the same.

So what is it that makes them so fucking diabolical? It's not the fact that they have a lot of money. Well, it might be for you, but I can't very well be seen saying that on the internet, I'm a Chelsea supporter. In fact, I had always said that if a businessman wanted to recreate the Chelsea effect then rather than fucking about with the likes of Portsmouth, they should look to buy the second biggest team in a major city, thus guaranteeing a decent home following as well as the option of international promotion for their merchandise (face it, nobody in Asia has heard of Portsmouth, so you will have a job convincing the kids in South Korea it is a very cool place and they want to wear shirts declaring their affinity with it). Manchester City would be the obvious choice.

For the first couple of seasons, they were annoying but harmless. The strategy seemed to be the same one we all employed when we were kids, trying to fill our little Panini sticker albums with all the big names so they looked really cool (actually, the last time I bought a Panini football sticker album I was about 24, but it was right by the checkout in the McColls shop and I was mildly drunk), but with no real thought for whether or not you had twelve strikers and no goalkeeper. And none of the players seemed to really give a toss either. Who can forget Robinho's press conference where, after a last minute offer right at the end of the transfer window, he announced how happy he was to be going to Chelsea. I like to think that after that plucky journalist pointed out that he was actually going to Manchester City, he punched his agent square in the face. It was all quite the laugh.

Strangely though, they started to actually look, well, almost good. They won the FA Cup, and then this season, actually began to look threatening in the Prem. The players however, still didn't give a toss. Tevez, who is quality because he makes it so apparent that he hates Manchester and everybody in it, decided he would rather not actually play for them in the Champions League and as a result is being fined £1 million.

And this is where the hatred of a Chelsea fan can in fact, be very much justified. The situation is totally different. They are soulless, we are not. Don't believe me? Well, it's like this:

Chelsea may have been widely despised when Abramovich came in and allowed them to buy some new players and in the second season of his ownership, employ god himself as their manager and win some stuff (and this isn't the time and the place for me to explain that we had been a top six team for a long time before that and whatnot), and that I could live with. What would you do if the team you had always supported suddenly had loads of money, great players, a cool manager and were winning trophies? Would you go, "Oh, fuck this, I'm going to go and support Fulham - this is too mainstream" just so the Man U supporters who drink in your local in Reigate aren't mean to you? Of course not. What I didn't like, was people assuming I'd only started supporting Chelsea when they got "good". Like some sort of glory hunter. Ironically, this usually came from Liverpool and Man U fans from the South who had started supporting their teams in the eighties, but it was an easy mistake to make as suddenly, a lot of people were supporting Chelsea.

So where are all the new Man City glory hunters then? Why isn't everywhere from Bristol to Brighton awash with pale blue shirts? I think I have the answer. In starting to support Man City now, if you never have before, you would be opening yourself up to a lot of abuse, but you wouldn't really be getting the glory. There is no sense that the players are excited to be at the club, that they are working together towards something they can be proud of on behalf of their club and their fans. Can you imagine the open top bus celebration if City won the Prem? Sure, they would all be happy to add some silverware to their personal CVs, as any player, anywhere would, but Tevez would be cowering downstairs on the bus in sunglasses so he didn't actually have to look at any Mancunian people, and Balotelli... Well, Christ knows. The rest of them would probably lift their City shirts to reveal t-shirts saying "CHAMPIONS! OPEN TO OFFERS FROM BARCA". This is the thing. Chelsea may have had "no history", but there's no real sense that City have a future as this existing team. It looks like it will be a revolving door for big name players, with nobody for fans to really attach themselves to who feel like they truly belong to that club. Without Terry, Lampard, Cech, Drogba and the like Chelsea would have no identity, and would be no fun at all to support. All the other big clubs are the same. But City has nobody you can identify as being "of" Manchester City, and nobody you feel wouldn't be happy to fuck off to Spain or wherever at the first chance.

And it is that, and not the money, the sponsorship deals or any of the corporate stuff that makes them soulless.

If you have enjoyed this or any of my other articles, why not buy my ebook. It contains literally no opinions about football, but does take the piss out of a lot of other stuff. And it's cheap. And it'll work on your iPad, Kindle or, I don't know, Toshiba Handybook. Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

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