Maybe it’s a sign of getting old – maybe a sign getting wise(er) – that this year’s football close season seems shorter than most. The first weekend of the Premier League season is just around the corner and to be honest, I could do with another month or two off.
Why am I not chomping at the bit for the return of the sport I have been watching since being five (nearly 35 years)? Why am I so underwhelmed at the return of my boys in red? What is getting in the way of my footballing passion? One word; pony.
During the close season I pursue a number of techniques to avoid it. I always make a point of actively swerving the summer transfer speculation on Twitter, TV and in the papers. I don’t recognise pre-season friendlies as real games – good for fitness for the players; not for the supporters – clubs pretending their tours of the USA, the far east or Europe are anything more than marketing trips; lifting trophies as if they mean something. All very dispiriting. But not if you ignore it; you close the curtains and pretend it’s not happening. This is an approach that has served me well for many years. The problem when is the season starts is more acute.
It is hard to ignore all the coverage of the beautiful game across all forms of media once we hit the big kick off so there is only one thing for it; find the mute button to silence the pony (and trap). It is easy to blame Sky for the extensive, mindless drivel that hangs around the game – they have afterall turbo-charged it with 24/7 news and sport, a dedicated news channel and the invention of hours of build-up and follow up to the games. Long gone are the days of “Welcome to the Big Match Live; here are the teams; right, it’s now kick off”.
Now we have are force-fed a fatty diet of reviews of the weekend’s big talking points; team news; transfers news; speculation on who is about to be sacked; cheesy, staged interviews with players previewing the game as if it was real news; more team news; let’s watch previous goals from this fixture; who’s today referee; interviews with the managers before the game; interviews with the manager from their pre-match press conference; interviews with the managers at half time; interviews with the managers after the game; every game badged as “Blue Monday” or “Frantic Friday”, etc etc etc. ZZZZZZZZZZ. All of it done with an earnest, seriousness that suggests the participants actually think it all really matters and their opinion is shifting the way the world lives. Lads – it’s 99% lads – knock it off. Stop talking so much. Please stop talking.
Sadly, BT, BBC, ITV and everyone else has now copied this approach meaning – the way the games are allocated – there is not genuine competition for the viewer to choose from as they all cover different games – there is no getting away from it. The only area of partial salvation is Radio Five – ignoring the contribution of Robbie Savage. I am left therefore we no choice – watch the games but with the sound off. If you haven’t done it, give it a try. It is refreshing.
No noise. No cliches. No one dimensional analysis. No stating the bleeding obvious. No Michael Owen. No over-intellectualising the simplest sport on the planet. Give it a try. Football as it was meant to be; two teams; some officials; a ball; a crowd and you; no pony to be seen. Not even a Shetland.