For the first time since 2014, Manchester City can clinch the Premier League title at home in front of their own fans. No matter what club you support and what level they play at, winning a title in front of those who follow the team week-in week-out is pretty special.
A win against Aston Villa on Sunday will be enough to crown City champions, regardless of how Liverpool get on against Wolves. If City fail to win, everything could be set up for an even more dramatic finale.
Whatever happens, City fans should take note of the shameful events of the past week. If the Blues are crowned champions then they can set an example of how to avoid marring scenes of celebration with the mindless actions of individuals.
After Nottingham Forest defeated Sheffield United on penalties to reach the Championship play-off final, Forest season ticket holder Robert Biggs headbutted opposition captain Billy Sharp as home fans invaded the pitch. He has rightfully been jailed for 24 weeks.
On Thursday night, following Port Vale’s penalty shootout victory over Swindon Town in the League Two play-offs, another pitch invasion ensued. Police are investigating physical and verbal abuse of the Swindon players by some of the home fans who invaded the pitch.
Over on Merseyside, hundreds of Everton fans ran onto the field when Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the goal that secured the Toffees Premier League survival. There was still five minutes plus stoppage time left to play.
At full-time they invaded again, with footage later emerging of an Everton fans taunting and pushing Palace manager Patrick Vieira, who retaliated by kicking the supporter.
All three incidents have overshadowed what should have been overwhelmingly positive moments for each of the three clubs concerned. Instead, two dramatic shoot-out victories and a survival-ensuring come-from-behind-win will be remembered for the mindless actions of a few individuals.
Football is all about emotions, and there is no stakeholder more important in football than the fans. But as supporters, by going to the ground we sign a contract: an agreement to get behind our team, to spur them on and to enjoy ourselves. But not at the risk of others’ safety.
As City fans showed with the title victories of 2012 and 2014, pitch invasions can happen spontaneously without the need to antagonise or assault opposition players, staff or fans. But they are still inherently dangerous – being part of the delirious mob running onto the field is all fun and games; being an individual about to be hit by a mass of charging bodies, less so.
“Lots of emotions, happiness, some alcohol, it’s dangerous,” Guardiola said when asked on Friday about the risk of pitch invasions. “We have to try to behave as good as possible, celebrate in the right way in the right moment. It’s dangerous what happened yesterday, I understand Patrick, you never know how people will react.”
City have won five Premier League titles now, we know how it feels but it will always feel special. But that doesn’t mean we need to run on the pitch to get a good photo for Instagram, or to make it look like there are ‘scenes’.
If City win a sixth on Sunday, then we can show the players and Pep Guardiola our appreciation and give Fernandinho the send-off he deserves, all while keeping everyone safe. The line needn’t be crossed – we’re classier than that.