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A Silva lining

Etihad Stadium
The Etihad Stadium in 2015.

The word “legend” is often used to describe football players. Too much, perhaps? However, for David Silva, I think it’s apt. It’s the midfielder’s last Premier League game in a Manchester City shirt this afternoon, against Norwich.

The Spaniard is one of the players from the 2011-2012 squad that won the Premier League title for City, 44 years since the club was last victorious. After today, Sergio Aguero is the only other player who remains. The likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Touré have all said their goodbyes over the years.

David Silva joined the club for a £24 million pound transfer fee from Valencia in 2010, then playing under manager Roberto Mancini. Known as “Merlin”, The Magician” or “El Mago” for his prowess on the ball, Silva will be remembered for bringing his Spanish flair to the Premier League. The kind that saw his national team win Euro championships in recent years, as well as the 2010 World Cup. With technical ability and a left foot that’s seen him become a key playmaker for the Blues, who doesn’t shy away from goal himself. Silva is a joy to watch play when on the road or at the Etihad Stadium.

The game there today sees the completion of this year’s Premier League season against visitors Norwich, a club that’s already been confirmed as relegated to the EFL Championship next season. Today’s match is taking place much later than originally scheduled, due to the break in play because of the coronavirus pandemic. That also means there will be no fans in the stadium to bid this season’s captain adiós, in his final game wearing a sky blue shirt.

Which leads me onto the ‘silver lining’: A player’s time at any club will always come to a close and David Silva is ending his on a high. In his 10 years with Manchester City, the number 21 has been a key part of squads who have massively enhanced the team’s trophy cabinet, with four Premier League titles, two FA cups and five League Cups to his name. A role model to many, with Man City’s academy graduate Phil Foden a potential candidate to take on Silva’s position in midfield next season. And there’s still the matter of this year’s Champion’s League to be decided too.

While David Silva’s next move is yet to be announced, there’s no doubt that, domestically, the 34-year-old has done it all and done it in style. He’s left his mark on Manchester City, as well as the top tier of English football. Thanks for the memories, El Mago.

Manchester City: My life as a Blue

With Bury FC’s expulsion from the English football league recently, it’s prompted a lot of fans to reflect and never to take for granted what a club means to them. The passion and the pride in a team is something quite special and I have so much empathy for what Bury fans must be going through. As a Greater Manchester team, I’ve known many of their supporters down the years who are a great, loyal, bunch.

Supporting a team sometimes isn’t just down to choice; it’s steeped in family history and local heritage. At least, it is for me and my team – Manchester City, who are the current Premier League champions et al. But fortunes haven’t always been so kind – and that’s all part of a fan’s journey and makes the victories even sweeter.

It’s also 20 years this year since one of the best football matches I can remember: Gillingham Vs Manchester City at Wembley in the Division Two play-off final. The match that cemented my place as a City supporter.

The atmosphere was electric; although City’s season was in a tier much lower than what fans are used to these days, the support has never weaned. I was part of the ‘Blue Army’ that had made the journey from Manchester to London where the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium were beckoning.

I was 10-years-old and had travelled down with my Mum and Dad. Supporting City is very much in my family. It’s all I’ve ever known and had been going to matches since I was young and back then was a member of the ‘Junior Blues’ and the former Levenshulme branch of City supporters’ clubs.

Football is a big part of growing up in Greater Manchester and the reality is I’ve never wanted to support any other team – even if I did used to tease Dad by holding up United shirts in sports shops!

Everyone in primary school knew which team I supported because kids could bring in their own PE kit and mine was an old City shirt. It was just accepted, there wasn’t much bullying then, only banter.

High School was more brutal. Looking back it probably wasn’t a good idea to start off the new school year showing my footballing allegiances in the only way possible: by having it plastered all over my bag. A teacher took me to one side on the first day and warned: “This is a United school”. It wasn’t long after that my rucksack ended up being kicked down the corridors and having the contents sprawled all over the playground. It wasn’t quite like the scene from the film There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, but close enough.

It might not have seemed like it then but, when among fellow fans, there’s a great sense of belonging that has continued to this day, whether it’s at Maine Road, the Etihad stadium or having a banter with mates… especially United fans!

In 2012, City won the Premier League title for the first time in 44 years and the game was on a knife edge in a race against rivals Manchester United – it all came down to the last game of the season in extra time. I’ve never felt such a mix of emotions when Mario Balotelli passed to Sergio Aguero. It went in. The goal stood. First tension then jubilation – after all those years in the lower leagues, we were Premier League champions! The success continues to this day and I still have to pinch myself that it’s all really happening.

Some people think that if you support Manchester City then you must be a glory hunter – oh, the irony! One question I get asked most in regards to this is “how long have you supported City for?” The answer is all my life. But if there was any doubt, the date that sealed it was 30th of May 1999, the year city won at Wembley.

Long may the good fortunes continue but even if it doesn’t I, like all the football fans I know, would still support our team through thick and thin. That’s my life as a Blue.

Blue Moon Rising

Manchester City Football Club had gone too many years without any silverware in their trophy cabinet… or should that be broom cupboard?

That is, until this happened:

On April 16th 2011, something strange took place. Something that Manchester hadn’t seen in 35 years. The power shift.

City beat Manchester United 1-0 that day in the FA Cup semi final that day. Meaning that they were through to the finals on May 14th, against Stoke – admittedly quite the anticlimax after such a triumphant victory against our derby day rivals. They couldn’t loose, could they? Of course they could, this is City we are talking about!

A mixture of nerves and excitement filled that day as, once again, the Blue Army travelled down South to Wembley. Yaya Toure proved the pessimists wrong with his thunderous goal at 74 minutes. Game Over.

Surely, we’ll wake up from this dream soon in a cold blue sweat? Luck like this just doesn’t happen City, fans have programmed themselves to accept that with a smile and inflatable banana over the years. This wasn’t luck though. This was talent.

With, arguably, one of the best line ups to ever grace the Blue three-quarters of Manchester since that of Bell, Lee, Summerbee and Young et al in 1969. This year’s campaign was a display of pure skill from Roberto Manchini’s squad and Sheikh Mansour’s wealth.

Yesterday, the club held its FA Cup celebrations in a parade through (a very windy!), Manchester in an open top bus, on its way to Eastlands.

I was one of the lucky few who had tickets to celebrate with the team inside the stadium. The night featured performances from Kid British (who neglected to say that all but one of their band members are United supporters…) True Blue Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy and Supra, who covered the Blue Moon anthem.

Moving tributes way dearly paid to Malcolm Allison and Neil Young, who both died before they could see City victorious again. The team was led out and revealed next season’s red and black away kit, in honour of 1969 nostalgia.

CityOh, and did I mention that we have a guaranteed Champions League place by finished third in the premier league this season?

… The club better start looking for a bigger trophy room; the Blue Army do not intend on waiting another 35 years for moments like this. There’s a Blue Moon over Manchester from now on!