I’M channelling Wyclef Jean’s Gone Till November.
More precisely, Wyclef Jean’s Gone Till November as performed in a karaoke bar somewhere on the Greek island of Kos – a good decade and a half or so ago – by a monotone/tone deaf Scandinavian surfer dude.
It was simultaneously one of the most amazing and one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever had the pleasure and discomfort to sit through. The unassuming and nonplussed patrons of the karaoke establishment sipping away at their frosty tankards of Mythos didn’t quite know how to react to the performance that had unfolded before their very eyes. I’d class the reception as a sliding scale of ‘critical acclaim’ interspersed with a polite ripple of applause.
Pre-season is rubbish.
Steven Scragg: Gone Till Mid August.
More precisely, Steven Scragg: Gone Till The Opening Day Of The Season as performed in a football stadium somewhere in Central Lancashire, by me, last Saturday. It was simultaneously one of the most reassuring and one of the most unfulfilling afternoons of football I’d had the pleasure and discomfort to sit through since the last time I’d found myself watching Liverpool FC in person during a pre-season friendly. The combination of unassuming and enthusiastic patrons of The Bill Shankly Kop didn’t quite know how to react to the performance that unfolded before their very eyes. I’d class the reception as a sliding scale of ‘meh’ interspersed with some thunderous applause.
Pre-season friendlies are essentially pretend football. Pretend football is fine in theory, but the practicalities of it leave me unsatisfied. Pre-season friendlies are to all intents and purposes the Weight Watchers meals of football’s great banqueting table.
Pre-season friendlies never used to be scrutinised to the extent they are today – they were often just a footnote at the bottom of the cricket scores. Most of us didn’t really sit up and take notice until the Charity Shield rolled around. Between 1974 and 1992, Liverpool were involved in 13 out of the 19 Charity Shields contested. On those rare occasions we weren’t involved in ‘The Traditional Curtain Raiser’ then most of us didn’t really sit up and take notice until the opening Saturday of the new league season.
Deepdale last Saturday was a reminder to me of how much my all-encompassing obsession with all things Liverpool has lapsed somewhat. I still love the club and 2013-14 amounted to a renewing of our vows as such, but it’s a long time since I knew everything there was to know about the club and its players. I had to admit I didn’t have a clue who a sizable number of the players wearing red were, and was surpised others were still actually employed by the club.
The reassuring part was being back at a game of football, of clicking through a turnstile and of swimming through a throng of bouncing fans aiming to keep the partisan party of last season going at the first chance to let off another pyro on the concourses and terraces of this green and pleasant land. The pyro smoke was thick in the air and it had a welcoming aroma to it. It looked like a football match was about to take place and it felt like a football match was about to take place.
Pretend football eventually took place. Pretend football was the only thing that was ever going to take place. Pretend football was never going to be anything other than unsatisfying. Twenty five players took part, and that was without the World Cup players, the impatient to get going Ricky Lambert aside.
How are you supposed to know who all the players are if first-team experience is dished out to the kind of numbers that traditionally make up the number of The Polyphonic Spree?
It’s three weeks on Sunday until the real business gets going. That’s a lifetime away. It was a better world when you couldn’t see what went on in pre-season. It’s a form of water torture, this drip, drip, drip of friendlies and market profitability sorties to the USA, or Australia, or Singapore and Hong Kong.
Why not opt for an end of season world tour that undertakes these missionaries and leave pre-season for invisible anonymity? Conduct a secretive assembly and conditioning of the red troops, rather than dragging a decent number of our players back over the Atlantic in search of new and exciting revenue streams when they’ve only just come back from Brazil.
I know that does a disservice to the high numbers of Liverpool fans over in the US, Australia, the Far East and many other outposts around the world, but it’s not meant that way. I’d just like them to undertake these tours at the end of May rather than the end of July.
Liverpool played Roma the other night. Couldn’t tell you, I was in bed.
Gone till mid-August, I’ll be gone till mid-August.