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Published on January 2nd, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman

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Happy New Year 2014, from Swansea (at Lunchtime!)

New Years Day 2014, an away game for the dedicated fan. I’ve been watching City, home and away, all my life, and I have to admit this was one of those fixtures, once it was moved to 12:45 kick off, that was never far from my mind, over the festive period.

The last couple of City games at Swansea haven’t been the best, with no goals scored and just one point achieved by the Blues. As disappointing as that had been, that wasn’t what was lurking in my subconscious.

I’m not exactly the last of the party goers, though there have been many New Years eves in previous years, when I’ve not reached the land of nod until the cusp of daylight, but we’d only had one invitation to party this time around, which was politely declined.

Going to sleep before midnight was never an option. When I was a youngster, we followed the tradition of letting the old year out of the back door and welcoming the new year in through the front door, though not many seen to do that any more. This year, it was my turn to take some coal, silver and bread out, just before midnight and stand on the front step, until Big Ben struck. Hopefully 2014 will be a good year for the Cheesemans.

By the time I’d toasted our friends and family and watched Gary Barlow sing “Back for Good”,it was time for some snatched sleep, but in truth, just light sleep, frequently interrupted by glances at the clock, even though I had set two time pieces to ring incessantly from 5:30am. In the end, I didn’t need them, I was already wide awake by that time, anyway.

Ahead lay 4-5 hours behind the wheel, in each direction, being kept awake by challenging my commentary sidekick Fred Eyre to various quizzes, which I was never destined to win, but might just help keep my brain alert.

We were in South Wales while your hangover was still forming, we’d parked at the Liberty Stadium by 10:45, and I whirled straight into action, interviewing former City striker Clive Allen in the press room, for transmission on BBC Radio Manchester.

I ventured outside then and chatted to two of the many Blues, who had similar stories of sleep deprivation and sacrifice, as me. I asked Hadge and Graham, why they had made the effort to be in South Wales so early (I knew what they’d say before I asked), “….because it’s City. Half past ten in bed, up for five o’clock, City til I die. There’s other New Years but we only play Swansea once. I’d normally go out on New Years Eve and have a drink, but this is loyalty. I don’t regret missing out on the celebrations one bit, my wife might, but not me, not one bit.”

Graham told me he’d had a couple of hours sleep during the evening, then got up for midnight, then back to bed.
I asked the pair how they felt when this fixture was moved to a 12:45 kickoff, for TV coverage. “It’s just modern day football. It wouldn’t have mattered if this was at 5:30, 3 o’clock or 12:45, we’d have been here. TV put the money in, they get their pound of flesh.”

These days, I get paid to make those sacrifices, but for many years I was a fan too. I’d have done the same as those two, and no doubt will do again in the future, if and when I’m no longer doing my dream job. Football fans don’t always get the plaudits they deserve, and City fans in particular are a special breed (but I would say that wouldn’t I?)

City outplayed Swansea, 3-2 didn’t really tell the story of how dominant their performance was. Something special from Yaya Toure restored City’s lead after the Swans battled back, our “big players” stepped up, when needed, yet again.

We listened to the radio on the way back, I’m sure the other travelling Blues did too, and the win in South Wales, plus good company and the entertainment on the wireless, helped keep the desire to sleep stay away, until I was back home.

Fernandinho told me, after the game, he loved listening to BBC Radio Manchester, which was lovely to hear, but, on this occasion, (and we were out of reach of my own station on the M50 and M5!) it was BBC’s 5live that gave us so much pleasure.

Happy New Year Blues, the best fans in all the land and all the World!

– Ian Cheeseman

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