“Get up, John”
“Why do I have to?”
“If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late for school”
“But I hate school. Everyone’s mean to me”
“Come on, John, you have to go. You’re the headmaster”
I’ll come back to the significance of that story.
In the meantime, if you’re waiting for a considered, well-informed, elegantly written summation of City’s season, look away now. In fact, look away and don’t look back.
I can’t offer that. First, Gary Gowers did it here on Sunday in a way I couldn’t get close to (and I’m not sure many others will). Second, it’s still too raw. I’m writing this before City’s fate is officially confirmed, but I’m assuming the worst and it’s gut-wrenching.
There’ll be plenty penned, of varying quality and rancour, about where it all went wrong. Many will point to the games where we under-performed, the ‘no-shows’. The problem with that approach is that fans of every team – from Newcastle (who didn’t beat Villa either home or away) to Arsenal and Man City – can say the same.
As I walked away from The Emirates, a friend asked about the game. Without thinking, I said “we tried, but we weren’t good enough”. Having given more thought to it since, and taking the season as a whole, not sure I can come up with a better summary.
On Saturday night, our musings over the United game and other results were interrupted by ‘Resigngate’.
Regular readers will know I’m a fan of David McNally and what he’s done for our club. Now’s not the time to go over that ground again, but maybe I can throw in some slightly-informed thoughts on three of the weekend’s mysteries:
- Why did he resign?
- … and announce it in the odd way he did?
- Why was the club silent for more than 24 hours?
Let me be careful not to over-claim. My speculation (it’s no more than that) is based on a few conversations with the man himself and a lot of experience with the way organisations communicate.
To me – and I suspect to most fans who actually met and spoke to McNally – the most striking thing was his passion for the club. His assertive management style created the image of a calculating, hard character. Perhaps to his own surprise, though, he’d caught Delia and Michael’s bug and fallen in love with City.
It’s that emotional side which came to the fore, I think, on Saturday. Faced with the inevitability of City’s relegation, he will have turned in on his own role. The clear shortcomings of player recruitment, especially in the summer, are at his door. He’ll have felt, I suspect, that he let us down. When we feel that way we tend to lose perspective and do irrational things.
I don’t know what happened next, but can imagine a scenario. The Board, in no doubt about his importance to the club, perhaps invited him to sleep on it – which would explain the club’s silence. Fans and journalists demand information, but if you’ve nothing to say, it’s best to grit your teeth and resist the demands.
However the final decision was made, it’s a momentous and – I believe – sad day for our club. We need to do everything possible to bounce back next season, when we’ll have a financial advantage over most of the Championship. Beyond that we’ll be competing with clubs who’ve enjoyed the benefits of the new TV deal, including its increased parachute payments.
We had two seasons in the Championship under McNally, both finishing with promotion (for comparison, his predecessor Neil Doncaster had eight seasons with one promotion). You can never count on promotion, or even competing for it, but with McNally and Alex Neil I was more optimistic than I am now.
A final perspective on McNally’s tenure. When he arrived, we had to look a long way up the football league (and the financial league) to see Wolves, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Preston, Cardiff, Bolton, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Fulham and many others.
We’ve no God-given right to be ahead of those clubs. Let’s hope we find someone to keep us ahead of them.
The point of the story that started this article, of course, is the loneliness of being in charge. Many people can’t think of anything better and more fun than running a football club.
Unless your owner is a billionaire encouraging you to spend his money – ie Bournemouth or Man City – I can’t think of many worse jobs. ‘Emotionally wearing’ would be a severe understatement.
A personal note to finish, if you don’t mind:
I’m no believer in fate or destiny. After my brief conversation with McNally before the game on Saturday, though, for some reason I was haunted with the thought that I should have said “if the worst happens, I have two hopes: that Alex Neil stays, and that you stay”.
It wouldn’t have made any difference, of course. But I still wish I’d said it.