Regular readers will know me pretty well by now: an inveterate optimist, a collector of high-brow literature and something of a champion for the current owners and management of our club.
So I’ll begin today with a prediction of bad times and a quote from Harry Potter.
The wins over Man Utd and Villa have rightly lifted the spirits of City fans. But I’m here to tell you: there are bad days in store for us. Regardless of who we sign in January, there’ll be further Southamptons, Newcastles and Watfords before the season is out.
The issue is how we deal with them.
Which brings us to Harry Potter. In response to Harry’s concern about his Slytherin-type talents, his headmaster and mentor Albus Dumbledore observes: “It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities”.
And so it is. The world of showbiz around us – which certainly includes Premier League football – provides plenty of examples of juvenile attitudes and behaviour. It also provides, though you sometimes have to look a little more closely for them, plenty of examples of grown-up thinking and acting.
Dumbledore had it right. Millions of years of evolution have programmed us to notice a pretty young woman or the opportunity to make a quick buck; we’re not responsible for that, but we’re completely responsible for how we deal with it. The pressures (and temptations) are no doubt more intense in football, but the basic choices are the same.
Paul Gascoigne or David Beckham? Saido Berahino or Russell Martin? Take your pick of role model. It’s OK to keep toys as we grow up, but it becomes a bit tiresome if we can’t stop throwing them out of the pram.
Time to ease up on the sermonising as we turn to management and fans. It’s not about moralising now, but about practical action: how the people who run clubs, and the people who support them, can best help their teams succeed.
It’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but we can look at the resources of any given club and get a general sense of how it ought to be performing on the field. Man City in the 1990s, Leeds, Wolves and QPR in the present day – all ought to be thriving in top division. Yes, and Villa.
What do they have in common? Capricious owners who are more motivated by their own vanity and impatience than by true commitment and determination. Flashy smiles rather than gritted teeth.
True, clubs have sometimes held on to a manager for too long – there may be one or two examples in our own history. But those instances are hugely outnumbered (I reckon something like 10:1) by the premature sackings. Short-termism is the clearest sign of immaturity, and the clearest enemy of success.
So what about the fans? Sometimes it’s easier to recognise things in supporters of other clubs than in ourselves. It’s almost comical to see some Arsenal fans, for instance, in their monthly vacillation between wanting Wenger sacked in disgrace and wanting him given the job for life. And fans – I’m not talking about all, but a significant number – will defend actions from their own people that they’d castigate from anyone else. (For some reason Watford springs to mind here.)
We’re no different. The mood of this forum, and others like it, was upbeat and optimistic after the Arsenal game; just a week later, after Watford, it was all doom and gloom. Unless we choose otherwise, that pattern will be repeated during the coming months.
Of course it’s natural to be buoyed by good results and dispirited by bad ones. But the choices are there. Fans have a right to boo, or to send abusive messages to players and management. But are they right to exercise it?
In case I seem to be setting myself up as a saint here, I’ve certainly booed our players and management (just as I’ve behaved badly in ways fortunately beyond discussion here). However, I’ve only done it when I felt they weren’t trying their best, and I haven’t felt that since 2009.
If we feel our club deserves it – and I’d argue they do – perhaps we should therefore make an effort at the composure Russell Martin called for. And remember Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs……
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!