Not Such Sweet Charity
To begin, I will apologise to all of my many, many dedicated fans. I am sorry, dear readers for my lack of posts in the last week or so; I have recently moved to new accommodation, that does not, as yet, allow me to travel freely down the information super-highway. I am therefore forced to return to a deserted house to provide you with this latest entry, no need to thank me.
So, here we are. The football season has already kicked off. Watford’s entertaining 3-2- victory over Norwich last night opened the 2010/11 domestic season, and so we steel ourselves for nine months of emotion: seemingly endless frustration, bouts of bitter rage and, if we’re very lucky, a smattering of euphoric highs.
I sometimes feel sorry for those poor, unenlightened souls who do not have a passion for football. Firstly, because they are missing out on the truly global sport that can, and often does, provide moments of unbridled emotion rarely seen outside the set of Jeremy Kyle. Secondly, because the poor devils have to put up with something they do not enjoy being broadcast on all formats, all the time, for 9 months a year in odd years and for 11 months a year in even ones. I, for example, am not won over by the dubious delights of polo, but because it is practised almost exclusively by a small lah-di-dah (the collective noun) of extraordinarily posh people (Katie Price being the fairly anachronistic exception) I don’t have to put up wth it being flashed in front of my eyes everywhere I look.
Anyway, forget the non-believers, because, brothers and sisters, the time has come for us to begin our pious worship in earnest… football is back.
There is so much to discuss in anticipation of this new season that I know not where to begin. As it is, I have decided that I will consider the Community Shield; that most exciting and worthwhile of games.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Community Shield, why are you reading this blog? I jest… it is the traditional curtain-raiser to the new season that takes place the Sunday before the Premier League commences and is a one-off game between last season’s Champions and FA Cup Winners, which goes straight to penalties following a draw.
Because Chelsea had the temerity to win both the Premier League and the FA Cup last season, we have to resort to the second-placed team, Manchester United, making an appearance. The two best teams in England going head to head should get the collective pulse racing, but generally speaking, mention of the Community Shield tends to be met with a reaction of indifference, even from supporters of the teams involved.
However, while this essentially meaningless friendly game should be a gentle warm-up to the real thing next week, we have occasionally seen in the past that players’ pride can turn this contest into a brutal spectacle.
One of the best examples of this uncharitable spirit came in the 1974 Charity Shield, which pitted Don Revie’s ‘Dirty’ Leeds, the team everybody loved to hate, against Liverpool, who were led out for a final time by club legend, Bill Shankly. A fairly tepid game was interrupted just past the hour by the extraordinary sight of the famously-waspish Billy Bremner openly exchanging punches with fan-favourite Kevin Keegan. Both men were sent off in what was hardly a glowing advertisement for the tradition of fair play in football, and the incident was particularly embarrassing for the FA, as it was the first Charity Shield match to be televised live.
Despite a healthy competition between Manchester United and Chelsea, I can’t imagine that we will see any such similar scenes in tomorrow’s clash. The more likely scenario is that a draw is played out and somebody wins on penalties. Ferguson will then shake Ancelotti’s hand and make some banal comment about the game in his Glaswegian drone, that will leave Carlo with nothing to do, other than raise his left eyebrow, in his customary manner.
Still, once the shield has been dispatched, the battle can really begin. Bring on the Premier League.
And now for something completely different…