A curious match, this one. City scored early and were good in the first half, rubbish in the second, left with a point (just), and all we could talk of was Michael Turner.
It shows this impact this redoubtable individual has made during his time at City. If the following reads a little like an obituary, than that’s not entirely unapt. There was a gloomy suspicion in the away end at Wolverhampton that we were seeing the end of an era – the Michael Turner era, which brought about the happiest times we’ve ever known.
Let us fervently hope this is not so. To their discredit, neither the manager or chairman seem to be overly concerned with retaining him, issuing irritatingly waffly statements about “hoping” to keep him. The player himself, we understand, has no great desire to leave City, though it’s only natural that if a big club came in for him he’d accept that his England ambitions would be better served there. But Sunderland? For £6m, and two fringe players? Such a transfer would greatly increase our chances of relegation, would short-change City to a huge extent, and would be frankly a disgrace.
Oh, okay, on with the game. Contrary to the rumours swirling before the game, Turner was included in the side, and was given the captain’s armband. He skippered the following XI: Myhill; Mouyokolo, Turner (c), Zayatte, Dawson; Hunt, Kilbane, Olofinjana, Geovanni; Folan, Ghilas. It was a warm day in the Midlands, and the Tigers got things underway kicking towards the 2,000 City fans housed in the away end. And after three minutes, we led.
It involved some neat interplay on the left which succeeded in finding Stephen Hunt in a space. He chipped over a gorgeous cross that looped home keeper Hennessey and found Geovanni stampeded through a pair of home defenders to head home. An easy header technically, but Geo showed commendable bravery to throw himself at the ball to complete a great move.
Wolves were reeling, and there looked a genuine gulf in class between the two sides. The Tigers held their hosts’ forays at bay with comfort, the only moment of alarm coming when Mouyokolo was cautioned after a foul on Kevin Doyle – however, he redeemed himself by strongly heading away the resulting free-kick.
City were looking to counter on the break, content to let Wolves come at them then swarm upfield when the home side’s inability to keep possession let them down. It was working well, and some additional pressure on the home goal saw Geovanni have a shot deflected behind for a corner, from which Ghilas headed straight at Hennessey.
This probably represented the high point of City’s hold on the game, as Wolves gradually cleared their heads and the game levelled out as a contest. This coincided with the game becoming increasing free of goalmouth action, though Keogh wasted a great shooting chance by firing straight at Myhill when a cooler head would have seen a shot passed either side of the Tigers’ keeper.
He had the half’s final chance too, swiping a shot into the side netting instead of testing Myhill after being neatly teed up. And this, we smugly reflected at half-time, was the difference in class we were so anxious to see – we’d taken our chances, they couldn’t take theirs.
So naturally, Wolves scored about four seconds into the second half, or thereabouts. A long free-kick, a knock-down, an easy (but well taken) finish by Stearman past the stranded Myhill. Sigh.
This set the pattern for the remainder of the match, which was a grim affair from a City perspective. Olofinjana denied his former club with an outstanding challenge on Doyle after he sauntered through our defence, Jarvis headed straight at Myhill, Craddock headed over – and dear me, we were actually holding on for a point having spent much of the first half looking certainties to win.
Caleb Folan had spent another afternoon dividing the City fans, with impressive workrate being spoiled by poor execution. His replacement by Altidore was a relief in some ways, though the American was to have a quiet afternoon as the flow of the game continued to be towards Boaz Myhill.
Hunt nearly pinched a fluke goal on the break when his mis-hit cross had Hennessy hurriedly retreating – the ball beat him, but sailed just wide of the post. A rare City foray, and the mood in the away end was becoming grumpy once more.
Fagan rather curiously replaced Ghilas, who’d put another shift full of running and determination, and Keogh wasted yet another great chance of puncturing a leaden-footed off-side trap before screwing shot wide of the post. A truly hopeless afternoon for him personally.
Still Wolves came, and Dawson was cautioned for time-wasting, a truly dismal thing to report. And with minutes to go, an incident that confirmed the lunacy of even contemplating letting Michael Turner leave, and a moment that we’ll remember forever as a fitting end should the worst occur.
A free-kick was sent into the City area, headed onto Doyle, who flashed a venomous shot goalwards. It beat Myhill…but not Michael Turner, who fearlessly hurled himself at the ball, taking a nasty hit in the midriff for the cause and emerging untroubled by any discomfort to defend the corner.
Here our report ends, for our minds had only been on the City captain for some time anyway, and this episode perfectly encapsulates his worth, his irreplaceable nature. A point away, very nice, not too bad, etc. Back to Michael Turner: for it is irresponsible beyond belief to sell this player unnecessarily. He left the field last, his name being sung relentlessly, and he lingered just a little. Was this a farewell to the club that he helped propel to great things, while attaining greatness himself? I am sad to say that it looked a little like this. Will this really be the final time we see the greatest player in our history wearing our colours? It seems so.
Over to you, Messrs Brown and Duffen – the two men who’ve done so much for our club, and must now act to stop this hard work being tossed away for reasons no-one can fathom.