1. Football is back! And if it was possible to be decidedly underwhelmed at the prospect of another season labouring under the ghastly Allams on Saturday morning, events in the early evening in Birmingham did at least make it feel less daunting.
2. Not that we can easily gloss over the first half. For much of it, City looked worryingly frail and disorganised. A side sharper than Aston Villa could easily have settled the game in the first third, and that really would have left us shuddering at the prospect of another 45 games. As it was, we’re back in the Championship, and spells like this are going to be ridden out more frequently. To keep it at 1-0, with a late flurry in the first half, always gave us a chance.
3. So it proved, as the second half was filled with encouragement. The previously lethargic Grosicki grew into the game, service to the hard working pair of Campbell and Hernández gradually improved and Aston Villa ceased being able to torment our full backs. This all made it possible for City to advance with authority rather than trepidation, and the equaliser – when it arrived – was fully deserved.
4. What a finish and what a moment for Jarrod Bowen. When Grosicki darted into the sort of space we were routinely denied last season and floated one over, it’d have been all too easy for a young, inexperienced player to wildly lash the ball high and wide when presented with the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes. Instead, he demonstrated that his stunning matchwinning goal against Benfica last month was no fluke with a finish of steely composure. Well done that man (and what a great celebration too; elbowing a steward out of the way to get to the supporters will endear him further to the City fans for many a year). Well done also City for recovering a point from – according to the pre-season odds – the hardest game we’ll have in 2017/18.
5. Grosicki seems much better suited to playing down the right doesn’t he? Not only does it lessen the impact of a failure to adequately track back on our stand-in left back, it allows him to finish moves with his right foot. Despite being ambipedal, Grosicki’s end product was woeful last year when he was deployed on the left. His right footed cross for Bowen’s strike suggests we’re best starting him on that side.
6. Isn’t Leonid Slutsky a thoroughly affable individual too? His infectious personality makes it hard not to warm to him. In a club beset by difficulties, his radiant happiness stands out even more starkly. Lets just hope that grin remains intact.
7. After all, he works for Ehab Allam, who is clearly incapable of learning from, or even tacitly admitting his mistakes. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” goes the axiom, in that people with too much power succumb to arrogance, believing their judgments always correct, and their wisdom infallible, despite evidence to the contrary. The summer of 2016 was evidence enough, when City’s preparation for a new season wasn’t just inadequate, it felt like an act of self-harm. That wouldn’t be repeated in the summer of 2017 would it? Of course it would, Ehab doesn’t learn, perhaps he just doesn’t care about anything other than the money we get from the Premier League even after relegation. What must Slutsky make of a summer where both left backs have, left? Robertson’s sale was understandable from all perspectives, but allowing the first player to ‘graduate’ from our relatively new academy set up to go, a local lad who was shamefully still on a scholarship deal earning £150 a week after making Premier League appearances, seems more than just careless. “The supermarket is closed” was Slutsky’s terse public response to the seemingly unending departures. He deserves better owners, and we wish him luck.
8. The signings he has made will obviously take a while to settle and gel. They also need to get to know the club, with one notable exception: Fraizer Campbell. At Villa Park, he made his second debut for City, two months short of ten years since his first. Reaction to his acquisition on a free transfer from Crystal Palace has been principally positive, which is a relief given that he has taken some unwarranted stick from City fans on the handful of occasions he has lined up against us in the two highest levels of the game. Campbell is now an experienced player, an England international, not completely proven thanks to a mixture of injuries and hefty competition for places, but if anyone knows how devastating a presence he can be at this level of the game, especially with a good supply behind and outside him, it’s us.
9. While there will always be reservations about local commercial radio’s effectiveness to deliver good football coverage when, unlike the oxygenated BBC, it lives and dies instantaneously by its audience figures and revenues, there is nothing in the Viking 2 deal to blame the radio station for, even going as far as the non-appearance of the much publicised first commentary of the season on Saturday due to a technical fault (they do happen, even to the BBC). But the decision by Ehab Allam to not renew terms with BBC Radio Humberside because he disapproves of their awkward, irritating knack of questioning his regime (which they generally did fairly, and with balance) is yet another example of his over-inflated sense of worth, a man of incompetence and spite who thinks he is the bees’ knees, and woe betide anyone, such as an experienced local journalist steeped in the objectivity that the BBC always strives to show, who dares to think everything Ehab does is not necessarily flawless nor open to close examination. Dave Burns is clearly upset, judging by his tweets on the subject. He is right to be – even his detractors have been able to admit that they would rather he and his station were there on matchdays than not. We wish Viking 2 well but can’t help but fear they are in cahoots with a truly poisonous client who will prove deleterious to their reputation, and Saturday’s no-show, irrespective of the true reasons for it, felt somehow symbolic of the deal itself.
10. The 2017/18 home kit is quite nice, good work Umbro. Shame it doesn’t have the club’s name on it.