2013 started with a hung-over nation watching the latest almost-daily football clashes through bleary, blood-shot eyes. So the same as every other year then.
Within days, Mario Balotelli was back in the news as he grappled with manager Roberto Mancini in training. It made headline news, but no one really cared any more. Wild speculation ensued that Balotelli’s time at the club was over, and that Mancini was losing the plot. For once the speculation was right. Balotelli exited first to Milan and not surprisingly ended the year back on sale.
One Daily Mail commenter had strong views on the matter:
So the Arab ‘benefactors’ have brought shame and pity to football, an unflattering, unprofessional, nasty, pantomime, an embarrassing antics roadshow to Manchester. Whatever words we chose, it’s just not right. Like all human endeavour, sport should earn its awards through striving, consistency and dedication over a period of time. Sugardaddy demands for immediate, unearned purchase of success, brings nothing but embarrassment, shame and yes pity to a small but once decent club like City.
As the nation unwittingly chomped on horsemeat the issue of ticket prices was in the news as City returned some of their allocation for the match at Arsenal. City won at the Emirates, but with United defeating Liverpool earlier in the day, retaining the Premier League title was looking less likely by the week. Vincent Kompany was once more sent off for a clean tackle, though amazingly this time the card was later rescinded.
Three days later Paul Scholes committed a far worse tackle against West Ham but there was no media outcry for the lovable, shy family-man despite his late lunge missing the ball by 5 yards and completely taking out an opposition player.
In the heart of the city Michael Johnson was photographed enjoying fried food rather too much for a supposed footballer, and it soon emerged that City had given up on the wayward star. Across town, a new star was born and of course hyped beyond all belief:
Daily Telegraph Article Header
Meet Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha – as tough as Maradona and as skilful as George Best
He would soon be usurped by an even bigger talent as United’s miraculous youth system churned another Busby Babe off the production line.
City continued to progress through the FA Cup once more – having defeated Watford, Pablo Zabaleta put Stoke City to the sword. Elsewhere, Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a ball-boy in the ribs after the 17-year old had seemingly fallen asleep on top of the ball. The boy reacted much as Suarez would after being gently brushed on his thigh – i.e. as if he had just been shot at Ypres. Overnight he became a Twitter sensation because that’s how the world works now until everyone moved on bored the next day when they realised 17-year-old ball-boys don’t have much of interest to say (like 39-year-old bloggers in many ways).
A home draw against Liverpool pretty much extinguished City’s title hopes, Aguero’s magnificent equalizer soon forgotten. Worse was to follow though with a horror show at Southampton, Gareth Barry scoring the first of two emphatic City own-goals in the calendar year. In the cup however progress continued, as two championship sides from Yorkshire were easily defeated and another trip to Wembley was secured.
Thankfully the Champions League provided ample opportunity for bitter blues to have a good laugh at United’s expense as they went out of the competition to Real Madrid. According to twitter it seemed the red card for Nani was one of the worst decisions ever made. Needless to say, it was nothing of the sort.
James Lawton at the Independent called it an assault on natural justice and I laughed myself to sleep.
Meanwhile, over at The Sun:
20th March 2013 – TOURE: GIVE ME A NEW CONTRACT BY SATURDAY OR I’M OFF
Two weeks later Yaya Toure signed a new 4-year contract.
City triumphed at Old Trafford, but it changed little and then the Iron Lady popped her clogs and half the country celebrated wildly, the other half, or less, mourned and got angry. This should have nothing to do with football, but inevitably there were calls, mostly from Tory donors such as Dave Whelan, for a minute’s silence before Premier League matches – after all, what could possibly go wrong?
Soon a new joke was born.
A Manchester City fan walks into a bar near Wembley.
“The usual?” asks the barman.
City were back in London and progressed to another Cup Final with a 2-1 win over Chelsea. The latest hammer-blow through the collective heart of the English football fan came soon after with the announcement that the 2013 FA Cup final would kick off at 5:15pm. Guardian journalist Jacob Steinberg commented that it was hardly a surprise that some people now treat the FA Cup with indifference if the FA can’t be bothered protecting it and fans.
A pitiful defeat at Spurs finally signalled the end of City’s title campaign. No red Champ20ns t-shirts were being thrown in the bin this time round, as United clinched the title with time to spare.
And with the title secured, the time had finally arrived. Alex Ferguson was finally retiring, and he meant it this time. Half a city rejoiced and it helped buoy the mood further before a trip to Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Wigan. Everything was falling nicely into place.
And then of course City lost the FA Cup Final. The uncertainty over the manager’s future seemed to deeply affect a team that barely turned up to contest the match. A torrential downpour on exiting the stadium just capped off the evening perfectly, and the night was spent drowning many sorrows.
Mancini exited stage left. Having alienated most of the people he worked with, he fell on his sword, the perfectionist at an imperfect club. The papers went to town on his autocratic reign, some of the allegations not far off the ones I made up below.
MANCINI’S REIGN OF TERROR
•BANNED ENGLISH IN THE DRESSING ROOM
• YOUTH PLAYER MADE TO WEAR CLOGS
• BALOTELLI ALLOWED TO KILL “AT WILL”
• PASTA HAD TO BE FIRM
By the end of the year though, I had heard from too many places that the rumours had all been true.
And so finally Norwich came to town. A limp home defeat, appalling defending, strange team selections, rumours of City’s captain thumping another player – normal service for City had resumed. Throw in a public spat between Kolarov and a whole stand, Kompany with a face like thunder and a mostly-empty stadium to greet the lap of (dis)honour, and it was a fittingly miserable end to the season. And that was that. The season over with a whimper.
The summer was long as it lacked football, bar the odd post-season friendly tour to the Big Apple, an Audi Cup, pre-season friendlies and the hugely entertaining Confederations Cup. Hey, City even created a new club just for the hell of it.
The appointment of Manuel Pellegrini was a “done deal” for almost a month, with the odd story coming out of Real Madrid wanting him, Barcelona wanting him, PSG wanting him, then Porto wanting him. In the end it was said to be a small contract dispute that delayed the inevitable, but eventually the announcement of City’s new manager was made, though it was not until the first days of July that Pellegrini actually got his feet behind an Etihad Stadium desk.
City fans raised £7000 to put an advert in the Gazzetta Dello Sport thanking Roberto Mancini, a nice touch, but I had better things to spend my money on, like PPI payments and salt and pepper spare ribs.
Carlos Tevez moved on, signing for Juventus, the old lady, on a 3-year deal, whilst Wayne Rooney looked on in envy. Tevez’s stay at City has seemed to run parallel with his old manager Roberto Mancini. Both seemed poised to leave as soon as they arrived (if you believed the press), both were successful but flawed, their baggage enough to incur a £10,000 surcharge with Ryanair. Isco moved on also – to Real Madrid, and an entire fan base wailed long into the night after realising a 13,000 page thread on Bluemoon had all been for nothing.
City moved quickly (for once) and tied up the majority of their summer transfer business with six weeks of the window remaining, replacing two departed strikers with two new additions, whilst also bolstering the midfield with two other signings, all done in the nick of time as Manchester’s once-in-a-decade hot-spell came to an end. Suckers!
But at the end of another tedious window, another unsung hero went for pastures new, as Gareth Barry moved to Everton on loan, effectively ending his City career.
Prior to that and City put on a pre-season party, namely City Live at Manchester Central. As with anything the club does it split the fans, with many not willing to pay £25 to see the players on a stage, so they didn’t pay and others did and the others went and had a good night.
Jamie Oliver introduced his pukka bespoke pies and burgers to the Etihad, which taste much like the old ones but for more money. Nice chips though.
City somehow contrived to lose at Cardiff, the home side’s red home shirts sending too powerful a force for City to resist as their buffoon of an owner looked on with his pants up to his shoulders and a moustached that shouted “bow before me mere mortals”. Eat your heart out Simon Cowell. Sadly poor away form was to hamper the club for the rest of the year, further defeats to Aston Villa and Sunderland still yet to be explained by the planet’s brightest boffins. At home though, City were an irresistible force, swatting away mid-table teams like Norwich City, Swansea City and Manchester United.
Mick Hucknall, Terry Christian, Eamonn Holmes, James Nesbitt, Mumford and (bloody) Sons, Terry Christian again, Zoe Ball, Paddy Crerand, Lou Macari, the chosen one, Clayton Blackmore, Terry Christian again, Mark Ogden, Usain Bolt, Gary Neville, Howard Webb, some bloke who used to present Play School, Terry Christian again. Your boys took one hell of a beating.
There was proof that Stevan Jovetic exists as City put five past Wigan in the Capital One Cup. Then Bayern Munich came to town and put City to the sword. It would seem revenge would be needed once more.
Elsewhere and Alex Ferguson released his latest instalment of his memoirs, a predictably myopic view of events that conveniently whitewashed the awkward moments in his career, omitting the Glazers’ influence on the club, his fall out with the previous owners that led to the American takeover or his son’s role as an agent. He even forgot to mention his speeding ticket and bowel evacuation caused by a dicky stomach. If you’ve ever had a session on Holts bitter, you’ll understand his predicament.
The best bits were left for City though, which was nice. Of the 6-1 Old Trafford massacre, he commented:
“There was never a point where City looked superior to us.”
“We battered them.”
No one really cared about the past though, because it was all about the future. A new star had been born, a mix of Beckenbauer, Maradona, Duncan Edwards (obv) and Eusebio. Adnan Januzaj had arrived. And that wasn’t the only good news across town. Unilever became United’s ‘personal care and laundry provider in SE Asia’ and Mamee their official noodle partner in Oceania and beyond. Manda Fermentation Company become the club’s ‘Official Nutritional Supplements Partner’. On the downside, United launched an investigation into a “completely inappropriate” Nazi Swastika-style logo on their club email. People are so picky sometimes.
Harry Redknapp too released an autobiography, which needless to say was largely fabricated (allegedly). Apparently Spurs only had two points from eight games when he took over (news to me). Next you’ll be telling me Dave Whelan once broke his leg in a cup final.
New figures released showed Sam Allardyce to be the 13th highest-paid manager in the world. Harry Redknapp is 26th (Pellegrini 10th).
The biggest scandal was yet to come though when two players were seen exchanging shirts at half-time. Oh, the humanity, and so soon after Flamini wore a long-sleeved shirt, urinating on over a century of Arsenal’s history in the process.
City’s away form slowly improved, and peaked as the team triumphed in Munich, finishing their Champions League campaign with three away victories. Sadly Manuel Pellegrini’s rudimentary grasp of mathematics saw City fail to go for the jugular, namely a 4th goal that would have seen them top the group and as a result a tasty double-header against Barcelona awaits in late winter. West Ham stand between City and another trip to Wembley in the Capital One Cup and Blackburn host 7,000 inebriated City fans in the New Year. A hectic month awaits after a year that has never been dull as City continue to write the headlines for Fleet Street’s finest and worst.
And so a storm-ravaged country crept towards the end of the year, and with the Premier League title race closer than it has been for many a year, here’s to another exciting year of football, England sweeping all before them in Brazil and on a more realistic note for David Moyes not to be sacked, as he is doing a great job.
Tweets of The Year
Eamonn Holmes, after the appointment of David Moyes – THE LEGACY LIVES
@footyaccums – City buying Negredo for £24m is such a bad piece of business. So many better strikers out there for that price.
Bob Cass – Jones is again the play-anywhere diamond for England. When he finally gets a crack at central defence, he’ll be one of the world’s best.
Rob Beasley – Klopp n Lewandowski to Chelsea. Jose n CR7 to Utd
Peter Spencer, MEN: “You won’t get me saying jones is the new duncan edwards – yet”
Jones the new robbo?
Said Baines for utd 2 years ago…great to be right for once
Its Ronnie utd really want believe it
(Pete hasn’t quite mastered tweeting just yet, bless).
Stewart Gardner – Makes a nice change for Kompany and Aguero to appear in front of a full house…
Piers Moron – And you know what @SamNasri19 ? Arteta’s a better No8 for us than you ever were. #Arsenal
Neil Ashton: City 4 United 1. Could be the day English football died after City start with ten overseas outfield players.
Joey Barton – I’ll just re-iterate for a lot of the buffoons tweeting me. I WILL NOT BE PLAYING IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT SEASON. Hope that clears that up!
“A Marseille player, whose name I don’t remember, speaks badly of Neymar, Brazilian football, Beckham and Ibra. As no one talks about him, maybe he thinks he’ll drool over the big players so that we know he exists. It makes me want to win even more, to shut this Englishman up. What does he know about Brazilian football? I can’t remember playing against him for the national team.” – Thiago Silva on Joey Barton
What Suarez said, what Terry said, was for private consumption, no matter how unpalatable. It was abuse, pure and simple. Horrid, racist abuse, but ultimately meaningless. – Martin Samuel column.
The index in Sven Goran Eriksson’s autobiography:
Relationships with women 255, 267-8, 283-4.
See also Alam, Faria; Caprioglio, Deborah; Dell’Olio, Nancy; Jonsson, Ulrika; Mancinelli, Graziella; Pettersson, Ann-Christine ‘Anki’; Yaniseth
2013/14 Predictions – Louise Taylor
Tottenham. Europa League involvement and the potential loss of Gareth Bale are worries but Roberto Soldado and Paulinho look excellent signings and AVB is a class coach.
Player of The Season
Hatem Ben Arfa. Providing he stays fit, Ben Arfa belongs on a different planet to most mortals. Capable of eclipsing Rooney, Bale and even Suárez.
Signing Of The Summer
Paulinho. A sort of Brazilian Frank Lampard, his ability to score freely from midfield promises to transform Spurs.
Manager To Watch
Paolo Di Canio. The self-styled “revolutionary” is clever enough to confound his many critics and lead a reborn Sunderland into the top 10.