For me, away days are the best thing about being an English football supporter. They encapsulate and preserve everything that is brilliant about the game: The passion and commitment of supporters traveling to watch their team. The elation when you score a goal in another team’s back yard. And perhaps most importantly of all, having a brilliant day out and a few laughs with a great group of mates.
This weekend just gone, I made the short trip up the M62 motorway to watch Everton take on Manchester City. The game was the early kick off on Saturday, but I travelled up on the Friday to catch up with some friends from university days, both of whom are season ticket holders at the Etihad Stadium and had kindly agreed to put me up for the night.
Having slept on a couch and had a few too many drinks the night before, getting up on Saturday morning was tough, with the match a pretty daunting prospect. Especially after arranging to meet the rest of the lads traveling to the game at a pub a couple of hours before kick-off. But on arrival, pre-match chatter got going and I immediately felt much better.
It’s away trips like City that have always been my favorite. Yes, Everton have an excellent record at the Etihad in recent years, but in the main, you go into the game with little expectations because of the quality of opposition. I always think Everton can win, of course. But the day isn’t ruined if you do end up getting beat. Anything more than defeat represents a big bonus, and you really enjoy those results on the rare occasions they come around.
It’s a good job I do embrace that school of thought, as City ran rings around Everton for the majority of this contest. A Romelu Lukaku opener did make for some chaotic scenes in the Everton end early on, with some blue pyro being let off nearby. But City’s immediate response saw Everton’s hopes fizzle out in a manner akin to those last few puffs off blue smoke.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side took control and Everton never really looked like getting back into the game. The Toffees were on the end of some horrendous decisions from referee Jon Moss it has to be said, but City dominated after taking the lead before half-time and adding a two goal cushion not long after.
The game became increasingly scrappy in the last twenty minutes, and clearly not entertained by on pitch matters, City fans baited the traveling support with the age-old, monotonous chants about being ‘thieves’ and ‘jobless.’ All harmless in the main, and our fans did give a bit of stick back but being 3-1 down, it was muted in comparison.
There are a section of City supporters next to the visiting fans who seem to spend more time singing at the opposition than watching the game itself. In truth, it happens at quite a few grounds around the country, and something that I’ve never really understood. Why focus so much on the opposition and their supporters when you could be backing your own team!? Talking to my City supporting mates after the game, that corner has a particular name apparently, although I won’t repeat it here!