Friday, 27 March 2009

International Heart Break

Could the International break have come at a worse time? Just when the Premier League was finally coming to an exciting climax, with Manchester United at last proving they are human after all, we have to reassure our national legion's, and begin mumbling God save the Queen.

At least, this international break does have some significance for some nations, with a World Cup Qualifier being thrown in with a friendly. Did they think we wouldn't notice the friendly, or perhaps mistake it for another qualifier??

International friendlies are important, its just hard for the average fan to get excited about a game, whom's only reward is another cap for players, and on the rare occasion for managers to try out new players/tactics. If anything, I would advocate more friendlies, as in theory this would give players more International experience, and would provide the internationals managers a welcome break, from whatever it is they do for the rest of the year.

In reality, what little friendlies are played, end up being a very small window for experiment, meaning that we end up with what was so expertly demonstrated by then England Manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, making 11 changes plus at half time. Even the kit man got subbed, nobody was guaranteed a full 90 minutes!

The result of all this cramming, is the devaluing of the international friendly. You can hardly blame fans, who have in the past spent time and money on tickets, get disgruntled at the sight of their favourite players gingerly tip toeing around in fear that they might get a bollocking from their respective club manager if they fail to come back in one piece.

Ironically, I have to admit that while the distinct lack of enthusiasm shown by players can be an embarrassment to my nationality at times, I also find myself crossing my fingers, that upon their return, the club squad is left intact, especially at this time of the season.

In truth, over the startling and some what scary 20 years I have been a fan of the beautiful game (Italia 90' being where it all began), I have seen the slow shift in legions from country to beloved club, for both player and fan. As the old First Division was re-branded in to the Premier League shortly after Italia 90, the game has become far more professional, standards have been raised and with it, the amount of money sloshing around the footballing Industries coffers.

So, as we wait a whole 7 days for our next premier league fix, building enough paranoia to suggest the timing of the international break was a masterful plot by the Premier League to have us gasping for more, we are left to get a poor substitute in 'Arry and Fabs bickering over the fitness of Ledley King who must have been learning far too much from Darren "sicknote" Anderton in his academy days.

One person who will welcome the international distraction though, will be Sir Alex Ferguson. We all assumed that his refusal to speak to the press after the Liverpool game would have been a big enough signal to his team to refocus by the time they faced Fulham. Paul Scholes moment of madness amidst the complacency in which United started their game at Craven Cottage, being a stark reminder of assumptions being the mother of all F*@k ups, has shown even with the wealth of experience united possess, Ferguson actually has a challenge on his hands. A challenge he will be looking to reassert himself on during the shelter of the international break.

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