by Kieran Davies
As the final whistle goes to the last league game of the season, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Man City or a Macclesfield Town fan, slowly but surely the realisation dawns that months ahead without football beckon. It may not set in immediately, after all you may be celebrating a promotion or title, be drowning your sorrows after confirmation of relegation or rather more uniquely, be waiting for the outcome of a European final to see whether you qualify for next season’s Champions League. But at some point whether delayed or not the realisation hits you like a wall of water. All a fan has to hold on to that ‘connection’ with their team is the endless transfer stories some of which J.K.Rowling herself would be proud of. The daunting thought of Sunday afternoons without the wise words of Jamie Redknapp and the uncertainty whether this will be the week where years of sitting next to ex Man Utd players causes Graeme Souness to snap and erupt like Mount Etna in a tirade of abuse towards Gary Neville while Chris Kamara gazes off in the other direction and misses it all.
What can possibly fill this void? A summer? Months of endless sunshine and pub beer gardens to take the edge off having spending your weekends with your ‘real family’ and not the ‘football family’ you’re more accustomed to in the winter months? Fat chance, even a summer more atoned to Egypt than England would still leave you sat in that beer garden thinking ‘the only way this could be better would be a 50 inch tv with the big match on!’
Football passion cannot be turned on and off like a like switch, instead you’re left feeling the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict coming off the gear. But not this summer, not 2012, we’ve got the Euros!! On paper this had the potential to fill that void every football fan endures – 16 of Europe’s best teams and plenty of familiar Premiership stars on display with England going into a tournament with no expectations and fans expecting nothing to celebrate. This has become a tag of England teams, underperforming at finals. But I think it was more evident this year than any other, unless you hail from the land of tapas and sangria……….international football is a let-down whatever flag you drape yourself in. It has no excuse, the best players in the world playing with passion for the land of their birth. Or is it? It also asks questions of the players themselves, Cristiano Ronaldo did not shine at all but then Portugal aren’t Real Madrid are they? Ibrahimovic, a striker of some renown, capable of turning a game on its head with a moment of magic, unless you tell him the opponents are in the top 20 of FIFA’s World Rankings rendering him as useful as Superman in a kryptonite suit.
The only team in the finals playing with real purpose and attacking flair were Germany but their advance to Kiev this time faltered at the hands of the Italians. As for Spain playing with no striker, surely that is anti-football? Well done to Spain for their win at Euro 2012 but I can safely say I hope their formation of no striker disappears like an elaborate Vegas strip magician, never to be seen again.
So here we are, a month away from any real action, the optimism of those lazy sunny summer days in beer gardens seeming as false a dawn as constantly telling yourself last summer, ‘Andy Carroll is going to have an awesome season under Kenny’! The weekends have never seemed so empty and none of us are going to kid ourselves into thinking Olympic football will even quench our palette for what we crave. If Euro 2012 couldn’t do it, the Olympics are fighting a losing battle. Even a meaningless friendly with an unrecognisable team seems more of an appeal than this. There’s no place for third place in football ever. So all we can look forward to for the next thirty days is watching Arabs and Russians tweak their ‘playthings’, Tottenham fans talking up a title challenge whilst ignoring AVB’s car crash tenure at SW6 and Newcastle trying to once again stitch Liverpool up. Saturday afternoon’s will again soon turn into a rollercoaster of emotions, with one moment of madness making or breaking your whole weekend and call me a sado-masochist but I cannot wait!