The summer-long wait for the new season nearly broke us. It reduced us to curling into the foetal position and calling the calendar by names usually reserved only for Katie Hopkins when she’s on a Twitter crusade against humanity.
But that’s all gone now; that interminable drawn-out wait where we feasted on the sinewy meat of the Euros and wished that July could be banned forever can all be consigned to the dustbin of our collective memories – because the 2016/17 season is finally here, and better yet it’s shinier and more compelling than ever. Three weeks in and already we’re hooked with Manchester United seemingly rejuvenated and Project Pep getting off to a flyer. Liverpool and Arsenal are still undecided whether to slump into crisis or put together a title charge while Hull are surprising everybody including themselves by finding a togetherness in adversity.
It is captivating and brilliant, and under normal circumstances, this weekend would be anticipated with the same relish as Santa’s sleighbells to a ten year-old on Christmas Eve. Only this isn’t normal circumstances because the authorities, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to dump yet another international break upon us.
Just as narratives were forming and the juices were flowing here it comes; a stammering bore crashing into a fascinating conversation; a ten minute weather report in between two ace programmes, one of which is Match of the frickin’ Day.
Oh how we hate you, international breaks. And just in case you were in the dark as to why, here are a handful of reasons from a possible thousand. (Only a thousand? – Ed)
Such is the importance of swiftly moving on from painful experiences, an entire industry of self-help books has been written advising the unfortunate victim how best to do just that.
Many highlight the hoary old analogy of a plaster being ripped off quickly and with this in mind, consider the plight of everyone connected to Hull City right now – from the players and staff to supporters. After two tremendous opening wins, the Tigers fought tooth and nail to keep United at bay last weekend only to cruelly succumb to a last minute heart-breaker.
Though this undoubtedly sucks, that wouldn’t necessarily have been the end of the world if they were afforded the opportunity to immediately redirect that anger onto their next opponents. Only now that opportunity has been denied them and the plaster instead is ever-so-slowly peeled off – taking hair and skin with it – as Marcus Rashford’s close-range effort festers for a fortnight.
Manchester City endured an underwhelming campaign last year and there are many undeniable factors for this, chief among them being Manuel Pellegrini’s limitations as a coach and a club as a whole stuck in a holding pattern as they awaited the arrival of Senor Guardiola.
Lengthy injuries to two of their most devastating talents in David Silva and Sergio Aguero didn’t exactly help matters either, and their absences were made all the more frustrating as they occurred within a week of each other while on international duty last October.
Nobody can blame Spain or Argentina for utilising their injury-prone stars on those nights and especially so as each was a competitive fixture and not a friendly. But when the opponents were respectively the might of Luxembourg and Ecuador it does somehow make it all the more galling.
Aimed squarely at the pizza and Carling brigade, ITV’s football coverage amounts to talking about Wayne Rooney as if he’s Lionel Messi and lots and lots of adverts for credit cards. They are the painted face of sports broadcasting who appeal largely to Sterling booers, Brexit voters and those who believe John George Terry should be knighted for services to In-ger-land. Their inability to even come close to matching BT or Sky’s billions is the only plus point of the beautiful game now wallowing in a trough filled with money.
Except that internationals give them an ‘in’; a chance to vomit their banality onto our screens while wheeling out a giddy Lee Dixon to laugh manically at absolutely anything Roy Keane says.
Watching any game on ITV makes you feel strong and visceral empathy with HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey as you slowly feel your system shut down. Daisy, Daaiisyy….
Your team wins 3-0 a week on Saturday or England cruise past Slovakia by the same score-line. The choice is yours. The one you don’t pick gets tactically out-thought and handsomely walloped.
Did you even have to think about it?