Say hello, wave goodbye
There is plenty of ‘pre-season’ action for The FA's 'superfan' on Saturday.
I have a match on Saturday, so the agony is almost over. I remember when the close season lasted for three months – I don’t know how I survived.
It wasn’t too bad when I was a lad, because I was really into athletics during the summer. But then it became quite miserable, particularly in June, when the only mention of football in the newspapers was the Australian matches on the pools. Of course I’m writing about years when there was no World Cup or European Championship.
From my experience you have to be careful about pre-season friendlies. Sometimes they are cancelled at short notice; sometimes they are played at a ground which is not the ‘home’ team’s normal ground. I started one pre-season with a match between Langney Sports (now Eastbourne Borough) and Whyteleafe, which was played at a college ground without any pitch markings.
Yes, there were two goals with nets but they might as well have put some coats down.
Another pre-season started more exotically with Crystal Palace’s friendly against Feyenoord in Rotterdam. Palace, the team I supported for 20 years, had only had one season in English football’s top flight and I suspected that most of the locals wouldn’t have heard of them. I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd but they had 34,000 on a very wet night!
I have four or five games to choose from on Saturday. Towards the end of the month, of course, the London 2012 Olympic Games start and there’s football from 25 July. Olympic football on these shores is a rarity. The last match played here was a qualifier for the Munich tournament of 1972, GB v Bulgaria at Wembley. (I was there and saw our amateurs edge what was virtually the Bulgarian World Cup side 1-0 with Joe Adams’ goal.)
There hasn’t been an Olympic Finals match here since Sweden took the gold before a Wembley crowd of 60,000 in 1948. They beat Yugoslavia 3-1 in the Final, while GB finished fourth. So there hasn’t been an Olympic tournament here for 64 years. I have tickets arranged for three of the matches, starting with Japan v Morocco up in Newcastle where my niece lives.
After one of the Euro 2012 matches we were talking about penalties in the office. I’ve seen so many hit high and wide of the target, remembering one in last summer’s Island Games when an Ynys Mon player’s shot cleared railway lines at least 30 yards behind the goal. The ball is probably still there.
My worst spot-kick was probably Steve Kember’s for Palace against Birmingham. He side-footed the ball along the ground towards the middle of the goal and ‘keeper Jim Herriot just had to bend down and pick it up. I remember a Sutton player who shot low into the left-hand corner at Redbridge and was immediately carried off on a stretcher. He had kicked the ground at the same time as the ball and hurt his ankle.