Asked in 1972 about the impact of the French Revolution nearly two centuries earlier, the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai replied “too early to tell”.
While it may not take 200 years to judge the current season, it’s certainly still early days. That hasn’t stopped City fans taking to social media to give a range of verdicts. It seems their glasses vary from brimming over to the thinnest of dregs.
A bit of perspective may be called for. As far as we can tell anything from four games, it would be:
• We’ve played a fair cross-section of Championship sides.
• We’ve deserved, and got, eight points from four games – exactly the target for automatic promotion.
• There’s no relegation hangover, but we haven’t yet performed to our potential.
For me, that’s a generally encouraging picture. Of course we need to strengthen the strikeforce; I’ll be as disappointed as anyone if we don’t. I’ll also be very surprised if we don’t.
The rest of our squad and options look good. Daryl Murphy gave Timm Klose a rare uncomfortable afternoon – giving serious weight to Rick Waghorn’s view here – but generally our central defence has looked better than for several years.
We have plenty of creative options in midfield, backed up by the excellent Alex Tettey (apart from the unnecessary bookings he’s already picked up – cut it out, Alex). Regular readers will need no reminding of my admiration for Jonny Howson.
And we haven’t seen Alex Pritchard yet.
The naysayers will point to Sheffield Wednesday, and the 0-0 which some of us have argued was no cause for despair (let alone booing). If they were so good, how come after drawing at Carrow Road they’ve lost the next two?
Well, welcome to two facts about the Championship. First, most teams are inconsistent. Their concentration will vary from game to game, depending on circumstances and opposition; like Norwich in the Premier League, the mental pressure of facing higher-quality opposition will tell on many in the Championship.
Second, we’re a big fish in this pool. Occasionally, that will make teams nervous of playing us; more often, it will make them raise their game. The performances of Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich are testament to that.
Neither of those teams can play much better, or consistently, as they did against us. There’s no doubt that City can – and I believe will – play better than we did in those games.
For all its frustrations, I do love being a football fan. Most parts of our life require us to be rational, consistent and – at least to some extent – responsible. Some of us pretend to be that way about football too, but we know in our hearts it’s a thin veneer.
The truth is that in our supporting lives, we let ourselves be irrational and unreasonable. For regular readers: more authentic, less sincere. And we know it.
It simply can’t be true that year in, year out we get the rough end of officials’ decisions. It certainly can’t be true that 92 clubs get the rough end of them, as their fans will vociferously claim.
By the way, I was interested to see both sets of fans complaining after the derby that their side was hard done by. It seemed to me the debatable decisions went both ways (which probably means we got the better of them).
Fans are sometimes boorish – yes, including ours – but a saving grace is the humour that football inspires, especially when things aren’t going well.
Reluctant as I am to give praise to Aston Villa for anything, their fans came up with an impressive chant as they lost in the League Cup at Luton recently. In response to taunts from the Luton faithful, the Villa fans came back (to the tune of “we score when we want”) with “You’re nothing special – we lose every week”.
PS There’s a twist to the Zhou Enlai/French Revolution story – it’s probably not true. Apparently he misheard the question and thought it was about an event in 1968. Diplomatically, the Chinese say the original version is “too beautiful to change”.
Though normally a stickler for truth, I’ll go along with them this time.