1. Defeat and – eventually – little disgrace at Chelsea. City didn’t help themselves, but Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to ensure that contests such as this are acutely unequal. And the first half was as unequal as you could hope to not see. For all of City’s brave talk, the first half precisely resembled a poor Championship side away to Champions League participants. It was tough to watch.
2. Perhaps we should allow limited credit to City for ensuring that a hammering didn’t become a record-breaking rout. Chelsea, aware that Barcelona visit next, didn’t seem too bothered about adding any more goals but City did also smarten themselves up a little, and while drawing a half isn’t an achievement, it was at least an improvement. It was a desperately poor tie to have been given anyway.
3. Elsewhere, our absence from league duty didn’t cause undue harm. Four of the bottom six were in action on Saturday, and none won. City remain outside the bottom three, with a home game in hand on most of them. We may be out of the Cup, but in terms of the Championship it wasn’t a bad weekend.
4. It’d be great to build upon this by taking something from Middlesbrough tomorrow evening. The pre-season title favourites have underachieved this season, but with only five points separating them from sixth place, they won’t have given up just yet. It won’t be easy. But the assured performance at Nottingham Forest nine days ago suggests that we haven’t given up just yet. A point would do just fine, even though unwanted results elsewhere could still see us draw and drop back into the bottom three. But imagine the transformative effect that a second successive win could have…
5. Then it’s Sheffield United. The match first, then the rest. Since cuffing City 4-1 in November their season has gone a little awry, and while we’d gladly swap places with a side in eighth, they must have hoped for more at this stage. It’s therefore a presentable opportunity for three points, three we’re sure to need whatever happens at the Riverside tomorrow. City’s heads may just be above the water at the time of writing, but they’re deep and choppy waters. It’s going to be a big week on the pitch, and by 10pm on Friday we’ll have a good idea of our likely fate.
6. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens off the pitch as well. Anger at the mismanagement of the club continues to swell, and rumours about serious and sustained protests in the forthcoming Sheffield United fixture have grown. Ehab Allam claimed to be in possession of intelligence (yes, we know…) pointing towards a whistle protest during the game, akin to the one Brighton implemented at the Goldstone Ground when City visited in the late 1990s. It’s a cracking idea from a man few ordinarily associate with understanding football fans, and it’d certainly be effective.
7. The big question is whether it should happen. It’s proven predictably divisive. And we absolutely understand why some City fans don’t really fancy it. It’s a bit confrontational, it could interrupt the night’s football – or potentially even terminate it, it’s just all a bit too much. But we’d urge those wavering supporters to look at the paucity of options now open to City fans. Talking to the Allams doesn’t work, because they refuse to listen. For years they’ve been told what we want, and they haven’t acted. You cannot reason with fundamentally unreasonable men. We can’t even trust their promises to begin a process of meaningful change, because Assem Allam repeatedly promised not to try to change City’s name without consultation, only to renege upon this pledge within days. However, we know that protests affect them. The stress balls against Forest earlier in the season dragged them to the table. So why not?
7a. There are two arguments you can summon against it, and neither really stack up. Firstly, it affects the team. Except that no evidence exists for that. Lack of investment in players affects the team; fans driven to desperation by negligent owners does not. And the second argument is that City will be harshly punished for a disrupted game. And again, that isn’t supported by facts. Coventry City, Leyton Orient, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic have all staged in-game protests in recent times. Can anyone remember the sanctions handed down to them? Exactly. Ehab’s suggestion of points deductions and/or games being played behind closed doors is ridiculous scaremongering designed to suppress dissent, because no precedent exists for such drastic punishments.
8. So on balance, we have no issue with protests on Friday. Something needs doing – we cannot simply let the Allam family drive this club to the wall. Those planning the protests should still tread carefully, if only for their own sake. But if they want to proceed, then so be it.
9. It’s truly astonishing that the mere prospect of supporter protest led to Ehab seriously considering not selling tickets for the game, and only yielded seven days before the fixture itself. What the hell kind of dysfunctional football club genuinely ponders not selling tickets for its own fixtures? The Allams have done a lot of incredibly stupid things, but this could have been right up there.
10. There’ll be no Amber Nectar podcast tonight – we’re going to leave it until Wednesday to incorporate the Middlesbrough fixture instead. Meanwhile, we’ve a bit of an anniversary coming up on that day as well – stand by for a trip down memory lane…