I remember reading somewhere that even after the Abu Dhabi takeover, Ricky Hatton still hankered for the bad old days. The ex-boxing-champ/City fan was probably referring to nostalgic experiences at the old Kippax Stand.
However, if he meant beer-soaked gallows-humour following another crushing defeat, then Pep’s first season must have offered warm fuzzy feelings for The Hitman and others of a certain age. You know what they say: ‘Nostalgia is a cure for the pain of the present.’ I suffer from this too. Like most, I wish we still had Lakey.
I live in South Korea these days, and despite recent triumphs, it was often been painful to watch New City in Pep’s first season except from behind the sofa or through trembling fingers: That defence!
I often muted the sound, minimised the screen and switched to minute-by-minute text. I feel I have earned the right to do so after nearly 40 years of suffering since our doomed 1981 cup run. I resorted to Ceefax back then too. (Google Ceefax, kids.)
Pep’s first season was often a story of can’t defend, can’t take chances, can’t recover from a goal down. The narratives were mind-numbingly repetitive: dominant, toothless possession, concede to the first shot at goal, rinse and repeat. The compelling reasons for this, i.e. leaden-footed defenders and a goalkeeper unsuited-to-the-intensity-of-the-league were of course valid gripes.
After a bright start, the ship ran aground, and many questioned why crew members like Joe Hart and Samir Nasri were jettisoned. We all have theories. If you have the stomach to endure another theory, feel free to read on. I have two words: unrealistic expectations.
We really should’ve known better than to heed any press blurb of City as contenders that season. It was never happening. After Manuel Pellegrini, Pep was always going to take the advice of another Quinn, Homeland’s assassin Peter Quinn:
The Catalonian has demanded a system reboot that could only be 30% achieved in the first season. The mental software takes time to download, and at least two summer transfer windows were needed to replace the outdated hardware.
However with the recent form of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, the green shoots of rebirth are there to see.
We, my young friends, are now in the birth pangs of phase two of the Pep-olution and have tolerated well our foul-tasting but life-giving medicine. We were a weak caterpillar in the larval growth stage.
But now we are flying.
We got glimpses of the future butterfly in the first Pep season season for 60 minutes against Stretford, ditto v Chelsea and against the might of Messi et al at the Etihad.
Now, our journey from Ricky Hatton to Rocky Balboa is almost complete: fans of the movies will remember our well-coiffed hero at first clumsily labouring to replicate Apollo Creed’s slick footwork in the gym. However, once he had the moves, he was as fast as lightning.
Pep is our Apollo: ‘The way to get it back is to go back to the beginning’
RTs, follows and comments @boltfromablue are much appreciated.