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By Joe Hefferan (@JoeGolazo / @laheffs)

Having been a Manchester City fan for the short 14-and-a-half years of my life, in 2012, I had become used to what is known to Man City fans as Typical City’. ‘Typical City’, a phrase taught to me by my Dad, a City fan for over 50 years, was a phrase used by Man City fans to encapsulate the underachieving and almost comical nature of the club since its previous major trophy victories in 1968 (First Division) and 1969 (FA Cup). ‘Typical City’ was a phrase that still loomed over the club and amongst the supporters, despite the emphatic FA Cup win in 2011, as City still struggled to live up to the standards that they had previously set. Paradoxically, the Citizens had dominated big games against title rivals such as Manchester United, thrashed by 6-1 earlier that season, but had faced poor losses against relegation candidates such as Sunderland – a historical 1-0 debacle at home, thanks to a great last-minute finish from the South Korean poacher, Ji Dong-Won.

It felt like City were by far the best team in England, but there was a lack of killer instinct at times – a lethargy that bred amongst the players when they faced these ‘lesser’ sides. In the last matches of the league, I had witnessed City shake off this notion, clawing back at Man. United’s 8-point deficit in a matter of a month. This left us with what was effectively another cup final, a last opportunity, in our hands. Against, you guessed it, another relegation-battling side: Queens Park Rangers. My family picked me up on the morning of the 13th of May 2012 from my boarding school, and, despite my overwhelming optimism that City would get that desperately-needed win, I knew all too well that it would be far from being a simple procedure.

After a 3-hour drive to the match (which I had been accustomed as a season ticket holder living near Oxford), we found a parking spot near the Etihad stadium. The walk to the stadium was incredible; chants and flags suffocated the terraces and walkways surrounding the grounds. After absorbing as much of that exuberant mood as we could, my family and I proceeded up the spiral walkway and to our seats, to beat the rush before the start of the match. As the whistle blew to signal the kick-off, I felt quiet confident. My Dad and I both agreed that starting the Argentinian partnership of Tevez and Aguero, who had led us back to the top of league, would be too much for Anton Ferdinand and Co. to deal with. Surely.

Below: my mum and I in the Etihad. 

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The first 35 minutes of the game were quite a cagey affair; the stadium had heard of Wayne Rooney’s early opener at Sunderland and City fans felt slightly uneasy. Still, City were looking to push forward and grab a goal before half-time, and so they did. Pablo Zabaleta, a true warrior and club symbol, was threaded in by Yaya Touré. After his drilled shot deflected off Paddy Kenny’s initial parry, the ball looped over and collided with the post and into the net. Only one word can describe the feeling in the stadium as the net rippled: Elation. Going into half-time, City were on top, both in the match and on goal difference in the league, despite Man. United’s lead against Sunderland. Everything was going to plan and we had the momentum we needed.

14 year old me could be described as someone who wasn’t thinking straight at this point. A year earlier, in half-time during the FA Cup final, I decided to take a quick trip to the men’s room, in order to avoid going when it was crowded. Halfway through my visit there, I was met by the roar of 40,000 Man City fans as Yaya Touré smashed in the piledriving winner of the game. So, just before the second half started, clearly learning from my mistakes, I decided to do the same thing. Except this time, I wasn’t met with the roar of 40,000 City fans, rather a few thousand QPR fans. My heart sank as I ran up the stairs to see the scoreboard read 1-1. Djibril Cissé had latched onto a mistake by Joleon Lescott and fired past Joe Hart. The frustration was eminent amongst the fans; we had been on top all game and faltered due to a silly mistake. My Dad proceeded to mention that my jinx had worked in the opposition’s favour this time, and that filled me with even more anxiety: if City lost, would I be to blame?

The match showed no signs of slowing down. Former City fan favourite Joey Barton decided to stay true to his reputation of being a walking contradiction, elbowing and kneeing current fan favourites Tevez and Aguero, both infuriating and pleasing City fans, as he left QPR a man light. But then, out of nowhere, a flying header from Jamie Mackie landed City 2-1 down. I’m certain that at this point Martin Tyler made a direct reference to ‘Typical City’, while I uttered it under my own breath. City faced the impossible. QPR were camped in their own half as City opened barrage upon barrage on Paddy Kenny, who, by the way, seemed to have meta-morphed into a bald, Irish version of Manuel Neuer. Even the introduction of the enigmatic duo of Balotelli and Dzeko couldn’t help us break through. My Dad sat with his head in his hands, my Mother and Sister cried and all the grown men and women around us, who had been through 44 years of pain, also cried and berated the efforts of the players. On the contrary though, I did not cry. I kept encouraging our players to push on. These players were my heroes, and even though they had let me down before during that season, I knew that they wouldn’t let me down on the biggest of occasions.

There’s another notion that is kept amongst the City fans along with ‘Typical City’, which is ‘We fight ‘til the End’. This was my mantra for the final five minutes of added time. A minute of added time passed and City had a corner. I didn’t have much faith left as David Silva stepped up to whip it in, since I couldn’t remember the last time we had scored from a corner, that season. But as the ball left Silva’s foot, it was destined to hit Dzeko’s head (or shoulder… you never know with Edin, most of the time when he scored the ball just hit him and went in). A lifeline emerged, and City fans who had been walking to the exit heard the cheers and quickly rushed back to their seats. Two or three more attacks left’ I thought, as Nigel De Jong picked up the ball from deep and pushed forward, passed it to Aguero, who played a 1-2 with Balotelli to receive the ball in box… and the rest…well, the rest is history. unnamed-1.jpg

Above: what can only be described as one of the best days of my life. 

I have never and will never experience a feeling like that ever again, I’m sure. I was hugging and crying into the shoulders of random strangers who I had thought were my family, but had actually leaped forward from the row behind us. It didn’t matter, it really didn’t. The pitch filled with fans and flares, and the loudest rendition of Blue Moon I had ever heard rung out in The Etihad. I went back to boarding school that evening with a homemade ‘Champions 2012’ shirt, as I told this story to my mates after lights out.

A day I’ll never forget and the best footballing moment that, as Martin Tyler said, any of us will see in our lifetime. ‘Typical City’ was no more.

Joe is a diehard MCFC fan, and a lifelong season ticket holder. He has a great passion for football and creative writing, which he shares via his Twitter account.

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