International breaks; like taxes and the poor, they are always with us; always hanging around the street corner waiting to disrupt our domestic contentment.
Just when things have settled into a nice groove; just when the season’s drama is beginning to unfold its latest plot twists, along comes the International Break to spoil it all, putting it all on pause for two weeks while we sit around and stare at our blank TV and at our empty grounds with an unbearable sadness.
While I enjoy international football, the waiting around for it to be played drives me nuts. There is no football this week until Friday’s internationals and if you’re an England fan and also a fan of a side in the top two leagues, you’ve got one game to watch in twelve or thirteen days.
We hear plenty about footballers playing too much football but less about times like these when some get two weeks off and even England’s international players are currently enjoying an eight or nine day break before the game against Montenegro.
Perhaps we could call it the Autumn Break? Feet up boys, you’ve had a long two months of football; you’ve played at most, a dozen games in two months, so you must be shattered.
Time was that internationals were played on Wednesdays and there was no break from the league programme to accommodate them. The FA was keen to change this because exhaustion and injury was said to be a cause of England’s failure to perform. Yes, really, it was.
We now know that this was always a delusion, England’s failure being much more down to old fashioned reasons such as players, tactics and coaching not being good enough rather than merely being knackered.
These days we have the break before the games and we still don’t win anything and, just as previously, we occasionally fail to qualify for a tournament. The break hasn’t helped us at all and players seem to be absent through injury in ever greater numbers regardless.
Perhaps it has helped other nations, but it certainly has been of no benefit to our national side. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if the break, rather than rest the players, makes them lose their edge by a few degrees. But this is heresy.
Despite no evidence that it has made England perform better, everyone in the game seems to agree they do and this break to the league programme is therefore most necessary, so perhaps I’m just howling at the moon; just jonesing for some football.
Editor’s Note: Johnny’s new book: “We Ate All The Pies: How Football Swallowed Britain Whole” has received the massive honour of being listed as one of William Hill’s Sports Book Of The Year 2010 – the biggest, most prestigious sports books prize in UK.