Boredom. Boredom and anxiety. Boredom and anxiety and irritation. – The International Break.
A gritty fightback on the South Coast last Saturday saw the Lads come away with their first three points, with several players arguably performing at their best since the season began. Unparalleled joy is as much the result of that performance as the points on the board and for fans and players alike the world has seemed that much brighter this week (unless you’re into Global politics, in which case the world will probably end soon enough anyway).
But like the tiniest dregs of water bring hope to a man dying of thirst on a desert island, that joy is fleeting.
Bournemouth had their chances. Oh boy and how. My heart, like yours I’m sure, was perennially in my throat for an hour as I watched us concede possession and allow pressure on our often calamitous defence. When Steven Pienaar was sent off for a second yellow following a rather reckless studs up challenge my heart fell out of my mouth and tried to roll away to a dark cupboard and hide. We dropped deeper and welcomed a true bombardment of the goalmouth. Shots scuffed inches wide of both posts, even bouncing off once in a remarkably lucky turn of events for Sunderland. We all know that had Jordan Pickford not produced two incredible saves we would have again conceded in the dying minutes and the world would be looking bleak indeed right now. Like Donald Trump operating the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, bleak.
This season I have been a fan of international breaks. I have been looking forward to them like a child looks forward to Easter. Not Christmas, that’s more like ending the season in the Premier League again. But Easter you get given loads of sugar and it tricks your mind into thinking you’re having an awesome time, even if you don’t know you’re symbolically ingesting a 2000 year old magician. So, like Easter, the International break off the back of a victory has me lulled in to the idea that everything is groovy and the corner has been turned. Sugar – crash pending.
In reality though, they do nothing for us. I looked forward to previous international breaks in the hope that extra time on the training ground without pressure would allow Moyes’ Merry Men to practice their aim and keep working on the fundamentals of stealing from the rich to give the poor something to smile about. That wasn’t the case though.
This distracting but ultimately pointless fortnight ends in one of two ways, quite simply we play convincingly against Hull when they come to the rather pregnable fortress that is the Stadium of Light and we take one if not all points from a team that are currently our equals in almost every sense, or we collapse again and that sterling performance from Victor Anichebe becomes the benchmark we hang the team from.
This week we shall mostly be watching England vs Scotland. We don’t want to, neither country really likes their squad and to be honest the most interesting facet of this match is not that it’s a poorly organised World Cup Qualifier with the people a kindly Emperor once commissioned a wall to keep away from us, but the overriding question: poppies. Yes, we can all agree I’m sure that this little red picture symbolising death and heroine is by far more important than any clubs season…
I understand, though don’t agree with, the process for World Cup Qualification. I understand that at some point the National team has to play and in order for that to happen it would be unfair (but hilarious) to strip the clubs that have players featuring for their countries of those players and allowing the season to continue regardless.
But as an England “fan” I’m left thinking:
1. You lot destroyed my passion two World Cups and a European Championships ago.
2. I literally could not care less whether it’s Scotland or some tiny, recently recognised barony of Inuit’s playing in snow shoes in woolly parkas an- hmm... Actually, that sounds far more interesting. Scratch this one.
3. You’re going to lose the tournament. England, listen to me – you’re going to lose. You know it, we know it, the National press know it but couldn’t care less because they’ve got so many bad Pro/Anti Rooney/Southgate puns shat out by the monkeys they pay to man the typewriters that they could print a newspaper every single day of the year, every year, forever. Doesn’t that sound horrible? Oh, wait…
I could rant about this forever but honestly I’ve made myself angrier at the fact that we have to wait through this hammy, hyped up charade of overpaid and underworked men give much less than their all for their country before we can carry on with what everyone actually cares about, REAL football. Particularly when you consider that Sunderland may well be on the cusp of being promoted back to the Premier League by the time this money-making machine rolls in to… what? Quatar!? The fuck are we going there for?!
Sigh. I apologise. You see my point though. Qualification for a Global tournament showcasing the worlds talent and attracting millions of spectators to a place where people are literally dying to put on this farce 18 months from now means nothing to us, we the football fans. Brazil v Argentina? Nah, you’re alright. I’d really rather watch Sunderland v Hull.
And another thing - whoever thought it was a good idea to have this mannequin named Harry Kane, clearly operated by incoherent, unintelligible microscopic puppet orcs with a basic three word vocabulary of “Win.. winning.. manager..” doing a press conference? He made me want to punch myself in the face in case, somehow, unaccountably, I was Harry Kane and watching this conference from an outer body experience was the worst kind of Purgatory. Utterly useless people.
Seriously though. Quatar. THEY DON’T HAVE ANY FUC—