1: Did you ever expect Steve Bruce to be as loveable as he has been? Sunderland fans labelled him an excuse maker, while the media said he was tactically inflexible, but that hasn’t been our experience at all. If City have underperformed this season he has said we have underperformed, rather than making out we’ve played well when we haven’t, he’s also admitted to getting team selections and tactics wrong with refreshing honesty. His switching City to 3-5-2 is hardly the work of an old dog resolutely opposed to trying new tricks either. Achieving promotion on its own isn’t enough to inspire love and affection, as the prickly Peter Taylor showed, he was a man that was easy to respect and praise, but difficult to truly love, but Bruce has been taken to the hearts of City fans for his honesty, joviality and for getting us up.
2: Bruce has praised the whole squad, quite rightly, for their achievement this season. However, we feel at liberty to single out a couple of individuals. Firstly, the transformation of Robbie Brady this season has been quite remarkable. Remember that petulant boy who seemed to be playing just for himself last year? All flicks and tricks, no substance and no discipline? Well, a permanent move and a switch to wing back has not just made him a team player, but it’s made him a man. He has been prepared to take on more responsibility and as a consequence, has flourished as a footballer. Bruce’s decision to shift him into an attacking midfield role on Saturday was akin to him saying “go and get us in the Premier League, son”, and Brady’s influence on the team was plain for all to see. He was out on his feet when he was substituted late on (pity he wasn’t around for that penalty) and his eye-bulging, potty reaction to the final whistle at Vicarage Road was stupendous. There’s a Premier League team next season to be built around this young man. And when he misplaced a pass against Cardiff and let his head momentarily drop, the City crowd only briefly expressed frustration and cheered him to the rafters; they all know what a fine player we have.
3: Then there’s Paul McShane. He was, let’s think about this for a moment, about a minute and a half away from being the player to score the goal to take us to the Premier League. Fate intervened, but then again it often does with Paul McShane. His goal was only his third ever for us and constituted a variation of the “perfect” hat-trick – one with his head, one with his foot and one with his, er, torso. Yes, his torso. That’ll be it. But we have a player who has been involved with us for more than four years now and has gone through every available high and low on a personal level; he’s been a coveted loan player, makeweight, error-prone liability, unwanted reserve, perennial loanee, cult hero and now it’s genuinely hard to imagine City without McShane around. He is out of contract and, despite the riches coming into the Circle, would need to take a pay cut to stay, but well, you know what the song says about not selling him. He embodies a spirit and professionalism that all clubs need, and he’ll never have known popularity like that which he enjoys at the moment. He could probably do ten years with us if he wanted to.
4: There are 12 players out of contract this summer. Five are from the youthful periphery – Cullen, Devitt, East, Emerton, Oxley – and it seems obvious that some will go without a whimper and the odd one will stay. Andy Dawson will be allowed to leave after a testimonial that will make him deservedly flush, while Paul McKenna and Seyi Olofinjana’s exits are well telegraphed. You’d expect McShane to stay, so the truly interesting decisions will be made over Liam Rosenior, Jay Simpson and Abdoulaye Faye. What do you reckon?
5: Which is most irritating? Fraizer Campbell scoring against us or City fans still having a pop at him? Twice now Campbell has responded to City fans – the sticky-out tongue at Sunderland and now his inevitable (and sublimely taken) goal on Saturday. He showed remarkable reserve by switching the run of his celebratory direction from east to north and laughing at us through the Cardiff fans. The stick he was getting meant he’d have been close to justified if he’d tried to do what Dean Marney so artlessly managed earlier this season.
6: A summer with no international tournament to fill the City void is usually intolerable, but this time round we could do with a break to repair frazzled nerves.
7: Running onto the pitch when a penalty has been awarded aside, the crowd was fantastic on Saturday. It set aside nerves, curmudgeonliness and the usual apathy to get behind the team. Why does promotion have to be on the line before that happens? Why can’t we do more of that every home game?
8: Don’t you dare say it was the Cash Converters Cacky Clappers that inspired it. Just don’t.
9: MD Nick Thompson said on Saturday that the Hull City Tigers change (and that wording is now above the club offices at the KC Stadium) is just for the business side of the club and not the playing side. We really hope so, and if so, that’s not really a problem, though the change could have been communicated better.
10: The Harlem Shake is so over, it’s all about Jiggle Me Elmo now.