George Young can’t get excited about pre season. He reckons the first couple of months of a new campaign don’t count for all that much either. Here’s why…
Apparently there’s a new football season on the way. Rumours circulate of new kits, the papers are full of new signings and faux outrage at the ones that got away. Some people are filling their social media feeds with trips to pre-season friendlies. Frankly, it all just washes right over me.
Summer is not a time for football. I spend far too much time watching it, talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, that I resent it intruding onto my time in the summer. Friendlies are not for me. I haven’t been to one for years, not since the days of going down to Brigg where I would spend most of the game chatting to friends and putting some much-needed cash behind the bar at the Hawthorns. Otherwise, I have no interest in handing over £10 to watch a match that doesn’t count for anything and doesn’t even have the fun and novelty value of a testimonial. Each to their own of course, if that’s your thing then go for it. I understand football’s a drug and an addictive one at that but allow me to offer just a little bit of advice: none of it counts until October.
Last season, I was at Doncaster’s first home game of the season with my in-laws who were very disappointed a 1-1 draw with Crawley. I was surprised how many people were actually watching the game closely, being of the opinion that early season games are largely an excuse to catch up with friends you haven’t seen since May and occasionally glance at the programme to work out who on earth that new left-back is. Still, Donny were one of the favourites for a bounce-back promotion and nerves were jangling after failing to win any of their first three games. Fast forward to April and they had been promoted before Easter.
Famously, in our title winning 2006/07 season (which as far as I am concerned only just happened and is definitely not more than a decade old now) we didn’t win a game until the start of September and even at the start of October we still only had 16 points from 11 games. Barely mid-table form, never mind the stuff of champions. The 2013/14 promotion season started with only three wins by the end of September. Conclusive proof that the season starts in October and anything before that is just an illusion.
Now, I realise that the most relentlessly pedantic among you will point out that a win in August earns the same number of points as in May and there is more than a grain of truth in that. I could reply by arguing that some teams don’t play so well when the pressure’s on at the “business end” of the season, or struggle to “implement their manager’s philosophy” when the pitches get heavier in the winter. If you still need convincing, however, look back to last season: the Mighty Iron came steaming out of the traps, smiting all-comers to sit proudly at the top of the table in October. Then came our Devon Loch moment, otherwise known as February, meaning we had to settle for bronze.
There is even an exemption to prove my cast-iron rule: the dreadful 2012/13 season under Alan Knill when we lost our first four games, had only 8 points by the end of September, and were relegated in May.
So whatever happens in the first few weeks, just relax. It’s the only way to watch football when the weather’s hot, with the sun and the smell of fresh polyester making you too drowsy to get really drawn into a game. It’s not until the evenings get dark and the mercury plummets that the football season really starts. Wake me up when September ends.