Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Manchester City: Oh, the Irony!

Of all of the teams who could have suddenly, and unexpectedly, been catapulted to the top-table of world football, the fact it was Manchester City brought a wry smile to my lips.

I've never been a Man City fan and never hated them. Heck, I've never really had any feelings for them whatsoever unless they happen to be on in the pub against one of the "big boys" (the irony now being Man City are set to enter that prestigious group).

But some years ago I went along to a League One play-off final with a Gillingham-supporting friend at the old Wembley. This was at the stage when Man City were in a lot of trouble and (while I can't remember the exact finances) there was as belief they may go out of business if they didn't bounce back to the top-flight with haste.

I expected them to beat Gillingham. My mate expected them to beat Gillingham. If fact, of all the near-80,000 fans crammed into Wembley that day, I doubt more than 10 honestly expected anything other than a Manchester City win.

Even as the clock stuck 70 and the score was at 0-0, it seemed unlikely. Then Gillingham scored. Then again. Man City were 2-0 down and there were just minutes left to play. Somehow, they managed to score in the 86th-or-so minute and then again in the fourth minute (or so, it was a while ago!) of injury time to take it into extra time and then win on penalties.

Man City soon reached the Premier League. Gillingham, oddly, came from behind against Wigan the next season to reach the Championship. But I was reminded of Manchester City's unlikely Wembley win when they looked like heading out of the UEFA Cup last week.

Once again, the boys in light blue grabbed a late, late away goal to take the game into extra-time before winning on penalties. I turned to a friend and said "Amazing, isn't it, to think they did that against Gillingham not that long ago. Imagine if Gillingham were in Man City's position".

Yet, even then, even while respecting their position compare to Gillingham, who are now languishing in League Two, little did I know how, in just a few days time, every club in the world would be jealous of City, not just a little team from Kent.