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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Why are England playing Holland tonight? Does anyone actually know? International friendlies are pointless and pre-season friendlies are tedious, so why are we combining the two to create one giant 90 minute period of mind-altering boredom? Who stands to gain from this unique conjunction of the worthless and the unwilling?

The worst thing about this wretched idea is that it's been done before and it ended in carnage. In August 2001, three days before the start of the Premier League season, England played Holland at White Hart Lane in another meaningless international fixture. On that night, Sven Goran Eriksson made eleven substitutions including the resubstitution of David James who suffered a horrendous knee injury just moments after replacing Nigel Martyn. Poor old Glenn Roeder, then the West Ham manager, could only look on in horror as his plans for the new season went up in smoke. James didn't return until the end of November, by which point the Hammers were clutching the cliff face, just above the relegation zone. In the space of one balmy evening, England were shown up, a Premier League club was clobbered with a long-term injury and Alan Smith picked up another international cap. Pick the benefits out of that. It was not, I'm sure you will agree, my nation's finest hour.

It seems a strange thing to write on the eve of a new season, indeed it is an odd thing for a football journalist to write at any time, but there is waaaaay too much football being played these days. Premier League clubs endure a gruelling season, often battling for up to four trophies, Communiy Shields, Super Cups and FIFA World Sepp Blatter-Bowls notwithstanding. Thrown into the melee is a packed international schedule of qualifiers and tournaments and, on top of that, we have a pre-season which has evolved from a handful of friendlies against the local lower league sides to a whirlwind international tour, complete with high-profile televised super-tournaments at Wembley Stadium.

We find ourselves approaching what is techincally known as the, 'Ice Cream Every Day' syndrome. It sounds like a lot of fun, ice cream every day, but after a while you find yourself tempted by treacle tart, sticky toffee pudding, cookies, maybe even a nice cheeseboard. Anything but more blinking ice cream. That's why the English have taken so enthusiasticaly to this summer's Ashes series against Australia. We love football, you'd have to travel a long way to find a people who love it more, but we've had enough for the moment, thank you, and we're quite happy with the cricket. Well, we would be if we were any good, anyway.

On Saturday afternoon, when the Premier League football season starts, I'll be bouncing off the walls with excitement. Hard-fought, competive, exciting football will be back and my life will have structure and purpose once again. For the love of Collymore though, spare me this glorified merchandise presentation. Spare me more unwarranted international caps, spare me the endless substitutions and spare me that hollow final whistle feeling when you can't decide whether the result means something or nothing and why. The start of the Premier League season is what we should all be waiting for this week, not this. Let's hope we get to the weekend without seeing any entirely avoidable injuries....