Everton at home on 17 August is indeed mouth-watering and, with Roberto Martinez now at their helm, will reveal a re-branded Toffees outfit. One suspects their style will be the fluid, contemporary style that Martinez honed at Swansea and attempted, partly unsuccessfully, to refine at Wigan.
At around this time every year one of the nationals – usually a broadsheet – gives us chapter and verse around the complexities of compiling said list, and sure enough the Guardian hasn’t disappointed. While it apologetically describes the process as ‘laborious’, it’s actually quite interesting (or is it just me?) and offers one or two little nuggets I was unaware of.
The thought of a ‘big unit’ with a top-notch strike-rate (59 goals in 125 appearances since moving to Holland) linking up with Ricky van Wolfswinkel indeed sounds an edifying prospect, but before we get too carried away we should perhaps cast our minds back nine short years.
Swansea’s triumph in the Carling Cup at least suggests the odds of seeing green and yellow ribbons adorn a silver trophy are slightly shorter than England emerging victorious from the World Cup or Euros.
While the pub would once facilitate the sharing of such a rumour with maybe a dozen people – some worse for wear and unlikely to recall a thing – Facebook and Twitter can spread the same rumour to thousands in a single keystroke.
Where once City were renowned for injecting new life into the careers of thirty-somethings – Martin Peters and Mick Channon being two fine examples – our recent history has been littered with examples of us being the premature dispenser of said footballing demographic.
To this day, there is no greater sight than seeing the great man, ears pinned back, turning on the after-burners to fly past a floundering defender. Whether said defender is Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville or Tubes (from Soccer AM) matters little; the end result is invariably the same.
Simeon Jackson’s goals in the run-in of 2010-11 are the stuff of legend and a quick Youtube search of ‘Jackson, Derby, Goreham’ is, to this day, guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Similarly that downward header at Fratton Park. Moments that will live forever in the mind
The evening has been named Jamie’s Game – a well-deserved homage to Jamie Abbott, a 16-year-old City-supporting footballer with Down’s Syndrome who, as part of the Community Sports Foundation, has become a charity ambassador.
While Hughton continually asked to be judged after 38 games – not an unreasonable request – it was never going to happen. We’re football supporters after all; knee-jerk reactions and snap-shot judgements are what we do… they’re built into our DNA.
Norwich set the tone early on with a really positive start – Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan both prominent in the opening exchanges as the home side began in ponderous fashion. A couple of decent looking penalty shouts – a scythe on Snodgrass and a handball shout against Joleon Lescott – both went unnoticed by referee Mark Halsey, in his last game before retirement, but did nothing to deter the City spirit.
So, while we can rest safe in the knowledge that events in Eastlands will have no impact on whether next season we dine at The Ivy, with the likes of Chelsea, or at a ‘greasy spoon’ – with the likes of Ipswich – it will impact on Hughton’s summer transfer kitty.
Despite Andy Townsend’s best efforts to persuade us that last night was merely a triumph of guts and determination over class and skill, it was no fluke. Flukes don’t tend to happen over two legs, especially those where the same team wins both games.
Alas, my fears were unfounded and, to a man, those in yellow took not one backward step yesterday. From minute one to minute ninety-three they were ‘on it’ – every single one of them – and from somewhere found a performance right up there with anything we’ve seen in the McNally and Bowkett years.
The mathematicians amongst us have suggested a single point on Sunday may be enough, but I’d hate to think Chris Hughton would set City’s stall out for anything other than victory. It wouldn’t sit comfortably with the Yellow Army for sure, if that were the case – caution playing a far too prominent role in the 2012/13 campaign.
That Paul Lambert chose to prance across the pitch to boisterously celebrate Premier League survival with his new charges merely added salt into an already open wound – magnanimity never one of his finest qualities.
The home wins over Arsenal and Man Utd were the stuff of dreams but were arguably gazumped by that thrilling 4-3 away win at the Liberty Stadium. Little were we to know that victory at Swansea was to prove to be the season’s only away success, assuming the final day road trip to the Etihad doesn’t throw up the shock to end all shocks.
A lump in the throat quickly became a tear in the eye as those lads – off the back of 94 gruelling minutes – somehow managed to edge themselves ahead in the most thrilling of circumstances; McGeehan’s badge thumping summing up the mood to perfection.
Typically, the resulting inquest has pretty much laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Chris Hughton; his pragmatic approach – especially away from home – again coming under intense scrutiny. But, while it’s normal for those at the top of the pyramid to take the wrap when things go belly-up, it seems a little bizarre that the players have been almost absolved of any responsibility.
The league table would have looked even worse for City but for Emerson Boyce’s 90th minute own-goal at the DW Stadium, one that saw Tottenham earn a point from a game that looked to be heading the way of the Latics. In short, that late twist at the DW may have a greater bearing on the final outcome than events – or non-events – at the Britannia.