For much of the last 25 years, city fans have had a soft spot in the hearts of fans of other clubs. We hailed from Manchester, but had consciously chosen not to follow the most successful club in the country. You could turn up at any away ground (and city got to see more away grounds than most during a turbulent period when we had 6 promotions or relegation’s in 7 seasons), start singing “if you hate man united..” and instantly get the home fans joining in. We were winning friends, even if we weren’t winning points.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot. One of the few sets of fans actively wanting city to win the league this year are those from Old Trafford, if only to stop Liverpool catching their record.
Fans of other clubs remind us that we’ve bought our success, and the savvy ones remind us that the source of the money comes of a country with a dubious record on human rights.
For the long standing fan, this creates a dilemma. Can you stop actively supporting your club because you don’t like the owners? Blackpool have done this to great effect recently, but (and there’s no pride in this) that’s probably easier to do when you’re mid-table in League 1 than when you’re winning 100 points in a single premier league season.
Despite the jokes about empty seats, city now sell out home games and there is talk of further expanding the stadium. Fans aren’t staying away because ethical dilemma caused by the plight of citizens halfway across the world. They’re drawn to watch the newly rebranded Citizens of Manchester in an era of success few could have dreamed of ten years ago.
It’s natural that success leads to a changed relationship with others fans. But if we’ve lost our old friends, we’ve struggled to make new ones. We’re the new-money lottery winners trying to get invited to the party of European royalty, and they’ve chosen to set the financial fair play attack dogs on us.
In this time when we seem stuck between two worlds, it feels like fans are returning to the one thing that’s never really deserted us; our healthy degree of pessimism. There’s a palpable sense that this is phase we’re going through. Few think this will last long term.
There’s a banner at Old Trafford that quotes the James lyric “if I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor” which now neatly sums up their constant desire to return to trophy-winning ways. There isn’t a similar banner at city, but if there were it should probably quote the preceding lines “now I’ve swung back down again, it’s worse than it was before”
The Secret City Threadsters (😉)