Don't gloat over Manchester City Kaka-ing things up.. all they've done is dare to dream
Published 00:00 21/01/09 By By Oliver Holt
I was sitting in the North Stand at Maine Road, a few rows behind a well-known local character called Helen, with her blonde beehive and the confounded bell she used to ring, when Raddy Antic scored the goal that sent Manchester City down in May 1983.
I was in the away enclosure at Nottingham Forest the previous season when the City fans staged a sit-down protest on the open terraces because their team was playing so badly.
I stood on the balcony of a box at the Platt Lane end during a mate's stag night, aiming catcalls at Paul Dickov - which may or may not have been witless reinterpretations of his surname - while he was warming down after City had taken part in a particularly tepid draw with Walsall.
I saw City batter Hartlepool 6-0 in the FA Cup third round in January 1976 but not before Dennis Tueart had been sent off for decking a ruffian called George Potter with a head butt.
I squirmed when a former Thai prime minister accused of human rights abuses bought the club and Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, sat next to him in the stands at Eastlands grinning like a Cheshire cat.
On Monday night, I stared at my computer, watching the news breaking that City had offered £100m for a footballer and promised to pay him £500,000 a week and had still failed to sign him.
And yesterday morning, I woke up to discover City's proudest possession, the player they had broken the British transfer record to sign, had done a runner from a training camp in Tenerife like a jailbird scaling the prison wall. So it's tempting to fall in with the idea that the humiliation of what's happened with Kaka and Robinho is all part of a pattern.
That it's just a City fan's fate to be doomed to a life of misery punctuated only by bouts of false hope.
That the club is the best in England at one thing and one thing only: shooting itself in the foot with Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum.
This time, they've even managed a new twist. They have allowed themselves to be portrayed as the villains in a morality tale, the men who found out that there are some things money can't buy.
They were the devils sitting on Kaka's right shoulder, whispering temptations into his ear, while the angels on his left shoulder told him to follow his heart.
And, yes, I'm pleased we have finally found a player who thinks there's more to life than sprinting into the arms of the highest bidder.
And, yes, I'm delighted Kaka has sent a message to those who worship blindly at the Premier League's altar of greed that sometimes football is about more than who waves the biggest wad of cash.
But apart from displaying a little naivety, I don't really see what City have done so terribly wrong.
Their biggest crime was getting played for suckers by AC Milan. They got taken so beautifully the whole thing could have been a scene from The Sting.
First, they appeared to accept City's offer for Kaka, then they backed out hailing Kaka as a modern-day saint, then they waltzed all the way to the moral high ground.
When Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi observed that there are some things more important than money, his words should have been accompanied by a bit of Scott Joplin.
Because even if Milan didn't take any money from City, they have run off with a few ingots of their reputation.
It was Milan, don't forget, who talked up what City were willing to pay. If it wasn't for those figures, which City sources say are inaccurate, no one would be damning them for their pursuit of Kaka. They would be praising their ambition.
Sure, City have gone about things in the wrong order.
Kaka should have been the last piece in their jigsaw, not one of the first. Still, I'd have been at Eastlands every other week if he had signed.
I would have loved to see him in the Premier League.
And when City discovered one of the best three players in the world, a man with a great character and a fine temperament, was available, they had to go for him.
A fortnight ago, he would have been a rose among thorns but the furore over Kaka has obscured the fact City boss Mark Hughes has made several excellent signings.
Wayne Bridge is a good attacking left-back, Nigel de Jong is a top-class midfielder and Craig Bellamy . . well, he might be trouble but he is talented trouble.
If Hughes adds to those arrivals with a centre-forward to complement Robinho and a decent central defender, City will finish in the top eight this season.
If he adds more players of real quality in the summer, then City will push for a place in the Champions League.
The season after that, if the owners keep the faith, they will have a real shot at making the top four.
Their sin, because they are desperate to break the pattern of failure, is trying to run before they can walk.
They want to make being a City fan about more than living in the shadow of a domineering giant on the other side of town. They want to make it about more than sporadic relegations, blighted ownership and embraces with mediocrity.
City have suffered their share of rich men's jibes over the years but now they are rich themselves, they are castigated for their wealth.
Their fans deserve some payback for all the years of yearning. The last couple of days have been full of familiar torments but life after Kaka is packed with promise still.