A weekend with no football doesn’t have to be the vacuum we all dread. Look on it as an opportunity to spend precious time with your loved ones. To catch up on a few jobs around the house or maybe see if an elderly neighbour would like a hand getting the garden sorted out. There are plenty of ways to fill the time you would normally spend obsessing about Arsenal. One thing you shouldn’t do under any circumstances is waste a second trawling through the internet reading Arsenal blogs. There is no match therefore there is no Arsenal ergo there is nothing for bloggers to blog about. Go on, get out, ride your bike, walk the dogs teach the Myna bird to whistle Ave Maria but for goodness sake don’t sit in brooding and trying to find out interesting Arsenal related facts which quite simply don’t exist.
Ah yes you might say but what if our players got hurt or played well or played badly in the internationals? Doesn’t that matter? They are Arsenal players after all, even if they are wasting their talents in pointless fifa-fixtures. Well you see that’s all well and good but if they did get stretchered off they’ll either play for us in the next game or they won’t and we’ll find out then. It’s pretty futile to spend the intervening days speculating, it won’t change the outcome. Instead of getting yourself in a funk over that which you cannot change, here’s an idea; get out and try to reconnect with football. Real football. Go to the park and watch a bunch of lads or lasses as they scurry about in the mud. Get a ball and go to the local five a side court and have a kick about with your mates. We all spend and waste so much time on the internet I think it’ll do us good to use the international break as an opportunity rather than a curse.
George reminded me yesterday that we are in danger of becoming too po faced and serious about football. Tactics and transfers and boardroom shenanigans – it can drag you down and squeeze the life out what is supposed to be a diverting pastime and not an all consuming obsession. We were chatting about football for pleasure rather than as a nail biting, arse clamping sweat drenched weapon of self flagellation which it all too often is for fans trapped in the information age.
Years back, before the knees popped and the back cracked I actually got a team going . Leaning on the bar one night and talking football related shite, myself and a few drinking buddies realised we all loved playing the game but were to a man so utterly crap that we’d never got to play for the school team. I made the rugby team but that was because no one else wanted to play. We only had fourteen players in a game that demanded fifteen in each side. But as for my true love, football, well let’s face it, the school’s first and second elevens were dominated by the chisel chinned good looking blokes who beat up people for their lunch money, were shaving at the age of 13 and got to snog all the really fit girls. So we decided then and there to form a side made up of all those blokes who just loved to play but could never get into a proper team.
We got the forms from the local FA, attended the AGM and organised sponsorship to pay for the kit, argued over what colour shirts we should wear, found a home ground and lo it came to pass that Reg’s Bar First and Only Eleven was formed. We were shit. Unbelievably, catastrophically poor. Some of us were keen, some were vaguely fit or had been once upon a time. But mostly we were dire. Our keeper was about five feet two on tip toes and took so much acid at weekends that he often could be seen saving shots that hadn’t happened yet, our centre forward’s warm up routine consisted of jogging from the changing room to the touchline and throwing up last night’s cider. Myself and the other central midfielder were in those days partial to a bit of waccy baccy and often shared a half time reefer in his car which was anything but performance enhancing. I remember once trying to kick the ball hard enough to actually reach the goal from the penalty spot while we were warming up before a Sunday morning match. The ball trickled agonisingly forward then held up in a nasty divot three feet from the goal. Our keeper dived high and to his right. That was the closest I ever came to scoring.
But you see none of it mattered because we had such a great time. After a couple of seasons rooted to the bottom of the lowest division the thing got spoiled by proper footballers joining in and the advent of training sessions and tactics but until then it was just the best team I could imagine being part of. It must have been during the era when Eric Cantona played for Leeds and they had that Ooh Ah Cantona chant because we stole and adapted it for our side. In the clubhouse afterwards you could barely hear the guy calling the numbers for the meat raffle over our lustful chorus of Ooh Ah Reg’s Bar, I said ooh Ah Reg’s Bar. There was a famous game which we lost 11 – 1 and our goal scorer was carried from the pitch by the rest of us shoulder high like Bobby Moore in ’66. The opposition, big brutal print factory workers unaware of what Robert Maxwell was up to with their pensions, just stared at us in utter bewilderment. You could see them thinking ‘Didn’t we just muller that shower of shit?’ But they weren’t to know it was our first ever goal, we’d never drawn so much as a save from an opposition keeper before. Similarly when we first managed to lose by less than double figures and the singing went on throughout the afternoon, the team that had crushed us by nine clear goals left the club house shaking their heads bemused and unable to fathom the wild abandon of our celebrations.
It’s too easy to get obsessed with the big prize, the must win, the nit picking, combing through of the minutiae of every performance. Too dangerous and too slippery a slope. Try not to forget why we ever started watching in the first place. We actually enjoy the game for it’s own sake, don’t we? So go on, push your cap to a jaunty angle, thrust your hands in your pocket and whistle a merry tune as you walk down the street this week, and if you see a vaguely spherical stone why not try to dribble it round the lamppost and see if you can’t score through the next open gateway. It’s supposed to be fun after all.