City Blogger: So, thank you, Poland.
- 17 October 2013 14:32
- Posted by @bifana_bifana
Following the recent announcement of the team of eight City Bloggers from around the world who will be writing for us this season, it's time for the next piece courtesy of Simon Curtis...
An avalanche of words have been written about Poland in the last week or so and, now that their national team has done us the huge favour of allowing England to beat them and go to the World Cup in Brazil next year, we can all start dreaming of losing to Switzerland in the middle of the Amazon jungle. It should be quite a blast and all thoughts of being grateful to our Polish friends will soon be forgotten in a stream-infested whirlpool of sweat, tears and unfeasibly large yellow spiders.
For City fans, however, it is a little more difficult to simply forget about Poland once World Cups have been reached, for many of us hold a special affection for the country and its citizens, thanks to regular comings-together over the years.
Manchester City are not the most decorated of European campaigners. Until recently, City's continental CV looked a little threadbare. Three consecutive years of Champions League participation have upped the ante a little, but not so long ago things were a little different. Proud mention of the capture of the Cup Winners Cup risked attracting the same non-plussed look from people that I used to give my uncle Dougie when he regaled us with tales of Don Revie’s great Leeds United side in what he cunningly called The Fairs Cup. "The Fairs Cup!" I would whinny with delight, "that doesn't even exist anymore!". Despite remembering the Cup Winners' Cup Finals of Everton-Rapid Vienna, Chelsea-Stuttgart and Arsenal-Parma, try as I might, I cannot pretend that even I am old enough to have seen City's one and only European win first hand. All of which dates the exploit somewhat.
With our club these days stretching every sinew in the pursuit of European glory in the shape of the all-dancing, all-prancing Champions League, members of the relatively recently formed You’ve Got No History Party might be forgiven for wondering whether the Cup Winners’ Cup really exitsed and how City’s name came to be inscribed upon its faded plinth.
Gornik Zabrze, City's opponents in that final of 1970, played out in the vast empty concrete bowl of the Prater in Vienna during a night-long downpour, recalled for me "typical Cup Winners Cup occasions". The competition always seemed to be over-populated with entities such as Carl Zeis Jena and Magdeburg, Ujpest Dosza and Ferencvaros, the Dynamos Berlin, Moscow and Tbilisi. It seemed to be an incongruously Eastern European party, played in front of huge brown-clad military crowds, with dirty snow lining the edge of the pitch. The games often kicked off at four in the afternoon to avoid the curfew or the bread queues or whatever they were up to in the suburbs of Belgrade on a dull Wednesday in the mid-seventies.
However far off it seems, even those who were but a twinkle in their parents’ eyes in 1970 will have heard of the daring deeds of Franny Lee and Neil Young as City were crowned kings in the city of the Habsburgs.
This story of Polish coincidence does not end there, though, as City once again met Górnik the following season in the quarter-final of the same cup, which City were doing their level best to defend. Again the Blues prevailed, but went out to Chelsea in the semi final in a curiously multi-coloured non-Eastern-European night in West London.
In the late seventies a young lad by the name of Boniek drove a hole through City’s UEFA Cup plans with an excellent two goal display at Maine Road on behalf of Widzew Lodz, who we had all presumed had turned up for the fresh sausages and nothing else. Within a year or two young Boniek would be starrng for Poland in the 1982 World Cup and earning a move into the real limelight at Juventus alongside Michel Platini in one of the most glorious midfields ever constructed. The rest of us would be left to proudly reminisce of the night the great Boniek first revealed his potential on the European stage by giving our Boys in Blue the complete runaround.
Poland has also given us other gifts, in the shape of Kazimierz Deyna, that languid artist, who strolled through the Maine Road mud for two years at the end of the 70s. Perhaps Poland’s greatest ever player, our dear old chairman swapped a lorry load of refrigerators and weatherbeaten tv sets to seal the deal for Poland’s captain. Not all presents go unreciprocated and Poland has paid us back in more recent times with the Poznan, which kept us all warm at West Ham and a few other places where the heat had been turned off, and also an unforgettable reentry into European football after years in the wilderness, with that sumptuous trek across the arctic wastelands to play Groclin Dyskobolia Grodzisk Wielopolski in a small ice-covered park.
As with all special relationships, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.