Pre-season, Olympics football – it’s a desperate time of the year, writes Jamie Smith.
It’s bad. It’s really bad. Such is my craving for live football at the moment, I’ve done three terrible things in the last couple of days.
On Tuesday night I went to Gateshead (Gateshead! Why would anyone ever willingly go to Gateshead!) to watch The Mighty Heed take on the Football League’s newest club, York City. At £10 a pop for what was essentially a non-league training session, they clearly saw me coming. Ex-Claret Dominic Knowles is on trial for York and he scored the second after some shambolic defending from the hosts. We turned up late, got herded halfway around the stadium by a jobsworth in a fluorescent jacket into the away end – segregation at a pre-season friendly, I ask you - York scored two quick goals shortly after our arrival and that was about it.
Appetite far from sated, today I booked tickets for the Olympics. It’s seven years since London won the right to hold this year’s Games and coincidentally it’s about the same length of time since I started whining about it. Don’t get me started on that torch nonsense. Seriously, don’t.
So heading to Newcastle for a men’s quarter-final next weekend makes me a gigantic hypocrite. But I can live with that, especially if the match turns out to be Spain v Brazil – possibly the 2014 World Cup final – with players like Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Ganso, Neymar, Oscar and Jordi Alba on show. For £20. Neymar also fired my Spurs side on last year’s Football Manager to all sorts of titles, so it’ll be good to thank him for that.
Last night, I even watched a couple of hours of women’s football. God knows whose idea it was to kick off the Games with that, but the swathes of empty seats in Cardiff, Glasgow and Coventry weren’t the finest start to the fortnight.
Bless them, they do try these girls, but the standard is generally pretty poor, especially in defence and goal. The keepers were letting 20-yard daisy-cutters fly beyond them as if they were Matt Le Tissier volleys with barely a consolatory waft of the gloves in the general direction of the ball and Graham Branch would have made a better centre-half than any of the ladies on show. Japan did look useful, though.
Many people think football doesn’t belong in the Olympics and I find it hard to argue with them.
But despite all that, I’m looking forward to next Saturday’s match, even though I’m helpfully told I have to be at St James’ Park about three months before the match starts to collect my tickets and go through all the necessary security checks.
Presumably, I will also have to a buy a special Olympics outfit with the right type of branding on it if I am to be allowed in without stripping down to my pants. Which, believe me, nobody wants to see, especially tourists from the other end of the world. Hi guys, welcome to Britain!
Still, £20 for the Olympics seems reasonable pricing when you compare it to how much some Championship teams are charging this season, even if pints of terrible, warm lager are probably going to be the best part of a tenner.
Burnley aren’t playing any pre-season friendlies in the north-east – and Manchester and the south-west are a fair trek from Sunderland to muse on the size of Keith Treacy’s gut – so I’ll stick with whatever football I can shove into my eyes for the next three weeks before the big game.
It’ll be nice to get all the off-the-field stuff out of the way and get down to the serious business. Abusing Owen Coyle.
Are you a fan of pre-season or do you hate it? Comment below.