And so it ends. Another season draws to a close, you all shuffle away to face another summer of decorating and garden centres, and a veil is drawn over a disappointing campaign.
For some reason though, this end of season felt sadder than most. Not winning anything plays a part naturally, but we should still be used to that, despite recent successes.
No, it feels like an end of an era – a feeling similar (though nowhere on the scale of) to walking out of Maine Road for the final time. City v Southampton once more, and time to say goodbyes not to a ground (though it was goodbye to my seat), but to a few of those that have been integral to changing the direction of our club.
But first, to the match, briefly. It had an end-of-season feel to it, City players not pushing themselves to the limit, Southampton probing, dangerous, and full of energy. City still should have been out of sight by half-time despite Hart saving a wayward defence once more, with Aguero spurning a trio of chances. There was in the end just one goal, and what a wonderful sight to see Frank Lampard doing what he does best, and sealing his final appearance with a goal – you could see how much it mean to him, as did the day as a whole.
In the second half, Southampton seemed to dominate the attacking intent as City went through the motions, but couldn’t break through, City’s defence playing the offside trap to perfection on numerous occasions. Then near the end, Aguero finally got on the score-sheet, with the easiest of headers.
Credit to an excellent Southampton side, especially Mane. Credit also to the away fans for numbers and volume.
City did things right on the day. Lampard was fittingly named captain, and substitutions were staged and staggered so we could say a probable goodbye to three varied but important players.
But as most shuffled into the heart of a Beswick summer evening, some remained to witness the rather awkward lap of appreciation, always an ordeal in a trophy-less season.
So it’s goodbye to Frank Lampard, a gent and a giant of the Premier League era. 609 games, 172 goals, over 100 assists too, and not an ounce of fat on him, contrary to reports. His time at City turned into a diplomatic incident, but his influence was far greater than I could have imagined. After a purple patch in the autumn, including a vital equalizer against his old club Chelsea, his time on the pitch waned, but he returned late in the season to see off his career in England in a nice way, part of an end-of-season winning run for City. Much of his career seems to revolve around arguing over who was better between him and Gerrard, but there is simply no need to rank them – both were giants of the last decade and more. Neither got the perfect send-off to their Premier League career, but Gerrard’s couldn’t have been much worse, from the moment he slipped and let in Demba Ba, the narrative of destiny presenting Liverpool with the league smashed into pieces by lickle old Citeh, then the narrative of a birthday FA Cup win also gone, down to a final day spanking in the Potteries. At least both players scored as they bowed out, the Stoke defence parting like the Red Sea to allow Gerrard a final swansong.
And a nice send- off too after the match for Frank on the pitch. Gracious, charming, and a big loss to the game. No guard of honours, no high-fives, Red Arrow displays, flag-waving or newspaper pull-outs, just a touching goodbye to a decent man.
And it is probably goodbye also to Yaya Toure, a goodbye that hurts more as far as City are concerned. I shall write more when the inevitable happens, but for now, there is little more to be said than thank you to the man who changed the course of the club’s history more than any other. He was always there when needed, none more so for me when scoring at Newcastle to bring that first title so much closer, and he will leave a huge hole in the team. It’s been a rocky ride at times, and it’s a shame his final season has been more downs than ups, but he has been a colossus for the club, possibly our greatest ever signing, possibly our greatest ever player or at least midfielder, and even though I think the time is right for all concerned for him to move on, he will be missed so, so much. Thanks for everything Yaya.
And then there’s James Milner, who is probably off too, though he doesn’t seem to be sure of what he is doing, if truth be known. Clearly a keen supporter of masochism, the word is that he is Liverpool-bound, to be part of Brendan Rodgers attempts to destroy the club. I appreciate that he wants playing time, and whilst he got plenty this season, a summer overhaul will probably limit future appearances. He probably also wants to play in centre midfield, but I can’t see any manager promising him a specific and constant place in a team, as it sets a dangerous precedent, especially if that player loses form. I am baffled at his possible exit, but hold him no ill will (as I’m not a Liverpool fan) and he is free to do as he pleases, and make a career choice that suits him. All the best, you will leave a big hole too in the squad, if not the first team, and it’s not too late to change your mind.
So who else will go? The rather pathetic glum faces of Dzeko and Jovetic as they traipsed round the Etihad pitch tells its own story, and surely Jovetic is now off, and I hope Dzeko goes too, not that I do not appreciate his massive influence in recent years. They seem like a distant memory now though, after a poor season.
Nasri too will probably go, and if adds funds to a major summer overhaul, I wouldn’t be against that. As tidy a player as he was, I never felt Nasri really performed in the big games or on the European stage, with the odd exception of course.
So, a Golden Glove award to Joe Hart for a fourth time, the Golden Boot to Aguero, no fanfare, little praise, but who cares? Even when we win the double, our manager can’t win an award, so nothing changes. A disappointing season for sure, but we finished clear in 2nd in the end, oversaw a 13 point swing on United post-Derby, and are the most successful side of the past 4 seasons – it’s not bad really, whilst United can finish fourth and the world believes the lie that they have met “all their targets” for the season. Next season will be tight, with surely at least three teams fighting for the title (at least), and the summer is going to see some big spending. I can’t wait.
Enjoy the summer!