COMING UP, SEASON 2012-2013
Mickey Blue Eyes
In just over one week the football season begins: the wider economic world still burns down around us. If you have supported the game for a long time, if you are not careful, you can kid yourself you have seen it all. But of course you never have. There is always something new to suit your temperament. If you have kept your natural intelligence and sense of humour you can always find something to lift your spirits; if you have not, you could try mind-dulling haha powder or the closing ritual of the Hackney Olympic Games or Facebook/Twitter, all of which really amounts to the same useless thing. I know what I prefer.
However, what is not in dispute is that we are about to embark on our seventeenth year without winning a trophy. It is the second longest such period in our club history, a hard fact to swallow and one that sorts genuine supporters from dilettantes and masochists. Up to now the longest period is 1939 to 1963, minus the six-year Second World War. I cannot imagine David Moyes wishes to wrest that record. Footy-wise there is no question it sticks in our craw. And it is no coincidence this current period almost aligns with creation of the horrible Premier League. Still, we are where we are. Deal with it or run away. In fact if you are a misery-arse I urge you to run away...to Villa Park...or to Hackney for that matter. Some people, places and events should be avoided like the Black Death or fish and chips or Carlsberg lager.
But what can we feel cheerful about this time round, assuming the following names are still here for the season? Well, there's Nik Jelavić's goals, Marouane Fellaini's midfield play and startled hair, Leighton Baines' deadly crosses from the left, Steven Pienaar's tricky left wing play, Darron Gibson's centre midfield solidity, Phil Jagielka finally restored to full fitness(?), Tony Hibbert's goals (did you see what I did there?), Phil Neville's determined stoicism, Tim Howard's reliability and occasional brilliance in goal. And, touch wood, the promise of Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell (?), Magaye Gueye, Apostolos Vellios and Shane Duffy. Alas, the jury is still out on Victor Anichebe, Seamus Coleman and Leon Osman, each of whom will have to try to avoid vanishing for large parts of a difficult game. At some point age will probably tell on Sylvain Distin and Phil Neville. We know nothing yet of Steven Naismith's possibilities in the English game. We hope our Academy will continue to produce highly promising youngsters. That's about it, really, and, given our parlous financial position, quite enough for the time being.
Now that Tim Cahill has gone there will certainly be an experimental air about the team formation, unless we get lucky immediately with the alchemy. (Note: not to be confused with chemicals used in the Hackney Olympics or available via some ale house lowlife). I have not the slightest idea what the settled shape will be, though doubtless some tyro geometrician will appear with a chart that looks like an inky spider zigzagged across it. It is highly likely too a fervent statistician will produce columns of figures that somehow prove Tim Howard should be paired up front with Nik while Leon gets the 'keeper gloves on. It takes all sorts.
The main question now is: can we get a good start? Sadly, wretched early form is now dull expectation, somewhat like the male trollop you see wobbling uncertainly in every gin joint in the world, wallowing in tearful self pity, wondering why his "genius" goes unrecognised. It reminds me of a famous account by the great Danny Blanchflower of his three years with Aston Villa. According to him they always started the season well but even while winning some players muttered darkly, "Wait till January." Sure enough every year they dropped like a stone. It sounds like the modern Us in reverse. Just shows, you really can talk yourself into a slough of despond, which is why brooding is a bad idea. I would love to think all it needs is a good kick in the behind for Our Boys to come racing out of the starting blocks. However, we all know in the league you finish exactly where you deserve. There are no excuses. Not that David Moyes ever makes any. He is too busy doing a brilliant job, and, I hope, preparing to sign a new contract - if he fails to, we are in deep deep shit.
As a final illustration, there are many humorous stories about the hugely prejudiced American scribe H.L.Mencken. My favourite is when he alighted from a taxi and the driver said, "Have a nice day, mister Mencken," and Mencken snapped, "Young man, I'll have exactly the kind of day I please." Now that's my idea of determinist, invincible self-confidence of the sort so crushing for peons with an inferiority complex. I wish Our Boys would apply it to the fresh season. We can dream.
After all, anything is better than watching, slack-jawed, Olympic dressage or synchronised swimming.
In the former case I am still unable to engage an activity where the players wear top hats/crash helmets, nineteenth century jackets, tight trousers and leather boots, a sort of Jane Austen equestriana where human faces bear a marked resemblance to the mounts. But that might be a slight on the horses. There are compensations though: it isn't every day you get players named Bechtolsheimer, Langehanenberg (riding a horse named, and you will like this, Damon Hill), Vilhelmson-Silfven and the wonderful Zu Sayn-Wittengenstein. Let me tell you, you won't find many of them at the bar in a County Road ale house.
As for the "swimming," words fail to do justice to the spectacle of a gaggle of underwater upside-down nose-clipped shop assistants from Marks and Spencer trying hard to convince us their obsession (and good luck to them) is anything other than a bad scene cut from Kevin Costner's disastrous Waterworld.
Meanwhile, let the absurd, lurid, wonderful, fabulous footy pageant begin. The faces and voices vary, people come and go as they always have and always will, but the spectacle is still the same, the world game still its simple self. Youth will have its say in athletic competition. Supporters will live vicariously what they once wanted to do as youngsters. Those who love the game for what it is will always be there; others will drift away to whatever it is they seek or need elsewhere. C'est la vie.
So, Come On You Blues, yet again. My fifty-eighth season......and not a day too long.