Manchester City fans have my sympathy.
Most of them do anyway.
At the moment, the bulk of supporters of Manchester’s blue club are stuck in the middle of some proper bolloxes.
On the one thigh, they have a heap of Johnny-come-lately douchebags – of the type particularly hated by real football fans – seduced by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s oily dollars.
On the other, they’ve got an oscillating number of bile slingers who define their City support through vengeful chants celebrating a disaster that happened before most of them were born.
I am sure their inhabitants ‘like’ football, but neither of these groups speak for football fans.
The first group, ignorant of the history of the club is ignorant too of the history of the game. They will most likely know, Man Utd. fans make it really hard for them not to, that City haven’t won a major trophy for 35 years. But they probably think that’s reasonable given that ‘The Big Four’s Arsenal have gone SIX YEARS without one! Once we get into ‘The Big Four’, they reason, then it’ll all be ok.
A top four position, and the ticket to Europe’s elite competition that comes with it is becoming the end to the Premiership’s means. It justifies, in the minds of many fans – the group currently being considered in particular – any amount of tactical unadventure. Once we get into ‘The Big Four’, then it’ll all be ok.
This position is fair enough, really, if a bit annoying. It’s not fans’ fault after all that football is presented in these little pieces and that ‘football history’ is now such that for Arsene Wenger to survive six years trophylessness verges on the miraculous. It is good, too, that all types of people and all types of agenda have a place with in the game isn’t it?
Well, no, not really and that segues nicely into the second type of fan currently being given voice at Eastlands: the Idiot.
Paul Wilson wrote in The Guardian last week that it was ok for Manchester City’s fans to call their United counterparts ‘Munichs’ because it defined their own un-United identity (paraphrased in that way it sounds more ridiculous than is fair – you can read the whole article here). I don’t think that’s right for many reasons, most of which are fairly obvious and have to do with respect for the dead and some things being more important than football, one of which is that it conflicts directly with the agenda of the above group of newbies.
The Manchester United team of 1957-58 was the second English team to play in Europe. The first was the Manchester United team of 1956-57, when they reached the European Cup semi-final. This is strange, given that the European Cup was first won, by Real Madrid, in 1956. So there were no English teams? Right. That’s because FA secretary Alan Hardaker (“I don’t like dealing with Europe. Too many wops and dagoes”) had bullied champions Chelsea, whose 1955 title win was incidentally their last until Mourinho arrived, out of competing.
Manchester United manager Matt Busby (as he was then) defied Hardaker and the FA to lead his famous babes into Europe. Having pledged to ensure that no league fixtures be missed, Busby and his team took off from Munich-Riem airport in treacherous conditions in order to ensure they fulfilled their league fixture against Sheffield Wednesday, which they did anyway with a team made up of reserve players and a programme with a blank page below ‘Teamsheet’.
The Manchester United team who crashed at Munich, the players (like Duncan Edwards – capped for England at 17) who died, were trailblazers. They put European football on the table for English clubs, they literally gave their lives for that cause. Chanting about ‘dead bodies on the runway’ is not just crass it is totally bloody stupid. It has no place in any football stadium, especially one which also houses fans for whom European Football is the purpose of domestic football – it makes them seem even more ignorant than they really are.
The squeezed middle at Manchester City, those fans who know their history and respect the Busby Babes for the doors they opened for English clubs in Europe, know what I am talking about. They need, like the ‘squeezed middle’ Camegg are always on about, to speak for themselves; at the moment their voices are drowned out by loud-mouthed idiots.