Let's start this off with a quote from our chairman.
Daniel Levy: “The disappointment we shall all feel if we do not make the fourth qualifying spot for Champions League will be a measure of exactly how far we have come.”
I agree with the sentiments. I'll be so gutted I will have to eat a dodgy lasagne for the purpose of distracting me from the emotional pain that would no doubt cause cataclysmic damage to my soul. 2006 was just so daft, it felt like the ending to a black comedy directed by Chris Morris. Food poisoning, final day of the season...it was all ominous and oh so obvious. You just knew it wasn't meant to be. I remember before setting off for the game watching Sky Sports and listening to them break the story about our sick players. Ridiculous. Surely not? Ho hum. If you looked up into the sky you'd have seen red scarf waving by the bearded ones.
There were various points of dejection throughout that season, long before the final day. Many looking back would cite the amount of points dropped in the final minutes of games. 4th spot was lost long before our players spent the afternoon puking up all over the Upton Park pitch. But it was still in our hands to lose. Which we did. But you can't argue against some of the players on the day giving it their all. It just wasn't enough.
What compounded things further (personally) was that night, around midnight, I woke up and proceeded to spend the rest of the early morning vomiting (amongst other things) thanks to...yep, food poisoning. I knew at that point the footballing Gods not only mocked me, they (the bastards) had unzipped and proceeded to piss all over me too. Worst. Day. Ever.
Rather than look back apologetically on similar days of dejection from this season (say for example the score-draw at Goodison) along with one or two other OMG moments, we should just forget and look forward. It's all rather simple.
Win at Eastlands (previous meetings, click here) and it's done and dusted. Draw and we go to Burnley on the final day (yes, they play in Claret and Blue...don't even think about it, right?). Lose that one and we can hardly expect any favours from the other team who play in similar colours.
I'm not loving the parallels if I'm perfectly honest with you. I'd go us far as saying, the footballing Gods (Chris Morris ghost writing for them) are scheming once more to dick us over. The hand of fate aside, choking and bottle jobs are two things that we seem to have overcome fairly well under Harry's guidance. We sometimes stumble and make things difficult for ourselves, but you can't question the team and their unity. It's all in the huddle.
Resolve. Heart. Spirit. Making of our own luck. Belief. It's been a season of growth, progression and consolidation for many of the qualities we aspire to have, that inspire us to push forwards with ambition. And intent to actually climb those steps upwards.
So, to be direct about things, I do not want to lose this game on Wednesday evening. I don't want us coming anywhere near losing it. I don't want to see us buckle under the pressure or give away stupid goals or lose because of a refereeing error. I don't want us to concede an early goal.
Harry has to be smart with his tactics. We all know City have inconsistent form at home in recent games. But this should be ignored. Advantage of being at Eastlands will no doubt see them take responsibility to appease their fans (and manager) by bringing the game to us from the off.
Keep it simple Harry. If King can play, great. If Lennon can start, equally great. Retain Bale on the left wing and Modric and Huddlestone in the middle. But if you believe 5 in midfield will work with counter-attacking football the weapon - then that's fine too. Draft in Palacios. Then consider who (one man) plays upfront. I still say keep it simple, 4-4-2 with all players working their bollocks off, what be a far better attempt of stamping our authority on the game.
Then there's Gomes and his groin. Ooh.
Players just need to be focused regardless who lines-up, as long as players are not asked to play out of position. If we draw, then off we go again into the final day.
City can be got at. I'm sure they feel the same way about us. They have enough ****'s in their team, enough arrogance and self-assurance to give it a right old ding-dong of a go. We have to be strong, and equally so in mind. We need to be clinical ****'s with cutting edge. No remorse. In for the kill.
We need to want this more than anything else.
And I want us to score first. Make them have to come at us for the equaliser. Make them and the home crowd nervous, uneasy. Let the disapproving moans and groans play havoc in the City players psyche, allowing the potential for a second goal.
It's easy when it plays out in your mind. The reality is, nobody knows how exactly this game will pan out. What tempo it will be played at. We might and might not turn up. Tempo wise, we can only hope it's one that suits us. Open and fast, Azza and Bale tormenting the wings. You'd think this will look and feel like a Cup final once the ref blows his whistle. You think, at the very least.
I've said it several times in the past year, we will finish in 4th spot. So it's now time to find out if my belief is shared by our players. And whether my heart is just governing my head. Not sure I really believed it back in 2006. 2010 is altogether a different kind of animal. We're not favourites for a start. We're away.
I have absolutely no doubt that we have turned 'that corner' of mediocrity and transitional seasons and have closed the gap on the failing giants just up ahead of us. Still plenty of work to be done. No matter who gets 4th place, let's not kid ourselves - next season will be even more difficult either way. The likes of Villa and Liverpool and Everton will make sure of that. City will splash money no matter what their fate is. The Prem is opening up wide at the top, faster than Jenna Jameson in her heyday. The monopoly has cracked.
Can we smash it to bits?
I can't wait to find out. I just know CL football means we can attract a world class player, perhaps two. Imagine our side with a player of Torres ilk upfront.
After 2006, to get this close again, our players should just go out there and die (metaphorically obviously) for the shirt. Don't look back at history, lunge forward and grasp what's before you with all your might and make it your own, so that next week, next month, next year...we can look back and say 'that's where the buck was trended'.
It's time for another DVD, lads. Make it a special edition please.
COME ON YOU SPURS.
To dare is to f*cking do.