We are delighted to welcome Sean Bowey to our circle of international Bloggers. Sean has done some scribbling for us in the past from his various outposts in Panama and Oz but now this good friend of true faith is ensconsed in New York City and we’re delighted to have the Manhattan Mag on board with us. Not that this first posting is from the city that never sleeps, it’s actually from a recent trip back to our fair and noble city and that’s where we start off …
It was the worst of times, it was the best of times – an appropriate opening to this particular blog of two cities as it covers the period from derby day to Chelsea at home. Rather than from across the channel however I shall be bringing updates from across the pond on what it is to follow one of the world’s great clubs from one of the world’s great cities.
And after all that I am not going to mention New York at all and start the first blog from Newcastle as that is where we found ourselves from the end of October until mid November thanks to a very conveniently timed business trip. More importantly it is where the Deputy Editor of this fine publication requested I start.
This was the first time back home during the season since the Bolton home game (notable only for a rare Given penalty save from Nolan) at the very start of the Keegan/JFK/Shearer relegation season and so although it was great to see family the real highlight of the trip was of course to go to not one but two matches, never the mind the fact we were very likely get soundly beaten in both. No matter the places you find yourself in the world there is little that compares to match day and this is one of the biggest misses.
Timing of the trip meant we watched the derby on TV in a jet-lagged state, and it seemed the team were equally dazed in the first half and again once they had equalized. It was a strange and frustrating performance we watched with incredulity but a clue was there in a pre-match interview Sissoko gave, where he stated ‘this will be an easy game’. Enough about that, other than to say it hardly filled us with confidence for the next 2 games, was this to be a season of darkness?
Man City in the League Cup was up first and it was a somewhat brisk night for standing outside drinking pre-match but enjoyable nonetheless despite a pair of daft buggers trying to get me to write a blog. This was the first game to which I had taken my middle son, now 13 – a memorable occasion but more so because he is autistic and at one stage I wasn’t even sure he would know his own name never mind those of all the players on both teams as he does now. It was quite the event for the young man, I’d like to say for the football but more so for the swearing. As he has a Tourette’s like tendency to spurt out profanity like an adolescent Roger Mellie we have to be very careful what goes into his heed especially as he takes an odd enjoyment in hearing swearing and tends to seek it out. If we don’t keep him away from it you just know it will all come out when waiting in a queue in a crowded shop or during his school play. So for him to be immersed in parent sponsored swearing (with limited direct parent participation of course) was something akin to bliss for him and he didn’t get the daft smile off his face all game.
Much of the noise was coming from our left as sat in the East Stand (for old times’ sake) the bring back the noise lads were over in that direction. Not sure about that initiative – on the one hand it was great to hear singing all game and it did improve the atmosphere. On the other it does remind you of watching football in places like the US and Australia where there is no supporting culture as such and there are designated singing areas to try and contrive an atmosphere. I think it would be easier to like if some of the chants weren’t so ordinary – although Man City were quiet ‘your support is f*cking sh*t’ is dire at the best of times but at home to 2,500 away fans when we have nigh on 20,000 empty seats is just asking for derision. Is a difficult one to comment on without sounding like a sanctimonious old get – maybe gannin radge and singing for 90 minutes is more what it is all about than commenting on the respective wit of the chants from afar.
On the field it was a decent effort from United but the missed chances proved costly as you thought they would. For me the game started to turn when Man City brought on Silva against a tiring midfield and defence he was able to direct play all too easily. As soon as we went behind that was it.
Next up Chelsea and the dreaded early kick off. Who are these for? If it is TV audiences world wide I can tell you I’d rather have a lie in on this side of the Atlantic thank you very much. But then again this is prime time in Asia so it’ll never change. Despite the early start we managed to get into the pub just in time to meet one of the lads at the front of a lengthy queue for the bar and add to his already weighty order much to his bemusement. Much of the talk pre-game was not confident, we just hoped that the signs of promise from Liverpool and Man City would take precedence over the dismal showing down the road.
The first half was hard going not least as we sat just two rows back in the Leazes we got absolutely soaked. Not the best view from that level but what was evident was the work rate of Tiote, Gouffran, Sissoko and Cabaye. 4-4-2 is unfashionable but it worked for us a couple of seasons ago and it is again for the time being, testament to the work being done in midfield especially without the ball, as we were for much of the first half, to close the spaces and stop Chelsea’s talented midfield from causing too many problems. Good to see Tiote back to something close to his best.
Then a strange thing happened in the second half and as far as I recall it can all be traced back to a bizarre rampaging run from midfield to the right side of the box from Shola, aided by a typically limp David Luiz challenge. The run ended also typically in a nothing ball across the box that was easily dealt with. But at that moment it was as if the players and crowd sensed that Chelsea weren’t really that up for it – and the noise, the genuine, uncontrived, unforced, noise suddenly started and the Chelsea fans who were earlier mocking the library will know if they are honest with themselves they will never hear that intensity in their shithouse ground. There followed a period of pressure that resulted in Gouffran’s goal and then the next 23 minutes took 230 minutes to pass until Remy wrapped up one of the most enjoyable halves of football in a long time.
The delight at winning unexpectedly, especially against a particularly distasteful foe, at personally experiencing a raucous St James’ for the first time in over a decade called for a beer. So it was off to an establishment not far from the railway station where the staff all bore an uncanny resemblance to the hippest of hipsters from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There you go I did manage to mention NY after all and more on that subject next time out I promise!