For Nina, Bonnie & Jesse
A malady has taken me over. It’s not something that you’ll find case studies on in prestigious medical journals or in the latest pop-psychiatry bestseller from Oliver Sacks but its symptoms (in my mind, at least) are very real and have an effect on how I’m to digest football for the next few months. You see, I’m currently within the grip of a heavy dose of the Post World Cup Blues. Don’t worry. It doesn’t last for long. Usually until October at which point, I inevitably and finally commit those glorious days of summer to memory and once again nuzzle back into the ample bosom of club football.
I can trace this phenomenon, for which we can now apply an acronym to (PWCB) back to 1998. In 1990, I was under the influence of another feverish mania commonly referred to as Gazzamania and thus approached the dawning of a new season with hitherto unknown levels of excitement, seeing as it was my club who boasted one of the undisputed stars of that most iconic of tournaments. I also seemed to escape PWCB’s clutches in 1994, armed with the righteous indignation of a six point deduction and a genuine superstar in the shape of Jürgen Klinsmann primed to charm his way into White Hart Lane folklore. Every World Cup since however, has resulted in me barely summoning the enthusiasm, optimism and childlike wonderment that are all necessary requirements for any football supporter during the opening throes of a new season.
I’m simply too smitten by the World Cup and all its attendant romance and concentrated drama to truly let it go, as any of you who read my World Cup pieces this summer would have no doubt detected.
And because of this, I’ve come to a decision. This week’s post will be the final weekly Dispatch from my Football Sofa. It’s something that has been on my mind a lot since the World Cup ended. Don’t worry (why would you worry?), this isn’t yet another declaration of blogging retirement. I think I used up all my goodwill credits the last time I did that and I’ve realised the only person who could ever truly get away with perennial farewells and triumphant comebacks was Frank Sinatra and I neither have his talents nor his dubious underworld connections to maintain your interest in my thoughts and words.
I just feel that after 222 weekly posts, it’s time for a change. I’m immensely proud of what I have achieved over the course of four years and if anything what I have documented is not just a period of time in the world of football but it is a record of the triumphs and tragedies of a young family from Kent who started off as two, became four, went on an adventure and came back home again. It is a body of work for Bonnie and Jesse to look back on in future years if they can bother to tear themselves away from whichever Apple microchip has been implanted into their brains and say, “our Dad did that – he’s not just that bloke who sits on that battered old sofa, chuffing on his pipe and constantly banging on about the good old days of Gareth Bale, John Terry and only 38 games in a League season”. I’d like that. The problem is that the borderline paranoiac in me keeps expecting the dark imaginings of the Terminator films to become reality but if that were to happen, none of the words I’m committing to cyberspace right now would matter anyway. Unless of course, it’s the apes who’ll take over instead of the computers.
Note: PWCB does not just affect your footballing faculties. I’m clearly losing it.
With the fear of losing all my posts to some digital Armageddon, I’m going to be spending the majority of the season moving towards the completion, publication and inevitable critical savaging of something committed to good, old-fashioned reliable paper. The book is progressing well but time is limited what with the reality of having to re-enter full-time teaching and keeping a pair of (fingers crossed) junior spurs occupied from five-thirty in the morning, every morning until sundown. Added to that my back aches.
So that explains my absence from your Twitter timelines, Facebook newsfeeds or wherever it is you choose to receive your culture. I will post intermittently throughout this season (at least) but the days of prolific smart-alec verbal fireworks and parodies are over for now. I would have found that very difficult to accept a few months ago but my blogs towards the end of last season pointed towards a genuine desire to fall back in love with the game and the weekly format does not lend itself to fulfilling such a quest.
To maintain a reader’s/audience’s interests, topical stories tend to focus on the negative and it naturally followed that I would take my lead from them in order to deconstruct them for some meaning that may or not have been there. The World Cup posts allowed me to write and experiment in a different style far more epic in tone (hopefully) reminiscent of one of my favourite books written about the game, Eduardo Galeano’s Football In Sun And Shadow. It’s in those posts where you’ll find the blueprint of The Book but there I go again. It’s PWCS doing all the talking.
I could go on about the death of football blogging. But I won’t. It’s a seasonal bout of navel-gazing that afflicts a lot of us amateurs – I’m starting to get the feeling that football bloggers suffer from acute hypochondria. Who am I to criticise the proliferation of GIFs and slideshows on blogs that seem to have replaced a certain kind of storytelling when writing about football? There’s clearly an appetite for that kind of thing but there are still many wonderful writers still doing this regularly out of a genuine love for both football and words. So, it’s not really about that.
And I’m not overly interested in covering yet another yawn-inducing debate about why Spurs fans are apparently racists for chanting ‘Yid’. I don’t want to expend more energy bemoaning rising ticket costs and the mean-spiritedness of club tribalism. I’ve covered a lot in four years and I’m happy to take a step back and choose my battles. And to have fun again.
There’s too much misery in the world. Watching nightly horror reels from Gaza and Iraq and waking up to the shock of suicide is depressing enough. Football, being the thing I love most aside from my family, shouldn’t add to that feeling of alienation and powerlessness. It should be as joyous and silly, poignant and trivial as I want it to be. There’s nothing wrong with that because, and I really hate this when people say this to me but it’s true in this case – it’s only a game.
Spurs have a manager we can finally get behind after all these years of griping and grumbling. Arsenal have signed my favourite player from the World Cup. Manchester United have a compelling maniac in charge and Crystal Palace have gone bonkers. I even enjoyed this week’s Match of the Day for the first time in a long time. Yes, even Alan Shearer. This is going to be a great season. Eventually.
222 posts, spanning four seasons, two World Cups and one European Championship. I hope you found them as fun to read as I did writing them. I’ll see you in October.
Follow Dispatches on Twitter: @Sofalife