At last the dark days are over. The ‘International Football Holiday Season’ is now over. We can emerge from the wilderness that had plagued the previous weekend to re-join the throng of the domestic football pleasure bus this coming Saturday.
Platini’s ‘WEEK OF INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL EXTRAVAGANZA’ was meant to bring the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign back to life, back to the centre of the footballing world and for me personally it has provided quite the opposite, a nice little break away from football. Playing games from Thursday to Tuesday has sort of been like going to Centre Parcs (other destinations/camps in the wood are available) for a long weekend away. In a world where Easter and Christmas in this country are dominated by the festive fixtures, welcome to football’s very own ‘Holiday Season’.
My apathy towards this most recent batch of international fixtures is something that has built up other years where I think the biggest problem is being a fan of football in England. The scrutiny and pressure that comes with any round of fixtures for the national team is unbelievable. The unswerving notion that England should be winning International football tournaments generates an unrelenting frenzy which both elevates every fan in the country into sort of thinking that maybe this is the year, but then equally ruins lives as we all fall from a grand height when we realise that the reason the Premier League is great is because of players like David Silva rather than Jonjo Shelvey. Whether it be the European Championships or the World Cup, I will be honest and admit that I have preferred them once England have played their customary three, maybe four games and we can all just get on with watching great games of football without the stress and the arguments about whether Rooney will or will not carry us home.
It is because of all this extra-curricular nonsense that has sort of let this particular qualifying campaign to just pass me by as I sit at home not wanting my fantasy footballers get injured. England’s group was gloriously straight forward culminating in the sticky match in game week 1 away to Switzerland in Geneva. England won 2-0, we had qualified. 10 wins on the bounce and England are the 6th team ever to go undefeated. I watched the final game against Lithuania out of passing curiosity as Roy Hodgson’s claims of experimenting could have meant something extra-ordinary. The game was fine. England won that 3-0. England had a lot of the possession and some fringe players were able to demonstrate their lock picking skills as Lithuania sat back. This isn’t Lithuania’s fault nor England’s but it hardly was conducive to an enthralling game of football. This just happens to be what occurs in England’s qualifying campaigns.
My personal apathy felt towards International Football verges on the cathartic, as I can sit back and catch up on Great British Bake Off and not feel like I should be keeping abreast of something. I personally think Euro 2016 will be great (I, myself, have tickets so will be in France for a couple of weeks so cannot wait for next summer). I also think England has a realistic chance of being quite good in France and would like to think that an appearance in the last 8 will be both seen as enough and an achievement to the extent that we all have a great summer. Now however we can return to what sort of makes the dull Monday to Friday slog interesting, the Premier League. With two new managers in tow, football is back on the cards. I have something to talk about with my friends and we can finally see which new manager will charm the media with greater conviction: Sam ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce or Jurgen ‘The Normal One’ Klopp when we all sit down to watch Match of the Day in the evening.
Thank god the holidays are over for another couple of weeks.