Thursday, April 25, 2024

The summer is missing something

Morning all, welcome to another week.

This feels like the first ‘true’ week of the off season. Last week there was still the Champions League final on the agenda, but we’re definitely in ‘holiday’ mode now. There are some international bits and pieces going on, the UEFA Nations League will see some Arsenal involvement, not least for England as they play Hungary twice, as well as Germany and Italy.

I still don’t really understand the Nations League as a format/competition, but I will readily admit that’s because I have never tried and, frankly, I have no interest in ever doing so. Life is too short to spend time on things like this. It’s there, it exists, and that’s about as much as I need to know.

It’s a funny one though, because the summer of 2022 should have been a World Cup summer, but obviously when you give the tournament to a country where temperatures are so high it’s impossible to play at that time of year, the only option is to move it. Of course, you could make a very good argument that the fact it’s as hot as balls in Qatar at the exact time the World Cup is taking place ought to preclude them from hosting it in the first place, but as with other decisions taken by FIFA down the years, there were external forces at play.

[cash register sound effect]

[image of FIFA officials diving into Scrooge McDuck’s pile of money and jewels]

Maybe I’m just an old bloke who is resistant to change, but I really feel like it’s a shame that we don’t have a summer World Cup. When I think back to the ones of my youth, I remember them so fondly. Football on at all times of the day, and I suppose this was a particular treat back then because football on television was a rare thing. Nowadays, if you want to watch a game of football, you can basically find one any time of the day or night.

Still, the summer of 1982 was, in my mind at least, filled with football, flitting in and out of friends houses to watch the games, then going around to the green to play three and in or heads and volleys. There was a house at the end of the road whose side wall we used as one of the goals, but the ball went over and into their garden quite a lot so we’d have to climb in and get it.

Someone had to give you a bunk to get you over it from street side, but fortunately they had a big log pile in the corner so it was easy to get back over. Unfortunately, you had to run the gauntlet of their vicious dog too. Not a big dog, but a little bastard of a Jack Russell whose first thought when he he saw a kid’s ankles was ‘Delicious, I’m going to take a good chunk of those’. To be fair, he was just doing his job as a dog in his own garden, but he was also a little prick.

We went over that wall a lot. So much so that one day, it collapsed when one of the lads was climbing it. Genuinely. We ran off very quickly, and I can’t remember exactly how much trouble we got into, but I think it was quite a lot. I still feel like it was shoddy workmanship rather than relatively slight young men doing some occasional clambering that was truly at fault, but grown-ups don’t want to hear that when there’s a broken anything in front of them.

Point was though, 1982 – Northern Ireland versus Spain, Gerry Armstrong’s goal for a 1-0 win.

I can’t remember some of the goals Arsenal scored this season, but I remember that one l like it was yesterday. The final between Italy and West Germany. Marco Tardelli’s celebration.

Josimar versus Northern Ireland again in 1986, with Pat Jennings in goal.

Staying up late in that summer to watch the World Cup in Mexico, the time difference meant games were on late in this part of the world, the Azteca football. All of it.

1990, Ireland being involved for the first time in my life. The David O’Leary penalty against Romania. The streets in this country being deserted when games were on, it was literally like a ghost town everywhere. Schillachi. A brutal final.

So maybe I’m verging on ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory, but I feel like the younger generation are missing something this summer. I’m sure they’ll watch in November or whenever it’s on, but it won’t be the same. They won’t have that mixture of football, sunshine, school holidays, and all the rest. If you see a brilliant game or a great goal you can’t round up your mates to the local green or pitch or wall or whatever you use these days to try and recreate it. It’ll be dark and cold and quite probably raining. Except in Qatar.

Still, at least we’ve got the Nations League.

For those wondering, the podcasts continue as normal all summer (except for the week in July when I’m taking a short holiday), and James and I will be recording an Arsecast Extra for you this morning.

Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Pod should be out before lunchtime. Until then, take it easy.

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