by Russell Cowper
In today’s liberal world transitioning is often referred to as a person changing from a body that feels alien to them ,to one that in which they desire to project there inner self upon the world they inhabit. Major surgery is required, I imagine it to be painful and occasionally unrewarding , but it can be beautiful, rewarding and self-satisfying. To be the person they always believed themselves to be may then require further cosmetic surgical enhancement. Results no doubt vary, some will be delighted, some disappointed, some may have regrets, but what is done is done and the pursuit of perfection continues unabated. A nip here, a tuck there, then reflection, thoughts, judgement, criticism and hyperbole may follow. What has the transition created, is it the beautiful butterfly escaping the chrysalis or the monster coming over the hill?
I do not wish to offend any person undergoing such transition and procedures but it struck me that what a person believes themselves to be, whose wishes and desires permeate their lives have a strange connection to the football fans the world over. I believe we may just share more than people think. I am no expert on the subject, I could be probably judged as ignorant, but they also apply to my views on my football team. It is my belief my club MCFC encapsulates the world of transition.
MCFC left the much missed and fondly remembered Maine Road and transitioned to the Commonwealth games stadium and with a nip here and a tuck there, a proper makeover it became our new home and our reality. The Etihad stadium became our new world. Like all major surgery our move was irreversible, it is permanent, it has flaws and inbuilt insecurities and it carries with it the knowledge of going back. The pain, heartbreak and sadness may have dulled and been replaced with a new sense of joy, renewed belief and satisfaction at the success of our transition.
Over the years MCFC stood in the shadow of our big brother to the west of the City, they attracted the stars, the fame and the fortune. MCFC were little the ugly duckling of Manchester, beloved for its flaws by a small band of brothers and sisters who all longed for the day that the little ugly duckling would transition in to a beautiful snow white swan. The swan however was riddled with self-doubt, its transition had been a mixture of beauty allied with monstrous shortcomings.
Further surgery would be required before the swan could be truly happy and at one with itself and truly happy within the confines of its being. The call went out to a highly sought after hugely respected surgeon who had moved on from his former patients after leaving them in rude health. By chance the surgeon became available and the swans family once bereft of hope witnessed the arrival of a handsome cultured man from his redoubt in the foothills of Bavaria. Who was that coming down from the hills is it a monster?
That question remains unanswered, After a season which managed to encapsulate everything that MCFC has ever been and some say always will be, we swung violently from the sublime to the ridiculous. The highs of beating Barcelona to the insipid frustration of failing to beat a well drilled defence-minded Stoke City. A season in which Mourinho confirmed himself as the tactical wicked witch of West Manchester as Guardiola’s surgical tactical techniques came into question.
Who am I though to question the methodology and tactical nous of a man widely perceived as a true managerial genius. The nature of football however gives rise to the notion of the armchair manager. His greatest achievement is taking Macclesfield to Champions League glory on his game box and thinks his achievements rank alongside the greats of the game.
The wonderful thing about football is that most fans opinions are passionate, heartfelt and sincere , occasionally correct, often insightful and rarely dull. A night in the pub with your mates can consist solely of football “banta” and the teams we support define us as human beings.
During those long sessions of drink and football Guardiola has attracted many comments, he has been central to hour upon hour of debate, thousands of posts on fans forums and untold numbers of tweets, likes, dislikes on social media. All opinions are of course valid and I have encountered views that range from “fraudiola” to “gladiola”, ignoramus to genius and failure to valediction and that is in just season.
So after expressing my wild nonsensical ramblings I came to the conclusion that I would take Guardiola at face value, ignore his past and put expectations to one side. From now I await the results of this summer’s major surgery.
Across the various leagues, fans of all clubs will be glued to Sky Sports News, social media, radio, newspapers and fans forums desperately waiting for news. It is akin to being in a hospital waiting room as a relative undergoes major surgery. The minutes, hours, days, weeks pass by without fresh developments. Others in the waiting room also seeking news share anecdotes, hopes, dreams and fantasies. A text message can be greeted with hushed silence in case it is a friend confirming he has just seen Neymar in your local Lidl.
Then the wait to see if the surgery is successful; you know the rehabilitation may take months and the patience of even the most stoic can be stretched. As football fans we are aware that in real life surgery comes with risks, complications and is not always beneficial. Even the greatest surgeons may make a mistake, so the more inexperienced may be just as likely as to graft an extra nose onto your face than fix your problems. The poorest surgeons may squander your team’s whole budget on the world’s greatest next flop.
Yet we persist and that eternal hope remains. If we have no hopes or dreams we become less human. Football fans are blessed with eternal optimism, although I find that very much a pre-season phenomena. With no football to watch our dreams remain intact, our optimism is high. Within two weeks of the season starting there is a good chance that nearly everybody’s optimism has disappeared and the pessimists come to the fore. The dreams of over 80 points make way to the grim reality that forty points is the real target.
Jim White night is almost upon us, Christmas-like excitement envelops fandom, “Arry” does some emergency surgery and the clock ticks down.
Football is almost back and like fans the world over we await the results of our team’s surgery. We still have dreams and I dream too. I wish you all a good season and good luck (apart from United of course). It could be your season.
Be safe, enjoy the season. Your day will come.