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Season 2013/14

City Blogger: From Bournemouth to Barcelona

  • 25 February 2014 08:50
  • Posted by @ViewFromABlue

13th February 1999. On that day in the third tier of English football, Manchester City limped to a goalless draw away to Bournemouth. Exactly one week later, the Blues played host to Macclesfield where goals from Shaun Goater and Gareth Taylor swept City to a much-needed victory.

Any surge in optimism following those crucial three points was quickly dashed, however, by stalemates with Chesterfield and Northampton in the subsequent matches.

Fast forward the small matter of fifteen years and, far away from Division Two, Dean’s Court and deflating draws, came an entirely more refreshing proposition. No longer were City undertaking the trip down to Bournemouth. Instead, the mighty elegance of Barcelona travelled to Manchester. This was the Champions League, the knockout stages, the dream tie.

Last Tuesday’s encounter was arguably the culmination of City’s journey from languishing in what is now League One to attracting the limelight in Europe’s premier competition. Memories remain strong of when the Blues writhed to a crushing loss at the hands of York and dropped to 12th place in the division. At that stage, City were the 56th ranked team on the English ladder. Now, having catapulted up the rungs at a blistering rate over the last few seasons, many would regard us as the best.

Those previous experiences only serve to make our present success all the sweeter. From the ignominy of midweek trips – and defeats – to the likes of Lincoln and Wycombe, a self-deprecating sense of humour and an ability to laugh at our inabilities was born. And, crucially, perspective.

A defeat these days hurts but it doesn’t sting. Knowledge of what we have been through prevents that from happening. Of course, that mustn’t give us carte blanche to excuse any loss by explaining how fifteen years ago we were battling for the survival of the club rather than the Premier League title. Standards have changed dramatically since then, expectations are unfathomably higher and criticism will inevitably follow any failure to grasp three points, but the perspective gleaned from our lower league troubles will prevent any extreme cases of misplaced arrogance.

In contrast, a Manchester United-supporting friend of mine describes a draw with Newcastle some years ago as his lowest moment as a fan, such was the hope the result gave to their title challengers. There are, indeed, many of a United persuasion who know nothing but success and regard their current situation as a crisis. Oh, the heartbreak of sixth place in the Premier League.

City are different. In seasons to come, this much-vaunted type of fixture will become the norm. The Blues will compete in the Champions League year after year, challenge for titles year after year, and no doubt provide us with trophy-laden memories. That is the reality to which we will be delighted to become accustomed.

The encounter with Barcelona provided, in a sense, a nostalgic recognition of where we have come from. Our previous struggles have been embraced but now it’s time to rest them on the shelf. The future glistens and teases with success. It’s time to grasp it.

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