And I Can’t Smile Without You…

I’m suffering at the moment. Life is tough and, I’d hazard a guess, many of you reading these words are feeling my pain too. And we all know what is to blame, don’t we? The responsibility for our collective melancholic state lies with the coming of summer.

“Close Season” — quite possibly the two most disheartening words in the English language for a football fan.

It’s not as if we are unreasonable as a mass – we accept that it would not be feasible (or, indeed, physically possible) for footballers to work all year ’round like the rest of us are expected to. But even with this practicality accepted, it doesn’t make this time of year any easier to bear. The terrible truth is plain to see: we are addicts suffering the debilitating symptoms of withdrawal.

And what with this being an odd-numbered year, there isn’t even the scant consolation of (yet another) dismal showing by Eng-go-land in an international tournament to bitch and moan and moan and bitch about.

In season, we concern ourselves with the really important issues of existence. We ponder if the adoption a diamond in midfield might result in more frequent goal-scoring chances. We fret and worry over whether or not our star striker will recover from that knock he took in time to show out — and, with any luck, show up – our most bitterest of rivals. These are the big (as in; BIG) issues.

But when football stops, we find ourselves capitulated into the real world; a place altogether uglier than the Neville brothers and more profoundly depressing than Ch£l$ki’s transfer kitty.

Soon, we’re doing things no self-respecting Beautiful Game devotee would ever do ordinarily. We find ourselves reading newspapers from the front or tuning into Channel Four News and, to our abject horror, we’re confronted with the unspeakable truth that is a glimpse of how the world would be without football.

I ask you: How do people that profess not to like the game carry on? Here, right off the top of my head, are a litany of Reasons To Be Cheerless that are guaranteed to make even the most well-adjusted, free-thinking person reach – urgently – for the Prozac:

The War on Terror; Pete Doherty & Kate Moss; climate change; processed food; the U.K.’s astronomical consumer debt (currently just over £1 trillion and rising…fast); Alan Sugar; the cost and dire inefficiency of our public transport system; gun crime; property prices; the obesity epidemic; Paris Hilton: the plethora of reality television shows; NHS waiting lists; the perpetual, heart-breaking poverty endured by those who inhabit the Developing World; David Cameron; gleeful corporate announcements of – yet more and even bigger – multi-million pound profits…

It’s enough to wipe the smile off the face of a lottery winner — on a rollover-week.


In the name of God, can’t you see? We need football! Give us football!!!

But there is none…so what are we meant to do in the meantime? That is the question.

Thanks in no small part to the internet, metaphorical morphine is on offer at least. We can consume stories of perspective transfer targets of our respective clubs — whether real, speculative or completely tabloid-created. We can (over) analyse the formations employed by The Gaffer in (ultimately meaningless) pre-season friendlies. We can chat for hours on end in fan forums with other addicts-in-a-state-of-advanced-withdrawal …but whatever we do to kill time it’s still there, isn’t it? A cavernous void you know can only be filled when it all starts afresh.

People hold on.

I suppose if there is positive point here, it is this: in order to protect our sanity in an increasing mad, bad and sad world, we all – as human beings, being human – need coping devices. And regardless of whether or not we choose to consciously acknowledge it, for many of us it is football that serves this purpose. And unlike other vices, like drink or drugs for example, the affliction of our addiction isn’t potentially terminal. For that, we can and should give small thanks…

…Let’s face the truth: there’s nothing to do but wait. Roll on when Saturday (11th August) comes.

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