Kieran Davies looks back on seven days of international ennui and the strange tale of Bareth Gale.

International football is like driving to work the morning after the Christmas party. You know you shouldn’t be doing it, you’re not looking forward to it, when it’s happening you feel guilty and afterwards you vow to never do it again. Having breaks in the domestic football season so early for international matches makes about as much sense as hosting a football tournament, a winter sport,  in a country where summer temperatures peak at good darts scores. There hasn’t even been an exciting tournament since Euro ’96 so maybe in the questionable ‘wisdom’ of Sepp Blatter he wants to up the ante or in this case the temperature. After all, the world’s most expensive footballer will probably never grace one of these tournaments in the same way George Best never did and also Ryan Giggs. International football should only ever be there to get through the monotony of long football-less summers. Even Spain’s ‘tiki-taka’ football is now so mundane that you wonder whether their country is struggling financially as a result of their football team plunging the whole country in a deep sleep from their non-penetrative 200 passes to get to the half way line.

The whole club vs country row rears its head again but this is nothing new, this has happened for decades. Numerous Welsh managers can recall receiving the infamous ‘note’ excusing Ryan Giggs from games every international break signed……….Yours Sincerely, SAF (Ryan’s mum). Considering it is the clubs that pay these player’s wages I think they have a right to protect their investment, especially as they get no real reimbursement if a player is sent back from international duty injured. FIFA and UEFA only reimburse if it happens in a major tournament after all. Qualifiers seem about as wanted to the powers that be, as the letter R is in the current England manager’s vocabulary. If you’re not lucky enough to be born in a country which is expected to qualify for these tournaments you may even find yourself supporting a nation which is encouraged not to play fully fit players as they are worth more to their clubs as happened in this break, not to use the player’s real name but for the purpose of painting a picture we will call the player, Bareth Gale. The ludicrous scene that then follows being the national manager saying in an interview how they have to ensure they don’t ‘risk’ Mr Gale in a World Cup Qualifier. Evidently they must be saving him for the tournament they will never qualify for. The fans though are also starting to feel this way too, as I am sure every Liverpool fan who saw Daniel Sturridge clutching at that thigh in the warm up against Man Utd thought, ‘he had better not be going on England duty!’ If the international break were a package holiday, it would currently be as popular as a 7 day self catering break to Damascus.

Thankfully it is over again though and we can get back to things far more stimulating such as the Premier League. The transfer window closed and players were packed off to their respective international training camps without even getting to meet their new team mates let alone think about that debut for their new employer. This makes for an even more exciting weekend of football no doubt. Not to be one to hype himself too much before he’s even played a minute of football for his new club, Marouane Fellaini declared how he wants to be the ‘new Roy Keane’. Worrying news for all Man City defenders planning on seeing their careers out to a ripe old age. Mesut Ozil may miss this weekend’s Arsenal fixture due to an illness after being the first German to set foot on British shores and declare ‘I’m a Gunner’ without facing war crime charges.

All of the teams expected to challenge for the top six this season have fixtures they are expected to win comfortably this weekend. Early table toppers Liverpool have the pleasure of watching everyone else play before their Monday night game at Swansea City. Rodgers will face his old team with a 100% record he will hope to have intact by Tuesday morning. He will be bolstered over how much difference two weeks can make, pre international break he had a real shortage of defensive options where as now thanks to signings made in ‘the Jim White zone’ (last day of the window) he seems to have many decisions to make at the back. Man Utd face Palace at home in the early kick off, you’d be forgiven for  expecting  a comfortable home win with the main contribution Palace make to proceedings being Holloway’s pre and post match interviews. The fantasy football manager’s nightmare (Man City) travel to the Britannia Stadium with the Potters new boss no doubt keen to settle some scores with his old employers. The reason I say Man City are a fantasy football manager’s nightmare is that with the exception of Manuel Pellegrini, NO-ONE in Britain knows who will feature in their starting XI. Arsene Wenger has declared should his side be trophy less at the end of the season he will be walking away from the post, it makes you wonder how far Arsene could have walked if he left six years ago! They travel to Sunderland the club who if they can finish the season with as many points as they have spoken languages at the club, they should be safe……..comfortably. Di Canio bemoaning his luck for the inability of his new signings being able to speak simple English. So we should enforce a basic level of English language to all nations eh Paulo, that sounds a bit too much like the crusades again for my liking.

Everton have a tough start to life without Fellaini with a home game against Mourinho’s Chelsea. The only thing that will serve Everton fans well to remember is that this is almost the clash of misfiring strikers. Ba, Torres and Eto’o would all be at their most potent should you manage to master time travel and go back to when they were any good, where as Everton fans would no doubt utilise this technological advance to choose against signing any of theirs. Imagine my surprise that Aroune Kone the man whose lack of goals saw Wigan plummet to the Championship isn’t propelling the toffees to the heady heights of the Premier League table. AVB’s Spurs play Norwich at home, a game most betting men would have as a home win down on their coupon, but no doubt if it is on mine it will end up in the most unpredictable of draws that will seem so fixed  I end up following Victor Chandler around, hassling him at events not for the best odds but demanding my £5 back. Either way, rejoice at Premier League football returning and Roy Hodgson being packed back into the crypt he was released from before Moldova rolled into town.