Relaxing break makes change from usual Red mist

In the afterglow of a thrilling comeback at City, swigging beer between lectures, you might think even I could not be troubled by dark clouds on the horizon.

Our happy band discussed the plus points of the season, one of which was the manager’s surprisingly placid demeanour.

This time last year he had countless conspiracies on the go, the whole football world at one stage plotting behind his back to deny him omnipotence.

And we still had Klinsmann, the notorious press conference and militant marches through L4 streets to come.

Whether it is two trusty lieutenants Lee and Pellegrino replacing Ayesteran, the soothing reassurance of things going well and therefore excuses rendered redundant, only time will tell.

One of our merry clique erred on the side of caution. She suggested that with an international break on the horizon, Benitez would surely unleash Senor Hyde, as that’s when he’s usually bored out of his skull. I will never crack wise about women’s intuition again.

When news broke of the club dragging its feet over a longer contract and rumours about Juventus, of all clubs, waiting in the wings to snap up his services, one couldn’t help fearing that we were set to traipse through this infernal nonsense once again.

Did Rafa plan this beforehand: “When it gets down to a year and a half, then I’ll have a quiet word with my favourite journalists”?

That may well be libellous trash but Rafa has form in this area and the term “manager who cried wolf” was coined in this very column. Of course he denied he was worrying unduly about it all. What a trooper!

Another infamous Tinkerman also decided to make mischief. If Ranieri thought Alonso was “too slow” one might ask why he wanted to sign the snail for the Old Lady then?

We’ve been well pleased with Xabi’s form of late, so even the Barry fiasco seems to have landed sunny side up.

There’s always been a hope that Rafa was one of those lucky generalissimos who always comes up smelling of roses. It’s worth remembering it’s always dangerous to quantify the poultry after only seven games and underestimating our predilection for self-inflicted chaos is unwise.

It had all gone quiet on the rotation front too, until Skrtel’s injury resurrected the issue. It must have irritated the manager no-end to finally settle on a partnership at the back, only to see Agger linked with a move to Madrid.

It was a timely reminder that fully utilising the squad was not just a fitness philosophy but one of numerous ways to keep his pampered overpaid insecure superstars from stamping their feet and screaming till they were sick.

To be fair, Hyypia was treated shabbily when left off the Champions League roster, a decision that hopefully won’t backfire. Agger too has been fairly dignified, even if cynics may wonder about his agent.

Given his comfort on the ball and long-range excellence he’d be ideal against teams coming to park the bus. I suspect his Stoke omission was due to them offering a threat at set pieces and little else, but now he should shine.

So is there any bad news? Apart from Skrtel, only the usual unease about good results camouflaging the ticking bomb in the boardroom. The fiscal chaos all over the world makes the fevered discussion of filthy lucre more pertinent than ever, not that we ever seem to discuss anything else.

As long as we win the league before the meltdown and get this monkey off our backs, it can all end on an artificial high and the Apocalypse can begin in earnest for all I care.

* Steven Kelly

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