Thanks to Teemi Pukki’s brilliance, Moritz Leitner’s composure and Todd Cantwell’s coming of age, the intricacies of the club’s new membership scheme appear to have been largely forgotten.
And rightly so. This has been a swashbuckling start to life in the Premier League by City, two games characterised not so much by realpolitik as they have been by Daniel Farke and his men steadfastly abiding to their assiduously drilled, promotion-winning principles.
However, with two league away games having now gone on sale and social media entering what has often resembled a form of collective meltdown, it’s time to acknowledge the impact of the new scheme – which I still disagree with, by the way – has been grossly misunderstood.
I have every sympathy for those unsuccessful fans who patiently queued both online and at Carrow Road for tickets to Anfield and the London Stadium. I fully understand the second priority window for games like these is something of a lottery, an unedifying scramble that invariably leaves hundreds – perhaps thousands – of fans vehemently disappointed.
For games like these, I consider myself extremely lucky to be one of the ring-fenced 750 who are guaranteed a ticket – courtesy of that loyalty-activating and flagrantly wrong £50 – for every away match providing we log on at the required time.
However, the issue I have is with fans viewing these two games as representative of what the rest of the season will hold.
This piece is not so much a defence of the new scheme as it is a critique of its perceived impact amongst our fanbase; a message of reassurance to those fans who were unsuccessful for Liverpool and West Ham and have been left fretting about their ticketing chances for the remaining 17 league away games.
Firstly, the new scheme is wrong. What was sold as a loyalty-championing initiative, of course, represents the opposite, forcing fans who have shown such an admirable trait into a corner and making them pay £50 – more for families – to continue supporting their beloved club up and down the country.
The fact that any old person can pay that £50 and immediately be placed on a par with someone with a season ticket and nine away stubs from last season is, obviously, a farce.
However, what remains important to consider is that the issues seen for the Liverpool and West Ham games will not be repeated for every game throughout the season. For those fans in the premier window who were unfortunate enough not to access tickets, your time to attend away games – if you’ve paid that £50 for the right reasons: to watch City away from home wherever that may be – will come.
Liverpool and West Ham represent two of the most desirable away fixtures. Liverpool – although lacking West Ham’s accessibility – was always going to be over-subscribed owing to its curtain-raising nature and the prospect of a trip to Anfield, while the 90-minute train from Norwich to Stratford is an attractive proposition for even the most tenuous City fan.
But do those who missed out really think the Burnleys, the Southamptons, the Brightons, the Newcastles, the Villas – on Boxing Day – the Sheffield Uniteds, the Leicesters and the Wolves will be as difficult to get tickets for? I think not.
The point is, many away games this season will go to general sale. If you’ve paid your £50 for the right reasons – and not for a day out at a desirable, big ground or a boozy session in the capital with your mates – there should be an equal desire to watch City at St Mary’s on a Wednesday night as there is to watch us at the old Olympic Stadium on a Saturday afternoon.
What people often forget is that this is about – first and foremost – supporting your team away from home, rather than external factors that naturally do make some games more desirable than others.
The point I’m making is, if you have missed out on Liverpool and West Ham: take your chance when the time comes. When Burnley tickets go on sale next week and invariably do remain available in later ticketing windows, buy them.
I just hope the people complaining about their inability to get a ticket for the first two games won’t be the same people who just pick and choose the ‘big’ or accessible games to go to, instead individuals who bought their membership to support City far and wide and for the right, loyalty-determined, reasons.
So, for those reading this who were devastated to miss out but want to attend as many away games as possible: your time will come. Many of those 7000 plus people who paid that £50 – or £30 – will have done so for non-City-motivated reasons, opting only to apply for the games they view as the best days out or the easiest to get to.
On the most basic level, tickets will not always be as hard to access as they were for these first two – extremely desirable and thus completely unrepresentative – away matches.
I just hope, as this compelling season progresses, Pukki, Leitner and Cantwell continue to flourish, and this membership debate eventually becomes invisible.