It doesn’t seem right to play football in the summer. Not league football that is. The Premiership is played in the winter when it’s cold and raining and the days are short, when you need to warm your hands round a cup of hot Bovril and the player’s thighs smart when the ball strikes them. Not in the summer.
It’s just not right that the league is starting so early in August, in the middle of the school holidays when the sun is still high and the temperature is on the wrong side of warm. But it is. At 12:45 on 17th August Liverpool will play host to Stoke City and so will begin another ten months of passion, excitement, hopes and fears.
It will be another season of complaints about the manager’s tactics and the referee’s decisions, whether or not the incomprehensible offside rule adds or detracts from the game and the obscene salaries that the top players receive. We’ll talk about who’s been bought, who’s been sold and who has gone out on loan. We’ll lament the deals that never were while speculating on those that might be coming and we’ll grudgingly admire the top teams with their mind-gaming managers and their cheque book talent while swearing an undying allegiance to our own home team. Football is legitimised tribalism.
In the first few weeks there will be all to play for, two cups, the league and some trips to Europe for the lucky ones. We’ll cheer our lads on to the hallowed turf from our pitch-side seats, from the beer-fumed rooms of the local or from the comfort of our own lounge, watching in HD with surround sound. We’ll kick every ball, feel every knock, celebrate every goal and suffer every defeat. They’ll pay a blinder and our eyes will sparkle with the quest for silver only to be robbed by injury, bad luck and schoolboy errors. And we’ll replay every move in conversation time and time again with our mates and our work colleagues.
Ten months is a long time and there is an awful lot of the beautiful game to get through but for the majority of us, sadly, it will probably be over by the middle of October.
But there is always the next season to look forward to.