Premier League Champions the hard way! City 3 – 2 QPR

I had been getting more and more excited about the final game of the season the nearer it got and by Saturday, couldn’t wait! The media hype about it was unbelievable though I didn’t like the way they pretty much assumed we’d win – I’ve been a City fan too long and know my club! After the Newcastle match, many of us said that we could just see us losing at home to relegation threatened QPR!

Billy was going to his last game of the season too – away to Everton – so we planned that I’d take him down to Manchester nice and early and he’d join his friends there to catch the final train together. We therefore left early – 6.30 am – but since we were looking forward to our respective days we were quite happy. We had a very easy drive down and were at the Etihad stadium by 10.30! I walked round to Asda with Billy as he wanted to buy a couple of bits before going to the station and then I went in to the City store. This is normally so busy on a match day that it’s impossible to look, but at this time it was empty enough that I could wander leisurely and choose a birthday present for my brother – and I succumbed to a new set of darts flights for myself too πŸ™‚

After a picnic lunch in the car, I went to the pub and met Don – who was very lucky to be alive, much less be at the match, having suffered a nasty head injury – and also saw Phil, Blither and a couple of other friends πŸ™‚ We were all a buzz, enjoying beers/soft drinks in the sunshine and pretty much an even mix of hopefulness and dread – with only a few confident of success. The nerves were already tuning up nicely.

Not wanting to miss a thing, I was in my seat early and I don’t know if it was good or bad when the game finally got underway – all our hopes would be dashed or fulfilled within a couple of hours! SWP and Ned got warmly welcomed by the home fans, but predictably (and deservedly after his comments on leaving us) Barton got booed roundly. I hoped that QPR would survive for Ned and SWP’s sakes, but of course, wanted it to be by virtue of Bolton losing rather than QPR winning today!

I can’t tell you the game pass-by-pass (and I usually don’t anyway, I let you read the match reports for that) but I can tell you about the ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster! As the first half went on, it looked like a stalemate; though we had the possession and forward movement it seemed no-one wanted to shoot,trying instead to tippy-tappy the ball in, and since QPR were defending in numbers we couldn’t break through. The mood was starting to get a bit tense. About 5 minutes from the half time whistle Zaba scored to send us wild with relief (and delight that it was him as he’s such a modest but solid player) so we could smile at half time, especially as ManUre were 0-1 up in their match away to Sunderland (to no-one’s surprise) At this point, we were top of the league, equal on points but 8 goals ahead.

Feeling more relaxed, though far from blasé, after the break we couldn’t believe it when Lescott erred letting QPR equalise! 1-1 was not good enough and handed the title to ManUre. We were a bit worried but hopefully there was enough time to retake the lead. We then had a major incident when Barton and Tevez clashed and Barton was given a straight red card (to the delight of City fans) What happened next though is what really lets this nasty little man down so badly: he deliberately and calculatingly kicked Aguero from behind (apropos of nothing!) and then tried to head-butt Kompany along with refusing to leave the field! (He went on to say later on Twitter that he hadn’t lost his head, and that it was a plan hoping to take a City player with him!)

Eventually the game resumed but I have to say that since QPR were defending so strongly, their lack of a player wasn’t particularly discernible in the main. Things went on much as before and we really were starting to wonder where our next goal might come from. At this point, QPR still needed to win as Bolton were ahead of Stoke and so both sets of fans were nervous. Then the unthinkable happened – QPR scored! We were trailing 1-2 in our final home game of a season in which we hadn’t been beaten at home by anyone! We were stunned. We went quiet for a spell, until we rallied and got behind the team once more. We tried and tried, but the keeper made some great saves and we couldn’t get past him to score.

We despaired and I had my head in my hands getting used to the idea that typical City had chucked it away. I really should know by now not to expect anything less and yet for a while I’d let the mood carry me in to belief that we could actually win this thing. πŸ™ The despair was not quite so much for this though – I know my club after-all – but it was just so bloody galling to hand the title, gift-wrapped to THEM! Conversely QPR fans soon had more to cheer about when they heard that Stoke had equalised, meaning Bolton were relegated and QPR safe. A couple of times during this spell of despair, the PA system aired requests for fans not invade the pitch at full time – greeted by a unanimously derisive “F Off!” from the home fans – on some of the TV footage I could clearly hear that too!

Full time loomed alarmingly close and still we trailed – it wasn’t going to be possible to score twice in what little time remained. Thanks to Barton, there were 5 minutes added time, but still, as things stood ManUre were Champions having finished their game 0-1 victors. (We were pleased they hadn’t clocked up a huge goal difference still, but it was now a moot point.) A few City fans started to leave – absolutely incredible! As you know, I hate this at the best of times, but to not stay and applaud the team’s efforts after a season of the most amazing talent and entertainment we’ve witnessed since the 1960’s is unforgivable. The rest of us got behind the team and screamed them on – more in hope than expectation.

And then, in the most crazy few minutes of football since 1999 and our Gillingham play-off game with its legendary extra-time goals, City proved once again that there’s no way quite like the hard way! Dzeko finally got the ball in the back of the net and the stadium roared encouragement. I will never know quite how it happened, but somehow we got our miracle and Aguero made himself a City hero when he got the winner! We went absolutely crazy and the next several moments are a bit of a blur of screaming, cuddling, jumping, laughing – and a little crying. (I found out much later that the QPR fans had also cheered our goal and were celebrating with us πŸ™‚ )

Despite earlier requests for fans to remain in their seats, there was a full scale pitch invasion and actually the club handled it well I thought. There was no heavy handed stewarding or policing, though the remainder of us were booing them and telling them to get off the pitch, but once some of the madness settled a bit, the PA announcer asked them to return to their seats otherwise the Champions Trophy couldn’t be presented and eventually order was restored. The stadium remained filled (ha ha to those who left early!) for the presentation and celebrations which followed – which seem surreal. After 44 years we had finally gone and won the league again – 44 years of disaster, near-misses, and derision, survived mainly with the help of wry (sometimes gallows) humour and unwavering loyalty. Not only this but we’d snatched it out of the grasping paws (in Fergie time!) of ManUre who thought they’d won it themselves but found out they hadn’t courtesy of Sunderland fans politely pointing it out πŸ˜‰ And finally, we had grabbed a victory from the very hungry jaws of defeat, testing our nerves to the max before dispensing the ecstasy πŸ˜€ Only City!

City has a gift for taking you from despair to delight in mere moments and this really was one hell of a trip! As with last year’s FA Cup win, I did have a brief tear wishing dad was here to see it though I’d like to think he and all those other Blues who’d gone before were watching in from afar. I stayed until the very end singing, clapping, and cheering ( as did many of the QPR fans who received their own applause from us in recognition) and I almost didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to be the end of the season, and yet it had been SUCH a season that I probably need a break – and my poor nerves certainly could do with it. I lingered another moment or two wondering if I could afford next year’s season ticket, whether I’d be back for more, whether my seat would still be MY seat, as it has been since we first came to this stadium. It was too unbearable to think that it may not be so I pushed it to the back of my mind and focussed on the unbelievable fact that my beloved Blues were Premier League Champions πŸ™‚

The party atmosphere remained as fans left the ground and I knew I wouldn’t be getting away any time soon! I sat in the car and exchanged texts and messages with family and friends. I had congratulations from fans of various other clubs – Newcastle, Leeds, Palace, Norwich, West Ham, Sunderland… and even one ManUre! When I eventually got to mum’s, I parked the car and then ran in yelling (actually, croaking a bit now) “Wooohooo!” and was met by Billy who had beaten me back by half an hour. (Sadly, Newcastle had lost though over all he was happy with their season if not this match.) Mum, who had watched the game on TV and gone through all the emotions with the rest of us, had champagne on ice – in dad’s regimental ice bucket – and even had a City card for the occasion for me. (Told you she’s the best!) After eating, we even sat and watched the game again though it was much more comfortable viewing this time round πŸ˜‰

The next morning I woke up with no voice at all! Not even a croak. I had to whisper. For 2 days. My voice did gradually improve, though it’d go again first and last thing, and as I type this 2 weeks later, it still isn’t quite back. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m stuck with a croaky voice for ever…… it’d be worth it though πŸ™‚ I need the summer to recover now – as someone on Twitter commented – it’s a good job City only do this every 44 years πŸ˜‰

There are so very many fantastic reports, videos and comments about this game, but here are a few to start you off, and of course I have dotted some in with the actual post above:

MCFC’s 60-second highlights.
MCFC’s extended highlights.
Kippax Blue’s photos.
Manchester bus tour with trophy.
Aguero’s goal and what it meant to fans
A round-up of some videos of commentary on this match
QPR fans at the game – jump to 2 minutes then 4 minutes 10 if you don’t want to watch it all.
Dual screen – the last 5 minutes – loved the Sunderland fans doing the Poznan πŸ˜€

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