by Chris Tobin

With Roberto Mancini and his expensively assembled Manchester City team so dramatically capturing England’s greatest footballing prize many observers are now suggesting that City will step forward and dominate the game here and possibly in Europe also, in a similar way that Chelsea managed to wrestle the title of the country’s best side from Manchester United a few years ago.

Manchester City however are a different package to Chelsea Football Club and indeed Manchester United – City have never been a club despised in the same manner that those others have been, where opposing fans have directed a vitriol and venom toward those clubs for a lack of integrity, an accusation that lies purely in the opinion of foes, and other supporters.

It is not just about a jealousy toward success, it is also the perception of how they feel clubs are managed and supported. An acceptance on the achievement of winning, but more importantly how the supporters celebrate themselves, and where and how they revel in their success is what separates modesty from conceit.

Over the last 40 years I have seen Manchester City [from afar] in many different forms and guises  – always respected, their support has been acknowledged as some of the very best, their fans incredibly vocal. The team itself may have a reputation of being able to acquire defeat from many jaws of victory on varied occasion but give them an insurmountable challenge and they come to the fore.

Many none City supporters like myself, will have been urging them on in the latter weeks of this season, not only because they did not want United to win the title, but also because they actually have a great deal of goodwill from footballing fans and indeed many within the media have found the City story quite refreshing. Where it differs from the Chelsea and Abramovic version, is it remains in its infancy. The City project however also has a much greater foundation on which to build – Chelsea always as a club had that London arrogance about it, even when it had no right to condescend it would still feel the need to act in that way, and generally is disliked from that attitude, whether rightly or wrongly.

Manchester City like Newcastle United over many years would find themselves with that tag “everyone’s second team”. They would have the ideology of a footballing team, playing the game in the manner that fans would enjoy, many times at the detriment of itself; it was not long ago that they would find themselves in the third tier of English football – looking like they would never return – certainly not in Fergie’s lifetime!!

As yet they have not found themselves having to hand out plastic flags to create an atmosphere, or hymn books with the words to Blue Moon printed so all can join the sing-along, or fill their programme notes with instruction to the Poznan. How long though before opposing supporter’s acceptance with United’s neighbour, does a 360 degrees, and turns to hatred. The supporters and the players have just as big a role to play to protect their heritage; they have seen how it has turned out at United and Chelsea where outside their own support they are despised, where they are thought of as bandwagon clubs.

Money can buy you many things – the world’s very best footballers, the world’s very best managers and coaches, gleaming trophies with untold riches in the guise of silver. The more grandeur City become to those looking in from outside, the more they will attract the attentions of fans intent on hopping aboard, those with instant success on their minds, the win at all cost brigade- unconcerned about where you came from, your colourful history, indeed what is required to support Manchester City.

Those jumping aboard the rock and roll club that City have now become, do not pay attention to League Cups, or F.A. Cups that a heartbeat ago fans would have sold their grannies to procure – will now just assume to be distractions to this new breed, they will dilute true support, with a belligerence toward genuine supporters of years standing – as they scream harder and shout louder “WE WANT SUCCESS – WHEN DO WE WANT IT……NOW”.

Many before have, and I am sure many will soon follow in signing a deal with the devil, in pursuit of an identity which moments earlier you despised with every ounce of your being, a stance of loathing which you were quick to assume toward a foe, all now replaced as your footballing soul is purchased – with no returns policy.

For now Mario Ballotelli has the footballing community as a whole looking upon him as a character within the game, but how long before he becomes a Joey Barton type? Soon the media will want their pound of flesh from Manchester City, the reaction will be the most telling, whether they gain plaudits, or become persecuted. In a way with the Tevez saga City and Mancini have already given us a clue as to the direction of this club, and what they are prepared to sacrifice in the face of possible success.

It is now over to the owners and Manchester City Football Club to show the watching world, whether indeed this is the very start of something, or as I fear – the very end.

Prawn sandwiches anyone?