“Fucking Man City?” The Glaswegian roared into my right ear, depositing no small amount of saliva and far more Stella than I was anticipating in my aural receptacle. “Why the fuck are they showing fucking Man City? I came in here to watch fucking Liverpool.” He was shorter than I was, but I didn’t fancy myself to back me up in this situation; I'm not a fighter, I'm more of a bleeder. He’d had a few drinks, he looked like he could kill me with a stare and my punch is as weak this very metaphor. So it came as a surprise to me when I hopped down from the bar stool, planted a right hook on the end of his nose, picked him up by the lapels and shoved him through the door.
Well, that's how it transpired in my mind. What I actually did was a lot less heroic. Instead of fighting him off, I just shrugged sheepishly and turned away. I was never going to step down from my bar stool and say “Actually, me and m’friend here wouldn’t mind watching them.” He could have pulled my lungs out through my mouth with just his little finger.
I was sitting in an Irish bar in the centre of Brussels, namely O’Reilly’s, and had, not thirty seconds earlier, asked if the barman would switch the big screen from Chelsea vs. Liverpool to Arsenal vs. Man City. He wasn’t sure, then he saw that my friend was a regular customer (one who drinks a shot of tequila every time City score, no less – you should feel for him (and his wallet) so far this season). And he switched the game.
“Tequila shot after every City goal?” He asked me. I just stared back. I don’t drink.
Mike, the barman, looked at the Glaswegian and said to him: “We’ve got the second half of Liverpool.” I’m not quite sure how that worked, but I was willing to go with it. “You can watch it in the back room. All of the screens in the front room are linked and we’re showing Man City.”
I prayed he wasn’t going to add “for these fellas” and point at us. I might not have been here to type this if he had. This Glaswegian had, apparently, told a Belgian man the night before to pick the window he’d like to be thrown through, after he’d made a comment about his girlfriend. I’m neither a lover, nor a fighter… I’m more of a… coward. I wasn’t going to upset him.
Fortunately, though, he took his round of drinks back to his table and we got on with watching City. Then not a lot happened, really. The Carling Cup quarter final at The Emirates has to be City’s dullest game of the season so far – though, to be honest, that probably says more about the other games this year. It’s the first time City have really had to grind out a result in a game with no real threat from either side: Pantilimon was forced into a couple of good saves, while City continued to miss the target from range at the other end and it was the one moment of quality that took the tie.
And over this season so far, there have been a few calls of concern – even that feels a bit strong, granted – about the form of Joe Hart. Errors in parrying shots and his distribution with his feet being two of the biggest areas of recent criticism; the biggest examples being goals against Villarreal and Wolves (though he was bloody good at Anfield, even if his save from Carroll wasn’t as good as mine at five-a-side a few weeks ago – Hart didn't have to react to a driven shot a couple of yard in front of him and flick the ball away from behind him, just before it crossed the line).
There were questions raised that perhaps his form had slipped because there was little in the way of competition now that Shay Given had departed for Aston Villa. Possible and I would argue that was still the case – I can’t foresee a situation where Pantilimon or Taylor is selected for a league game ahead of Hart, where the Englishman is available. But what Tuesday evening did show, though, was that if Hart was unavailable for one or two matches, the Romanian would be able to deputise and not do a bad job. Ok, so there’d probably be a few hairy moments with crosses, but with a full strength back four in front of him, there would certainly be a lot of help.
It’s funny that this game came after Liverpool, the first time City have really been hanging on this season. And in the space of three days, we discovered that the blues are capable of both hanging on in there when need be and, in another game, producing the one passage of play out of nothing that can win a game – if I’m being honest, I was expecting a bit more grief from the Glaswegian when the game went to extra time and he came back for his next round. But a neat move from Dzeko, Johnson and Aguero proved to be enough: From tackle to net in about fifteen seconds. Not bad, eh?
The Glaswegian returned just after the goal: “Jammy bastards.” I nodded sagely and my friend told him why the beer he was drinking was rubbish. Fortunately, both of us left the pub with all of our facial features in the same order and arrangement as they were when we entered.
What Tuesday evening proved, though, more than ever is that we need to be patient. Okay, so our team might have been assembled from World Cup winners and Champions League finalists, while the opponents might have been playing in the Championship last season, but that doesn’t mean that the goals will just start flowing in. If City haven’t scored within the first eight minutes, every miss-placed pass at the Etihad is greeted with a collective groan and a sigh of inevitability that something will go wrong.
Calm down, okay? Most of City's goals this season have come in the second half of games; so if we're playing position number 18 in the league and they're fighting to save their own skins, they're not going to roll over and die. But, as is the way, they'll tire and that's when City do the damage. The league table currently looks like it does when I play FIFA Career Mode on Professional. Ok, Semi-Pro. Ok, Amateur (shut up).
Anyway, the point is, the goals are flying in. In fact, 15 of City's 48 goals in the league this season (that's almost a third of them) have come when there are less than 20 minutes left on the clock. City aren't having problems scoring right now and long may it continue, yet it doesn't stop the panickers: One guy behind me says things like “I can see us not scoring today now,” and it makes me wonder – there are over 80 minutes left and there’s been a couple of sloppy mistakes. These things happen. City are unbeaten at home in over 11 months (or 26 matches in all competitions, to put it another way).
Though, to be fair, he did also say, 90 seconds or so into the opening game of the campaign with Swansea: “Adam Johnson hasn't done much this season.” This season! It was 90 seconds old! Just have patience. The good stuff is coming, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work for it. As a wise man once said: “Patience. For the Jedi it is time to eat as well.” We’d do well to remember that. Not sure where I’m going with that.