At last week’s Socrates meet-up of football bloggers and podcasters (quite the hot ticket for London’s hipster community), opinion was divided on the merits or otherwise of the football-free summer. Some, like the cheerily obsessed author of the splendid Put A Jumper On blog were already missing the rhythm of the season, and had been scouring the European fixture lists for possible weekend jaunts (things are starting to hot up in the Swedish Allsvenskan, if you’re interested).
Others, like myself, were rather enjoying the break. A chance to spend the week not worrying about forthcoming fixtures, or fretting over injury lists that might leave Mick McCarthy short of defenders. A chance to reconnect with those aspects of life that get neglected between August and May: picking up the books you’ve been meaning to read, tidying the garden, talking to other members of your family. That sort of thing. A break from the unrelenting stress of the Championship season.
It should be pointed out that this conversation was taking place beneath a plasma screen that was showing Italy v Israel from the European Under-21 Championships. In keeping with my determination to take a break from the game, I wasn’t paying any attention to it, and in any case it got boringly one-sided after an Israeli player picked up a deserved red card in the first half.
The European under-21 Championships is just one of the things that gives the lie to the notion of a football-free summer, or any kind of close season at all, really. It followed straight on from some full international friendlies, and once it’s over we’ll have the Confederations Cup, and before you know it we’ll be finding “Champions” League qualifiers jostling with repeats of Minder for space in the ITV4 schedule.
And that’s just the football itself. The summer is ever-more dominated with frenzied speculation, on the internet, in the papers, on the TV and around the proverbial workplace water-cooler (or indeed the actual workplace water-cooler, unless you work from home, in which case you may need to stand near the fridge and make polite conversation with your cat in order to re-create the magic of the fabled water-cooler interface) about transfers, contracts, flare-ups and flounce-outs.
Maybe I should stay off Twitter, or maybe I’m just turning into the world-weary curmudgeon that I’ve aspired to be since watching Cesar Luis Menotti’s magnificently scowling aspect at the 1982 World Cup, but all the anxiety over summer signings is getting a bit wearing. We’d all love to wake up to the news that Ipswich had signed Romelo Lukaku, Gio dos Santos and the cast of Hollyoaks, but if another day passes without so much as a new right-back then, well, maybe we’ll all be OK and perhaps, just perhaps, could leave our worries to one side until the season starts?
In any case, the fixtures come out next week and there will be exciting negotiations to look forward to (“I know it’s your brother’s wedding but Yeovil is a new ground for me”, etc).
Also, the Ashes starts soon and that’s quite enough to worry about.
(Have we signed a right-back yet?)