Monday, May 16, 2022

Those old familiar faces

One by one, pre season checkpoints are being ticked off. The fixtures have been published. People have moaned about the fixtures. The new home shirt is out. The people that moaned about it have bought it. The season review DVD is out soon. I’ve already had the “oh shit, it’s 5 minutes before kickoff I’m at the turnstile and I’ve just realised I’ve forgotten my ticket” dream. Does anyone else get this recurring dream?

Or the dream where there’s ten minutes until kickoff and you’re stranded at King’s Cross station or some other such decrepit shit hole. By now your bum is well and truly flapping about making the game and your progress towards the ground is impeded in increasingly bizarre and unlikely ways. Until kickoff time comes and you find you’ve somehow ended up at Watford Gap Services.

By now you’re apoplectic with frustration. Then of course, as dreams are wont to do, things get increasingly strange. Robert Pires slowly begins to horse whip you with a cat o nine tails and you realise it’s actually all a dream, so you relax and enjoy until the alarm goes off. Where was I? Oh yes. Euro 2012 has proved to be pretty tasty methadone indeed. It’s probably the most I’ve actively enjoyed an international tournament since Euro 96.

From the parochial periscope of N5, the tournament has gone quite well too to this point. Szczesny, van Persie, Walcott and Koscielny played in excess of 50 games last season and all have been about as sheltered as could possibly have been hoped for. Some of our dogs in the window have wagged their tails (and displayed their corporately sponsored briefs) quite nicely too. Strongly rumoured transfer targets have also not been overexposed to the point that Abramovic waves a big sack of cash under their nose at the last moment either.

Theo Walcott has produced a goal and an assist for England, which is nice for him and, by extension, us. Incidentally, this piece by @TheSquidBoyLike goes into more detail on that. But if gets any big ideas in his contract renegotiation, Dizzy Law and I Gizzle can lay the “fuck off son, you’re James Milner’s boot boy” slap down on his ass.

The ever cuddly Roy Hodgson has also carefully managed Chamberlain in such a way as to showcase his talent without allowing the press to anoint him saviour of the world. I bet Hodgson always has a steady supply of Werther’s Originals too. But he’s careful not to flash the foiled packaging on camera lest UEFA sentence him to death by firing squad. Werther’s Originals are not UEFA’s official sickly sweet pensioners’ confectionary.

Of course Holland’s pathetically limp exit means that the speculation around van Persie’s future will meet something of an occluded front. That’s only natural, even if he is about to go on his holibobs, it does mean the issue will be expedited rather soon. I’m sure Gazidis will be preparing to prevent this occluded front causing any storms in teacups; the club will be sexing up their PR dossiers in light of the expected attack from the Press Association.

The more I think about it, the more I think van Persie might extend his deal by one year. If Papa van Persie is to be believed, the thought of Manchester City is anathema to Robin. Juventus seem to be the only ones lifting their skirts at him. I have this, possibly misguided, belief that the two Spanish behemoths are the only clubs that would truly turn his head and neither appears overly fussed. A one year extension would allow him to reassess his options again in a year’s time and the club could then potentially hold him until he is 31 and would need replacing anyway. It’s certainly not the ideal solution for all concerned, but it could be a sensible compromise.

The Euros have also got me thinking about more obscure subjects. Such as the evolution of club rivalry in the modern game. I’ve watched with interest the reactions towards Spain and, by extension, Barcelona online. Every time Cesc Fabregas so much as takes off his tracksuit bottoms a phoney war seems to erupt on Twitter. Spain, for so long the neutral’s favourites, have become pantomime villains. I’ve certainly found myself rooting against them and decrying the eye gouging tedium of their games. Their technically superb, yet not very stirring passathon sessions are usually met with 11 man defensive resistance. Hardly the recipe for an entertaining game.

But it’s also our cognizance that informs our whims. Familiarity breeds contempt and in today’s global game, with far flung fan bases and saturated coverage, the opportunities for familiarity and contempt are magnified. The good will fostered towards Brazil in the World Cups of 1958 and 1970 would surely have never lasted for so many generations under today’s hyper-lens. It almost feels odd that we can engender ill feeling towards a far flung team like Barcelona, but on reflection, it makes perfect sense. Not that I suspect Barcelona fans give much of a shit about Arsenal mind.

The rivalries we feel in football are so subjective. As a native of London, I’m faced with Tottenham supporters on a daily basis. Yet I’ve never recognised some of the poison and ugliness that has come to characterise our rivalry. My family is split between Arsenal and Spurs. To embellish that point, my Great Grandfather attended the first ever competitive North London derby in 1921 as a Spurs fan. Yet my 3 month old niece was inside the stadium, via her mother’s womb, when Thierry Henry scored the winner against Leeds in January.

I’ve always enjoyed the rivalry, the piss taking or “banter” as modern parlance would have it. But I don’t recognise the actual “hatred” in the proper sense of the word because of the immediacy of family ties. Given those bonds, it seems strange to foster distaste for a team a touch less than 1,000 miles away. But given the coverage available to us and the fact that a huge proportion of our fanbase isn’t local, why shouldn’t such international rivalries become commonplace?

The teams that contest the Champions League and the European Championships are largely the usual suspects. In the future, perhaps Inter Milan and Bayern Munich will become heated adversaries. As we move closer to the looming spectre of a Superleague, maybe Manchester City versus Juventus will be considered a derby game? Rivalries are shifting- for instance, Real Madrid are probably more concerned with Barca than Atletico – but maybe the parameters for what consists of a true derby will alter. A random tangent, I concede, but one that’s been interesting to ponder on during a continental tournament.

To close, this interesting titbit came to my attention this week via the interweb, though I’m not sure I have seen it discussed too widely. I’ll be honest, I’m not going to forensically analyse the ins and outs because what I know about customer relations and targeted marketing could fill the back of a postage stamp. So to offer any sort of dissection would make me a jumped up little twat. More so. So I’ll just shovel it lovingly on your plate for your digestion. What’s clear is that with this, the relaunch of the interactive stadium tours etc, more innovative commercial solutions are at the forefront of the club’s agenda.

Shuffling subtly back into my comfort zone now, I would point out that, if you’re feeling a little starved for some red and white action, Arsenal Ladies play a top of the table clash against Birmingham City at Borehamwood on Sunday afternoon. Tickets are a Lady Godiva for adults, £2.50 for kids and codgers. I’m sure the girls would appreciate the support. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

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