For Pete's Sake

by Quinn

“Is there any football fan in the country who doesn’t want Peter Crouch to score?” asked Adrian Chiles on Match Of The Day 2 last Sunday, while reflecting on Crouch’s missed penalty in the Liverpool – Portsmouth game. Well I don’t want him to score, not just yet, although nothing would have given me more pleasure than if he had tucked away his spot kick last weekend.

The obvious reason is that I am a Man City fan, and Crouch’s Liverpool are due to play us tomorrow, so clearly another Crouch blank would be good for us; but it is more complicated than that. The thing is, while I don’t want Crouch to score, I do expect him to; it is almost inevitable. Look at the facts: he will be playing against City, he hasn’t scored for ages…it is simply bound to happen. In fact, I’d say that the likelihood of him scoring against us has increased exponentially with every goalless game he has played in. If I were a betting man I’d place a wager; if I were a bookie I’d stop taking bets.

It was ever thus; are your team in the middle of the longest losing streak in their history? Then come to City and see your fortunes change. Perhaps you are a full back, and your only goal was against City when you last played them five seasons ago? Well, get your extended family down to the game, badger Sky to show it live (although they probably already will be doing) and get ready to savour goal number two, which will likely be a 20-yard screamer. Have you never won on your travels all season, and are due to play away at City, who are currently unbeaten at home? Just sit back and let’s enjoy both fine runs come to an end just as surely as night follows day.

It is good to know your place in life, and just like people, football clubs have their own specific roles. United’s is to be hated, and always has been, even before they started amassing silverware under Ferguson (loathing of United is not jealousy brought on by their success; it is primal); Liverpool are there to win trophies (they used to have to be the best team in England in order to do so, but have recently found that an unnecessary burden and have had continued phenomenal success despite being distinctly average these days); Arsenal’s role has changed dramatically over the years, but they still have one; from being the most boring team in the country, then going into a chrysalis stage during Bruce Rioch’s brief tenure, before finally emerging as the most beautiful evocation of balletic football I think I have ever seen. City’s place in football, however, is merely to inspire sympathy and to make others feel better about themselves. Our historic apparent inconsistency is in fact a selfless but concerted effort to provide the desired result for other teams and players. We are the counsellors of the Premiership. It is our calling, our vocation.

Case Study: Michael Owen. I have literally lost count of the number of times he has rolled up at a City fixture, low on confidence, short on goals. One 90 minute consultancy later at the Theatre of Base Comedy and he is right as rain, firing on all cylinders again, ending his goal drought with a headline grabbing hat-trick. Thank you Mr.Owen, that is the end of this session, can we arrange to see you again same time next year? Just make your appointment with the Premier League on your way out.

Most supporters I suppose curse their teams’ luck as some stage, are aware of certain little superstitions and idiosyncrasies, bemoan some typical fallibility or other. The difference with City is that we have a real and lasting claim to the title of most ridiculous club. When Crouch scores tomorrow we won’t be downhearted, we won’t winge; if the cameras cut to the City fans as David James is picking the ball out of his net you will see benignly smiling faces, understanding nods of the heads. What we have been anticipating all week will have come to pass; we will be bearing witness to and admiring a job well done.

So congratulations in advance to Peter Crouch for ending his lean spell this Saturday. Just don’t get too worked up; hitting the back of the net at the City of Manchester Stadium is the least you should be doing judging by your recent form in front of goal; it doesn’t mean a thing. However, should you not manage to score? Then City will have failed in their raison d’etre; that or you really are beyond hope.

Update 8/12/05: My thanks again to Ken Owen for choosing this post for his latest SportBlog Roundup, and to my mystery reader who nominated this post in the first place, despite my prediction turning out to be wrong. Cheers!