by Daisy Cutter

In 2010/11 the endless hyperbole of the Premier League and Sky era finally brewed up a perfect storm of a season. It contained numerous freak score lines (Man United 1 – Man City 6, Man United 8 – Arsenal 2); two separate race rows, one of which saw the downfall of our national captain; a leading manager acquitted of tax evasion charges on the same day the England boss quit; that awful March afternoon when Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba fell ‘dead’ onto the White Hart Lane turf only to make a truly miraculous recovery; a series of mind-boggling refereeing decisions that determined cup final appearances and relegations; and a title race that gripped the nation ultimately climaxing with five unbelievable minutes even Hollywood would have dismissed as ridiculous. All this topped off by an English side beating the Germans on penalties.

It was biblical in scope with high drama, conflict, redemption, sin, and even resurrection.

I swear we’ll never see anything like that again* and we duly drank it in. But once the last dregs had been downed and the hangovers kicked in a nagging thought emerged: how on earth do we top that? Indeed the opening weeks of the new campaign have been akin to speed-dating checkout girls after being married to a temperamental, nymphomaniac supermodel. It’s all felt a little forced, a little flat, the passion, celebrations and head in hands moment even a touch fraudulent.

Having a 2012/13 season at all – following such concluded perfection – feels as pointless and anti-climatic a venture as making Godfather III and the screams of outrage directed towards the rehashed race rows and ref debacles have the distinctive hollow ring of echoes.

Thank goodness then for Luis Suarez, a man who could probably find controversy in a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes. Love him or loathe him – and there is no hinterland of opinion when it comes to the toothy Uruguayan – here is a player who actively sets out to antagonise amidst the business of show; a man who recognises that football is pure theatre and that theatre requires a villain.

And what a villain he makes; a relentless whirlwind of cartoonish indignation, exaggerated dives, and dark matter. In the sterile environs of a sport so suffocated by manufactured hysteria that an erroneous tweet can prompt screaming headlines we are lucky to possess any player with a genuine edge – I recently looked into the eyes of Phil Jones and could practically see the wall behind him. Suarez is not just sharpened by edge he is entirely made up of it.

Sunday’s derby was a perfect encapsulation of all that makes him so thoroughly necessary for the game and even as a neutral in proceedings I found myself – for the first time this season – reinvigorated and wide-eyed, that old familiar electric juice coursing through my veins. First came the goal celebration, an echo of Balotelli’s Why Always Me? Moment but this was no pale imitation. In the vitriolic surroundings of a hate-charged Goodison Park Suarez threw himself comically through the air at the feet of his pre-match accuser Moyes. The release valve of his persecution complex (because you just know that Suarez the buck-toothed loon somehow believes that he has never dived in his life) produced a glorious snapshot of what football can and should be. It was a moment that animated those around you who ordinarily believe that the sport is just over-paid, pampered grown men kicking leather around. It transcended mere description. It was f***ing hilarious. Better yet, even in his finest hour thus far there was a customary transgression afoot as Suarez took the credit for another man’s error.

Late on, after a typically bellicose performance and a typically deft finish to put Liverpool two up, our anti-hero further blotted a copybook that is now essentially a book of blots with a snidey ligament-breaker on Sylvan Distin. It was a jolting reminder that here is not a stage actor playing Iago but a real-life Iago in boots. It was heinous and unforgivable, as underhand as it was malicious.

With an already tempestuous local affair now cranked up to hysteria Suarez could afford to settle into seeing out the game with a run into the channels here, a rebuke to a young team-mate for hogging there. His work was done. He had lit the tinderbox as I only wish more players would.

But of course the best was reserved for last. It was a situation beyond his control save for his natural instinct to score – for his part Luis Suarez was merely doing his job – yet as the assistant referee raised his flag to the bafflement of anyone blessed with eyesight it is astounding how often these incidents of the noteworthy and surreal fall upon players such as he and Balotelli. Trouble, glory, infamy, and disgrace follow them like comet tails and they in turn redirect this convoluted mess of man, genius and flaw onto the pitch.

Should Suarez remain on British shores for seasons to come there will undoubtedly be many occasions when I will write with fury and condemnation of his actions. But there will be no contradiction in that and what I write here. In fact precisely the opposite.

Football needs Luis Suarez, for his sins as much as his talent. Because should we subsist on goals and hyperbole alone the sport is just that – a sport. And as last season so spectacularly illustrated it can – and should – be much more than that.

*This article was written whilst Arsenal was pulling off a miraculous comeback against Reading, thereby undermining its central point. Thanks a lot Theo you glorified whippet.