Yesterday a horde of the stupidest people on social media – which is saying something considering how Facebook and Twitter jointly conspire to continuously lower the bar – were out in force, slagging Celtic and Patrick Roberts off.
Some were those you would have expected; Sevconuts unable to focus on anything other than what’s going on at Celtic Park and who are stunned that we’ve poached a top young talent from the EPL on another loan deal when in recent years they’ve had to make do with complete unknowns, although they’re the club with all the alleged “connections”.
Many of them decry Roberts as an over-rated “City reserve” which is fine, and I’m happy for them to believe whatever ignorant nonsense pops into their heads.
The truth is, in their moments of sober reflection and realism they know exactly what we’ve got on our hands here, an explosive talent capable of changing a game in the blink of an eye.
Their disrespect is a product of fear. They came out with all the same arrant nonsense about Dembele; how many did he score against them in the last campaign again?
I can live with it from them; there will be time aplenty for them to eat those words and reflect on how absolutely stone stupid they are.
It’s the even more ridiculous criticisms from City fans that I find hard to believe, and even harder to stomach. It shows how far their club has come, and not in a good way.
Manchester City was almost my “English team” in the sense that it was nearly the side who’s results I’d look for after those of Celtic.
I have always had a special affinity for Liverpool, but back in my early 20’s, when I was a regular in the Gallowgate, a bunch of my mates adopted City as some kind of mascot team and even went to see them a couple of times.
City was a romantic club to them, and they sold me, or they almost did.
In truth I’ve always been a bit too interested in Scottish football to be all that bothered by what went on south of the border, but they made a good argument.
City were a club that lived in the shadow of a city rival, a club that thought it was the dogs bollocks and who could intimidate officials, sign top players and throw its weight around in the media.
Sounds familiar, right?
Maybe that’s what my guys found so appealing.
Or maybe it was this; like ourselves, City were never in awe of their rival.
They didn’t do what so many clubs who live in the shadow of mammoth rivals do. They didn’t bend the knee. They didn’t kowtow. They forged their own identity, not for one minute trying to be something they weren’t.
Their sneering at United was not a product of jealousy, but of genuine disdain, even contempt, for what they saw as an artificial dynasty, a club surrounded by hangers on and sycophants, the “prawn sandwich” club, followed by glory hunters most of whom had never set foot in Manchester for other than a match-day in their entire lives.
City’s identity was built around being the genuine community club, the one that truly belonged to the city, and it epitomized so much of what made Manchester great.
That was reflected in the number of celebrities hailing from Manchester’s working class areas who were huge City fans; it’s no coincidence that the Gallagher’s have a well-known love for our club too. There are obvious similarities between the two teams and their respect supports.
City had a huge, passionate fan base long before there was any glory in it.
One of the things that stops my distaste at what City is now from becoming revulsion is the knowledge that those guys would still have been crowding into Maine Road and following the club if it wouldn’t have been bought to become a chew-toy for a billionaire.
When City won their first Premiership title, snatching it from United’s hands in the last moments, I should have felt a momentary sympathy for Ferguson’s team and their supporters; we Celtic fans have been through it, after all. Black Sunday will haunt us forever and it’s not an experience you would wish on another living soul.
But I admit it, I was delighted for City, for those fans who had waited through the long years and who must have eaten more shit from United’s than has ever been doled up to us.
Because even in our blackest period – and the 90’s, as written about on this site in The Dark Years articles by Paul Cassidy, were certainly that – there was never total darkness and we still had that rich history, including Lisbon in 67, to look back on for inspiration.
The sweetness of that day, that moment they won it, can only be imagined by those not part of it.
The only parallel many of us have was perhaps when Brattbakk scored against St Johnstone on the Day We Stopped The Ten, although my own most heightened moment as a Celtic supporter came when Henrik scored his 50th goal of Martin’s treble winning season in the 3-0 rout we administered to Rangers at Ibrox, the first time I’d ever seen us win there.
A lot of demons were put to rest forever that day, I can tell you.
It was the moment I knew we were back, definitively back, permanently back, and that from now on they would have us breathing right down their necks if we weren’t ghosting ahead of them … and that day I could see a future where we would, very clearly, dominate them.
City fans couldn’t have known they had arrived, properly arrived, until their second EPL title win, but long before it happened they had come to expect it …
And ironically enough, I reckon that’s where they’ve lost their bearings a wee bit.
City have become everything they loathed about United. A braggart’s team, in a braggart’s league, obsessed with bling. What else is the derided £15,000 “Tunnel Club” season ticket for their branded stadium but a gilded prawn sandwich served on a platinum platter?
Why are we so excited about Patrick Roberts?
Hell, he’s their player, they should know.
Why is it that we do instead?
Roberts is a fantastic footballer, as their club scouts were once well aware before they decided that anyone who wasn’t signed from a top five league for a transfer fee which would give you a nosebleed wasn’t worth giving a first team berth to.
One of their websites suggested that in his next move Roberts has to get out of his “comfort zone”; that’s a curious way to describe the possibility of facing PSG, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht and on top of that it’s arrogant nonsense, the sort which City fans would once have found loathsome coming from another club.
But see, that’s the problem.
They are that club now and they’ve forgotten the simple joy of being excited over a talented footballer rolling up to play for you.
A procession of them beats its way to their door now and on the kind of wages which haven’t broken the link between the players and the community where the club has roots as much as it has shattered it.
Roberts has returned to a club which is still connected to its.
It’s not for nothing that he cited the Celtic fans themselves as his motivation for wanting to come here. This is a club that still remembers there is magic in football, and not the sort that fills a side with global stars and deals at the Fantasy end of a bloated market which is strangling the sport itself.
I mean the magic of a Scottish club beating Barcelona at home, with the winning goal coming from a home grown player. The magic of a Premiership giant rolling into town and expecting to dominate and being fought to a stand-still in front of the best support in the Champions League.
And then us going there and repeating the feat in front of their own fans.
Roberts knows about the magic, and Celtic fans have seen enough of him to know it. He’s a magician, and City fans should know this.
He did, after all, score in that aforementioned match in front of them.
Or had they forgotten that in these heady days of trying to sign another expensive footballer from a Premiership rival?
What does magic mean to City fans now?
Winning the Champions League?
It’s a fools dream for a start, because their club is now the epitome of the artificial construct, in a league which is nothing but and because of it now lags hopelessly behind the ones in France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
The top clubs in those leagues have a standing in the game City won’t reach for decades if they ever do, and as Monaco proved last year they are capable of swatting them aside with ease.
And the problem with being an artificial construct is that there’s always someone capable of doing it bigger and better, with a larger cheque book …
Paris St Germain proved that in this close season with the biggest transfer coup of all.
If it puts things in perspective for Celtic, what does it do for the EPL “giants” who have convinced themselves that they are at the height of their own powers?
There is no victory on this journey they are on, just another series of disappointments but on a much bigger stage. And if somehow they turn the trick and do wind up in a Champions League final where they write their name onto the big cup, where ours already is?
No more than you’d expect from a team with the resources they do.
That’s not magic.
You see what I’m saying? That day, when they took the Premiership crown from Ferguson’s own head, that was as good as it gets. That moment was special because it came at the end of a long wait that started with zero expectations.
There are expectations now, and all they can do is meet them. They will never exceed them again. They will never feel the way they did that day.
I don’t grudge them what they’ve become, but nor am I jealous of it. They’re different now, that’s all. A tool of money men. A false construct. The magic has drained out. That’s why they don’t appreciate it when they see it, even when he’s one of their own.
Fortunately for football, some of us still do.
Patrick Roberts is magic, and we’ll need it where we’re going.