Friday, 26 July 2013

Taking my eye off the ball.

I haven't watched a football match for two months and good grief I needed that.

I'd slipped into the habit of watching summer football in the last two or three years – like some of you crazy cats do – and I've realised it was a major contributory factor to my vague, uneasy feeling of jadedness towards football last season.

It wasn't that I'd fallen out of love with football, I'd just had too much of it. You can definitely have too much of a good thing. I mean, if I ate eat peanut butter every day for a year I'd certainly get utterly sick of it, but if I then didn't eat it at all for a couple of months it would no doubt taste delicious again. Same with football, I reckon.

In the internet age it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to keep tabs on every tiny happening in football over the summer. Well here's the thing: if Chelsea sign someone for a few million, or Ipswich lose one of their most promising youngsters, or Barcelona sign a new reserve keeper – it doesn't actually matter if you find this out in May, June, July or even early August. In fact, by avoiding this news over the early part of the summer you allow yourself one of football's great pleasures, that of devouring a pre-season preview when you don't know who's signed who.

In the 1980s and 1990s, before we found out everything instantly on Twitter and the internet, I'd often only discover who Newcastle had spaffed a few million on by reading a new season pullout from my nan's Daily Mirror, or in FourFourTwo's always-eagerly-anticipated "The Season Starts Here"/"Big Kick-Off" issue. Sure, occasionally I'd flick on Ceefax and have a brief browse, but often those printed column inches of "Ins" and "Outs"  with player names tantalisingly highlighted in bold  were the first I'd heard of these deals. You'd start reading with an idea in your head of where teams were last season, and by the time you'd read to the end your brain would be racing with possibilities for the new season.

And so, as July nears an end, it's time to dive in. For the first time in ages I get to enjoy some of these rather retro sensations again. Batteries recharged, now comes the rush. That glorious clamour for every fixture grid, pre-season preview, squad number list (have you seen Villa's? What a thrill), third kit unveiling, transfer announcement (though I draw the line at rumours), and prediction article (ranging from the play-safe to the downright nuts) that I can get my hands on. I can't get enough of it now, because I've reached the point of genuinely missing football. If you'd asked me a week ago, I still wasn't there. It's only arrived the last couple of days. But, if I'm honest, perhaps I've been suppressing it for slightly longer. You can't start too early though, otherwise it's not as good, not as gleefully satisfying. It lacks a certain giddy fizz.

I'm back in the game. Football, you're welcome back in my life. But one thing I won't be doing is watching any televised friendlies. I avoid them at all costs. Managers are still experimenting, nobody is taking anything too seriously, and exotic new signings are still shaking off jet lag and learning what "nobody told me my squad number would be 38" is in English.

But if you really must watch a friendly on television  if that really is the best thing you've got to do with your time  for goodness sake don't read too much into it. Otherwise you'll be going around saying things like: "Mark my words, Bentley's going to be a brilliant signing for Spurs, he's been on fire in pre-season"  Me, Summer 2008.

It's just pre-season. It means next to nothing. Shouldn't you be in a beer garden somewhere? Still no Match Of The Day for another four weekends. And that's actually a good thing. Let the anticipation build. Go and buy World Soccer and read it in the park with a Calippo lolly.


Anonymous said...

Good piece as always. Unfortunately I'm not in the excited stage yet. I'm far more fussed about the Ashes than another over hyped & yet very average Premier League season.

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