Did you enjoy El Cashico? The vulgar dsplay of wealth and power that has corrupted football? Take much from the game Michael Cox thought was one of the most boring games of the season?
I know I did. England’s sole representative in the Champions League, proceeding further than they had ever done, despite being underdogs in the tie, in front of their highest European crowd at their ground. I imagine a nation rallied round as we saved the all-important coefficient too. All positive, eh?
Well, maybe not. Because, with a heavy heart I return to my favourite topic, the one that has taken up three years of my life – and taken three off it too.
Ah well, what would I talk about without Fleet Street’s finest?
I always suspected that City fans were paranoid about negative media coverage. This week I realised we were right all along. A line was crossed, and a moment of clarity arrived, crystal clear for all City fans. Enough is enough.
Now, if you go on social media, especially Twitter, you’ll probably know where all this is leading. You see, let’s make a few things clear from the start. Manchester City’s team cost a lot of money. It should do quite well. It hasn’t done very well in the league this season, nor last, and there have been many poor performances in that time. And thus, when the team performs badly, it deserves criticism, both players and manager. When the club makes a bad decision or spends badly, both City fans and others are allowed to comment on what they think is a poor decision. All fine so far, as is supporters of other teams not supporting us in Europe – I’d expect nothing less – I certainly wouldn’t support them, I hate them all, and my considerable love for my country has no link to supporting football teams in a club competition.
Football is tribal , and I’m fine with that. I will never admit that Anthony Martial is a good player or will ever be, even if he wins the Ballon D’or, I will never accept United have ever deserved to win a game, except through gritted teeth, and that’s the way it is. So fans banter is to be ignored, especially the tedious seat thing.
But, but – from journalists, maybe I was naive, but I kinda expected better. And again, to make things clear, on Tuesday night from many journalists I got better, with great praise from the likes of Phil Mcnulty, Martin Lipton and John Cross, journalists who I’ve had many opportunities to criticise in the past. But sadly not all their colleagues maintained such standards.
For 20 years now I’ve watched other English teams compete and occasionally triumph in Europe. I even watched most of United’s games, which is rather weird and sad I admit – maybe I was just hoping they’d fail, as that always makes for decent viewing. Anyway, I lose count of the many turgid away performances from United down the years where they nevertheless got the job done – either a narrow victory or a respectable draw.
Job done, by the team and their highly successful manager, often against far from stellar opposition. There were no easy games in Europe after all, and even someone as successful as Alex Ferguson realised that sometimes the performance wasn’t the be all and end all and it was the end result that matters – City’s insomnia -curing draw at home to Dynamo Kiev was evidence of this for City.
Anyway, I have not taken exhaustive notes on the subject, but my recollection of press coverage of such games was generally positive, just as it should be. Progress was cheered, teams were supported by the media. Correctly so, I expect the nation’s press to act in such a matter, it is natural and normal, as long as bias doesn’t cloud judgment or coverage.
Now It’s easy to be paranoid, and City fans have been accused of it many times. To view every criticism as an attack on the club – social media can have that effect on you. Not all journalists are all out to get you, not all have bias, they just have honest opinions, even if you think some of them stink, just like some of the fans opinions stink. Look at the disagreements over ticket prices – we’re all entitled to our view.
The coverage just after we were taken over in 2008 was, by a minority, disgusting, bordering on xenophobic in parts, but it died down after a many journalists got briefed and told a few home truths. In recent times it has been easy to wonder if I am just being paranoid again if I feel that there is a bias against the club – certainly some journalists would suggest so, and I feel some sympathy for many of them as they must get massive amounts of bile thrown their way on social media on a daily basis.
But ask yourself this, hand on heart – do we get the same coverage as other big teams? And it’s not paranoia anymore, because it’s as clear as the spring waters of Buxton – we don’t.
Atmospheres are generally terrible at English games, especially compared to abroad, we’re just a more reserved, sedate bunch, and like a little whinge and a chat instead during a match, and a few pints and an overpriced pie too. I’ve heard Liverpool’s assistant manager fart during one of their legendary European nights it’s been so quiet, but tell me when you have seen any journalist do what Matt Hughes of the Times did on Tuesday and criticise not only another English team’s atmosphere but also criticise a club’s support for empty seats when the match has sold out – you can’t, because it’s never happened, in the same way that the empty seats at recent games at Arsenal and United simply don’t exist as far as the media are concerned, not that it should be an issue of course, the obsession to have a full stadium one of the weirdest of all.
Now tell me when you last watched a European game involving two foreign sides and heard the co-commentator compare the atmosphere with the lack of one at an English side’s game the previous night? Until Steve Mcmanaman did it on Wednesday night (“It’s chalk and cheese, it’s chalk and cheese!” he spat on the commentator), and the previous night of course when commentating on City – you won’t have done.
McManaman has his excuse of course, as one of the Liverpool media cabal, is still bitter not only at us winning the league 2 years ago but also at Raheem Sterling leaving. And tell me, when do you last recall a pundit sitting in the studio criticising the fans of the team that has just secured a famous victory by lying about them not singing? You haven’t of course, until Rio Ferdinand did on Tuesday night at the Etihad, but then of course he’s bitter for his own obvious reasons and the TV studios are filled with ex-united players, and they can’t be impartial, Gary Neville so overwhelmed with the effort involved that he emigrated in the end to avoid the stress of it all.
So why do you think fellow fans and journalists that we think you’ve got it in for us? If United had done what City had on Tuesday night, there would not be one mention of a few empty seats, not one mention of what the atmosphere was like, not one rewriting of history, downgrading the opposition from world beaters two weeks ago to now being considered an average team. And every journalist in the land would have said PSG were average because United pressed and made them look average.
Not if it’s City though. Some will never accept us at the top table, which is unfortunate, because we could be there for quite a while, subject to winning a few more league games this season. Instead, this week we have half the internet with sticky pants because the next young player off United’s famous conveyor belt scored a nice goal – that trumps a Champions League semi-final place any day of the week.
It doesn’t help when the few City supporters in the media seem to hate us so much, David Conn purring as he released his latest oil-soaked Arab owners piece last week. David of course is now a fully-fledged FCUM supporter, taking in punk rock supporter-owned football, though he mysteriously seemed to be away when the recent news of FCUM in-fighting broke out, the reporting falling to his colleague Daniel Taylor instead. No doubt he was in the Amazonian rainforest or somewhere similar, where WIFI coverage is patchy, at best.
But is it just City where prejudice and bias exists? I’m sure fans of other clubs go through similar things – just not the things we do. United fans are taunted about not being from Manchester, the Emirates is called a library, and Chelsea are a bit racist – there’s taunts for all, but I doubt they are so ingrained and factually incorrect as ours – they would argue otherwise.
And there’s a reason they are not. You see, United fans, and others in smaller numbers, have carried out one of the great PR jobs of modern times to convince the world that the 9th best supported club in Europe has no supporters. Hell, they could probably convince you satan exists they’ve done such a good marketing job.
When other clubs have more fans, and control the media, this is what happens. It will take 20 years of success before we have city legends in studios, have Talksport calling them up for a biased slant on a story, and until we can dominate social media and convince the world all United fans used to support Leicester City before Wayne Rooney’s glorious managerial reign from 2025-30. Teams that have had success leading up to and during the early years of the mass internet age have taken over and consolidated their auras and images of superiority, organic growth and of course history, that have transferred around the globe. Still, we’ll have to go some way to match the miserable mugs of Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes desperately searching for negatives when there aren’t any. The head of BT football may be a City fan, but it doesn’t change the fact that the pundit line up is appalling and skewed, and I’d argue it will force viewers to desert the station in droves, but they never had the viewers in the first place, as UEFA are finding out to their cost. Jake Humphrey admitted as much when he pointed towards Scholes the other night, that he wasn’t expecting impartial analysis from him. What a sorry state of affairs.
Raheem Sterling would be the perfect case study to prove bias. A young English player who wanted to move to further his career was so demonised that he is booed by every set of fans he plays in front of, most of whom probably don’t know why they are even booing in the 1st place. Now, it’s not paranoid to say that if he had moved to United none of this would have happened, though the club rivalry may have prevented it happening of course. This is because of the myth that going to united is somehow a step up for everyone, even with Butthead in charge and Ed Woodward striking the deals, when we all know the future should be blue should we not mess it all up, which is always a possibility.
We shouldn’t care one jot of course. Much of it is truly hilarious. From fans it is water off a duck’s back. It’s just a shame that the clickbait brigade has now taken over the internet and that a minority of journalism has sunk so low to clichés and falsehoods.
It is perhaps a bit needy to require lots of praise for our team after it has done well, the result itself should be enough, but, and it’s a Kim Karshadian sized but, we have been starved of success for so long we crave it like oxygen at high altitude. So be nice journalists, we’ll appreciate it. Though not you Custis, you’re a lost cause.