My Hopes For 2022By Howard Hockin | 02 January 2022
And so it’s over. The year we all hoped and expected to be better than the staggeringly crap year that preceded it, but wasn’t. We go again. Hopefully this time our expectations are met. For City fans, with one big exception (the Carabao Cup exit, obv) the year was something of a triumph. More records broken, more trophies won, more rival fans bored into submission. But what of 2022? What do I hope for in the next 12 months in the wacky world of football? Well, let’s find out.
And talking of being bored….
Sorry, sorry, sorry, but I will try not to send you into a coma, by drilling down to the essence of my issue with VAR. To repeat myself, VAR is not inherently flawed. It can be whatever you want it to be, dealing with every throw-in dispute or just for clear offsides.
The issue is the tampering with the bar of what it covers, and how that bar is now too high. The clear and obvious rule is key to its failings.
In the old days, if a referee made a mistake in a match, you moaned, called him useless, biased, illegitimate and then got on with your life. VAR simply exacerbates some mistakes now, because this system that was supposed to eradicate them (or so I was told) can now choose to ignore them because said mistake was not clear or obvious enough to overrule the referee’s decision. So it is worse when you see a referee give a wrong decision (as is inevitable now and then, they are human after all), we have video referees backing up the game, they look at it, then do nothing. Making a bad situation worse, and infuriating a fan base further.
Lower that bar. Use technology. Make games fairer, and make decisions consistent. You are not undermining referees by doing so, you are helping them.
And the players can take some responsibility too. Remember that Respect campaign? Moving the ball forward 10 yards for dissent? That went well, didn’t it? And whilst we’re talking about respect, perhaps TV stations could show some too. The staggering shit show that was BT Sport’s coverage of Arsenal v City at the weekend, is just one way VAR is disparaged even when it is used correctly, and all this helps undermine referees. Because have no doubt, my problems with VAR were not evidenced during this match, when the match officiating both remote and on the pitch got everything right.
Misconceptions over the system don’t help, when you have McManaman and Keown, being paid huge wedges of money to sit in front of a microphone and after years of VAR they still seem to have no idea what it is used for. There was genuine shock during the Arsenal game from these clowns that it was being used to look at a penalty appeal! They don’t even realise after all this time that VAR is looking at other things – just because it isn’t flashed up on a big screen didn’t mean this isn’t happening. And all this feeds into the general public’s perception of the process. And inevitably, to loons spouting conspiracy theories (see later).
So please, let’s attempt to get this right. Educate those that influence, and try and get more consistency. It’s here to stay, let’s make it work the best we can. Starting right now.
A striker at Manchester City!
Stating the obvious. The theory that a football team can operate best and rule the world without a single recognised striker in its squad is nonsense – well, I am yet to be convinced it can succeed over a long period of time. City are inherently weakened by not having one, but thankfully this is negated by having a bone fide genius as a manager.
Jack Grealish Reaches His Full Potential
Which he will.
Win The League
Always the priority, always will be.
Winning four out of five leagues would be a staggering achievement, whatever anyone else outside the City bubble may say. Forget the whinging Klopp, bemoaning his tiny squad of plucky part-timers, Covid, fixture congestion or just the length of the grass at opposition grounds. League titles have to be earned, and fought for, over a nine-month period.
But hey, win the Champions League too. If choosing at the start of the season to pick one, if City could only win one, I would pick the Champions League simply because of what it will mean for the club, the players, the manager, and it will take a huge weight off a lot of shoulders. But any season where City win their domestic league is for me, automatically, an outright success, whatever happens elsewhere.
City are less boring
As Joao Cancelo shimmied away from a Newcastle player, strode forward, evaded another challenge before firing a shot into the top corner from 25 yards, I turned to a friend of mine and exclaimed, “god this is boring”.
He nodded, sagely.
Most points in a calendar year? Boring.
Most away wins in a calendar year? Boring.
Top of the league again? Boring.
Topped our Champions League group, as per usual? Boring.
Won the most games in a calendar year in the history of football, stretching back to 1888? Boring.
Come on Pep, liven things up. Ederson on the left wing, Raheem Sterling in defence, and bid £30m for Phil Jones.
A Disastrous World Cup
I really hope it’s an unmitigated failure. It should not be held there, and it should not be held in December either. Awarding the World Cup to Qatar was all the confirmation we needed about just how corrupt football is. And I hope those whose palms were greased to make this happen are exposed further for what they are.
But ultimately, money talks, across the sport. That’s why Arsene Wenger, the football purist, who rallied against all things City in the twilight of his managerial career, has now sold his soul to act as a shill for FIFA, and is helping the push for a World Cup every two years, something few sane football fans want. But apparently it’s all about the kids, and they’re all for it. Bollocks. PR drivel, to excuse a blatant push for more money and more power for a select few. And all the while, David Beckham, down to his last £3 billion or so, is acting as an ambassador for the World Cup too. What a world we live in. Hashtag – game’s gone.
Bernardo Silva falls in love with drizzle
Self-explanatory. We need him to stay. For many more years. It is thought that due to climate change, Manchester will have a Mediterranean climate by the year 2040. So with every passing year, it becomes easier to persuade him that this is the place to be.
File with: new contract for Pep – which goes without saying.
Newcastle United To Stay Up
I’ll be honest, I am a bit torn with this one, as I have to admit that seeing the world’s richest football club get relegated would be rather funny. But ultimately, I think it’s better they stay up, spend big, and become the newest kid on the block to unsettle and hopefully displace the old status quo. What’s not to like about that?
Of course in some people’s eyes this makes me an apologist for middle eastern barbarity and the like. But my reasoning is far more detached than that. The takeover has happened. Nothing I or you can do about it. The source of this money is already awash in the UK economy. A football club is different some will shout, but it’s not my club, so I don’t care. And the beauty of takeovers like this, of new money disrupting a system carefully constructed to maintain power and success for a select few “old money” clubs is too beautiful to ignore. Any success for Newcastle will take years to come to fruition. One day, this takeover may hamper City’s success, if the club is run well, but it would still be worth it. Football would be better with a level playing field. But we have never had one, and we never will. And Newcastle United were not successful at the right time, like many others, so can only compete one way – with huge investment. And if that annoys billionaire Americans who would happily turn the English game into a private, no-relegation league, then so be it.
Arsenal To Keep Up Their Resurgence
There seems little logic to this when you consider their fan base, but the simple consequence of this happening is that Manchester United will finish outside the top 4. So it is a sacrifice worth making. United need a complete revamp, as per usual. Whilst many of their fans still labour under the illusion that their club has the biggest pull of any in the world, they are of course kidding themselves. Play in the Europa League (again) next season, and they’ll soon realise just how far their star has waned.
IF – IF – City Win The League, Then Secure It At Home
Despite what many are saying, as tears trickle down their cheeks, the title race is not over. Though beautiful, beautiful Rodri has brought it one step closer to Manchester. But should City win the league, it would be nice to do it in front of a home City crowd. It’s been a while, as traditionally United hand us the league due to their own incompetence.
Football Supporters Regain Their Sanity
As we hopefully get our old lives back and fall into traditional routines, hopefully many of the fans who lost their minds in 2020 and 2021 will regain at least a modicum of sanity. To put it in blunt terms we can all understand, what a vast swamp of fuckwits seem to follow the sport. Norwich fans booing Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish. Leicester City fans calling out City’s support, clackers in hand. Brentford fans heckling Phil Foden as he does post-match interviews pitch-side because they felt he dived to win free kicks, whilst their own players feel to the ground regularly from little more than a slight breeze in their vicinity. Net spend, empty seats, bald frauds, the list goes on.
I don’t even think many football fans even enjoy the sport, if their online presence is anything to go by. They’re just grifters desperate for attention. Fucking grow up. Sensible football discourse is at an all-time low, and it is only getting worse. There can be no better example of this than the fact that there are millions of supposed football fans out there can still not accept Pep Guardiola might be a very good manager. It is beyond embarrassing. I may think Jurgen Klopp is a c**t (at times), but i know a great manager when I see one. And he is one.
Fans can come together – and they have never need to more than right now. In the past they have campaigned for cheaper tickets for fans, and this year they tackled food poverty and achieved wonderful things. We all share a common passion, but sometimes it is impossible to recognise that by what you see and read.
But come on, what a complete waste of time the last few paragraphs have been – they were little more than excuse for me to have another whinge. Football fans are not going to get better, saner, or throw off the shackles of tribalism. It’s all here to stay.
Adult Football Coverage
The signs are there. Monday Night Football analysis, which is mirrored in smaller snippets on Match Of The Day. Proper football analysis. Tactics, player analysis, the essence of football basically. Things are getting better. But it’s still nowhere good enough.
I have said for years that much of the football coverage we receive treats football fans like idiots, which becomes self-fulfilling. Thankfully the internet has ensured that there is loads of quality analysis away from the mainstream media, but perhaps if BT Sport spent more time on the tactics of a fascinating match rather than talking about a VAR decision, the sport would be better off for it.
But perhaps there is simply not the demand for it. When you have cretins on AFTV saying City have paid off VAR, where is there to go? These platforms are successful for a reason, and perhaps the level of coverage we have got right now, exemplified by a panel of Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal fans sitting round a table discussing how City will never be a big club, is simply giving the fans what they want. Because when City are consistently better than their team, who used to be the best, then the last thing they want to hear is the truth, the last thing they want to confront is reality.
So let’s pretend instead. Let’s distract.
And yes I have moaned about much of football in this blog, and perhaps that is a sign of the times, in an uncertain world where I cannot be more upbeat despite following one of the most ridiculously good teams in world football. But perhaps I have got all this the wrong way round. Perhaps my hope for 2022 should be for this level of coverage to continue. And for one very good reason.
This is what City have reduced rival fan bases to, and large swathes of the media too. That BT analysis only happens for City, because it’s all they’ve got left now. A vague sense of injustice after a solitary match. Counting empty seats. Net spends. Soulless jibes, asterisks next to trophies, this coverage exists because Pep and his team have BROKEN them. And that’s the bottom line.
Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?
P.S. As I have said before, Match Of The Day, when you show match highlights, show the bloody highlights in their entirety so that we get an idea of how the game went, rather than leaving incidents and chances out of the edit so that you can use them for your analysis during the studio discussion. It’s infuriating. Imagine watching cricket highlights and they didn’t show three dropped catches because they wanted to do a segment on bad fielding afterwards?
That’s what we all surely want above all else? Forget everything else, copy and cut it. All my whinging counts for nothing, as always. This is my sole hope for 2022, even if my optimism is not sky-high, considering I expressed a similar sentiment a year ago.
But I’m not here to predict the future, but to express hope for what follows. That we feel normal. That life feels normal. That we learn to live with IT. That I can get on a packed tram after a match and not feel anxious, claustrophobia excepted. When a man coughing on a tram doesn’t send me into a two-week spiral of anxiety. That we get to live our 2019 life again. No more games in empty stadiums ever again, please, except for racists. I don’t know when this utopian world will present itself, but it will happen. We will move on, and we will learn to live life to the full again. And enjoy our football for what it is, without the side issues. When all that will matter is the need for another left-back. I long for that day.
All the best for 2022, here’s to better times. Up the berluddy fantastic blues!