Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Summer lovin'

Gordon Smith is a man who, judging by his ever present tan, enjoys summer. For years now he has preached the joys of summer football with an evangelical zeal the equal of anything Billy Graham ever managed.

Perhaps he is scarred by memories of turning out on the mudbath pitches that British football used to do so well. Perhaps it's because a free winter would allow him to celebrate the festive season in more hospitable climes.

Whatever the reason he'll use any excuse to start banging the pulpit and extolling the virtues of soccer summers. Little surprise then that our abysmal European results gave Smith the chance to pull out his soapbox and head for speaker's corner.

Walter Smith apparently agrees with him – although that must be qualified by the knowledge that the Old Firm would agree to play in Siberia if it meant gaining a passport to English football's fortunes.

Smith, who this time seems guilty of trying to influence the work of an independent review body by galloping his hobby horse to the top of the agenda, may well be right.

But summer football would raise issues that Smith can't provide answers to. You're hard pressed to find a football fan who thinks the glut of changes in the modern game are all good. The powers that be think there is no limit to how far the supporters can be pushed. But would such a massive change be a step to far? The minute fans start voting with their feet the game is up.

Holidays, major televised sporting events and the simple comfort of age old habits suggest that football would not be promised a golden summer. And Scotland, already the runt of Europe's litter with the bizarre concept of the split, would again be out of line with Europe's major league as well as Fifa and UEFA's efforts to standardise the season.

And is summer football the cure all? Are we to accept that Aberdeen, Falkirk, Motherwell and Celtic all came a cropper because of match fitness. Aberdeen were humiliated at home and Falkirk lost to Lichtenstein's only professional team, a team that were relegated last season. That fact their squads are primed to be ready to play in snowy Decembers can only partially explain the lack of professional pride and basic ability that allows those meek capitulations to take place.

Gordon Smith's addiction to the gimmickry of summer football hides the fact that he seems less keen to address those deficiencies that pose a much more real threat to the health of the national game.

Smith, and others, should be posing the big questions and stimulating debate. But his blind adherence to the gospel of golden summers raises the wrong question at the wrong time.