This summer will probably be remembered as one of the greatest summers ever for British sport. The Lions’ triumphed in Australia, Chris Froome succeeded Sir Bradley Wiggins as the Tour de France winner, and England are on their way to retain the Ashes for the third series in a row, ensuring we won’t forget the summer of 2013 too easily.
Football, however, has plunged even further into ridicule after the season drew to a close in May. England were unceremoniously knocked out of pretty much every tournament they entered; the U21 European Championship, the Women’s European Championship and the U20 World Cup, while the summer has moved at painstakingly slow pace.
Ironically, everything was in place for this summer to be one of the most exciting in recent memories, with last season’s top three clubs sporting new managers, while Arsenal were thought to be finally ready to enter the transfer market by the main door.
But despite promising so much, the summer of 2013 has never burst into life, instead it kept fizzling out and trudging along, tangled between meaningless commercial tours, countless friendlies, and some rather absurd transfer rumours.
Summer football arguably reached its nadir on Saturday when Arsenal were booed-off at half-time by their own fans, on their own turf, playing in what can be considered their own trophy.
Granted, Gooners had probably thought the Emirates Cup would represent the moment when they’d finally get to applaude the club’s new star signings in North London for the first time, instead, after yet another summer of – so far – unfulfilled promises, Arsenal fans were treated to shambolic defending and a second half comeback – their 2012-13 season summed up in 90 minutes.
As bad as Arsenal were, being booed at half-time during a pre-season friendly is hardly going to provide the tonic Podolski and team-mates need ahead of the forthcoming season but, on the other hand, the club should have learnt by now that actions – ie: signing top class players – speak louder than words.
If Saturday was the kiss of death, last Thursday was the day when summer football was pronounced terminally ill, as Sky Sports embarked in one of the most futile, self-congratulating and hyped-up operations since the January transfer window shut.
For hours, although to some of the viewers they must have seemed centuries, we were treated to Jim White flying around in a helicopter, touching base at various Football League grounds, himself presumably failing to grasp the meaning of his latest stunt.
If Sky’s strategy to steal BT’s thunder on their opening day was Jim White flying around the country, while bellowing incessantly, then they clearly need to re-think their priorities, given that football fans were probably already dreading transfer deadline day and the Scot’s overhyped performances.
At this rate, however, White won’t have much to get excited about come September 2, for the transfer market has resembled a simmering pot, rather than a boiling cauldron this summer.
Jose Mourinho has been strangely reluctant to splash cash in his first summer back at Chelsea, while Manchester City have spent well, but haven’t captured the sort of house-hold names they had become accustomed to in recent seasons.
Manchester United and Arsenal strategy in the transfer window hinges on seemingly not having a strategy at all, while some of the league’s biggest stars have, at different times, thrown their toys out of the pram – Suarez – admitted they’d be ready to do so – Rooney – and been invited to do so – Bale.
While clubs increasingly find themselves hostages of the players, footballers believe it is they who are forced to work in sub-human environments when all they want, really, is simply a better financial deal or a regular starting spot.
The transfer window has become so pointless and tedious that scrapping it off altogether might be the perfect solution, for nobody has neither the time nor the will, to keep with the number of rumours that papers churn out on a daily basis (that’s not to mention the ITK wannabes circulating utter garbage that other fans seemingly love to consume).
Perhaps, though, it was a cunning plan all along.
With football fans bored to tears, even those who support Premier League clubs were genuinely thrilled by the return of competitive football over the weekend, while Sunday’s forthcoming Community Shield suddenly sounds like incredibly appealing.
Apart from World Cup and European Championship years, football isn’t, never has been, and never will be a summer sport. Trying to force it onto our screens and newspaper pages at any given opportunity isn’t going to make it any more popular than it already is, for all fans crave, after all, is competitive football.