The blue moon has turned to gold all right, but at what cost?
Are we there yet? Up and down the Premier League, fans are wishing the last 90 minutes fly by on the road to nowhere. A season to forget, already forgotten. Has there ever been a top-flight campaign that left fewer people satisfied? Might we have slipped into English football’s Age of Disillusionment?
Even the Manchester City faithful, if their side wins it as they surely must, will come down from tomorrow’s high quicker than anyone before them. Sure, for the legions that packed Maine Road when they endured Division Two shame, there will be emotion. But they will not recognise tomorrow from their dreams.
Doped by petrol dollars, packed with mercenaries who might kiss the badge but can’t be bothered to warm-up in the shirt. Buying other clubs’ legends as their roving ambassadors. Their status as the true Manchester club traded for transient glory.
The blasted Poznan has become a fitting celebration for them, as they try desperately to turn their backs on the aspects of their success they don’t want to see. The blue moon has turned to gold all right, but at what cost to the dream in their heart?
But enough of this season’s happy victors. For the rest of the division, misery loves company.
Their neighbours have glimpsed a grim future beyond Alex Ferguson’s departure, when mediocrity won’t be enough without his incomparable ability to knock it into serviceable shape and bully it into doing enough. Old Trafford snoozed through much of the season, bored by its side’s near-adequacy and sickened that its hard-earned is filling American pockets rather than buying the Galácticos their midfield requires.
That Arsenal lie third, after some comical ineptitude, says much about standards. Arsene Wenger has grown so addled there is scarcely a manager left in England who feels he has been treated to an adequate handshake from the financially-muzzled Alsatian. Rancour and bile spit around the cold concrete expanses of the Emirates, where fans grow increasingly frustrated with the pyramid scheme they have been saddled with; paying higher and higher prices so the club can spend just about enough to keep them paying higher and higher prices.
Up the road, Tottenham did, at least, give their long-suffering patrons half a term of giddiness, only to fold their tents as soon as the prospect of glory loomed, as has long been their custom. Now their only concern is whether to blame Harry’s distraction or Harry himself.
At Chelsea, small contentment that Hawk-Eye didn’t arrive in time to deprive them of last Saturday’s bloodless victory will not extend beyond next week’s penalty shoot-out defeat in Munich. Then they can choose to spend their summer panicking at European exile or fretting at the prospect of selling what little soul they have and packing for Battersea.
Gloomy resignation, meanwhile, is flooding Merseyside. At Anfield, they will stand for a lot in their allegiance to the King, including racism and Jordan Henderson, but slowly they are beginning to peer through the scales. Evertonians spent much of the campaign bellowing pantomime abuse at their old theatre chairman, while pride in their manager’s husbandry was diminished by the fear his ingrained caution will never allow them prosper on their biggest days.
The middle order, then, is mired in tedium. In Roy’s departure for more stressful things, West Brom’s reward for progress is, as it always is, the need to start all over again. At Stoke, the football is so monotonous they must distract themselves by goading footballers they have seen maimed.
We shouldn’t, of course, forget Swansea and Norwich as they briefly bathe in the shallow glow of patronising affection, alas the first known symptom of second season syndrome. I suppose Wigan fans are also pretty chuffed with Roberto Martinez’s labour-saving, six-week approach to survival, but not, largely, to an extent that might encourage them to visit the stadium.
And then there are the truly livid. Wolves, understandably, and Aston Villa, predictably, after Randy Lerner made the least welcome appointment since Bolton saw red when Gary Megson arrived.
But this season’s champions of chagrin are Blackburn, who have been so angry, for so long, that the brief period when they were winning seemed to upset them.
In all the acrimony though, we remember the Rovers fan who waited until the last game at Ewood to tear up his season ticket in front of the dugout. You know he will be back, ready to be disillusioned again, in August. We all will.
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