British football teams are back in training; games are popping up all over the country in which people can see their heroes again, in a slightly modified shirt, playing against teams they don’t know very well.
Gillingham visit Bromley today, Blackburn Rovers travel to Wrexham. Fans will attend and come away with entirely spurious reactions to the match. So early into pre-season, all the players are doing is blowing off cobwebs, running around a bit, and managers are seeing who they have available and playing around a bit with formations/exercises.
The results, the scores, the scorers don’t matter a bean. Just because you were there and saw Jordan Rhodes assist four goals doesn’t mean the great poacher has become the great provider; he’s doing it against Wrexham. Sky Sports News will probably show highlights, and certainly some Premier League teams will have televised ‘tournaments’ against other big European teams.
Enjoy them. Stress-free football!
What I don’t get about pre-season friendlies is that the opposition is so rarely chosen to be relevant. American sports teams play against teams who are at the same level as they’ll face during the season (except the Cleveland Browns, for whom no such beast exists) so that the things they see, or do, might actually be valid for the important games to come.
Stand-alone pre-season games are either set against completely low-level teams, which allows fans to visit a leafy ground and players to have a relatively easy afternoon, or they’re against teams who are using your team in that role effectively (witness Bournemouth v Real Madrid). What will either manager learn from that match?
What if Huddersfield and Doncaster faced off? It’d probably draw a decent crowd, and both teams would get at least a vague idea of the level they would need to be at in the up-coming season.
Yes, ‘big’ teams often meet one another, but the English disadvantage themselves by playing European teams at different stages of readyness. Italy’s season starts late, so any game against Inter will mean the English team is far closer to their starting make-up while Inter are still rusty.
This is just a quick rant, really. The weight attached to friendlies, which mean little, is perhaps understandable from a media starved of football. If friendlies were to mean anything, they should be played against teams of a similar level.
Until they are, and regularly, they’re just an excuse to see some old friends, see a new kit, and have a few drinks, probably in the sun.
I’ll see you all at Dulwich Hamlet, when Huddersfield visit and I get all my opinions for the season.