So we’re back.
The summer was surprisingly tolerable, considering the meek way we had capitulated to relegation; the steady churn of players shipped out; and the huge number of questions still largely unanswered about the state of the club’s finances. This may be a personal opinion, though, as I tried to take a break from City, so much so that my computer stopped automatically filling in the web addresses of football websites.
But certainly, the recruitment of a new gaffer from play-off qualifiers Leicester City and some reasonable-looking signings, albeit freebies and on loan, signalled we were unlikely to gurgle down the same plug-hole as Portsmouth. And the World Cup showed things could be worse for City fans as well; we could be have gone over to watch England.
I suspect, however, the reason is I was braced for an even more calamitous pre-season given all the media speculation towards the back end of last season – fuelled by Adam Pearson himself, don’t forget – that we would be heading for the complete meltdown of administration.
I’m chuffed we avoided this, not least because a points penalty would obliterate the optimism every single fan at the start of the season and dream of glory. But it’s unfair on other clubs and on creditors too. Not the banks, who will no doubt be insured to cover such bad debts, but on local small firms for whom losing a few thousand pounds could send them under. It’s unfair too to deprive Inland Revenue of what they’re owed – as much as I love City, I don’t think it’s right we should be subsidised by the taxpayer.
And so to the first game of the season. While you couldn’t imagine two managers as different as perma-tanned egomaniac Phil Brown and dour wasp-chewer Nigel Pearson, the line-ups they choose to field are surprisingly similar. Pearson, like Brown has faith in Richard Garcia’s abilities as a striker, a view not shared by many sat in the stands for all his honest toil. NP was happy to field a defensive, hard-working line-up and allow Swansea to take the bulk of possession in non-threatening areas of the field.
Indeed the set-up was so defensive, with Garcia carving out little of note on his own and seldom offered support from the five-man midfield either, that you struggled to see where a goal could possibly come from…
Then young loanee John Bostock popped up, with an audacious drag and wallop into the top corner from all of 30 yards. From then on, he was kicked whenever he took possession of the ball, but his work was already done. Think of it as the equivalent of Geovanni’s strike against Fulham on the season opener two years previously, changing the course of one game with one flash of impudence and hopefully setting the tone for the rest of the season.
Having nosed in front, the 4-5-1 formation was ideally suited to protecting the lead and pressing on the break and from set-pieces. It was relatively comfortable, save for Kevin Kilbane and Kamil Zayatte having concentration lapses which threatened to cost us dear as well as the Swans’ strikeforce failing to take advantage when losing their markers.
And returning captain Ian Ashbee sealed the win by bundling home from a dangerous Garcia corner, capping an immense performance which looked ever more assured with every interception, block, tackle and word of encouragement for his team-mates.
So a solid, unspectacular win against a well-fancied team (who I suspect were having an off-day). That’s no indicator we’re destined for a great season – even last year we had plenty of good days – but I think it shows we’ll be more competitive than the bookies suggest.