It wasn’t intended as a stark reminder of how our club has evolved over the last five years – but that’s precisely what it ended up being.
For those that didn’t see it, or were unaware of its existence, yesterday afternoon the club ran on YouTube the full, glorious 95 minutes of City beating Ipswich 3-1 in the second leg of the 2015 Playoff semi.
I say glorious because of what it meant and what it led to, but in terms of style, the Class of 2015 was a very different beast to the current team.
For me, it was a reminder of the beauty of Farkeball.
Of course, there is the obvious argument around effectiveness and getting results – I get that, totally – but I’m talking here about aesthetics; about just how pleasing on the eye this current team is compared to, well, almost any other City team in my lifetime.
We marvelled when John Bond arrived in 1973 and brought with him a style of football that was the complete antithesis of the Ron Saunders era, but I’m not sure that particular era, with its less-than-perfect pitches, was even able to produce teams that could play a variation of Farkeball.
But going back to May 2015, and having sat through yesterday’s re-run, I was alarmed at the tricks my ageing and befuddled brain has played on me in the intervening years.
I can recall at the time, the sphincter twitching for most of the opening 45 minutes as Big Mick’s boys burst every sinew to hassle, harry and get the ball into the City box but had forgotten just how $hit City were in possession in that half.
I can also recall that “blue corner of Carrow Road that will be forever Ipswich” being especially chirpy. And, to be fair, with good reason. In their own inimitable way, they created pressure and turned the game into an attritional arm-wrestle – City barely able to hit any sort of passing rhythm.
One assumes Alex Neil had one of those famous “wee words” at half-time as there was an improvement in the second half but, whether we like it or not, it did take Christophe Berra’s spectacular save of Nathan Redmond’s shot to tilt the tie in City’s favour.
The rest, of course, is history and ultimately it was City having better players that saw them home, but even putting aside the tension and magnitude of the occasion, it was one that, after raiding their punditry book of clichés, Shearer and Murphy would describe as ‘lacking quality’.
What followed nine days later was the stuff of Canary legend – none of us will ever forget that afternoon – but other than the obvious ten personnel changes, there are stark differences between the City side of May 2015 and the one we’ve watched this season.
While Alex Neil had done a fine job in turning around a talented but errant squad, there was no distinct style or, indeed, if there was one it was, how can we put it… traditional and uncomplicated.
The flair came courtesy of Wes and, on a good day, Nathan Redmond, the goals from Cameron Jerome and those same two, the bite came from Alex Tettey, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson who also, in fairness, discovered he had a thunderbolt of a left foot that season.
The centre-backs were asked to defend, block and stop, compared to those of today who, as well as all of those things, are asked to literally set the ball rolling. And they now do it expertly.
But, for me, the biggest change, is in how the full-backs are utilised. While Martin Olsson wasn’t averse to an overlap, his primary job was to defend and stop crosses coming in and Steven Whittaker was, for the most part, the archetypal Steady Eddie, who picked his attacking moments carefully and sparingly.
Both fullbacks were also, if in any doubt, more than happy to lump it into the channel and ask Jerome to chase it – which he did to good effect. But, by comparison, when was the last time either Max or Jamal, when under pressure, blindly lumped it down the line? Can you name one? I’ll wait…
The method of passing of 2020 bears little resemblance to the more off-the-cuff style of 2015 and, as mentioned above, Wes and Redmond were key to almost everything.
This is, of course, no attempt to denigrate the achievements of Alex Neil’s team – their places in the Hall of Fame are already assured – but equally it was a reminder to me of just how beautiful Farkeball at its finest can be.
In terms of player v player, it’ll be tight I suspect, so, purely for fun friends, here’s a not-to-be taken-too-seriously head-to-head match up:
John Ruddy v Tim KrulClose one. Both City legends. One nudges ahead for knocking Didier Drogba sparko, while the other pulls level for his ability to save penalties and whip up the Barclay.
Steven Whittaker v Max AaronsBoth have the same number of legs and arms, both have big hearts. One is worth £50 million.
Grant Hanley v Russell MartinBoth Scottish international centre-backs. One is a proper centre-back, the other was a decent enough right-black. They’re both nice blokes.
Sebastien Bassong v Ben GodfreyOne carries (or carried) a police baton in his car, was pictured holding a gun but was a decent centre-back on his day. The other is Ben Godfrey.
Martin Olsson v Jamal LewisBoth full internationals. Both good on the ball. Both happy to push on. One is calm and measured, the other could be a bit stroppy.
Alex Tettey v Alex TetteyOne is merely a minder and destroyer, the other has the ability to pick a short pass and keep things ticking over nicely in the centre of the park. Both are proper ‘characters’.
Jonny Howson v Kenny McLeanBoth good players who can chip in with a goal or two. One is a little serious but loves pigeons, the other drinks like a fish and had a brief spell as Lord Mayor of Norwich.
Nathan Redmond v Eni BuendiaBoth capable of the unexpected. Both worth gazillions. One is slightly stroppier than the other.
Wes Hoolahan v Ondrej DudaBoth good technicians. One a City legend, the other is here on work experience.
Bradley Johnson v Todd Cantwell
Both good guys. One of them is still adored by City fans despite departing in September 2015, the other is ‘one of our own’ and by all accounts is absolutely ‘lit’ at FIFA20 (go me).
Cameron Jerome v Teemu Pukki
One scores lots of goals. One scores a few goals. But both are wholehearted and tireless. And both have caused us to lose our $hit big time!
Please don’t make me compare subs…. or coaching teams 😉
So… while it’s a ridiculous and unfair question, I’ll ask it anyway: who’d come out on top if they played each other?
Stay safe please people. I miss you.