Adieu aspiring playwrights, sling the Shakespeare soliloquies in the skip and pack up your pen sets, the twin forces of fate and fortune have fashioned a fairytale that even the most imaginative of impresarios and wily of wordsmiths will fail to better. Yesterday was the grand unveiling of their art, the endless rehearsals at the ‘theatre of base comedy’ complete, now the bright lights of the big stage beckoned – and my you should have heard the audience’s adulation. In the ebbing minutes preceding the seventeenth hour, on the longest day of the longest of weeks, our celestial scripter’s contrived to craft the very commove of climaxes, a delicious denouement that saw Manchester City crowned champions of England in a manner wholly befitting the turbulence of our tri-decade travels.
Much will be made of the events of the 13th of May 2012. Already the word ‘dynasty’ is being floated around in press circles, while death has been declared for the ‘Typical City’ tag that received a terminal prognosis in the wake of last year’s Wembley semi final. If yesterday was a burial however, it was not one of farewell and finality, but rather the submersion of a supporter’s treasure trove. Just as our victorious FA cup run was loaded with sentiment and significance, so the current campaign has been littered with moments that have provided the yin to the crushing yang occasions of the past – coupled with welcome nods to some of our proudest days. Remarkably, season 2011/2012, has supplied an antidote to our ailments and catalogued a microcosm of our makeup; a time capsule filled with 44 years of significance that can be dug up and thumbed through whenever we blues wish to recall the path we’ve together tread.
The first bounty for the box came on a sunny Sunday in August. Spurs, the side who in 81 gave us a nudge from the top of the helter-skelter and then seemed to delight in bashing out bruises at each twist and turn, were trounced on their own turf; a hoodoo was ceremoniously shattered and shortly after, an equally emphatic etching on the road to redemption was to arrive via a sojourn into Stretford. The benevolent boys from the ‘council house’ paid a visit to the poor house and revelled in a second Oktoberfest, mere weeks after indulging heartliy in Munich. That afternoon the theatre became a citadel, and for those haunted by the events of November 1994, a ghost was well and truly exercised. Further banishments of black marks (notably a Carling Cup victory in Arsenal’s backyard) criss-crossed the months that followed, but it was in the closing stages of the seasons strung out story that the romantic relevance really ramped up.
This was in no small part due to the peculiarities of the fixture list, which conjured up a penultimate weekend trip to the black and white streets of Newcastle, mirroring the final away fixture of the 1968 title winning march. Though ultimately on this occasion the crown was not secured on Tyneside, few will question the enormity of that 2-0 victory, and the sight of scarves twirling overhead to a refrain of ‘we’re gonna win the league’ is one that will last long in the minds and hearts of those who partook or observed the scene. That this result seemed to seal the blues course must have been particularly gratifying for one man synonymous with St James Park. Kevin Keegan’s promotion winning City side brought style and a swashbuckling swagger back to the Maine Road turf, and the man prone to ‘loving it’, must have taken sweet solace in the reds surrender of an eight point lead and the long overdue lancing of the mind games myth. If only for bringing us Ali B, you’re welcome Kevin.
From one former boss to another, how apt that the last contest of the season would see the management team who had first dibs at pushing forth ‘the project’, now cast as the last men standing in the way of its seminal staging post. Regardless of the merits of the job they may or may not have done, and placing possible revenge motivations to one side, it was surely fitting that the Welsh enclave were treated to a pitch side view, as the vision that they were initially entrusted with moved towards its fruition.
That being said a match still had to be won, and over the course of ninety-five gripping minutes further weird coils of coincidence were to weave their way into the fabric of the tale. That it was one of Hughes own signings, the ‘mercenary import’ who has most embraced Mancunian life and the ethos of the club, scoring the opening goal, his only strike of the season, would be poetic enough in its narrative, but as it was, that was to be only a taster for the feast to come. Even the subsequent unravelling of Mr Barton -the former academy graduate, who somewhat dubiously laid the credit for all City’s future triumphs at his own door – was not to have the central character plot of the day; ‘Thanks Joey’ and all that, but the resonance that lay ahead was bigger even than you this time.
That’s because, when with two goals needed, hope seeping away, and the bombarded opposition looking impenetrable, something magical suddenly occurred. A fourth official sauntered forward to the touchline and lifted aloft a board that displayed simply a number ‘5’, and in that instant the cogs of history lurched into gear. Too little, too late, a single goal arrived, welcome but insufficient to keep misery from the door, yet in the throes of action that followed, its importance would be elevated one hundred fold. You see, who would have foretold that as the ball rolled into patch of space on the right hand side of the penalty area, there waiting for it would be a diminutive striker, one who was able to quickly adjust his feet and, with a crash of his right boot, drive a crisp shot diagonally into the back of the net. In the seconds that followed a keeper waved his arms and ran around manically, whilst those who had distraughtly displaced themselves to out with the stadium limits clambered to get back inside for a taste of what had been unfolding – the parallels cannot have been lost on any time served blue.
Yet if that was symptomatic of exactly what had come to pass some thirteen years previous, it was also intrinsically linked to the City of the here and now. As the Argentine goal scorer peeled away in euphoria at his achievement, a split screen image was being beamed around the globe of a shell-shocked Manchester United player trying to comprehend the unfolding events. As the song that has propelled the players on over the past six weeks proudly declares, they did indeed sign Phil Jones and we certainly got Kun Aguero, so how incredible that in the very last knocking’s of the battle it would fall upon these two protagonists to provide the contrasting images of their duelling clubs fortunes – on one side an unfulfilled promise, on the other a fully fledged champion delivering. In these exact moments City’s lowest point and their brand new high, came together in one glorious correlation.
Avenged losses next to former bosses, ex playing names beside historic games, all neatly boxed up in the 2012 time capsule. Dig it back up whenever you like Blues, it’ll make for happy viewing.