Having the premises pretty much to myself this weekend, I had today mapped out as an epic football-watching fiesta that began with tea, bacon sarnies and ‘The Guardian’ whilst I took in the genuine pleasure to be had in watching United’s under-18’s take on Stoke in the morning kick-off on MUTV, switch to Sky for the usual afternoon of nonsense with Jeff Stelling and his crew of misfits before concluding the evening over a Lamb Bhuna, a Peshwari Naan and ‘Match of the Day’.
So, what happens? I am thwarted right from the start. The last 24 hours has seen the arrival of torrential rain and some late autumn gales, but as I understood it, this was supposed to be affecting the south and southwest, not the Manchester area. However, it seems that the pitch at Carrington is waterlogged so Part 1 of the plan is out the window and it’s not even midday. Then I remember that it’s an international weekend with all the World Cup playoffs going on and teams already through to the Finals involved in meaningless friendlies.
And that, of course, includes England, who have been lured to the desert, well to Qatar, anyway to take on Brazil in a game that gives new meaning to the epithet ‘meaningless’, if you see what I, errrrr….. mean. I won’t carp about the F.A.’s avarice, because United fans are rarely accorded the luxury of the moral high ground where this kind of stupidity is concerned and – sure enough – we got in there first with our mid-season trip to Saudi Arabia – last winter, was it?
Anyway, my tolerance of international football really only extends as far as the summer tournaments like the World Cup & the Euros. Who gets there and how they get there is of little consequence to me unless a United player gets injured, in which case my club/country imbalance shifts even more towards club loyalties, if that’s possible.
In point of fact, I would say that the tournaments I have tended to enjoy most in recent times are those where Ingerland weren’t involved, like the recent Euros and the 1994 World Cup in the States. It’s not really the fault of the players or the manager – most of the blame must lie with the media who hyperventilate about every groin strain and WAG outrage and behave like spurned lovers whenever Ingerland fail to achieve the ludicrously over-ambitious targets the media set for them. You can see them preparing themselves already for South Africa, coming with up with more and increasingly less feasible reasons why ‘this could be Ingerland’s Year!’ I sometimes think that winning the World Cup back in 1966 was the worst thing that could have happened to English football.
Anyway, thanks to the dizzyingly inconsequential beano in Qatar and associated internationals, there will be presumably be no Jeff Stelling either – and even if he is on, there are no Premiership games, so there goes Part 2 of the masterplan. There is a degree of salvation to be had inasmuch as ITV are showing the Brazil game, so having smirked all week at the ever-lengthening list of dropouts from the original squad due to sprained toenails etc, I now face the dilemma of ‘Do I legitimise this nonsense by watching it?’ I would like to spurn the whole thing as I would a rabid dog, but I know come 4 pm I am going to find myself sorely tempted to tune in. Any port in a storm, really….