Relegation is never supposed to be welcome. There is supposed to be a gut-wrenching, sinking, dread when your team finally drop down a league. A feeling of despair.
These emotions generally result from some sort of crushed hope. That last day or week of the season where your team needs to deliver a critical result, and others need to lose in order for you to survive. It is the hope that kills you.
Have we become immune to these emotions in Nelson’s County? Have we experienced relegation so often that it no longer hurts? Or was it that, right from the moment that a chaotic and disrupted pre-season blended seamlessly into five successive league defeats, relegation seemed to be inevitable?
This season’s efforts have rarely offered City fans much hope.
Yesterday’s abject surrender to Tottenham certainly offered nothing in the way of hope, other than the hope that the score might remain in single figures. If City were a poorly pet, they would have been put out of their misery at halftime in the interests of humanity.
This was as bad as anything else this season, with the possible exception of the 7-0 loss to Chelsea. At times City battled gamely, only to almost invariably give the ball straight back to the visitors. A display of precision passing and keeping ball this most certainly was not.
Tottenham looked like they could, and would score at will. The only surprise was that it took them 15 minutes to open their account. When it came it was simple. A long ball over the top, played onside by Dimi Giannoulis, a cutback and a tap-in for Kulusevski.
The closest City came to threatening Hugo Lloris’ goal came a few minutes later. Milot Rashica intercepted a loose ball, ran towards goal but screwed his shot wide of the post.
Ten minutes later, the game was over.
Yet another defensive calamity to add to the X-rated lowlights video of the season. Tim Krul played the ball towards Mathias Normann on the edge of the box. The Norwegian wasn’t alert to the pass and was robbed. A first-time cross and a simple header for Harry Kane made it 2-0
In response, Dean Smith withdrew Byram and replaced him with Christoph Zimmerman – I’m not sure whether it was injury or tactical. Suffice it to say it did little in the way of stiffening the resolve of a defence that looks capable of conceding at any given moment in any game.
It was 2-0 at half-time. It never felt like Spurs had finished scoring though.
On 59, Krul went some way to redeem his error. Kane crossed from the right and Son met it with a header, only for Krul to make a point-blank save.
The Dutchman was in action moments later. Kulusevki split through the City defence with a cute turn and was through on goal in a heartbeat. Krul rushed out to tackle but was bypassed neatly. Kulusevski then somehow conspired to completely miskick with the goal gaping but even more incredibly, Max Aarons somehow got back to clear the goal-bound effort.
Perhaps stung by his error, Kulusevski then produced a peach of a goal. He cut in from the Spurs right, brushed Giannoulis off way too easily before curling a delightful left-foot shot into the top corner.
Such was my apathy by this stage that I missed both the fourth goal and Tony Springett coming on once again.
I didn’t miss the fifth though – a rocket from Son that gave Krul no chance.
Predictably, the immediate howl from social media was that this game was an illustration of how City need money, investment and a change of owners to succeed in this league.
It wasn’t. What it was, was an illustration of how bad it can get when a team bereft of confidence, with nothing to play for meet a team with the desire to win and secure a place in the most lucrative European competition.
To get something from this game would have required the City players to bring their A-game onto the pitch, something they have failed to do all season.
For some players out there, this will be the last time that they run out in yellow and green. Few on the pitch yesterday did anything to suggest that they were fighting for a place next season.
A dismal end to a truly dismal season.