I remember reading somewhere that even after the Abu Dhabi takeover, Ricky Hatton still hankered for the bad old days. The ex-boxing-champ/City fan was probably referring to nostalgic experiences at the old Kippax Stand.

However, if he meant beer-soaked gallows-humour following another crushing defeat, then this season must have offered warm fuzzy feelings for The Hitman and others of a certain age. You know what they say: ‘Nostalgia is a cure for the pain of the present.’ I suffer from this too. Like most, I wish we still had Lakey.

I live in South Korea these days, and despite recent triumphs, it’s often been painful to watch New City except from behind the sofa or through trembling fingers: That defence!

I have often muted the sound, minimised the screen and switched to minute-by-minute text. I feel I have earned the right to do so after over 30 years of suffering since our doomed 1981 cup run. I resorted to Ceefax back then too. (Google Ceefax, kids.)

Fast forward to the present: This season it has been a story of can’t defend, can’t take chances, can’t recover from a goal down. The narratives were mind-numbingly repetitive: dominant, toothless possession, concede to the first shot at goal, rinse and repeat. The compelling reasons for our current malaise, i.e. leaden-footed defenders and a goalkeeper unsuited-to-the-intensity-of-the-league were of course valid gripes.

After Pep’s bright start, the ship ran aground, and it’s hard to see why crew members like Hart and Nasri were jettisoned now. We all have theories. If you have the stomach to endure another theory, feel free to read on. I have two words: unrealistic expectations.

We really should’ve known better than to heed any press blurb of City as contenders this season. It was never happening. After Pellegrini, Pep was always going to take the advice of another Quinn, Homeland’s assassin Peter Quinn:

‘Hit reset’.

The Catalonian has demanded a system reboot that could only be 30% achieved in the first season. The mental software takes time to download, and at least two summer transfer windows are needed to replace the outdated hardware.

However with the recent form of Sane, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, the green shoots of rebirth are there to see.

We, my young friends, are in the painful birth pangs of phase one of the Pep-olution and are currently coughing and spluttering on our foul-tasting but life-giving medicine. We are a weak caterpillar in the larval growth stage. But the bigger picture is crucial. We got glimpses of the future butterfly for 60 minutes against Stretford, ditto v Chelsea and against the might of Messi et al at the Etihad.

Finally, from me, for now, our journey from Ricky Hatton to Rocky Balboa is complete: fans of the movies will remember our well-coiffed hero at first clumsily labouring to replicate Apollo Creed’s slick footwork in the gym. However, once he has the moves, he’s fast as lightning. This is us right now, and we are taking our licks.

Pep is our Apollo: ‘The way to get it back is to go back to the beginning.’



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