Early Doors

Money for old rope

Early Doors

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Football friendlies seem decidedly unfriendly on the palate. It was
probably a pleasant enough experience for Eintracht Frankfurt to down
Chelsea and Borussia Monchengladbach, who outlasted Liverpool on
Sunday, but no matter how many fans attend such matches, who scores or
who plays in what position, they remain the phoniest of phoney wars.

It
would be foolhardy to believe Chelsea would not go to town on Frankfurt
if the pair collide in competitive action this season, but the
Bundesliga club's win over the English champions suggest such
encounters remain about as meaningful as Robinho's commitment to
Manchester City.

There remains two weeks until the start of the
Premier League season, but Early Doors is already fed up bingeing on
such goings on. It is hankering after a pie, Bovril and a meaningful
Bolton Wanderers versus Wigan Athletic match in mid-January rather than
Internazionale against Manchester City in the death throes of July.

Let
us forget the tripe that is constantly proclaimed about blooding
youngsters and hoary old managers wheeling out statements about such
matches being "worthwhile exercises". These games relate solely to filling the coffers of clubs and selling the "brand" in foreign climes.
Nothing more, nothing less. Nice work if you can get it.

Depending
on where you get your kicks out of a sporting digest that fairly veered
and swerved over the weekend, there was F1 racing, Women's British Open
golf, a Test match thrashing, the European Athletics Championships and
the usual plethora of football friendlies to provide a pleasant
diversion.

Out of these five crackling little sporting excerpts,
it is difficult to escape the conclusion that only the men sporting
tight jumpsuits and large helmets in Formula One were partaking in sport
at its optimum level.

Even if fast cars are not your bag,
watching some of football waifs and strays try to put one in the onion
bag in a friendly is a poor relation to the real thing.

The
fare becomes poverty-stricken when you watch these games quickly
descend into farce. 10 dozing substitutes beginning to shuffle on
around the hour mark is not a football match.

It is hardly an august start to August.
Early Doors always appreciates the finer points of a female golf swing,
perhaps not so much when Laura Davies is at it, and we certainly doffed
our caps to Great Britain collecting 19 medals at the European
Championships, but like football friendlies, it is difficult to escape
the conclusion that they are tinpot events.

A woman golfer cannot
live at the higher reaches of the men's game and some of the British
medallists on the track would look like carthorses at Olympic or world
level.

Several of the footballers rearing their heads for the
bigger clubs over the weekend may or may not appear in the early rounds
of the discredited Carling Cup - many could sink without trace.

If
the international game has been buffeted by claims that players would
rather pull out their toenails than represent their countries in
friendly matches, the club game is hardly in rude health at this stage
of pre-season.

Arsenal downed Celtic 3-2 in the Emirates Cup on
Sunday. Celtic are the Scottish version of
the Harlem Globetrotters - only without the winning. The two games they
played in London over the weekend was the latest stop-off in what seems
like an endless season before a season.

Neil Lennon's side have
already visited the USA and Canada for four matches with two legs of a
Champions League qualifier shoehorned in between the trip to London for
another two games.

Celtic even played Sporting Lisbon at Fenway
Park, Boston's famed baseball stadium. Such an itinerary may cost them
progression in the Champions League after SC Braga shredded them 3-0 in
Portugal a week ago. 

Early Doors has a solution to all this.
Why not scrap pre-season friendlies and only start playing on the first
day of the season? Such an idea is sure to ease the strain on players who
continually whine about playing too many games in a season. Club
chairmen may baulk at the notion.

For the larger clubs, pre-season friendly matches are akin to picking up money for a piece of old rope.

QUOTES OF THE DAY: Let
us pay tribute to the manicured Derby County midfielder Robbie Savage,
who provides enough quotes for a month of Sundays, never mind this
gloomy little first Monday of the month.

He is very much the
thinking man's footballer as the Daily Mirror goes to work on his
autobiography, imaginatively titled 'Savage!', with as much relish as
the player's personal crimper.

"I was ready to do something
really stupid. Not suicide, because that is for cowards, but something
very close and very crazy. Football is my life and it was being taken
away. I wanted to end the pain.

"I was planning to take the car
out and smash it into a tree. Or go out and bang my head into a wall
again and again. Just ending all the pain.

"Football is my life
and it was being taken away from me. So I decided I would end my career
on my own terms, by injuring myself so I couldn't play any more.

"In
the end I went to one of my closest friends and told him what I was
planning. Then I went to the doctor, who put me on medication for
depression." Savage after a bust-up with then Derby manager Paul Jewell.

"The
day I became a Premier League player I bought a pink Porsche. A few
hours later, my dream machine blew up. When I picked it up I looked
like Don Johnson out of Miami Vice, in white chinos, white silk shirt
and sporting a fake tan.

"But in the middle of Chester there was
a bang and we conked out in the middle of the road. When I pushed the
car to one side my white chinos had a black, oily sheen on them and my
fake tan was covered in a layer of soot." Savage tries to escape the stereotype of a footballer being thick and vacuous.

COMING UP: No pre-season matches today, but there is tennis in Washington, San Diego and Copenhagen if you become desperate. 

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