Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sick swans

The annihilation of Manchester United by 6 (six) goals to 1(one) will live long in my memory. Not so much because of the scoreline (we've beaten them by big margins before) but because of the ruthless and clinical manner of the performance and the shell shocked reaction of every United fan I know. Naturally of course, they have tried to respond with accusations that we are buying our way to success (a strategy they know only too well) and that the sending off materially changed the outcome (who knows). There is however a look in their eyes that suggests they realise this is the first of many hidings coming their way and that the pendulum of football has well and truly swung.

I'd like to think that my reaction to this monumental result was respectful, measured and appropriate. I'd like to think that except it is of course not true. I've been pretty much whooping it up ever since, lauding about the place like I scored the six goals myself and getting completely carried away with the whole thing. 

My friends Paul, Neil and I travelled to Valencia for a three day trip to see City take on Villareal in the Champions league. It was my first euro away trip but it definitely wont be the last. We had an absolute blast from the minute we arrived and even an endless succession of work calls during the day couldn't dampen my fun.

Valencia is an incredible City, modern and vibrant with a lovely mix of the old and new. Some of the architecture is stunning and I made a mental note to revisit for a long weekend at some point in the near future.

It's also a City on the beach and within minutes of checking into the hotel we were in a cab heading towards the old port and tucking into several lovely courses of tapas accompanied by more than a few ice cold cervezas. The combination of the heat, the octopus and the beer was lethal and I was soon quite squiffy.

From there a taxi to the old town where the night was spent enjoying a carnival atmosphere outside an Irish bar (yes, yes I know.....) where approximately 50% of the songs were about the derby victory. It was like old times supporting City in my early twenties only this time on the back of success and I confess I enjoyed myself a little too much for my own good.

The next morning I was fragile and the prospect of another day on the pop was almost too much to contemplate. Almost. By 2pm we were on the coach for the hours journey to Villareal and by 3pm we were in the bars next to the ground despite the game not kicking off for another five hours. I spent a few hours on the phone sorting out some work issues which probably kept me sober enough to see the rest of the afternoon off in relative sobriety but in the hour leading up to kick-off I fatally decided to try and catch up with my friends Paul and Neil's drinking tally.

I say fatally because Villareal's away end is named the 'birdcage' and is unbelievably steep. At the bottom of the stand is a huge perspex screen covering the whole of the front of the stand. It's main purpose is to stop missiles being thrown onto the pitch but it also does a really good job of blocking the view of the game. I stumbled to my seat and missed my footing sending me tumbling down rows of seats saved only by some kindly City fans who managed to catch me despite collapsing with laughter.

Thankfully the alcohol I had consumed prevented the pain from affecting me too much and I was able to witness another thoroughly professional victory. The celebrations went on long into the night though in truth I was a spent force. After the coach journey back we had one beer and then retired for the night.

A fantastic euro trip all round capped off by a terrific win. I'm optimistic that we will make it through the group stages so I can make another trip next year to some other destination maybe even Barcelona. I'm not confident we'd get a result there but it would be a brilliant experience. 

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