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The Etihad Exodus: disrespectful or justified?

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After yesterday’s 2-2 draw against third place Arsenal, Manchester City fans were ridiculed by opposition fans for not staying behind to show their appreciation to Manuel Pellegrini and his team.

It’d be something of an understatement to call the stadium slightly empty after full-time. I mean, the surfer flag that City had prepared could barely be held, let alone surfed. I stayed, but a large amount of City fans didn’t, and the question must be asked: was this wrong or was it justified?

Let’s be honest, City fans will be split between Pellegrini’s tenure being successful and it being not. Some will argue it took us backwards, not even sideways. The Chilean brought three trophies in three years to the Etihad, but bearing in mind our league campaigns this year and last, was it really enough to deserve over 50,000 City fans staying behind to applaud?

There’s two real sides of the debate to this consider and I appreciate both.

There’s the side that says Pellegrini led us to glory on three occasions, winning the Premier League in the 2013/14 season and capturing the Capital One Cup twice. That’s got to be worthy of some respect, hasn’t it? If you look at it on the surface, then yeah, it probably warranted the full backing of our fans. We played some truly remarkable football, including over 100 goals in Pellegrini’s first season – a huge achievement in itself.

However, there’s the other side of the coin. If you think beyond year one of the Pellegrini era, and if you have watched City constantly this season, then perhaps it didn’t deserve a full stadium. There have been flashes of excitement, but too often it has been dull and frustrating. We’ve picked up a massive 7 points out of a possible 42 against the top 8 this season, and quite frankly that’s embarrassing for a club of our standing. Many of the players lacked fight, and a number of them will have known they are leaving. Pellegrini himself spoke a lot of nonsense to the press to excuse the regular poor performances. Don’t get me wrong, I wish Pellegrini well, but his leadership at City has come to a horrible, car crash finale with the very real danger of no Champions League qualification.

Football fans often think short-term, and they will have certainly noted the performances of late when making their decision to stay or not – this may go towards explaining why so many left before the lap of appreciation. There were other contributing factors, such as the announcement that the players wouldn’t be out for a good 15 minutes, during which time City tried to shine some light on the season by parading the under-18 title.

And the question must be asked: why should fans stay and show their appreciation when the players so often don’t return the gesture? I’ve spent my hard earned cash plenty of times this season following City up and down the country, to other countries too, and what appreciation do we receive? The occasional clap if we win and players regularly heading down the tunnel immediately after the whistle without acknowledging the support (“captain” Yaya, you were often a culprit). There were only a few players in that squad this season that deserved the fans’ recognition come the end of yesterday’s game.

It’s simple: the patience of many fans had worn thin having seen players pick and choose when they wanted to give it their all, as well as stubbornness from the manager and his failure to adapt as others did. With a season like this fresh in the minds of fans, were those who left really obligated to stay?

Call us fickle, call us disloyal, call us whatever you want because we know this isn’t the case, and you probably also do deep down. With no empty seats to count yesterday, perhaps people needed something else to moan about.

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