Friday, 17 April 2009

The Morning After The Night Before

Back in 1999, I was 11. City were 2-0 down at Wembley and I was crying. I had travelled from Anglesey, from a school trip, to London, before knowing I was going to have to return to a tent full of United fans. United had, a week earlier, won the European Cup, coming back from a goal down in injury time against Bayern Munich, and I was getting myself ready to face the jeers and taunts.

But Horlock scored on 90 minutes. And suddenly, those tears started more. Why did he have to go and do that? City were never going to come back from two goals down. All he had done, the selfish sod, was put more false hope into the crowd's hearts. Belief that something might happen in the five added minutes that would change the score. Change the outcome.

But then, from a long punt forward, the ball lands to Dickov, via a blocked Goater shot. Dickov set his sights and he found the top corner. And the tears carried on. 2-2.

That night was the best atmosphere that The City of Manchester Stadium has ever seen. The team battled hard and played football that was miles better than most of the football I've seen in that stadium. Far better than most of the football I’ve seen them play in my lifetime. They deserved to win the match that night. They deserved, in my albeit biased opinion, to win the tie. But they just, just missed.

Not one player on that pitch didn't give all they had. Elano was a force I don't think I've seen since October 2007. Zabaleta was fierce, Richards was running on empty at the end. Bridge lost a tooth. Onuoha was a beast in the air. Kompany was strong in the tackle and played some superb passes.

Realistically, few of us City fans expected us to get a semi-final place. We hoped and dreamed, but didn't expect. And we came so, so close. We were one goal away from forcing a team who are three points from the top of their league into extra time. A team who, even when playing badly, are better than most of the teams in the Premiership.

In fact, it wasn’t even one goal. It was two inches, twice, from Elano free kicks and one yard on a Caicedo run for an offside goal. And then a whole host of chances that could, and perhaps should, have been goals. On another night, they would have been.

And after Hamburg scored, our hopes were dashed more. 80 minutes to find three goals against a top team. Ten seasons ago, we were 30 seconds away from another season in Division Two. Had we stayed in Division Two, I'm pretty certain we wouldn't be where we are now.

‘Pride in Battle’ is the club’s motto. ‘Superbia in Proelio’. If that night wasn’t pride in battle, then I don’t know what is. Hamburg hadn’t lost away from home in Europe all season. And City were twice inches away from not just beating them away from home, but dumping them out of the competition.

City may well be out of the UEFA Cup, and it doesn’t look like they’ll qualify for it next season. But I don’t care. Normally, after a cup defeat, I usually feel let down. But not this time. We went down fighting and I’m proud, this morning, to call myself a City fan.

I love this club.

5 comments:

  1. I was 13 at Wembley, and I too was crying. The memory of Dickovs shot hitting the back of the net still sends a shiver down my spine and brings a lump to the throat.

    Totally agree about the atmosphere yesterday, it was absolutely fantastic, and the players responded. If we can show that level of commitment each week (fans and players) then we're going to frighten the pants off the so called 'top 4'.

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  2. Couldn't have put it better myself.
    When the media refer to the great European nights, you think of Liverpool beating St Etienne in 77 or Everton defeating Bayern Munich in 85. United have enjoyed dozens of glorious moments, but City have been starved for decades. Last night was a major turning point.
    I've been to all the European games this Season and met some wonderful City fans along the way We've experienced some lucky moments, so let's not be too reflective on what might have been.
    Our major task for next Season is to compete with Spurs, Villa and Everton. They've enjoyed a fifteen year head start, but they're all looking over their shoulder.
    Never forget that United once lost a penalty shootout to the mighty Hungarian outfit, Videoton in the early eighties. Everyone has to start somewhere and City are on the march.
    Having said that I bet we lose to West Brom on Sunday.

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  3. Love that Neil....exactly what all true blues are feeling. Proud, but suspecting we'll lose to West Brom! That's what it's all about.

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  4. I was at the play off final but left at 2-0,I had taken one look at my younger sister who was distraught and asked if she wanted to go,through the sobs she nodded,as soon as we got outside some body said Horlock had scored which was greeted with little enthusiasm,after Dickov scored we made a mad dash to the pub to see the rest,I remember jumping up and down hugging people I had never met before going down to Wembley station/toilet.I think the attitude of most blues was typified by my much missed friend Harry who sat next to me at the match who would say at one or two goals up, without any sense of irony "well we might get a draw out of this" I am willing to write off this season,but there will be no excuses if we do not qualify for europe next year,we have had a taster and we want more.

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  5. David is'nt Superbia in Proelio actually the musical version,a sort of Mama we're not realy Here.

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