Sunday, January 9, 2011

Young Hearts, Be Free Tonight...

The coincidences surrounding the FA Cup third round match between Leicester and Manchester City were astounding. Even the draw itself — where Noel Gallagher and Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno, drew their own favoured teams, Manchester City and Leicester respectively — was scarcely believable.

Roberto Mancini is the current Manchester City manager. He played four games for Leicester in 2001.
Sven Goran Eriksson is the current Leicester City manager. He is also a former Manchester City boss.
Sven managed Mancini at both Sampdoria and Lazio, later appointing him as assistant coach in 2000.
Leicester striker Darius Vassell is an ex-City player. Paul Dickov has also played for both clubs.
City youngsters Greg Cunningham and Ben Mee have been out on loan to Leicester this season.
Mancini's son, Fillipo, joined Manchester City's youth ranks when Sven was manager.

However, the most significant relationship between the two clubs is the 1969 FA Cup final, with Manchester City running out 1-0 winners.

Thanks to a goal by Neil Young.

Sadly, Neil has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and may not have the chance to see City win another FA Cup — even if the club's 35-year wait for a major trophy comes to an end at Wembley.

Neil Young was a player many years before my time, both as a City fan... and well as anything really. So I feel it would be crass and disingenuous to comment about his contribution to Manchester City apart from the facts — a very respectable 86 goals from 334 appearances as a winger or inside forward is a fine record.

One thing I can comment on though, is the reaction of the fans.

I feel that the phrase "best fans in the land and all the world" is bandied around a little too often by some City supporters. We're certainly not the most abundant. We're definitely not the loudest.

But there are moments where as a Manchester City supporter you genuinely think "would fans of any other club do this?"

Such as the time someone who was yet to meet me in the flesh arranged tickets and travel to an away game.

Or when that same person put me up for the night when I couldn't secure a hotel room.

However, the performance of the away end at the Walkers tonight was truly something else. Even conceding in the first minute couldn't prevent City fans from carrying out their tribute to Neil.

On 24 minutes — the amount of time on the clock when Young fired in the winner in the '69 final — the entire away end turned their backs and did 'the Poznan', and waved red and black scarves above their head. This was topped off by a rousing rendition of "There's only one Neil Young". It was a moving tribute, one that left a knot in the stomach.

And one of those moments where you think "yep, this is what being a City fan is all about".

We have a second chance for qualification now with a replay at Eastlands. Let's win it for Neil.

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