‘You’d have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper’ – is this as much of a football cliché as any other or is there a little more substance in the sentiment?
With thousands of opposition fans sat a few short metres away and berating every move you make, blocking it all out and focussing on the action must be difficult.
Stood alone in an 8×24 metre frame, it’s the same size at Swansea – they checked – takes a mental toughness that perhaps outfield players do not need to have.
Joe Hart was famously caught by Sky Sports cameras saying that he had received death threats from the crowd when Manchester City beat their great rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford, yet he laughed it off as ‘just banter’.
While playing in front of a hostile crowd is difficult, equally the experience of playing behind-closed-doors away at CSKA Moscow caused plenty of controversy.
Ahead of the tie the England stopper did not feel a lack of fans would influence the players, but City surrendered a two-goal lead to come away with just a point.
“It’ll take me back to my Shrewsbury reserves days, going to play Blackpool away at Bloomfield Road when there were Coke cans clattering around the pitch,” Hart told The Mirror.
“You can’t let it affect you as a player. We have a job to do out there.
“It’s a game of football, whether there are 100,000 there or just the benches – it’s no different to us.”
City’s number one faces a different challenge on Wednesday night, as the Blues welcome the Russian outfit to the Etihad Stadium in a must win game for both sides.
Alongside their sanctions at the Arena Khimki, CSKA fans are banned from attending away matches following their ‘racist behaviour’ in Rome in September.
To their credit the Premier League champions took the unorthodox step of offering two tickets for the price of one, a move that has seen the 46,708 capacity ground sell out.
But what impact will the entirely one-sided fan base actually have?
Either side of away support is often the most vocal area at the home of the Premier League champions, with fans from both teams taunting one another.
The Citizens’ fans famously adopted ‘the Poznan’ goal celebration after the visit of Lech Poznan in 2011 – a celebration the vociferous Newcastle United fans used to mock the home support last week.
And as Noel Gallagher and Gary Neville’s intriguing interview demonstrated ahead of last Sunday’s Manchester derby, having a rivalry between two sets of fans can actually raise the performance levels of the players.
But there was an anxiety at the Etihad in the closing minutes of the derby – a sense of nervousness that gripped the fans and transmitted to the players.
If the Citizens are to win and begin what would be a miraculous feat of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages, this must not happen again.
The home supporters need to create a real cauldron of noise – the type of atmosphere that English teams associate with trips to Greece or Turkey.
Equally the Blues could look a little closer to home with Liverpool priding themselves on European nights at Anfield and how the home crowd can help the Reds through a tie.
Many City fans have said match atmosphere has diminished since the move from Maine Road in 2003 but there have still be plenty of occasions when Blue Moon has rung out loud and proud.
The 2009 clash against Hamburger SV in particular was a brilliant European atmosphere at the Etihad – proof that the Blues do enjoy midweek fixtures under the lights.
Although the Blues may not have produced the same level of performances in the Champions League there is still a desire to ‘arrive’ on the European stage.
Joe Hart and company may need the City fans to lift them more than ever on Wednesday night as a side bereft of confidence need to kick start their season.
Main image courtesy of The FA Cup via YouTube, with thanks.