From Balti Pies to the Biggest Prize

In the first of a new series, BoltFromTheBlue brings reviews of books available for fans of Manchester City FC. The website has recently helped to raise awareness of David White’s new book Shades of Blue and this prompted the question: What are the best books out there on our team?

The first thing to note is that most are one of five types: former player or manager autobiographies, books on club history, fanzines, quizbooks and books written by fans. Personally I have, like many City supporters, read dozens of the first type with great enjoyment and just a few of the other types. For this first piece I have decided to plunge into the world of books written by fans.

A scan down the list of such books on the Amazon Kindle page reveals many to choose from. I was slightly sceptical at first because of course, fans are not necessarily great writers and I was hesitant to pay for something that might turn out to be a rather routine series of game summaries along the lines of We beat West Brom 2-0 at home. I was over the moon! Next we went to Leicester etc…

I always imagined that these types would not be that interesting: a little bit like reading a match report when you’ve already seen the game live.

However holding to the maxim of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, I dived in and bought Steve Mingle’s From Balti Pies to the Biggest Prize: The Transformation of Manchester City (July 2013: The History Press) – the story of City’s journey from Keegan through to Mancini.

This is the second book of a pair. The first is Lows, Highs and Balti Pies: Manchester City Ruined My Diet (2011: The History Press) which covers the period from 1967 through to the end of Joe Royle’s spell at City.

I settled down to read a few pages on an iPad at around 10 pm and emerged blinking into the daylight 8 hours later after a dozen cups of coffee. I know. I have no life.

But I think I must have hit the jackpot. In short, I cannot even begin to express how outrageously entertaining this book is and how many, oh how so very many laugh-out-loud moments there are!

Let me give you a few quotes to whet your appetite:

On Martin Petrov:

Petrov would play the ball twenty yards ahead then sprint furiously after it, looking for all the world like an aphrodisiac-fuelled Rigsby in rampant pursuit of Miss Jones.

On Stephen Ireland (and his dead grandmothers):

This guy clearly had some serious talent, even if it was becoming equally apparent that he didn’t quite have all his chairs under the table.

On the departure of Richard Dunne:

Biffer had had his accident-prone moments, but with four player-of-the-year awards to his credit, was he really past his sell-by date? Definitely, according to Garry Cook, in a chilling exposition of where the club’s priorities now seemed to lie: ‘Richard Dunne doesn’t sell shirts in the Far East.’ And Joleon Lescott does? 

On Adebayor’s goal at Arsenal:

He’s completely lost control. All eyes are glued to the screens as he hurtles towards and then down the touchline, his face contorted with ecstasy. He carries on sprinting at full pelt, like Usain Bolt on a bad hair day…

On Garry Cook:

Cook may have done lots of great things for the club behind the scenes but he should never, ever have been allowed out in public.

On FC Salzburg’s famous ‘Alan’:

City were coasting to victory at a snowbound Eastlands when a Salzburg substitution was announced. ‘And coming on for Salzburg, replacing number 19 Cziommer, number 27 Alan.’ Alan? Alan who? It certainly tickled the fans in the South Stand, who cheered Alan every time he touched the ball and graced him with an array of chants. ‘There’s only one Alan’, ‘Alan, Alan, give us a wave’, ‘Alan is Superman’, ‘feed Alan and he will score’, ‘Alan for England!’ The poor lad looked completely bewildered, but sent a message of thanks after the game, admitting he’d got no idea why he’d received such a uniquely warm reception from opposition fans. Absurdist humour can’t be too prevalent in Brazil.

On United:

There has never in history been an individual or institution so willing to give it out and unable to take it as the collective that is Manchester United Football Club.

Rooney after defeating City and then Ferguson after we tanked them 6-1

Compare and contrast. After the meaningless Charity Shield game, Rooney wasted no time in tweeting his legions of mindless followers that they’d given us a football lesson. After the thrilling Carling Cup semi a couple of years ago, 180 minutes of gripping football decided by an injury time goal, Rooney again dismissed us as totally inferior, while the club, arrogant and loathsome to the core, put out their piss-taking victory song over the PA and locked us in to listen to it. Then Ferguson boasted that they’d absolutely battered us and should have had six or seven. Well, Baconface, here we actually did score six or seven – and it should have been ten – so put that in your graceless, arrogant, bitter, whingeing, whining, repulsive, poisonous gob and smoke on it.

Rooney’s classy sportsmanship in scoring against us:

Rooney’s shot is saved by Pantilimon but the rebound comes straight back to him, and he nods it home before kissing his badge provocatively in front of the City fans. I’ve always acknowledged Rooney as a fantastic footballer, but my God he’s a revolting piece of work.

And on United’s palpable lack of class on the day of the Munich Memorial Derby:

Outside the ground there’s a massive poster showing the Busby Babes lining up before their final match prior to the crash. It’s undeniably poignant. Except for the massive AIG logo in the bottom right hand corner. The Munich air disaster, sponsored by AIG. Denied from having their logo seen on United’s shirts, they had to make sure they got in on the act somewhere. Unbelievably crass. An outfit like that deserves to go bust …

United fans, the first to get a match abandoned by invading the pitch? The first to get their team banned from playing European matches at home? Who’ve openly mocked the deaths of Shankly, Revie, Mercer et al? Who’ve sung about Heysel and Hillsborough – ‘96 was not enough’? Who regaled Cardiff fans in the mid-1960s with charming ditties about Aberfan? Who constructed ‘Istanbul Reds’ banners to taunt Leeds fans about the death of two of their supporters? Give it a fucking rest, boys.

On David Silva

One of the pundits, Jamie Redknapp I think, describes him as playing as though he’s got wing mirrors, and it’s a perfect description. Like Ali Bernarbia, he carries a picture in his head of where everyone is and where they’re moving to; unlike Ali, we’ve got him in the prime of his career, rather than the twilight. Younger City fans don’t know how lucky they are.

After monstering Sunderland but losing to a late goal by South Korean player Ji:

When professional in-love-with-himself attention-seeking witless pillock Robbie Savage later claims that they deserved to win, it confirms everything you need to know about him.

On Graeme Souness’ reaction to an apparent Balotelli stamp:

Graeme Souness, whose status as one of the most ruthless thugs ever to set foot on a football field seems to have been conveniently airbrushed from history.

And this is just a miniscule selection of the dry and witty observations by the author.

I have seen all or most of these games. I know all the details, the scorers and am familiar with the press reactions and controversies. But reading this book is like re-living it all again in the company of a good friend who just happens to have the devastating wit of Peter Cook!

Prepare to stitch and restitch your sides together as Steve Mingle takes you on a very special journey of the transformation of Man City from perennial laughing stock to Champions league regulars.

You truly will not regret splashing out the modest fee for this diamond!

Check it out:

RTs, follows and comments @boltfromablue are much appreciated.