by Ahsan Naeem
Who I am and what I’m meant to feel as a modern day Sheikh Mansour era Manchester City supporter is something that I’ve pondered often in the last few years. Many much more skilled writers than I have opined at length about it. What does it mean to have supported a comedy club for so long who have suddenly gate crashed the establishment and now sit as champions of England and standard bearers for off field stability.
The problem is, when Sheikh Mansour came in and we started our ascent to the summit of the Premier League, nobody gave us a road map on how to navigate our own inflated expectations. We fumbled through the Hughes era wanting to give him time with an understanding Rome wasn’t built in a season. We displayed a stoic loyalty to someone who was clearly out of his depth, right up until he was rather ungraciously sacked in front of a full house at the Etihad.
Roberto Mancini came in and in many respects he laid down the foundations for our current identity crisis. The FA Cup was good, but it was the title in 11/12 that changed everything. Suddenly it became apparent to us that we were in fact the best team in England and as supporters our dreams of the recent past became expectations for the near future.
I’ll be the first to admit I was fully on board the bandwagon and by the time Christmas of the following season approached I was leading the “not good enough” charge. We were slipping away in the title race, humiliated in the Champions League, and the cries of “worst title defence in history” began to make me seethe.
What I learned from that experience is important though within the context of where we are today. The last few weeks have been disappointing to say the least. Some are saying the entire season so far has been disappointing. We’ve not come close to hitting the heights of 13/14, and before yesterday’s derby we were in what many people were describing as a moment of crisis.
What surprised me was just how much the “crisis” narrative was coming from us, the supporters, rather than the often-criticized media. All around me it felt like the calmest of heads normally were losing their collective cool. I’m going to mention the talented and respected David Mooney and a blog he wrote in the aftermath to the start of our mini crisis in Moscow entitled “Why I’m Sick Of City In The Champions League’. The reason I mention it is because my wanting to write this blog dates back to reading that blog.
I was taken aback by its negativity. Astounded at what to me read like one huge entitled rant. The kind of thing we would surely a decade ago have been dying laughing at if we’d seen a Chelsea or United supporter write. Even when I read it now, which I’ve just done, it leaves me as cold and as angry as it did the first time I read it.
It also got me thinking about why he’d write that. Why would someone who clearly loves City, someone who has been a supporter all their life and who can remember the bad old days vividly, choose to fillet the club in such public fashion. Why would they describe reference to clear and present mitigating circumstances leading to the result as “laughable”. To me it was an attack on the club that was so personal and so vitriolic that I couldn’t quite believe David was the one who had written it. There was a sense that he felt entitled to something better than what he had been served. “I’m sick of the excuses, I’m sick of the smokescreens, and I’m sick of the club’s failure in the competition – and it has to be deemed a failure so far.” This about a competition we are making our fourth appearance in ever.
This isn’t about just the Champions League or just David’s blog though; the negativity and the sense of entitlement I talk about permeates from all corners. Yesterday we beat United in our fourth consecutive derby. Post match I made the mistake of clicking onto my twitter account only to find an absolute barrage of abuse aimed at Manuel Pellegrini for his substitutions. Yes in a derby we won, there were supporters whose first instinct was to lay as many punches as they could on the manager as soon as the final whistle had blown, because the win wasn’t comfortable enough for them. Again I come back to that word. Entitlement.
I think as a group of supporters right now we have an identity crisis. On some subconscious level maybe we aren’t quite as comfortable “dining at the top table” as we thought we were because we still seem to react to any setback no matter how big or small, with a portion of abject panic. We’re sacking the manager, the players, the board, every time we lose a game. The attitude is seemingly always “heads must roll”. Sound familiar? It should. That’s the old City. But it shouldn’t be the current one.
I said somewhere up the page that I learned something during Mancini’s last season in charge. What I learned was that ultimately it didn’t matter. We were horrible in the Champions League, but we were in the Champions League again the following season. We didn’t retain our title, but we won it again the following season. We pushed on. This season maybe we’ll take a little step back again and finish 2nd. Who knows. What I do know is that we shouldn’t let entitlement and expectation remove the passion and love we have for our club, or let us lose the very fortunate perspective of being able to remember multiple relegations as vividly as our first title in decades. I personally don’t ever want to end up feeling like this: *“…this year I no longer have that passion to care enough to get angry.”
*I’ve got the utmost respect for David Mooney and the time he dedicates to City. I hope he’s not too offended that I chose to use his blog as a vehicle for what I wanted to say in this one.