Thursday, 19 October 2017

Manchester City Redux

Kevin De Bruyne

My paternal grandmother came from Manchester, she had lived in a terraced house close to Maine Road that was destroyed in the blitz of 1940. She brought the family tradition of supporting Manchester City as we watched the FA cup finals in 1955 and 1956 as a family. My interest in football was blossoming and Man City were easy to support as they won 1955 final and the legendary Bert Trautmann, one of the few non-British players in the league, played out the 1956 cup final with a broken neck. My allegiance switched soon afterwards when my maternal grandfather began to take me to Deepdale to watch Preston North End. They surged up the first division in 1957 and 1958 coming third and then second to Manchester United and Wolves respectively. I attended almost all of their home games sitting on the cinders next to the pitch.

But a precedent had been set and whenever Manchester City played with a verve I would be ready to support them. In the late 1960's the manager of Man City, Joe Mercer, assembled an attacking side around Colin Bell, a total footballer and one of my all-time favourite players. I would go to watch City at various grounds when at university, getting lifts from friends who were regular fans. This interest was continued when I shared a flat in Liverpool with a fanatical Man City supporter. We made regular trips to Maine Road with my flatmate's father who was a season ticket holder and the town clerk of Knutsford.

By 1971 I had transferred my allegiance to Liverpool because an old school friend was playing for them. The atmosphere at Anfield in the days before all-seater stadiums was quite breathtaking. The patter between the fans and the police on horseback was worth the ticket price alone and the concern of the Kop to look after anyone injured in the swaying terraces was one of human decency. Equally the rousing support for visiting goalkeepers was courteous, humorous and part of the rich theatre of games at Anfield. Liverpool simply steamrollered the opposition and if not Tommy Smith scythed them down.

And now for the third time in my life, I have once again become an avid Man City fan after seeing them dissemble all the opposition this year with a panache that I have never seen in either the First Division or Premier League before. Only Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have shown such outstanding flair and domination of their leagues in the past thirty years. Pep Guardiola is an obvious link between three of these clubs but, as in the Colin Bell era, there is an outstanding complete player in Kevin De Bruyne. This time he is supported by at least another five world-class players in Aguero, Silva, Sane, Jesus, Mendy and the as yet greatly underrated goalkeeper from Brazil, Ederson. He has the bravery of Bert Trautmann with the reflexes of a gymnast and the distribution skills of a midfield schemer.

It is the first time in years that I make a conscious effort to watch all the football games of a team. The movement patterns, the skill and speed of their play is exquisite and no matter who you support, they are the team to watch. The final bonus is that Jose Mourinho's style of football that he has grafted onto Manchester United has been exposed as cynical, defensive and boring and his ego is being deflated by every extra point accumulated by their noisy neighbours.

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