I can help falling in love with you…

Unpopular opinion I know…

I’ve been wrestling with this topic for a while and I know that by writing it, I’ll inevitably get some criticism, or disdain, or probably both but after really sitting down and giving it some thought over Christmas I’ve decided to go ahead with it, because if you like the blogs or not (and a lot of you kindly have said some really nice things) I think I’m fairly well known for being both quite balanced and honest.

I went to the Blackpool game on Boxing Day with my cousin that I’ve watched football with since we were kids. It was fine, I mean, we were neither awful or great, but it’s early days for the new manager and he’s largely managing players he didn’t bring in. It was nice seeing my Uncle before the game and a few of the supporters trust in the Clarendon pre-match.

We’ve been on a good run since and I honestly think we’re in good hands with Liam Rosenior. He’s a bright and articulate manager, who is clearly a good coach, he connects with the City and although I highly doubt he’s a teacup thrower, I think he’s a strong minded individual who is going to do things his way. If players are prepared to graft and adjust (see Tyler Smith) they’ll fit right in, but if not, I get the impression he’s prepared to wave goodbye. Good for him, these are principles that I think you can build a really strong a committed team with.

Blackpool was only I think the third game I’ve been to this season, although I’ve seen a lot more on TV. I’ve been a bit unlucky that I was unavailable for two London based games in Watford and Millwall, but that’s not an excuse. I’m just not really enjoying it as I once did. The question I’ve been mulling over in the past few weeks is why? I’ve been watching City for pretty much 40 years, (the first long run of going was after Don Robinson saved the club in 1982) there’s certainly been worse times. So what’s the cause of my malaise? I’m not one hundred percent sure to be honest but I think it’s a mix of things, some club related, some not.

Let’s start with the City related reasons. Yes we were terrible earlier this season, but I went to the entertaining (albeit a little fortunate) win against Norwich, and that was fun. You can level a few criticisms towards the new owner, but his intentions are on the whole good I think and he’s certainly trying to be more fan orientated than the previous regime. He’s backed the club in terms of signings, although like early Adam Pearson you get the impression he’s got a little too close to the goings on pitch side. The crowds are better and even though we are as I write in the wrong half of the league, there’s enough evidence to suggest we won’t stay there.

I think my first strike though this year was QPR away. I went as it was London and met my mate Rich Skipper (son of Pete) before the game. We’ve communicated quite a bit since I did a blog on his Dad so it was nice to see him in person. Now the City performance that day was dire, essentially we were dead and buried inside the first 55 minutes and 3-0 down. But that wasn’t THE problem. There wasn’t a nice atmosphere that night, and I’m no shrinking violet. I’ve been at City games in the last 40 years that have got decidedly hairy. But this was different. It was in a word, pathetic. A group of youngish lads simply focused on some QPR fans and rang out a set of stale, hackneyed cliched songs about Jeremy Kyle, and fat people, and general misogynistic claptrap. It was irrelevant to the game, it gave the players no support, it was just, to quote Brian Laws “naff”.

We scored that day with about seven or eight to go. Tyler Smith. I didn’t see it, I was walking towards the tube station, bored of a tame performance and feeling pretty despondent about our brand of “support”. Now I can understand here if you don’t agree, at least with my sentiments, as it’s not the first time I’ve seen City fans be a bit embarrassing, and I doubt it’s the last, so maybe it’s me that’s changed a little bit. Like several of us might have changed since lockdown. It just didn’t seem fun anymore, we’ve only got a finite amount of time to do other things that aren’t just working and existing and that night was kind of the epitome of what I’d rather not do. Pay for an expensive rail ticket, an expensive seat, watch a tepid City team and be seemingly in a minority that wasn’t really interested in an overweight QPR fan and his daughter.

Yet attendances are going up. So maybe I am wrong. Like I alluded to earlier, I think there’s been some miss-steps by the new owner, but I can genuinely see what he’s doing and I think he’s learned some quick lessons. I think the whole “holiday” thing was a little divisive, with it being a little bit more about who you were, than being an actual loyal fan. Now I couldn’t think of much worse than going away like that, but I think we could all think of a City fan in our lives that would have loved to have gone and probably deserved it. I know I can. It’s maybe a modern thing and it’s more important to have those go who would be upwardly mobile in sharing the experience rather than just the ones who have gone week in week out forever. On one level it was successful, and good PR though, a little like the owner turning up at a local pub.

Again I have mixed feelings about this. Sure, interact with the real fans, and that sort of gesture is appreciated, but maybe pop to Pearsons once a season, The William Gemmell, The Clarendon, The Dugout etc. It’s not about one set of fans, it’s about all of them, it’s somewhat of a slippery slope to select fans who are “important”. They all are. And again this isn’t about me, I have no desire to ruffle the hair of the owner and say “thanks for saving us mate”. I’m happy to let others do that. We’re all just fans, I think some of the twitterverse in particular have lost sight of this in recent months. We don’t have to agree or look at the team or the club in the same way. It’s probably best we don’t.

The last bit is on me. I’ve coached football a lot in the past and somehow post lockdown, got dragged back into it. I’ve done some scouting of lower league football for a mate as he’s starting his football management career, it’s a process I’ve actually really enjoyed, probably more than I thought I would. This isn’t on City, I think there’s a few of us that since 2020, had to find something to do to stay sane, and that’s took us off the beat and path a little. So that’s not City, it’s just life I guess.

I saw a mate at the Clarendon on Boxing Day and he’s an exile too. We were talking about the fact that although Reading has the atmosphere of the Deli counter in Waitrose, the area on the outside of the stadium is very good. It’s got big outside bars, a huge screen showing the lunchtime game a plenty going on. It’s a real lesson to us in developing the site around our ground. Anyway I said I’ll go to that game and meet him. Forty odd years isn’t going to just end, and me punching the air like a div in my front room yesterday as we scored three quick goals at Wigan would suggest I’ll always care. I’m just not sure if it’s as much. And although some of those reasons are personal. I’m not sure I’m entirely alone.

Thanks for reading. UTT