Apologies in advance if this column has a rushed and disjointed feel to it.
I’ve ended up doing it at the last minute, though I guess that’s appropriate in view of the way City keep picking up points at the moment.
Can there be any City fans who aren’t ecstatic about all the late, late goals?
Well, maybe the old bloke who sits a few seats along from me who left just as the added minutes began on Saturday, though as he hasn’t once said: ‘Excuse me…’ or ‘Thank you!’ when I’ve got up to let him through over the last five years, I don’t have a lot of sympathy.
These stoppage-time strikes can’t be seen as a mere fluke; there are just too many of them to fit in the tin marked ‘Jammy Dodgers’.
(Mmm, Jammy Dodgers… sorry, I’m still on the New Year’s diet and still obsessed with forbidden biscuits.)
So how are we doing it? Fitness, desire and commitment are the qualities which have been cited most often in interviews and analysis, but I think there are a couple of other factors at work here.
The first is that the players are not panicking as time runs out, but continuing to play their football.
Look again (and again and again…) at Saturday’s winner. Fox picks up the ball in midfield and, ignoring the desperate shouts of the man in the row behind me to lump it forward quickly (which had begun early in the first half), plays it neatly to Surman’s feet.
Surman doesn’t turn and take a speculative shot from distance, but flicks the ball cleverly into the path of Crofts.
Similarly, Crofts doesn’t lash a wild shot goalwards but fires a low cross across the six-yard box inviting someone to get a touch on it.
Three players all declined the easy option to belt the ball hopefully in the direction of the goal (which would have been forgiven at that stage), preferring to remain controlled and deliberate.
The same was true of the late equaliser against Cardiff; on that occasion too, a series of passes preceded a low ball from the left across the face of the goal which was turned in at the far post.
There’s an observation about bravery which I’ve heard Steve Bruce make more than once (and I think he may have borrowed it from Sir Alex Ferguson).
He says there are two types of bravery on a football pitch: the first and most obvious is being prepared to go in for challenges when you know there’s a fair chance you’re going to get hurt; the second is being prepared to take the ball and play it with control under pressure.
What we’re currently seeing from the City players at the end of games definitely falls into the latter category.
The other factor which may be coming into play is that our opponents are becoming increasingly aware of how often we score late.
As the game wears on, and we continue to press for a goal – ‘relentless’ is the word Paul Lambert accurately uses to describe the attitude – it must start to prey on their minds that we could be about to do it again.
Perhaps that uncertainty and anxiety is helping us to find a way through.
Hmm, it’s Leeds away next. Now let me think, are they prone to bouts of nervous wobbling at all… ?
I’m not sure that Sartre had it quite right when he said that hell is other people. I suspect it’s actually other people’s children.
Or maybe other people going on about their children. All the same, it occurs to me that it’s been a while since my last child indoctrination update.
I’m happy to report that both of our children are continuing to respond to my subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, brainwashing programme.
Our daughter is steadfastly keeping the faith even though the vast majority of her peers in Year 2 are Chelsea or Arsenal supporters. (Fortunately her allegiance is viewed with bemusement rather than hostility.)
She’s coming to Barnsley at half-term, though trips to Carrow Road are out until all the tickets for bloody JLS have been sold and they’re no longer being advertised on the scoreboard.
Our four-year-old son came to his first match at Palace the other week. Not the best game to start with, really – and certainly not the best ground.
I was mightily relieved when he wanted no more than a wee during the second-half; a fellow City supporter emerged from one of the cubicles in the toilets with a horrified look on his face and said, ‘I wouldn’t take him in there…’
Some moments will stick in the mind, though. Like him declaring in a loud voice on the train to Selhurst that ‘Crystal Palace are rubbish but they have beaten us for the last 50 years’. (He’d picked up the gist of his pre-match briefing, if not the detail.)
And expressing concern that the dancing girls on the pitch ‘must be a bit cold’.
Oh, and pointing at the Eagle mascot walking round the pitch before the game and saying ‘What is that?’
If club mascots attract the derision of four-year-olds – the very demographic I’d imagined they are supposed to entertain – then what exactly is the point of them?
But perhaps the two best moments were these.
First, the look of surprise and wonder on his face the first time there was a huge roar from the crowd. It’s something you take for granted after a while, but he’d never heard such volume and ferocity before.
At least not since the time I put his mother’s cashmere jumper through the wash on a hot cycle.
Second, the huge beam on his face as he stood on his seat, yellow and green scarf around his neck, and applauded the team on to the pitch. At long last, I have a reason to think fondly of Selhurst Park. ____________________________
And finally… I wasn’t aware until I flicked through Kevin Drinkell’s book at the weekend that one of my fellow columnists on this site had apparently once assaulted City legend Ian Crook.
From page 67: “It was Crook’s Carrow Road debut and he was given a present to forget after the game: Southampton’s notorious hardman Mick Dennis motioned to shake his hand and then punched him.”
On the other hand, it’s possible that Drinks meant Mark Dennis….