Tonight the Premier League achieves its ultimate ambition and goes full-on American with some Friday football. That sound you hear is our ancestors spinning in their graves and asking if hot dogs and cheerleaders are to inevitably follow before pausing briefly as they contemplate the benefits of introducing cheerleaders. Our ancestors are a bit pervy.
While tonight’s Aston Villa v Manchester United game may be a one-off – a consequence of a protest rally scheduled for Walsall tomorrow that would have stretched police resources – expect it to become the norm next term with 10 Friday evening matches scheduled as part of the £5 billion new TV deal between Sky and BT Sport.
This then is a dummy run, an opportunity for us to get acquainted with the notion of live football accompanying our welcome-to-the-weekend trawl along the pub optics.
It’s a game-changer and while it will act as further proof that the apocalypse is nigh to the old boys who yearn for 3pm Saturday kick-offs it will also feel mighty strange to the new generation raised on Soccer Saturdays, Super Sundays, and midweek Champion’s League clashes.
Have no fear though because, as always, we’ve thought of everything. We have a guide.
It’s heartbreaking enough when you include the Saturday lunchtime game in the accumulator you meticulously sculpted and tweaked to perfection only to see the useless sods lose and render the rest immediately void. Before it has barely begun the weekend that promised so much has fallen at the first and you instead follow the progress of the other games all chewed up and hateful, hoping they all come home so you can bore your mates senseless with tales of your oh-so-close big win.
Imagine that times by ten if you chuck in the Friday night fixture; a whole extra night to mull over your loss and that missed glaring chance with two minutes remaining.
Of course you could always shell out for another acca. But that’s what they want isn’t it. Oh yes we’re onto them. That’s what they want!
No need to pace yourself
We’ve all done it, the daft among us more than once. Excited at the prospect of two huge games on a Super Sunday you wallop into the pub the second they open the doors and down your first like an alcohol Batman. Round after round ensue until someone comes up with the splendid idea of introducing a drinking game based on throw-ins. And how does it always end? You know how it always ends: snoring on the sofa next to an already-reheated roast dinner while your girlfriend watches a drama starring Sheridan Smith and eyes you with mild loathing. Then later you stare at the bedroom ceiling, wide awake and still very much drunk, wondering how the hell you’re going to grab enough sleep to work tomorrow.
For Sundays you have to pace yourself. There’s no shame in that. A pint that lasts the first half, another that lasts the second, and then see where it takes you.
Fridays require no such consideration. By the time you get in, changed and call for a cab kick-off is a mere hour away while closing time already looms on the horizon. Challenge accepted.
When Jimi Hendrix sung about crosstown traffic who knew he was anticipating a confusing phenomenon nearly fifty years hence where everyone on social media liveblogs on their team’s performance without you knowing who they actually support and which is the game they are referring to. Saturday afternoons on Twitter is a perplexing enough place but Sunday can quickly descend into an international melting pot of playing keep-up. You seek out clues in the profile pics. There’s a Milan badge so he’s obviously watching Serie A. Ah yes, “FFS Mexes!” That one’s sorted.
She’s got a cartoon Messi and with Barcelona presently stuffing Levante 18-0 that one’s self-evident.
Woking? Why on earth does he…oh, his bio states that he moved there from San Diego and he’s looking ahead to this evening’s MLS game. It’s not Aston Villa he loves but David Villa.
On Friday nights your timeline will be pristinely uniform; an OCD sufferer’s dream.
We’ll all be in this together.
We might like to think we’re progressive, modern and, erm, hip to the beat but the sad truth is we’re British so tradition runs through us like the word ‘tradition’ in a stick of Blackpool rock. And for that reason wolfing down a greasy glorious kebab on a Sunday eve just feels somehow…wrong? That mushed-up processed excuse for chicken splattered into a pitta should be laid in carved slices beneath delicious gravy. Those yellow chips that singe the roof of your mouth off should be Aunt Bessie’s finest roasties. Twas ever so.
On fantastic Fridays however tradition dictates the opposite. You’d be spitting in the Queen’s eye if you didn’t shovel down a thousand calories of mayonnaise-smothered goodliness in a post-pub, post-match frenzy.
Dig in and enjoy my friends. Dig in and enjoy.