Monday April 23, 2012 at 5:18pm
If you ever wanted proof of just how hard to predict football was and is then the events at the top end of the Premier League in the last few weeks have shown that just never can tell.
When Man City lost to Arsenal the other week it gave Man United an eight point lead, and 20 years of Premier League watching has taught us that Manchester United do not blow eight point leads.
It was over and done, then. Manchester City left to wonder what might have been if Carlos hadn’t gone on holiday for six months, if Mario hadn’t been somewhat unstable and if they hadn’t lost their away from. All the while the red half of the city was left to crow about how they had overcome a 6-1 home defeat in October and won the league with a team that wasn’t as strong as they have had in the past.
Except it wasn’t quite like that. United have managed to drop five points in the last two games. At Wigan (a ground they had never dropped a point at before) and at home to Everton.
It was in January that City themselves lost to Everton, ironically enough to a goal scored by United old boy Darron Gibson, and my how the fans at Old Trafford celebrated that night.
A bit of a contrast to yesterday when it was the Blues’ supporters were dancing in the aisles of Molineux as they eased themselves into position where they can go top of the table again with a victory next week in perhaps the most important derby for decades.
It is the sheer unpredictable brilliance of football that keeps us coming back week after week, season after season. It is what makes us fans. The old cliché when it comes to football is “it’s not the disappointments that hurt you, it’s the hope.” And City fans, with all the chequered moments in their history understand this, perhaps, if we are honest, a little more than their counterparts across the city might.
However, not just the supporters of City but all clubs see that loyalty tested to the limit. It was a cause that Kenny Dalglish took up last week when faced with the news that not only the FA Cup kicking off at 5.15, there are also only two trains from Liverpool to London that day because of engineering work that day.
"Sometimes that is the problem when fans are taken for granted - not just our fans but those at all football clubs,” the Scotsman said.
And you have to argue that Dalglish – who hasn’t always covered himself in glory with his public statements this season - has a point on this occasion, especially when you take into account the ticket allocation of the respective teams. Both Liverpool and Chelsea have received just 25,000 for the match – around 7,000 lower than they had for the semi. This is added to the fact that more than half of the tickets for the match are onsale are for £85. Not exactly a cheap day out!
Of course, it has hardly anything new to say that the fans are an afterthought in the minds of most clubs and the football authorities. You can see this by the ticket prices that are charged (although in fairness many clubs are freezing prices again for next season) by the prices of kits, even by the kick off times.
But if people’s money is stretched then by and large their loyalty remains. They support football clubs in a way that they don’t support anything else. A love for a football club is handed down for decades, and it’s that clubs know they can rely on.
They can rely on it because, while the sport provides such magnificent theatre, so many highs and lows, so many moments of sheer brilliance and despair then we all keep coming back.
And, those that have a ticket for Monday night’s match, as well as the millions of City and United fans watching all around the world on their TV, wouldn’t want it any other way.
Even Wolves fans, deep in the depths of despair right now, will be back in August, believing it will be their year. That’s what football does to you. That’s why it so wonderful.