Heart to Hart

Heart to Hart

If history is truly written by the winners, no party involved with the Joe Hart saga will be able to place anything on record. There are only losers as the situation plays out, drawing to an uncomfortable conclusion for the main protagonists.

The questions and doubt continue to reign. Is Pep Guardiola justified or making a mistake? Hearts break watching Hart face an uncertain future, Claudio Bravo arrives facing a lukewarm reception, and fans cry to the club’s better nature at the treatment of a true legend. Amidst the confusion, some answers are already obvious.

The first, and clearest, is that months before Pep pitched up in Manchester, Joe’s cards had been marked. A poor showing in the Euros acted as a catalyst to enact the bold step of removing England’s number one from the club. Most fans never expected to see Willy Caballero play for City again, all along Pep was plotting this exact fate for Hart.

Wednesday’s Champions League tie was the managers farewell gift, not a glimmer of hope that if Hart stayed he could fight for his place. This act made the manager contradict his former statement on Hart about being prepared to work with the ‘keeper to improve his game, if he stayed.

However, Guardiola shouldn’t be made into the bad guy here. He made a judgement call. All managers have to; the best ones aren’t scared to make the big ones. If he has politicked a little, it was to keep an air of professionalism when facing the sensationalist tabloid press.

If City fans harbour some dislike, it’s because of what Joe Hart represents rather than a judgement on his ability. He belongs to an elite group (Zabaleta, Kompany and Agüero) that appear to love the club. They get City. Pulling on the shirt for players like Hart has been about more than collecting a pay cheque or doing a job. It’s been a love affair.

And that love is reciprocated in the stands, as proven on Wednesday. In singing for Joe, the fans always brought to attention one uncomfortable truth. Maybe he wasn’t good enough? The reworking of the Billy Ray Cyrus song, “Achy Breaky Heart”, to “Don’t Sell Joe Hart” is now a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its existence a case for Pep’s defence when he’s accused of making a kneejerk reaction.

If Hart was beyond reproach as a top class ‘keeper, why did the fans feel the need to create this song for the benefit of a former manager? The doubts about Hart’s pedigree have been around for some time. He’s weathered storms in the past but a fresh manager had zero attachment to any member of the squad. Pep agreed with the doubters and acted immediately.

Bravo’s arrival is the nail in Joe’s coffin that had been halfway in for some time. City may well have upgraded – at a bargain price – and now make the step forward in Europe. But the Chilean can’t afford a less than stellar start to his City career.

Fans know he isn’t here for City. He’d play for Leicester City if Pep was manager at the King Power. That’s fine, but it says more about the future of the club and its detachment from core players, its fundamentals and values.

Aside from an attitude problem, an existing player at a top club, that has contributed heavily to championships and aided the growth of the whole organisation, should be given a fair chance.

Any areas of Hart’s ability that haven’t improved at an acceptable rate are down to coaching rather than his lack of potential or professionalism. Gaps in his game – like playing sweeper-keeper – can be blamed on the management, or lack of, from previous regimes. Do you really think Manuel Pellegrini ever tried to enhance Joe’s overall game? He didn’t even send his outfield players out with clear instruction.

Pep is in the unique position of being almost untouchable. He could finish outside of the top six and the hierarchy would continue to believe in his project. With such a period of grace he can afford to take six months to develop the players already in Manchester. Surely the club expect a manager on a contract that exceeds £12m-a-year to hone existing talent.

Not everyone that stood up for Joe Hart Wednesday night has always been an advocate of his ability. This doesn’t make them hypocrites. He has made mistakes and his distribution has been a poor aspect of his game that many have criticised over the years.

But he holds the record for number of Premier League golden gloves and any sense that Hart hasn’t improved over the years is ill-founded. It’s heart-breaking that the world will never find out what a bit of Pep polish could have done for a legendary City goalkeeper.

Instead of deciding to work things through, Guardiola has called time on matters.

It’s now like a relationship that doesn’t feel over but the other party declares is unsalvageable. The only thing the rejected person can see is how much there is left to fight for, how much can be saved. They picture a future with many more moments, rivalling the best from the past before going on to exceed those highs. Begging and frustration vie with confusion, clouding logic and analytical thinking.

The party cutting the strings is completely emotionally detached, to the point they lose sight of pure logic which leads to reinforced stubbornness.

You have to move on because there is no alternative but it leaves a void that never finds closure.

That painful gap in City’s heart will be Hart shaped. The fans and player parted ways emotionally, both powerless to stop the wheels that had been put in motion by others, but it wasn’t a comfortable farewell. It was awkward and the demands for reconciliation fruitless.

No future success will ever remove the memory of losing a legend before his time.

Homage to Revolution

Homage to Revolution

An unstable Europe, led by an unelected totalitarianism regime, is divided, facing an uncertain future with opposing fundamental ideologies, without a clear roadmap for moving forward. A fitting post-Brexit statement, proving the essence of history repeats itself, but one that sums up the 1930s world that George Orwell found himself.

Animal Farm is the best political allegory ever written. Nineteen Eighty-Four, his final novel, is almost prophetic. So what were the real life experiences that motivated him? Homage to Catalonia offers some insight into this, serving as a tool for him to recount his time in the Spanish Civil War.

If one is tempted to read this book for an exploration into intense battlefield activities, then it will not sate that appetite. There are rare occasions Orwell describes running the enemy line and taking ground, but as he explains early on, from his first-hand experience, war is mainly boring.

That’s not to say the young Orwell was eager to avoid conflict; his apparent bloodlust to kill a fascist may shock some. But that particular title for the enemy has taken on different ramifications over the years. Say “Nazi” and “Fascist” today, and two different responses will be evoked. To the Orwell of 1938, the evil was equal, the ideology just as dangerous.

It is this fear that means the option to not intervene was unthinkable. He joins the POUM and goes to the frontline with them. His original intention to write as a journalist passing immediately. What becomes apparent from the start is how ill-equipped the revolutionists are. After days of drill, he notes there is no weapons class because they lack any firearms to train with.

None of the disarray deters Orwell. Indeed, in the early chapters the rag-tag outfits parade the streets as a symbol for hope and change. Those that would oppose chose to wear working class garments to go undetected.

The accounts reflect, how after 115 days on the frontline, the class divisions have returned to the streets and the revolution isn’t as strong. During his leave from the front, he is involved in a stand-off, with opposing forces occupying neighbouring buildings, all with gentlemen’s agreements in place. Agreements he sees as fickle as the unity between parties.

Upon returning to action, a gunshot wound to his throat sees him leave conflict for good. He decides to depart Spain but the POUM are declared illegal and a suppression against their members means he has to evade detection. This further underlines the falsehoods and lies such wars bring about. He worries that those still fighting are being turned into scapegoats despite having honourable intentions.

Homage to Catalonia isn’t a perfect body of work, the language can become repetitive, proving, no matter the talent, there is a vast difference between journalism and storytelling. And his accounts here do not fill in the complete picture, he warns as much, but it’s an important snippet.

What is clear is the admiration he has for the Spanish people. Their generosity is highlighted on multiple occasions and he describes them as too noble (and albeit, too ill efficient) to serve a successful totalitarian regime.

His wider opinions aren’t explored in great depth. The arrival in Spain speaks volumes enough, and description included for democracy as the centralised swindling machine, shows he wasn’t fighting against communism, as he later would with words, but fighting with people to bring about change.

In time an extensive American propaganda machine would colour our perception of what communism was to the point it holds no value. In this raw, 1938 release, we see Orwell’s disillusionment with all methods to control the masses through misdirection.

That’s not to say he didn’t criticise the communist control of press but even papers back home in London failed to deliver true accounts, and on many occasion out-right lied about events in the Civil War. His views during this time have been labelled as Trotskyism but it’s fair to say Orwell had a democratic socialist heart that stood to fight totalitarianism.

Those efforts must have felt wasted in the immediate aftermath of his journey but sometimes making a stand is enough to ensure evil never wins. Franco may have retained power, but the damage inflicted from the resistance saved Spain in the long run.

By the time World War II arrived, Spain was crippled. Despite being in Germany’s pocket for over $215m of aid during the Spanish Civil War, they couldn’t align with a natural allied force. Even though Franco was receptive, he eventually submitted demands to Hitler he knew would be refused, sparing Spain further decline.

Without the anarchist’s intervention in the 1930s, Spain would easily have become an extension of Nazi Germany, possibly sending the whole world into a fascist state.

The fight for principles bared fruit in the passage of time.

Orwell couldn’t have foreseen how future decades would be shaped following his contribution to the Spanish Civil War but he strongly believed in standing against the opposing ideology. His future works would perfectly surmise complex political systems and falsities in simple terms. Homage to Catalonia lays bare the human cost of these deceptions and the lengths men will go to when protecting ideas.

Orwell demonstrates why revolution in the face of certain paradigm shifts is not only brave – it’s necessary.

What £100m means in Manchester

What £100m means in Manchester

The two clubs baring Manchester in their name have both spent big this summer. But that is where the similarity ends. In the centre of Manchester, Pep Guardiola has spread his cash as he rebuilds and reimagines The Citizens style of play. Over in Trafford, their new man at the helm José Mourinho, also faces a reshaping job. But he has decided to take a big, singular gamble. There is a reason for these two differing approaches.

The irony of United being the club to break the world transfer record, when it was “City ruining football” with their accelerated growth period, won’t go unnoticed with football fans around the country. But the protracted Paul Pogba transfer is the peak of a continued period of United high-spending.

Moyes, Van Gaal, and now Mourinho, have all been supported by the Glazers in the transfer market.

The ethics of a £100m move have been widely discussed. Regardless of opinion, the truth is football’s finance has been heading this way for a long time. The new TV money should have found its way back to the pockets of fans but this was always going to be difficult when chairman saw it as a way to increase the ransoms on their top players.

Juventus have only done what Everton have been trying for the last two summers, and this despite the Goodson Park outfit benefitting from the increased TV revenue and a new, presumably richer, owner. The Italian club have a tighter budget, if they hadn’t broken the world record fee with United’s money, Real Madrid would have stepped in and come close.

What makes the move murkier for United, are the reports the Frenchman preferred a move to the Spanish giants. A few eyebrows must have been raised from Sir Alex Ferguson to Sir Bobby Charlton, when the realisation hit home that a player who left for a tribunal fee, looked to be returning, somewhat underwhelmed, for a world record fee.

The debate about whether he is worth the fee is null and void. The moment a club are willing to pay a price, that is the market value.

What the Pogba debacle does, is detract attention from United’s net summer spend. The positive press campaign focuses on four acquisitions, one of them Zlatan Ibrahimovic for absolutely nothing. A player of such quality on a free transfer is more than a bargain, the only doubts surround his ability to step up from the tamer French league to the tough English season at the age of 34.

The other half of Mourinho’s summer quartet are Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. At a combined fee of £68m they are hardly cheap supplements to the lofty pursuit of Pogba.

This is where the Manchester divide became a chasm over the summer.

As it stands City, who admittedly are still seeking reinforcements, have spent £114m and recouped £10m. Both of those figures are set to rise, with the imbalance increasing on the expenditure side of the equation.

For the price of one Pogba, City have brought in six new faces and still have over £60m to go before equalling United’s outgoings. This is without acknowledging the offloading process City are going through which is trickling some cash back into the coffers.

The reason the alternative approaches are so glaring is because both clubs had the same problem: they need complete overhauls.

José Mourinho even commented lately that he needed twenty players to undo the damage inflicted from the Louis Van Gaal era, and that his approach differed so wildly, it would take many new faces to adjust the style.

So why place all his faith in one big summer signing?

Because he lacks a luxury only Pep Guardiola can boast in the modern world of football: time.

The Spaniard holds a major advantage over José and it isn’t a bigger cheque book or even a better youth system. It’s the lack of urgency for immediate results. The Etihad board didn’t allow the Pellegrini era end with a canter to then make a kneejerk reaction with their long-term managerial target.

Guardiola knows he can take his time developing new signings like Marlos Moreno without fearing the need for instant success. That’s not to say he can fail to achieve minimum targets. Champions League qualification is a must to the big clubs. But even failure to meet that wouldn’t necessarily cost Pep his job.

Mourinho is breathing the air of a different planet. He is a proven manager that suddenly has everything to prove. After the Chelsea sacking, he can’t afford a slow start, let alone a disappointing season. He didn’t have the support of the entire United board but he was seen as a necessary evil.

That conjoined dilemma of club and man brought them together. Now they face a future where development gives way to desperation in the transfer market.

Mourinho is in the casino, play for high stakes risks, and Pogba is one big throw of the dice.

His inner-city rival can smile and take cab journeys with fans instead. He has the time to send players like Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus on loan, not worry about Ilkay Gündogan’s lengthy injury, or bend to transfer fee demands he feels excessive. And all the time he works the current crop – whom many now seek redemption – into his mould.

Leicester proved last year that money doesn’t guarantee success, this season Manchester will see if patience pays dividends.

Vardy right to remain but Kante Seen Chelsea Move Coming

Vardy right to remain but Kante Seen Chelsea Move Coming

N’Golo Kante has made a £30m switch to London club Chelsea, threatening the start of a break-up of Leicester’s title winning team. At first glance, it makes Jamie Vardy’s choice to reject an approach from Arsenal all the more puzzling. At the time it was believed this was made after consulting key members of The Foxes squad about their future plans. So what does it all really mean?

Firstly, it means Vardy’s seemingly difficult decision, takes on a whole new dynamic. Let’s say during the pause he took from making an immediate choice, he did ask the likes of Kante and Mahrez what their next career choices were going to be. When he turned The Gunners down, it was a sign the squad was about to adhere to the wishes of Claudio Ranieri, and give Leicester one more year before moving on.

Perhaps Vardy was never given that reassurance from the key players. It’s unlikely they would outright lie to him if asked, so at best, he would have gotten an unsure response.

This does mean Jamie Vardy analysed his choices and made what he felt was the best decision for him. And he made the correct one.

He’s at the Premier League champions. Arsenal may be a bigger club, and with a new manager could have offered a fresh alternative, but the reality is they haven’t got a better chance of taking the title than Leicester.

Size and stature mean little if stunted by stubborn ideas.

That lack of desire to change approach is of course driven by Arsène Wenger. Other than teasing Vardy with the grandiose setting and a chance to take his place in the history books along former players like Thierry Henry, there’s very little that made logical sense.

Jamie Vardy is already 29 years of age, everything that is occurring now already supersedes what he would of dared dream a few years ago. From a professional standpoint, other than Arsenal mythology, there is no tangible evidence he would further develop under Wenger’s watch.

The Arsenal boss has a history of taking promising young players from other clubs and freezing their potential in the same room as he keeps his title aspirations.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must fear he will become another Theo Walcott. The latter now looking for a move to another club to reignite a career the Frenchman killed. One of those clubs is West Ham, where another former Southampton youth talent, Carl Jenkinson, went on loan for the same reason. Calum Chambers will be hoping he isn’t the Oxlade-Chamberlain to Jenkinson’s Walcott.

During this time, Vardy’s talent has risen exponentially.

These must have been considerations the striker took, along with a major one: Wenger was disrespectful trying it on before the Euros.

For Kante things look decidedly different. He’s only 25, and is looking beyond a glory year with underdogs in the Champions League. His new manager, Antonio Conte, was equally absorbed with the Euros and approached at a more appropriate time.

With age on his side, the move should be (using historical data) a wise one. With Roman Abramovich’s desire and resources, Chelsea will get back to the top of the English game. It remains to be seen if Leicester can remain in the top four after coming from nowhere and against all expectation.

Conte is also a close confidante of Ranieri’s, so one has to assume the move was sanctioned, even if somewhat begrudgingly, without any negativity.

With it now looking like Riyad Mahrez will follow N’Golo Konte out of the King Power Stadium, a positive atmosphere is something Ranieri will need to maintain at the club. Losing two-thirds of the important title winning trinity will test his minerals as a manager. Who would have thought, after taking 5000/1 outsiders to championship glory, his biggest test was yet to come?

But it was a title success built on togetherness and shared belief. Whoever comes in must have passed a character suitability test and can converge into the psyche that shook the Premier League.

Leading that line is Jamie Vardy. He’s already living the dream. A move now doesn’t give a Hollywood ending to this story; it would show a betrayal to an ethos that allowed hard work and desire to overcome the odds and those with greater financial clout.

Kante moving on can be understood, but Vardy staying is to be applauded and admired.

Wonder of Wimbledon

Wonder of Wimbledon

Wimbledon strikes its penultimate day. For the women, a legend takes her seventh singles title at the famous venue. The men play tomorrow, with Andy Murray still representing Britain, being recognised as Scottish only in defeat by the masses.

Young children will have watched on during the last few weeks, picking up on peculiarities unique to tennis. Their enquiries ranging from why the man in charge keeps asking for a drink. The reason why those dressed in armed forces’ uniform stand with ball boys and girls. Why do players ask for three balls and always send one back?

These new fans help fill courts up and down the country, along with adults dusting off their rackets for the yearly outing. Promising that they really will carry on playing this time; the delayed New Year’s resolution that meets the same fate as all the rest.

The cross generational experience resumes when watching the telly. They see those that can’t afford Wimbledon strawberries and cream, let alone a premium ticket, wave from Murray Mound. This coming together, just for a glimpse, helps give a taste of the atmosphere to viewers at home. Those too young to remember are informed the grass verge used to be named Henman Hill.

They screw up their faces and ask, “Who?”

The explanation about some Tiger Tim character sums up a deeply seated fear regarding English sport: heroes are made of nearly men that are never quite up to it.

England has spent the summer singing and talking about Three Lions only to be let down by cubs and rich fat cats. But it is at Wimbledon they get to see a true lioness, banishing the focus of sporting failure, replacing it with greatness.

Serena Williams, prowling centre court with beauty and power in equal measure. Delivering feline ferocity while maintaining untouchable grace. This victory makes Wimbledon the spiritual home for a tennis legend. England has been lucky to witness it; tennis is lucky to have her.

The nation waits for tomorrow. The long winter of years without a British Wimbledon winner passed thanks to Murray. Mentions of ’77 and Virginia Wade were only a paracetamol to mask the headache that Fred Perry’s name brought on. The three-time winner is celebrated with deserved adoration, but his last title in 1936, revealed a chasm in domestic sporting achievement.

The youngsters of today think he is just a guy that makes clothes, they see no tennis connection. Nor do they realise the gulf of those vacant decades. They only see a British man entering a Wimbledon final as a clear favourite. As such, Murray now faces a new pressure: expectation.

Such is the fickle nature of sport, the belief a curse was placed on a home winner is overtaken by the conspiracy fate is working to ensure another title for the world’s number two.

Nadal watches on, side-lined and reducing the elite field. Federer was beaten by Father Time and Djokovic left under a mysterious cloud. The path to victory cleared for a presumptive British favourite to take centre court.

He has tasted Olympic gold here, a singles victory, now he looks to assert his place among the upper classes of the game.

If he does, perhaps the British will use an old sentiment and claim Wimbledon victories are like buses. They’ll make this joke as they drag out tennis practice for an extra week while still drinking Robinsons orange juice…the children wondering if the umpire ever got his.

Brexit and the Premier League

Brexit and the Premier League

Britain has been gripped with post-EU Referendum fall-out. Markets have panicked, the pound has fallen, and the Prime Minister has resigned. All this seems secondary when you consider the real burning issue: How will Brexit affect the Premier League.

One certainty surrounding Brexit is everything is uncertain. There’s no clear front-runner for the Tory leadership, when the fragmented state of British politics is taken into account. While many mention Boris Johnson as a likely candidate, there are those that seem to think he has too many agents working against him. Theresa May is emerging as a front-runner and she was a member of the Remain campaign.

Depending on who takes the hot-seat will shape the nature of EU negotiations. A hard line Brexiter will be less likely to concede allowances, like continued freedom of movement for access to the common market (albeit with higher tariffs and penalties). But that option is still, at this moment in time, on the table. If that was to be the outcome, all the potential scenarios about to be mentioned, are null and void.

The alternative is a phased exit from the single market, in tandem with workers’ rights from EU countries. This is where the Premier League braces itself for a paradigm shift.

The most obvious change, and one that would be immediately recognisable, is how EU players would no longer be allowed to ply their trade in the Premier League without obtaining a work permit, like players, say, from South American countries currently apply for.

Players with a work permit are viewed as exceptional and are able to enhance the league based on their international experience. The better the ranking of the nation, the less games the player needs to have featured in for the national side. For example, countries ranked in the top ten, require the player to have featured in 30% of matches or more in the last two years. Moving in blocks of ten, the appearances required rise from 45% to 60% and finally 75% respectively.

If a player is refused, they can appeal. The Home Office then take into account the size of the transfer fee. An outstanding player may come from a country blessed with world class talent, so has rarely featured on the international stage, while still being of the highest calibre. This point is backed up with the size of his contract and the weekly wage.

Also, if the player has featured in many Champions League games, it sheds favourable light on his case.

However, the Premier League cannot gain special treatment compared to other industries, inevitably the number of European-based imports would decrease if EU players became no different from nationalities based outside of this continent. Maybe there’d be several years of easing in new rules but eventually the law would be the same across the board.

At this point the star foreign players would be more expensive to acquire. That strikes fear into club owners and fans will feel their team is being ripped off. But perhaps it will be better to avoid the current Average Player Tax the league endures, bringing in filler to gain access to the rare outstanding performer. Instead clubs will pay a premium for a premium player, minus the non-descript faces.

When the Premier League was new, it managed to pull in star names. Back then they felt special as they were, to start with, one-offs. Since then it has been easier to lure the best in the world over en masse. In doing so, the league’s reputation has risen to such a degree that nothing will prevent players feeling its lure.

It isn’t about to turn into the Scottish Premier League from yesteryear, with a few massive names in a field of averageness. The money alone that the Premier League generates means it can endure any rule change to the eligibility of its workers.

The FA will see it as a blessing in disguise. The lazy scouting of top clubs, that see them take a risk on an average foreign player with an EU passport rather than look in the domestic lower leagues, will slowly draw to a halt. And current champions Leicester have demonstrated, there is talent to be found further down the leagues.

Any extra premium clubs pay for the stand-out performers will also be offset by an unexpected easing of financial burdens. Currently too many top teams are reluctant to use their youth academies. Part of this problem comes from the condition that too much choice is a bad thing. When pruned to a more manageable number, the human mind finds it easier to make correct choices.

The pruning that will take place in the academies will be the process of no longer filling them with youngsters from around the globe that either have EU citizenship or want to attain it. Instead, British players will fill the ranks. Those that are clearly the best won’t have to fight with high numbers of imports or pointless loan moves across the continent. They will be used or released.

Eventually the domestic youth talent will become good enough, and trusted, for the first team. This will save clubs millions each year on players that act as squad players.

The English national team will have greater choice of top flight players. The figure is currently less than 30% in Premier League first teams. This advantage means the FA won’t fight the Premier League’s case for special treatment.

Like much of the Brexit debate, there has been a lot of scaremongering.

Just like Britain won’t return to the dark ages following exit from the EU, the Premier League won’t lose its place as one of the top destinations in Europe for players to perform. The best in the world will still come here, and any increase in price needs to be placed into context.

The finances in the Premier League are currently grotesque, a recalibration and reconsideration of where every pound goes isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s long overdue. Instead of being flippant with cash, maybe owners will be mindful of bringing in only the best, remembering it’s the working man in the stands that make it possible.

The Premier League will still thrive after Brexit, don’t let big business and the establishment tell you otherwise.

Made of Stone

Made of Stone

The Stone Roses are once again back in Manchester. After the 2012 Heaton Park reunion the unknown has been replaced with a new question: Will they fill four nights of gigs with unheard material?

Leading up to the Heaton Park performances the fear was the band would no longer have the magic. That history had made The Stone Roses the thing of legend. That a reunited band, most likely driven purely by money, would desecrate the memory of something that was fleeting yet special.

The causes of a collapse were made before any evidence surfaced. Ian Brown was a prime target. Bootleg copies of old gigs revealed a voice that was left wanting. Even the most ardent fans braced themselves for a disappointment.

They needn’t have worried. The Stone Roses moved into the modern day effortlessly. The fears over performance immediately subsided. Even if Ian Brown had struggled to sing in 2012, it wouldn’t have mattered – the crowd did it for him. So timeless are the tracks from their two albums, age hadn’t harmed them at all.

Without the concerns they could no longer do it, one can rightly ask what makes this new Manchester experience a must see. Why did extra nights need to be put on? New track “All for One” indicated it was perhaps an old fashioned tour to promote new material. That reasonable assumption would be incorrect.

If the 2012 events were a heavy nostalgia trip, this one buckles under a weight of reminiscence surpassed only by a demand for tickets.

Out of twenty songs performed on the night, only two were new. The aforementioned “All for One” clearly designed for a quick feel-good stadium sing-a-long, that unlike the back catalogue, won’t survive the test of time.

This isn’t to say it was a bad night – far from it. But it was another live performance of their greatest hits album which is really just an album and a half worth of music. That’s all they have ever produced. And there lies the initial fear from four years previous: what if they have nothing left in the creative tank?

Perhaps they don’t? But it doesn’t matter when what remains is so enduring.

Other bands can go under the radar with greatest hits tours, they pull their material from sources spanning decades. The Stone Roses lack that luxury, thus, are bound to face criticism.

Like a stone, they are hard to reshape now. Creatively they have become rigid, captured in time like a fossil. Pure nostalgia rather than pioneering or fresh. However, the audience seems to connect with this condition.

There were more bucket hats on the night than particles of confetti Chris Martin had spread on the Etihad weeks earlier. The fans no longer blown away by a return to form, just soothed into rose-tinted memories of an earlier time.

The Stone Roses have always been a snapshot of a band in their prime, a music scene at its peak. Maybe it is with careful plotting they have decided not to tarnish that with a modern take, allowing their followers to immerse themselves into a myopic musical memory.