The stage was set. Stan had hit a milestone birthday. City are playing 'oop north. In all 17 'Count me ins..' were received and the Stan Birthday Band-Wagon was rolling?.
Rolling off into the fog of the Fens carrying a motley crew whose foolish hearts were full of hope.
The mood was good, the beer and fry up at 'The Farm' was good; the company was excellent; the police escort was an exciting distraction?and then? and then came the football!
To prevent ruining the so many great memories of the day out, Stan is tempted to airbrush from history the football part of the day. We could just gloss over it and wax lyrical about Phil's hangover, Russ and Jonah's eggless 'egg and bacon baps', the splendid selection of trinkets available in the bar at 'The Farm', the gigantic egg custards, or maybe Keith's unstoppable urge for 'a winnie' once in the ground.
All these little things will raise smiles as they are recalled in the months/years ahead?. But the football? Mmm?
Stan thinks it's fair to say that the game itself won't be.
However, Stan feels some sort of duty to his reader (hello Dad!) to try to catch the essence of the match itself, therefore re-living the 90 minutes of 'action' is pretty unavoidable. So here goes?
Let's start with the positives? err?. We got a point, Marshall saved a penalty and it was sunny.
Negatives? Are you sitting comfortably? Yes? Then Stan will begin…
Firstly, why were we wearing that stupid black kit? There was no need. City play in yellow and green unless the opposition is wearing yellow. This is no time for City to go all Goth on us. Stan doesn't give a toss if it helps sell a few more shirts, it doesn't feel right, it doesn't look right, stop it!
Formation? 4-4-2.? Fair enough, but it was the distribution of personnel within it that raised the odd eyebrow. Stan struggled to follow the logic of moving Grounds out left and dropping Drury.
Drury's sudden relegation to third choice left-back must have been a bitter pill to swallow. He'd done well against the Blades, and importantly he gave attacking options. Considering the full-backs barely left their own halves let alone overlapped Stan guesses that 'attacking options' wasn't a consideration that Roeder made.
Had we been playing Wolves in their present run of form this would have been understandable, but we were playing Barnsley who were fragile and rock bottom of the league. We needed to get at them and move the ball around. Let's just be polite and say we didn't.
Similarly, Stan could have lived with the decision to play Russell up front with Sibierski had the Barnsley centre-half pairing been lightweight. As it happened they were lumbering and should have proved easy fodder for the likes of a fit and confident Hoolahan.
Instead of getting amongst the Barnsley back four we lumped it forward to an increasingly ineffectual and isolated Sibierski who rarely had decent options available to him.
As for the central midfield… They appeared, to a man completely incapable of stringing two passes together?or winning a 50-50 ball?or moving into space? or breaking forward with any purpose. I'm sure Fotheringham will put his hand up and admit to having had a poor game, in fact probably his worst since joining the club. He also had little help from Pattison or Russell.
We were poor; Barnsley are no great shakes and ultimately we were lucky to get a point – whatever Roeder says. Granted, four points from two games is not to be sniffed at, but it's the manner in which we performed in these that has set the odd alarm bell ringing. Had we walked away from the past two games pointless Stan couldn't put his hand on heart and say we'd been robbed.
Stan's also developing the odd concern at one or two of the tactical decisions being made. He'd hoped that the days of the tinker man had gone with Grant but there has been a touch too much 'faffage' of late!
So off back down the A1(M) went Stan's coach in search of beer to mask the turgid memories of Oakwell. With each passing mile the memories faded and Stan began planning his next big birthday trip in ten years time.
'Right who's up for a 300-mile round trip to watch someone running their finger-nails down a black board for a couple of hours?'
'Yep.. all in??Great!'
Well, it's got to be a more enjoyable experience that Saturday's 'entertainment' hasn't it?!