Last week it was announced that Manchester City Football Club are to be banned by UEFA from the Champions League and potentially relegated from the English Premier league for breaches of the Financial Fair Play rules. As a Blue I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this if it does occur.
For those that don’t know, City is currently owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, who has pumped stupid amounts of money in the club with the aim of making City of Europe’s elite clubs and able to win the Champions League.
This period is or maybe now has been a surreal period in the clubs history. The club has been transformed from a crap but lovable under-achieving, mid-table “sleeping giant”, whom non-supporters had a soft spot for into an elite club with the best players in the world, playing sublime football and winning trophy after trophy yet somehow managed to never do particularly well in the Champions League competition, whom non-supporters no longer like.
The modern era of top-flight football has been marked by money pouring in from outside the supporters, largely from telly money, and made attending games very expensive as the players receive stratospheric wages. It has meant that the only way for a club like Manchester City to break into the group of elite clubs that win things (the Liverpools, the Arsenals, the Tottenham Hotspurs of England and that team that play in Salford). Elite clubs that had made it into England’s elite by having huge international fan bases and hence have more income that the rest of the Premier League. Two English clubs broke this mould by becoming elite clubs by having foreign owners with dubious wealth buying the clubs and propelling them to success, Chelsea and Man City.
I have enjoyed watching the fantastic football and supporting a club winning trophies, it’s been brilliant. It’s what every football fan of a non-elite club wants to happen. Though secretly we kind of wanted it to be by sheer luck of having a brilliant manager and managed to get amazing players at bargain prices, proper ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff. However that isn’t how modern football works, it has become a game riven with money and money buys success.
On the other hand I do miss the old City. When we played at Maine Road, a grand old stadium that just fizzled and popped with atmosphere, where at the half time whistle you had time to get a pint, drink it, pop to the loo and be back in place before the second half kicked off. There were moments of hapless comedy where players took three touches before launching the ball into our own net, contrasted with moments of sublime football and the moments of sheer unadulterated joy of gaining promotion back to the Premier League.
It is an interesting question whether City fans prefer the new City with all it’s trophies and amazing football or the old City. We continue to sing the chant “We are not, we’re not really here, we are not, we’re not really here, like the fans of the invisible man, we’re not really here”, because there is still that sense of unreality about City being amongst England’s elite football clubs as somehow where we are now isn’t really City!
Yet things have changed, the atmosphere at Eastlands has never re-captured the atmosphere at Maine Road, but then huge modern stadia have come to lack atmosphere for regular matches across the Premier League and even in away ends the chanting is no longer constant. As fans we used to buy tickets and tat from the club shop to support the club, with millions coming in from away, there seems little point in financially supporting the club anymore. I kind of feel here for the ride rather than as a genuine football supporter anymore.
I think there has always been a sense at City that this period of success has been something of a freak event and that one day City would return from whence we came back to mid-table obscurity and hopes of getting an upset against Liverpool or the Trafford lot.
Whether this is an end of an era or not is not yet clear, however transitioning back to the old City is something that I still see as a question of when rather than if.