Now the World Cup is over, and the Brazilian football feast is becoming a distant dreamlike memory (I still refuse to believe that Brazil v Germany game was real), what now for football fanati
Now the World Cup is over, and the Brazilian football feast is becoming a distant dreamlike memory (I still refuse to believe that Brazil v Germany game was real), what now for football fanatics all over the UK? It’s pre-season friendly time.
A chance to judge your teams new signings, in games that range from the meandering goalless draw to a 13-0 drubbing, there is something beautiful about these meaningless games that proves what a great sport football can be.
Whether you support a Premier League giant on tour in a different continent, or your team has saved the air-miles and instead has booked in several local derbies against lower league rivals (I once went to a friendly where there was two games in one day, AND won the half time lottery prize, so I realise where some of my enthusiasm stems from here) these games are an opportunity to revel in being a football fan, dreaming about what could be in the ten months ahead.
Before the opening day defeat and your star player leaves on transfer deadline day.
Watching trailist’s who you will never hear from again, and desperately search for on Football Manager in an attempt to prove they actually existed, whilst watching you new million-pound signing smash the goals in with form that he will not retain for the actual season, pre-season is a time when football fans revel in what could be, not what might have been.
But it is not all fun and games. Evidence of the power of money can even be seen in these ultimately meaningless, warm-up fixtures as in much of the beautiful game above an arguably underfunded and under-supported grass roots level.
Time for bargains!
One fixture between a championship side arguably challenging towards the premier division, and a league two outfit focusing on avoiding relegation, will set you back £15 for a midweek friendly up here in the North. Another game between non-league and championship sides charged £7. Is this really in the spirit of the game, when pre-season fixtures often struggle to attract crowds aside from the die-hard fans?
One argument put forward would be that these games are, aside from a hypothetical cup run, many lower league sides best chance to make much needed funds (both of the games I mentioned above saw the relative minnows at home, taking the gate receipts) but surely this is a short term vision?
These should be opportunities to encourage fans to take a look at their local non-league or League 2 sides, and entice them to throw their support behind sides that may not win the Champions League, but can use that gut instinct to support a team that is geographically or emotionally close, the kinds of bonds that have made football into the global giant that it is today.
If more fans supported lower league sides, as second teams to the top division giants who offer the glamour, the star players and the marquee signings, surely this would encourage more player development in the lower leagues, where more home-grown talent gets the opportunity to be thrown into the deep end and work their way up the ladder.
It is not a clear solution by any means but as part of the wider picture, it really could make some kind of difference.
Surely this is the aim of the suggested ‘Premier League B team’ suggestion which was part of attempts by the FA to invigorate the national team’s fortunes, but the real aim should be to invest in these lower league and in non-league football. Instead of inventing a novelty, lets strive to work with the set-up we currently have, and help these sides grow.
I will be going to the £15 friendly I mentioned above, in spite of the cost, or the problems I have said that this can cause. Because I know that this kind of game is important for the smaller side, and important, although it may sound like a grand statement, for the future of English football, alongside that added excitement of new signings finding form, and old favourites returning from that holiday just a touch out of shape.
It may sound strange, but pre-season friendlies could be the start of something big.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below!