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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.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Eurozone Crisis

This is the first new article for a couple of months, as I have been pretty busy with other projects (including the first in what I hope will be a series of Pony and Trap ebooks, which I will love you forever if you buy. £2.99 is pretty cheap for the love of another human being, it's certainly less than I would charge for sex, so you know, buy it.) and while I've been busy with other projects, I've been living in Italy. This came about because of a whole bunch of stuff, and I'm moving again early next year to the States so it isn't a permanent arrangement, but what it means is that I am reporting to you now from the actual Eurozone. My wallet has Euros in it. I spend them on wine in 2 litre cartons and these weird two tone biscuits called Ringo that I only buy because Kaka advertises them on TV. I'll buy anything a footballer endorses, except the services of elderly prostitutes, or the bible.

Italy is pretty pivotal in terms of the Eurozone Crisis. It is the third biggest economy in the Eurozone, and is also considered to be the next one likely to get into serious shit. And being here for any length of time you can sort of see why. Italians have their way of doing things, which all the Under the Tuscan Sun expats you meet seem to accept as a fair trade off for the agreeable climate, surroundings and "way of life", but for me, is a constant source of rage.

The town I live in is popular with tourists from Germany and Holland, who come in the summer months for the good weather and whatnot. Unfortunately for them, at the peak of the tourist season in August, the proprietors of all the local businesses decide that they too would like to go on their holibobs, and fuck off to the coast without arranging anybody to cover for them. So even during the arbitrary few hours a day when shops and other services would usually be available, they just aren't. Would a business owner anywhere else in the world completely close down their operation during the most profitable period of their entire year? Hell's to the no. They'd open around the fucking clock and take their holiday afterwards, going somewhere much nicer with all the extra readies.

Everything here is a massive inconvenience, customer service simply doesn't exist, and you get the distinct impression that nobody wants to take your money. Which is fine for them. In Northern Europe, if we are given the choice between making some money and not making some money but to make the money we have to do something not all that back breaking, like say, sit in our shop between the hours of 1.30pm and 4.30pm, we'll choose to make the money, or our bosses will choose to make the money and force us to do the work. Italians take the other path, and that's their lookout. As an individual, I can accept that if I don't like it, I can fuck off.

The difficulty comes, as it already has done with Greece, when the countries who work their pasty asses off and have very little fun, like Germany, have to bail out the guys who have been sitting in the sun drinking wine and sleeping all afternoon for all of time. Think about it, nobody moves to Germany for the agreeable climate or "way of life", do they? You might move there to make money though.

This is the problem with the Eurozone, and why it is proving so difficult for the leaders of the member countries to come to any agreement with each other (well, it's also partly because some of the member countries are run by cartoon 'Allo 'Allo type characters it is hard to believe actually exist outside of a farce writer's imagination, let alone hold any power on the world stage). Culturally, Europe is so insanely diverse that it just doesn't work. Whether you chop it up East to West or North to South, it doesn't make any sense for the countries at either end to be part of anything together. In fact, the only thing I think would be worse than a shared economy would be if people from the corners of the Eurozone formed a rock band. I'll leave you to imagine how that might go.

In the good old days, the differences were fun and you'd travel around and enjoy the good aspects of all of them, but now shit's got real, well, you can't blame the leaders of the different countries for resenting each other and the fact that now, they are going to have to pull together and come up with something that is unlikely to be fair for many tax payers in different Eurozone countries, because the alternative is even worse.