Whisper it quietly but after a rather muted build up the country is starting to come down with a increasingly severe case of “Football Fever”. Its the type of statement that the tabloids love to bandy around in order to sell more copies and the supermarkets like to use to sell more beer/pizzas/annoying little flags that fly off cars as they’re going 60mph down the dual carriage way. But, alas, its true and it happens every 2-4 years (or 20 years if you live in Scotland).
So while Roy (not calling him “Woy” anymore, eh Rupert?), Wazza, Stevie G and co are doing us proud out in Ukraine, or “The Ukraine” as people like to call it making it sound like a trendy four-piece garage rock back from Woking (or “The Woking”), the nation is awash with replica kits and hammy adverts for Danish beer espousing Englishness.
But earlier this week amidst all the pomp and circumstance, hope and glory and “Macho Man” Randy Savage theme music there was a little reminder of just how insanely overblown football in this country can be. There were minute-by-minute updates on news and football betting websites, eight-page pullouts in the papers, numerous trending topics on Twitter…all for the release of a list. And that’s why I’m looking at the most overblown, over-hyped and ridiculous days of the football calendar.
* Fixtures Day – Mid/Late June
Earlier this week it was, of course, “fixtures day”. Now for the uninitiated, fixtures day is exactly what the name suggests…the day when the fixtures for the next football season are released. And here’s a little clue as to how it normally goes; everyone plays everyone else in their league twice (both home and away), and everyone moans that their clubs have been dealt a harder calendar than their rivals.
It’s complete nonsense unless you’re a Manchester United fan, and that’s because we KNOW that the FA and the Premier League are always out to punish us…
* Transfer Deadline Day – 31st August/31st January
The bi-annual event that has made Jim White a legend amongst the unemployed, students and people whose job it is to spend all day watching Sky Sports News.
In what can only be seen as a massive contradiction of EU employment laws, footballers are only allowed to transfer between clubs in a few set periods during the year (the poor things). Now if this was any other walk of life you’d get things done nice and early, wouldn’t you? Say you needed a new bucket, but you were only allowed to buy buckets in January and August, you’d buy it on the 1st of the month, maybe the 2nd of January subject to hangover, but you certainly wouldn’t wait around until 11pm on the 31st to nip out to your local all night supermarket and buy one.
So why is it that football clubs who need a player wait until the very end to buy the player they desire? Why not cut out the foreplay, the flirtation, and just be up front about it at the start of the window?
Well, because football is ridiculous and football fans love it. People sit up until the wee hours waiting to see if Nigel Quashie has completed his move to West Ham or if Benjani has fallen asleep at the airport again. And Sky love it, they get millions of viewers all day watching middle aged men getting excited in the car park at Old Trafford/Stamford Bridge/Priestfield while a group of local school kids make rude gestures in the background.
* Boxing Day (erm…26th December)
Boxing Day. Everyone wearing their new scarves in the stands. Hangovers and over-eating. Cigars and whiskey rather than Woodbines and mild. A day in the football calendar that harks back to the golden age of football when racist hooligans roamed wild and free, players turned up after a shift down the pits and skill was as commonplace as those soft foreign Nancy boys. Everything was sepia tinged, everything was better, repeat to fade.
I’m exaggerating a bit there, football was a more “authentic” game back in the day and arguably all the better for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that nostalgia is probably more rife in football than in any other walk of life outside of pop music and coal mining.
Traditionally Boxing Day was a major day in the football calendar but that notion is becoming more and more tenuous by the year. Gone are the marquee fixtures and genial atmosphere, in their place tepid affairs between two teams of primadonnas who don’t really want to be there, spread across three or four days (last year only seven Premier League games took place on actual Boxing Day, the same number as the year before and one less than in 2009). Yes it may be a break from having to speak to your relatives or, even worse, your loved one’s relatives but its hardly something to get worked up about now, is it?
* Any International/European Tournament Draw – September/December
You know the drill. Two saccharine hosts from the Eurovision School of Ham, Michel Platini/Sepp Blatter rambling on in broken English, Fat Ronaldo eyeing up anything in a dress and three hours of montages showing Zenit St Petersburg/Red Bull Salzburg/Stoke City on their European escapades. It can only be the draw for a major tournament!
Now I understand there’s an interest in who your team will face in the Champions League or World Cup, but do we really need all the accoutrement? Does there need to be a performance of the official tournament song by Nelly Furtado? Or an awkward interview with Rudi Voller and Edwin van der Sar? The actually drawing of the teams takes about five minutes, do we need all the faffing about?
And nowadays we get it for everything. The Champions League, The Europa League, The World Cup, The European Championships, The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, The FA Vase, The Mid-Cheshire Youth League Community Cup…I’m pretty sure Franz Beckenbauer broke into my house last night and carried out the FA Cup third round draw on Football Manager for me.
* “Super Sunday” – Whenever Sky deem it fit
SUPER SUNDAY! MEGA SUNDAY! BATTLE OF THE GOLIATHS!
Erm…actually, no. No Ben Shepherd, no Jamie Redknapp, no Trans-Atlantic narrator. You can guarantee at least once a season there’ll be a Sunday afternoon where a combination of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and perhaps one of their local rivals play each other…and it always underwhelms.
Great games stand alone, very rarely do they happen on the same day. And very rarely do these afternoons live up to billing. But that won’t stop the Premier League hyping them to the hilt. And it doesn’t even stop at the top clubs; Norwich vs. Reading and QPR vs. Wigan in one afternoon will probably be treated like the 1982 World Cup semi finals. “The Battle at the Bottom”…it definitely does have a whiff of that, that’s for sure.