For as long as Pep Guardiola has been in charge at Manchester City, one word has continually popped up within the media – Quadruple.
The winning of all three domestic trophies and the Champions League in one season, it is a word that the media have become obsessed with over the last few years. They clearly think winning all four trophies is certainly obtainable, but if you mention this to City fans, you will generally receive a non-plussed attitude. Why aren’t blues fans more excited by the prospect of domestic and European domination?
It’s fair to say that the older City fans remember very well the dark times that besieged the club from the late 70’s onwards. After Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison took City from the depths of Division Two to domestic and European glory, the blues fell on hard times. After winning the League Cup in 1976, all the blues had to show for their efforts until 2011 was a solitary appearance in the FA Cup Final in 1981, when they were defeated by Spurs in a replay.
Each season would be filled with hope, only to be replaced by despair. The 1980’s were particularly hard as City went through divisions and managers like it was going out of fashion. The 90’s weren’t much different and, although there was a general feeling that the blues would win something soon, Typical City would arrive, take that feeling and flush it right down the toilet and we’d be back to square one.
Coupled with United’s continued success and the dominance of the then ‘big four’ teams who were sharing trophies between them, chances of winning silverware again were rated at slim to none. It was only when ADUG arrived and invested in the club that City levelled the playing field with the boys at the top.
But as wonderful as that investment was, the faithful were cautious. They knew their club well and, while a few got a little carried away, the rest waited for Typical City to return. They had seen what expectation had done to their rival supporters. If United went 3-0 up, it was expected they would win a match comfortably and more often than not they did, but if the drew 3-3, the anger pouring out from their fans was incredible. It was even worse if they lost a match they would have been expected to win. It was almost like there was a given right to win matches just because of who they were, and football doesn’t work like that. You don’t deserve three points just for turning up!
Yet even today, when City go 3-0 up, there’s still a fear that it will end in a draw or even a defeat. That’s not being negative, that’s being City. During the 2019 FA Cup Final with City 6-0 up with a few minutes remaining we still couldn’t relax. When you’ve seen your team go 1-0 up in the last minute and still lose 2-1, you realise anything is possible with this club.
This is why City fans don’t talk about a quadruple, a treble or even winning a trophy until it actually happens. We’ve seen so much in the past that it clouds the future a little. For example, in the 1990/91 season, pundits were tipping City to win the FA Cup. Peter Reid had a decent side after taking over from Howard Kendall, and we’d already won at Burnley and Port Vale in the previous two rounds. Next up was a trip to lower league Notts County. With the draws being favourable for us, surely this was our season, but no, County beat us 1-0.
The 1994/95 season saw us beat Newcastle at St James’s Park in the League Cup. Newcastle at the time were one of the league’s top teams, yet little City won to set up a quarter-final with Palace. It was a great opportunity to get to the semi-final. Did we do it? No, Palace thrashed us 4-0 and a later FA Cup quarter final at Newcastle ended in a 3-1 defeat.
The 1996/97 League Cup campaigns ended before they even began, with defeats to Lincoln City and Blackpool, and in 2004, Arsenal came to the City of Manchester Stadium and won 2-1. That wasn’t unusual, however City played a full-strength side while the Gunners, as was the norm for them, played a team full of upcoming youngsters. And they still beat us! City then lost at Doncaster in 2005, Chesterfield in 2006 and Brighton in 2008.
This is obviously the nature of football, but can you imagine if that was United or Liverpool? United lost at Leicester yesterday and their fans were calling for OGS to be sacked. This is the same United that ended our winning streak. Liverpool, whose fans boldly claim the club are ‘European Royalty,’ were already celebrating winning the title in 2014 before the team threw it away, and think they have a given right not only to be playing in the Champions League but should be reaching the final every season.
If they were in the position we are in now, you wouldn’t expect the same level of humility that City fans show and the difference between their fans and ours is this:
They have never endured the pain that City fans have been through. They haven’t seen the things we have seen. They’ve never stood on Sencil Bank on a cold Tuesday night in October watching City lose 2-1 to Lincoln. They’ve not had a league double completed over them by Wycombe Wanderers. They didn’t get an early Christmas present of a 2-1 defeat by York City in December 1998. When was the last time either of those two teams entered the FA Cup at the first round?
In those days, if anyone said City would one day compete for a quadruple, it’d be like a scene from Back to the Future 3, when Doc Brown tries to explain about cars and how walking will be for pleasure and exercise. All the people in the bar just laughed, thinking he was hammered!
That mentality has stuck with City, despite the huge amount of success the faithful have seen over the last 13 years. It is that mentality that has kept the majority of blues fans grounded, and still expectant that City will somehow find a way to throw all their hard work away. It wasn’t long ago that someone said on Twitter that we’re mathematically safe from relegation!
So, if the media want to continue talk about quadruples season after season then let them do it. If rival fans want to laugh when we don’t achieve it, remember – we were already expecting not to accomplish it, and were laughing way before any opposing fans were. If other people want to be arrogant about their clubs, then feel free to be like that.
Arrogance is not the City way.