Friday, December 4, 2009
Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0
It was while we were on our way to Manchester that we heard the sad news. The actress, Maggie Jones, who plays Blanche Hunt in Mrs P’s favourite soap opera – Coronation Street had died in Salford, Greater Manchester, at the age of 75.
It’s the only reason that I occasionally tune into ‘The Street.’ Blanche’s put-me-downs and sarcasm will be sadly missed in the snug of the Rovers Return. Without her beady eye on proceedings, no doubt Ken Barlow will return to womanizing, whilst his loser of a son – Peter will once again hit the bottle. Oh well, at least it will give an opportunity for old ‘Turkey Neck’ – Deirdre to do some over-acting.
‘The Guvnor’ has pulled a few strings and conjured up a couple of tickets in the away end for the Man City v Arsenal Carling Cup tie. He is a Gooner. Sticky likes ‘The Arsenal’ and their total football. He also prefers the gallows humour and misfortune that is often bestowed on ‘City’, rather than the glory-hunting, self-satisfied smugness attached to following ‘United.’
Mrs P is none too chuffed that I’ve done two games in two nights. The best I can come up with is: ‘well love, you’re off to London on a girlie weekend on Friday.” White Van Man told me to say that. I know, it isn’t fair.
We exit the works’ car park at just after 4pm. ‘The Guvnor’ is one of our senior managers, so Sticky P has to be on his best behaviour.
There is a multiple accident of the A50 just before the Ashbourne turn off. It's cost us half an hour. We cruise through Stoke and fly up the M6. It’s a race against time to make kick-off now. I’m flapping as to whether we should come off at junction 19 or 20 on the M6. ‘The Guvnor’ is unflappable and leaves me to make the decision.
The M56 is snarled up and congested. We finally pull off the main road, half a mile before the stadium, onto an industrial estate. A shady looking character (well we are in Manchester) makes me part with £4 to park my car securely.
We hit the ground at bang on kick-off time. ‘The Guvnor’ shells out £12 for two hot dogs and a bottle of Coca-Cola each.
It’s £20 for the ticket and £3 for the best programme I have ever bought in three years of groundhopping (sorry to the programme editor of Rushall Olympic … yours was shit hot mate). There’s a good quiz question in the programme: Which player has the most League Cup winners’ medals?
Manchester has a population of just under 500,000. It is famed for its cotton mills and contribution towards the Industrial Revolution. The Manchester Ship Canal was built in 1894 at a cost of £15 million. It was 36 miles long and gave the city access to the sea.
The Manchester music scene has played a major part in the history of British modern music. Bands to have sprung up in Manchester include: Joy Division, The Smiths, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets, James, The Stone Roses and Oasis. Many of these bands performed at the world renowned Hacienda club.
The Halle Symphony Orchestra was founded in the city in 1858. It became the first professional symphony orchestra in the United Kingdom.
One of city’s most famous citizens is Mark Addy. He was a publican and champion oarsman, who rescued over 50 people from the highly-polluted River Irwell. He was awarded the Albert Medal for lifesaving.
Other famous Mancs include: Michael Atherton, David Lloyd George, Bernard Manning, Emily Pankhurst, John Thaw, Nobby Stiles and the dislikeable Jay Kay from Jamiroquai.
The city is well known for its Granada TV studios and TV programmes such as: Coronation Street, Life on Mars, The Street, Making Out and Clocking Off.
Manchester is twinned with the cities of St Petersburg, Faisalabad and Los Angeles.
Sticky Palms used to visit Manchester frequently in the early Eighties. My mate ‘Neavie’ was studying at Manchester Polytechnic. He lived on the top floor of an enormous block of high-rise flats in Ardwick, where coincidentally Manchester City were formed.
We used to get in some right old dust-ups. I remember one night he took us to a party in Hulme, close to the poly. We climbed umpteen stairs in a block of flats and entered a room. It was only when I got in did I realise that we were at a shebeen (illegal drinks party without a licence). There’s me and ‘Neavie’ and 150 Afro-Caribbeans rocking to some reggae blaring out of a Rasta blaster. Happy days.
On Sundays we used to visit a pub in Ardwick called the City Gates. It was a shrine to Manchester City FC. It had memorabilia all over the walls. The barmaids used to wear the home and away kits behind the bar. I bet it has been knocked down now.
Times have changed since my last visit. That would have been to Maine Road in the mid Eighties, when City were turned over by Carlisle United 3-1 in the old Second Division. They showed a David Phillips volley from that game. at the start of Match of the Day for ages after that.
We’re in the lower tier of the South Stand. Arsenal have bought 4000+ - not bad for a 6 hour journey and a school night too! I’m taken back with the sheer size and scale of the stadium. It’s a beauty.
The police have already warned the away fans that there’s to be no Adebayor baiting or expect an early exit.
We’ve missed all the lights going out. City project a blue moon onto the East Stand and play their anthem. I’m disappointed to have missed the moment.
The Groundhopper is taken aback at the pace of the game. Adebayor forces a save from 24 year old Polish ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski. Bellamy hits daisy-cutter inches past the base of the post.
The game hots up but needs a goal. Vela fires over, whilst Tevez forces a good save from Fabianski.
I don’t do 0-0’s readers. There’s definitely going to be goals tonight. Arsenal look powder puff in attack. Song and Rosicky are the only first team regulars starting this evening. Others have the chance to impress though.
Seventeen year old Stevenage born Jack Wilshere looks an exciting prospect. He has flicks, tricks, poise and balance. He doesn’t shy away from the more muscular Barry and Ireland.
The night gets better with the City DJ spinning ‘I Am The Resurrection’ by The Stone Roses during the break. It’s a feel good moment. It’s such a shame he follows it up with Heather Small’s M People.
I’ve just spotted Kevin Hitchcock, the Manchester City goalkeeping coach, warming-up the ‘keeper. I used to play cricket with him when he was in the nets for Mansfield Town. I saw him make a penalty save from Bristol City’s Gordon Owen to win the 1987 Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley Stadum.
City run riot in the second period. Sticky’s not seen anyone like Carlos Tevez on his non league journeys. Put an apron on him and a bandana around his head and you would mistake him for a kebab seller on the Alan Turing Way.
He picks the ball up on the left hand flank, drives at the retreating Gunners’ defence and unleashes a missile, which crashes off the underside of the bar and into the net.
The game opens up. Ramsey and Wilshere waste opportunities, as Arsenal attack the end their supporters are sat in (stood actually).
Shaun Wright-Phillips has had a relatively quiet evening by his high standards and has been well shackled by 20 year old Parisian left back Armand Traore. He bursts into life on 70 minutes and arrows in a spectacular, diagonal shot into the top left hand corner of the net.
The City fans mock ‘The Arsenal’ with a ‘Shauny Wright Wright Wright’ chant. An Arsenal fan loses his rag and starts waving his wallet and money at the City fans close by.
‘The Guvnor’ mumbles something about City putting out their first team. But apart from the movement and imagination of Tomas Rosicky, the Gunners have no answers.
Bellamy scampers down the left wing leaving two defenders in his wake. He drills in a cross which is stabbed in at the far post by 20 year old Slovakian, Vladmir Weiss.
There’s still time for Merida to beat Shay Given all ends up, only to see his effort bounce off the crossbar.
It’s been a cracking second half. I think even ‘The Guvnor’ has secretly enjoyed it. It’s only slightly spoilt by a whistle-blowing, card-waving Chris Foy.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez