Can’t Smile Without You
suffering at the moment. Life is difficult and, I’d hazard a guess,
many of you reading these words can feel my pain too because we all know
what’s to blame. It is the coming of long, hot summer that’s
responsible for our collective melancholic state. “Close Season” –
quite possibly the two most disheartening words in the English language
for a football fan.
not as if we are unreasonable as a mass - we accept that it would not be
feasible (or, indeed, physically possible) for footballer’s to work all
year round like the rest of us are expected to. But, even with this
practicality accepted, it doesn’t make this time of year any easier to
bear. The terrible truth is plain to see: We are addicts suffering the
debilitating symptoms of withdrawal.
was at least one scant consolation this time round; what with this being
an even-numbered year, we footie junkies had the solace of an
international football tournament to counter the painful effects of the
twelve-week-long serving of cold turkey. And, in spite of Eng-go-land’s
undeniably dismal showing, the World Cup did at least provide us with an
oasis of comfort in the vast beautiful game desert also known as months
May through to August. Yet, even with the punctuation of a midway,
month-long, footie-fest, there still remains a void, and it’s a hole
that at times feels as cavernous as the Grand Canyon.
season, we concern ourselves with the really important issues
of existence. We ponder if the adoption a diamond in midfield might
result in more frequent goal-scoring chances. We fret and worry over
whether or not our star striker will recover from that knock he took in
time to show out – and, with any luck, show up - our most
bitter rivals. These are the big (as in; BIG) issues.
But when football stops, we find ourselves reluctantly capitulated into
the real world; a place altogether uglier than the Neville brothers and
more profoundly depressing than Chelski’s available transfer kitty.
we’re doing things no self-respecting Beautiful Game devotee would ever
do ordinarily; we find ourselves reading newspaper’s from the front
or tuning into Channel Four News and, suddenly, we’re
confronted with the unspeakable horror that is a glimpse of how the
world would be without football.
do people that profess not to like the game manage? Here, right off the
top of my head, are a litany of Reasons To Be Cheerless that are surely
guaranteed to make even the most well-adjusted, free-thinking person
reach - urgently - for the Prozac: The War on Terror; Russell
Brand; the recent spate of (un)natural disasters around the globe;
processed food; the U.K.'s astronomical consumer debt (currently just
over £1 trillion and rising...fast); the cost and dire inefficiency of
our public transport system; escalating gun crime; property prices;
Richard Littlejohn; the obesity epidemic; the plethora of reality
television shows; Pete Doherty; NHS waiting lists; the perpetual,
heart-breaking poverty endured by those who inhabit the Developing
World; Jodie Marsh; gleeful corporate announcements of - yet more and
even bigger - multi-million pound profits…it’s enough to wipe the smug
smile off the face of a rollover week lottery winner. In the name of
God, can’t you see? We need football! Give us football!!!
there is none…so what are we meant to do in the meantime? That is the
question. Thanks largely to the Internet; metaphorical methadone is at
least on offer. We can consume stories of perspective transfer target’s
of our respective clubs – whether real, speculative or completely
tabloid-created. We can (over) analyse the formations employed by The
Gaffer in ultimately meaningless pre-season friendlies. We can chat for
hours on end in fan forums…but whatever we do to kill time it’s still
there, isn’t it? An emptiness that you know will not go away until it
all starts afresh.
suppose if there is positive point, it is this: in order to protect our
sanity in an increasing mad, bad and sad world, we all - as human
beings, being human - need coping devices. And regardless of whether or
not we choose to consciously acknowledge it, for many of us it is
football that serves this purpose. Through our current pain, we can
therefore console ourselves with the knowledge that it could be worse.
Much, much worse - we might be using drugs or drink as emotional
on the new season. Roll on when Saturday (19th August) comes.