Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time To Look Forward

A couple of days away from blogging. Busy at work, too busy to even conjure up ways of pretending to be too busy to do anything. A horrible, wicked vicious circle that.

It’s maybe just as well. I’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms since the end of the World Cup. We moan - and I moan more than anyone - about Scottish football. But I’m beginning to miss it.

We’ve had a few European ties of course, but it remains difficult to get excited about these European qualifiers. I think it’s the dull inevitability that at least one of our teams will encounter a disastrous result and then blame it on the early season start.

Really? We’ve been stuck playing these games for years now. Rethink your preparation instead of wandering into them like a punch drunk boxer wandering into a flurry of left hooks.

No, this is the football blogger’s downtime. Well, this football blogger anyway.

So time ticks slowly by. And the strange thing is you begin to look forward to new season. It’s not a shouting it from the rooftops excitement - this remains the SPL - but there’s certainly more anticipation than you would have expected back in May.

A Scotland qualifying campaign with a new manager and, one would expect, a reasonably new look side. Including the world’s best team strutting their stuff at Hampden. Bring it on.

Are Celtic transformed as well as revamped? Can a depleted Rangers remain stoic in their title defence? Are Dundee United ready to take another step forward?

Are Hearts or Hibs gearing up to declare themselves the “third force?” Can Danny Lennon, Terry Butcher or Mixu spring a surpise and silence the doubters with a charge up the table?

Can one of our teams ignore recent experience and get a bit of momentum going in Europe? A Rangers run in the Champion’s League or United, Hibs or Motherwell bringing the Europa group stage back to Scotland.

Because football’s downtime is also a time of endless possibilities, a time to ignore the lessons of history and allow ourselves to dream.

Who doesn’t sometimes give in to that temptation?

When you get the first glimpse of your season ticket book, make plans for the first pints on the first away trip of the season with the same old miserable sods who drifted away in about March last season saying they wouldn’t be back until the manager was shown the door.

When the emails start pinging around trying to sort out who will be hosting the first big televised game, who’ll be in charge of ordering pizza online, who’ll be bringing the beer - and this time, please, a normal selection rather than a pick ‘n’ mix of continental lagers. Pizza, beer and football should be a pleasure not a geography lesson.

Admit it. You’re all getting a bit excited. Of course your hopes will be dashed. But there will be one game that leads to a cracking day or night out.

There will be one game on the television where the drinks and the pizza are the perfect accompaniment to a game that lifts your spirits, convinces you that football remains the best entertainment you can get.

And it’s the memories of those days and nights that fuel the anticipation at this time of year.

The defeats, the disappointments, the letdowns. We need them, they bond us to our clubs, but it’s the brief moments when the most imperfect of sports somehow becomes the most perfect of games that keep us coming back.