What a Sunday! What a play! What can you say? The Great Unscripted Drama that is football reigned supreme on the last day of the Premier League season. It looked like the old Glaswegian had done it again; it could have been Fergie’s greatest achievement in a golden career (and perhaps the sweetest one of all?). But it was Man City who did the impossible; two goals in extra-time, and winning it with the last meaningful kick of the match. It must be God who writes this stuff.
In this column, at the start of last season, I was playing around describing the essential ‘personalities’ of some football clubs (‘MY BIG LIVERPOOL MAMA’, 26 08 10). It’s a parlour game anyone can play. This was my sketch of Man City:
‘… a woman of some experience; a mysterious beauty who has enslaved many lovers for life despite that air of profound sadness that lingers like perfume around her. Recently (to everyone’s amazement) married an unimaginably rich, Prince Charming, yet still she feels in her heart that all will not be well.’
For quite a while last Sunday, it looked like that tragic trajectory, expressed through so many City fans’ lives for so many decades, was about to reach its misery-filled destiny. What was even worse – as those of us who have loved and lost know so well – was that even those City fans most hardened to disappointment had let down their defences.
All week the media had been telling them, this was their time. Their team hadn’t lost at home in the League for a season and a half. Their opponents had the most porous of defences; they were relegation fodder. With the mighty Kompany in the heart of defence and the incomparable Yaya Toure at their helm, they were the best in the land.
As a result, and against all their instincts and experience, they dared to hope again. They had allowed themselves to believe. Despite all the painful lessons of the past, they had ‘committed’; body and soul.
Such vulnerability tweaks the heartstrings. Early on in the match, Toure’s hamstrings twanged too, yet he stayed on for a while, clearly in pain. With almost his last touch before finally being withdrawn, he laid on the chance that Zabaleta converted; at least City scored.
But following QPR’s equaliser just after the restart, the visitors (now down to ten men, see below) had the temerity to score again, leaving City – with 25mins to go – with a two goal task that, on current play, looked remote to say the least. It was suddenly Barcelona v Chelsea all over again; a ten man defence holding their own against an increasingly unlikely looking attack.
As the clock counted down, the City faces in the crowd began to look like unwilling witnesses at the execution of a family friend. Some turned away; others began quietly to weep; one beat the back of his seat with his scarf in uncontrollable anxiety. Nightmare.
Then a flicker of hope with Dzeko’s goal in the 2nd minute of extra-time; and the winner from Aguero in the dying seconds. It is a tribute to the human race that we can survive such a rollercoaster ride without collapsing en masse.
I wondered how many City fans (like many Man Utd fans, including George Best, at the CL Final v Bayern) were on their way out of the stadium when the last two goals went in? I’ll bet there were quite a few who just couldn’t take it anymore. How many weren’t in the temple (and wouldn’t be allowed back in by the stewards), when the goddess of Victory descended onto the pitch from heaven? After forty-four years, they missed the apotheosis.
Someone else left early too. The red-carding of ‘mad’ Joey Barton; sent off ten minutes into the 2nd half produced one of the most poignant little cameos I’ve ever seen. Here’s a player with real football talent who simply cannot control himself. A man who genuinely reaches out to present himself as ‘more than what I seem’. A man of intelligence; a man with some courage; a man who was doing Trojan work for his team since the kick-off but who could not deal with Tevez’s aggravation without lashing out – and then some. A man whose football career may now be in ruins.
What can you say? Triumph and comic-tragedy enacted on the great stage before a world audience.
That’s football all over.
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLES:
CHRIS BRADY: REALITY CHECK
KEIR RADNEDGE: COSYING UP
DELROY ALEXANDER: LOSS OF CONSCIENCE
ALEX MILLER: THE BIGGEST UNDER AND OVER-PERFORMERS IN 2011-12 (BASED ON ECONOMICS)
ROGAN TAYLOR: ALL MY CSR’S
Dr Rogan Taylor is the Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. He is also a writer and broadcaster, with five football books and numerous radio and TV contributions. He has acted as a special adviser to The FA, The Premier League and Premier League Clubs.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.