City 3 QPR 2: Worth Every Penny
By Matt Coleman, Wed 16 May 2012 20:24
I think it was in the final minutes of the Newcastle match, as it became evident that City would head into the last week of the season knowing that three points would be enough to win the League, that I decided to embark on one of the most foolhardy, yet most amazing adventures of my life.
In truth, it was an idea that I had much earlier in the season, when City were scoring for fun and running away with the title. If we were three points clear going into the last game against Queens Park Rangers, knowing that Premier League glory was assured, I started to squirrel away some cash with the intention of ducking over for the game and revel in the celebrations of the first title in 44 years. I wanted to make sure we were assured of winning the title first of course, as this is City we're talking about, if anything could go wrong...
I'm not proud to admit that part of me was internally cheering on Newcastle during that match. A draw or loss would mean that I would escape having to make that huge decision - one that I would most certainly regret no matter what I decided.
And as celebrations continued at 1am in the pub after the match, conversations got a bit more drunken and with the bravado that only comes after having several pints too many, announced my intentions to the rest of the group.
"Don't bother, it won't be worth it" they derided. "You're crazy, you won't do it".
Taking a four-figure bank loan to fly halfway around the world and back for just over a weekend is hardly the most fiscally responsible thing to do. But if I stayed at home and we won the league, then I'd regret it for the rest of my life. Especially after a fiasco with tickets at last years' FA Cup meant I didn't enter the ground until after the final whistle.
And you know what, it probably was crazy, but it would have been crazier not to. After all, how good would it be to say that you were then we we were shit won the league for the first time since 1968? Sure, you could be there the next year, or the year after that. But it wouldn't quite be the same, would it?
But for forty-odd minutes of that second half, my internal monologue was something different. Standing in position at the back of 116, arms folded, feeling physically ill, too stunned to sing, there was only one thought that kept running through my head.
'You are the biggest f*cking w*nker that has ever lived. You've come all this way, spent all this money, and we're f*cking losing. You're going to be the biggest laughing stock on the internet, your mates are going to take the piss for life. You absolute dickhead'.
I watched with fingers over my eyes as all nine QPR defenders held out resolutely, and Paddy Kenny managed to make save after blinding save. Even as Dzeko headed in at the start of injury time, no-one around me seemed to celebrate. It all seemed too little, too late. Nice goal, but ultimately futile.
And then the moment any Blue that was in the ground on Sunday will never, ever forget.
Sitting at the other end of the ground, it was hard to make out what actually happened in the scramble on the edge of the box as Balotelli got that miracle pass away. However I clearly remember time standing still as Ageuro took the ball past the final defender — like watching that extreme slow motion footage they shoot at thousands of frames per second.
The sheer wall of noise after the goal is burned into my memory. It wasn't a simple loud cheer of "yes!" like most goal celebrations are. It was a deep, guttural sound, louder than any I've heard at or watching any football game. I ended up in the row in front of me, then somehow back into the row behind where I started, between continual cries of "f*cking have it" and "f*cking get in", as I discovered upon video review. Unlike many around me, there were no tears — I was simply to shocked to adequately digest everything that happened. But every subsequent viewing of the goal in multiple languages on YouTube and again on Match Of The Day inevitably leads to me welling up.
Considering the amount of alcohol consumed in the hours following, it's a surprise I woke up at all, let alone with the least offensive hangover of my life, still basking in the realisation that yes, we had won the title for the first time in 44 years, and damn it I was there to see it.
But where can you possibly go from here? There may never be another goalgasm like that again — hell, there may never be another moment like that in football ever again. And no-one can ever take that memory away from those that were there on that fateful day.
It cost me an absolute packet, but was it worth every penny. An unbelievable, unforgettable four days.