What a fantastic season it was
08:33 19 May 2012
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Unlike the delirious party atmosphere of the previous two years, the final game at Carrow Road produced a palpable sense of tension in the massed ranks of City fans.
While the game itself was a non contest between a City side brimming with confidence and a Villa team that looked like a punch drunk boxer, Paul Lambert’s post game speech had those who purport to be able read between the lines in a frenzy.
Was he saying goodbye? No doubt all will become clear, but it certainly wasn’t at the time of writing, so there is no point in me trying to comment. After all, there is enough speculation to last a lifetime on the various social media.
Instead, I’d rather look back and reflect on the marvellous season that City have had. The tendency on these occasions is to concentrate on the obvious highs, but for me one of the key moments of the campaign came on a hot August afternoon at Stamford Bridge when City made their first real statement of intent. With all due respect to Wigan and Stoke, our first two opponents, they were teams that we would have expected to compete with, but Chelsea were major title contenders, with a squad packed with internationals and assembled with no expense spared.
Standing in The Shed the omens didn’t look good when John Ruddy had to make a stunning save in the very first minute only to be beaten by a fabulous strike from Jose Bosingwa with less than 10 minutes on the clock, but City dug in and fought back, a trait that we were to see time and time again as the season progressed.
In fact, not only did they get a deserved equaliser (the first of Holt’s 15 Premier League goals), but they looked odds on to find a winner before Ruddy’s dismissal changed the course of the game in favour of the struggling hosts.
Of course, Ruddy was to become a key figure as the season progressed, becoming increasingly commanding as his confidence grew. There are many great saves to look back on, such as the last-minute tip-over to seal a point at Anfield. However, nothing tops a wonder save at Newcastle. Ruddy was already in mid air to save a shot, only for it to be diverted wider of him by Demba Ba at point blank range, yet somehow he was able to adjust his dive into a stretch worthy of Long Cat to tip the ball wide. His England call-up has been richly deserved and he has a great future ahead of him.
There are so many moments to remember, but the most striking aspect of the whole season for me was the way that everyone in the squad played a part.
Jed Steer’s memorable debut at West Brom, the emergence of Aaron Wilbraham as a genuine cult figure and, of course, the return of Simon Lappin, the King of Spain, whose four league starts coincided with three wins a draw.
Whereas injuries to key players seemed to derail other clubs, the lengthy absences of Marc Tierney, Daniel Ayala, Elliott Ward, James Vaughan and Zak Whitbread didn’t seem to affect City as their replacements simply stepped in and did the job required. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. City didn’t have a great team this season, they had a great squad.
And so, as the players, or at least those with no international commitments, wind down for their well-earned summer breaks, I find myself writing my final column.
I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been and I must thank Chris Lakey for all his help and advice, as well as all of you who have been kind enough to give me feedback. Have a great summer.