The edge. The edge of The Zone.
Without a shadow of a doubt, dear old loveable rough-and-tumble laugh out loud Manchester City face in the next week and a half their snow-clad Eiger. North Face. Blizzard conditions. Dodgy crampons. No sandwiches. Funny loss of feeling in left foot. Only a beige Balotelli hand hat to keep you warm. This is it. The meaty part of the season. You can almost smell the sizzling hamstrings from here.
|Drugs, violence, insanity? Let's give it a go.|
Life can be dreadfully tough.
Steadying ourselves, it is perhaps right to say, we are slightly, very slightly ahead of schedule. The remit was 4th place. Champions League qualification. The reality, as it presents itself to me tonight through the haze of a very decent bottle of Quinta da Alorna Reserva, is that City sit in 3rd place, are to play Dynamo Kiev for a place in the last eight of the Europa league and have Reading as guests on Sunday for a semi final berth not experienced since the days, the glorious days of Tommy Hutch, Joe Corrigan and Nicky Reid. Excuse me whilst I wipe away a tear.
|"And Martin, the smell of European glory...Intoxicating?"|
City's current form might not suffice. On a grand global scale, sneaked 1-0 wins over frightened Wigan and desperate home draws with Fulham do not a Dublin knees-up make. Yet, there is still room for optimism. United have lost to Wolves, Chelsea and Liverpool , banishing the sweeping-luck-before-them epithets clean out the window and down to the bottom of the drive. Last seen being buried enthusiastically by the neighbour's afghan, slathering and panting as it went. Arsenal, being Arsenal, are dizzyingly, maddeningly once again embarking on a series of intricate one-two-three-fours that will see them sink without trace. Their sterling efforts against Birmingham and Barcelona reveal their penchant for slapstick with no return is alive and well. Bizarrely, the big threat comes from behind in the form of the stampeding buffalo that is Chelsea, a wet, angry beast emerging from the Zambeze with a feather dart in its bottom. So often and so thoroughly written off by the great and good that they must be contenders, as sure as Mark Clattenberg's middle name is Narcissus Maximus.
|John Terry centre parting|
So things are shaping up nicely. Whilst the cocksure leaders stand gauchely on their own toes, whilst the commentators search grimly for a new angle on this "season of all seasons", whilst Jamie Redknapp considers the prospect of literally shooting himself in the buttocks, we can all still dream. Of Dublin, of Wembley, of jam roly poly with custard. City carry us magnificently into the tail-end of the season, dragging tired limbs but pulling on the resources of the most eager set of terrace dreamers since hope began. Limbs may be heavy, time may be short, but those going that extra furlong are about to be rewarded with a brass plate or two.
..."The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."