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What Do We Want From Our Pre-Season Friendlies?

It was the Merseyside derby… in Thailand?

Watching Liverpool FC and the Thai National Team come out of the tunnel side-by-side was eerie: the hosts wore all-blue kits and Chang Beer is their sponsor. I had to double check the tv menu and make sure I was actually watching this morning’s pre-season friendly and not an FSC Premier League replay. The Thai team are even managed by a former Evertonian, Peter Reid. (And, I’d like to add: their home colors are actually yellow. The Blue is their away kit. Tell me Reid didn’t know what he was doing when he made that swap!) Would I be seeing goals from Dutsakorn Cahill and Yakubu Suksomkit? Would Peeratat Neville get booked for handball in the box? The only thing that brought me back to reality was the lack of blue or yellow in the crowd. The stadium was almost completely full of Liverpool jerseys. Anfield would never look so one-sided during a derby. This must be the right match. Thailand seemed to be doing everything they could to make the Reds feel at home, from the hearty cheering when Pepe and El Nino came on to the heavy rains in the second half.

In the first 80 min, though, the context of the match may have been more interesting than the football itself. Play was mostly dreary and unconvincing. Babel’s goal was satisfying, but I felt no need to jump out of my seat. But I have to admit: I’m so football starved I’ll watch anything right now. I’m so eager for mid-August, I’d watch Liverpool play a starting XI made up entirely of garden gnomes. I’m like a heroin addict at the methadone clinic. I’ll take what I can get.

But watching the 90 minutes of Liverpool in Bangkok, I realized I was enjoying myself, even if it was far from the best football I’d see all year. Which brings me to this question: what do we want from our pre-season friendlies?

Here are the things that are most valuable to me:

A look at the youngsters: I don’t get to watch reserves matches. I know who some of the kids are and some of them have poked their heads into the first team. But in a friendly it’s nice to see who gets a runout and what they can do. Nemeth, Pacheco, Plessis, Spearing and Kelly were all among those to get some valuable first team pitch time. I want to see more of Nemeth especially. But today he didn’t show too much. When he got the ball in a dangerous area he took to0 long on it. Kelly had some good moments. Spearing and Plessis have both looked better.

Some unlikely heroics: This goes along with getting to seeing the kids and other unlikely starters in action, but I was really hoping for a goal from Nemeth or Pacheco. I even would have been thrilled to see a Voronin goal. And I think I mean that. Or even a goal from one of the usual characters who doesn’t usually score. With Torres on the bench and Gerrard hanging out with his solicitor back in Liverpool, I’d be brilliant to see Lucas or Carra score (okay: it is always be brilliant to see Carra score. It’s like Halley’s Comet going by. How often will it come around again?) I would have loved to have seen Glen Johnson break his duck or at least create a beautiful assist. The Babel goal was decent enough and it somewhat fulfills this criteron: Ryan isn’t exactly going to break any scoring records so it’s something of an event to see him put one away.

Some sign of hope for the upcoming season: Not much of this until 80 minutes in. That’s when Torres came on and the crowd went wild. (Honestly, I’m convinced the entire stadium was cheering both ways. When Pepe Reina came on the noise from the crowd seemed an exact replay of the cheering for the lone Thai goal.) Torres was, as usual, a breath of fresh air and looked like he was going to retake the lead all by himself. Within seconds he was on the ball and charging toward goal. His attack was diffused, but his movement looked great and it made me truly excited for the new season. He’d go on to create more danger in the last ten minutes than we’d seen all match. He’s a joy to watch even when he’s not scoring.

A look at new players: This season for me this means Glen Johnson. Today wasn’t much of a runout. He came in the second half and played out of position (as left-back). He was mostly invisible. He had one good chance (one of those curlers that leave you wondering if it was a shot or a cross) and he showed some nice footwork. But it would have been nice to see him on the right, bearing down on defenders and launching something in for Torres.

So not the most fulfilling friendly ever, but friendlies are meant to be strange, yes? The ability to rotate so many players in and out inevitably turns it into something of a circus. With everyone all over the place, coming in, going out, how is the game supposed to get any true sense of flow? I only wish they’d let you put players back in. We could have used Insua and birthday boy Dirk Kuyt back in in the second half. Ah, but why dwell on it?

Like I said: I’m just that football starved. If eleven Thai players want to dress up like Everton and try to recreate the Merseyside derby some 6,000 miles away to help get me through the summer: I thank them for it. Perhaps when Liverpool visit Singapore on Sunday, the hosts will dress up like Manchester United… honestly, it might help.

So what do you want from your pre-season?

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  1. T-Bull

    July 24, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Is it August 15 yet ?

    just let me see some football i have not already watched, and if that means preseason friendlies, so be it!

  2. CA_backpacker

    July 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    In addition to the points you make Ethan, all I also am looking for is effort. I was at the Inter v Chelsea match at the Rose Bowl and the total lack of effort from the Italians was sickening. No hussle, no running, never closing on the ball. If that is how they play in a couple months, there is no chance for them to compete in the Champions League. Chelsea, on the other hand, looked in good form, and I hate to say that given I will root for ANY team other than them…

  3. Drew

    July 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Probably the same as if Tom Brady was before a Boston Court for hitting some guy…a slap on the wrist followed by a pay off to the guy that got punched.

    • Lyle

      July 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm

      Wonder why EPLTalk hasn’t mentioned it yet?

      • The Gaffer

        July 23, 2009 at 6:51 pm

        I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on the EPL Talk Twitter feed at — but so far, until a decision is made in the case, it’s a non-story to me.

        The Gaffer

        • Lyle

          July 23, 2009 at 9:12 pm

          The Gaffer,

          Thanks for the response. I just wondering since Steven Gerrard is Steven Gerrard the EPL player, figured someone here would have something to say.

          There is video and everything of him punching the dj guy and having to be held back by the bar’s manager.

          I guess he won’t be missing too many games when all is said and done. Guess we’ll see.

  4. Lyle

    July 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Is the Gerrard being covered by EPLTalk? Looks like a guilty verdict may be coming his way. Wonder what the consequence of that will be.

  5. edgar

    July 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Very true. I’m fiending here in Texas also! Ready for the Prem to start as well! I would love to not see any injuries in the pre-season for my team thats the most important.

  6. Bobby Chew

    July 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Pre-seasons nowadays are so commercialized that even the television networks have rights to screen it. It’s great! Even though it’s the off-season but the footie is still on the telly….Liverpool truly sucked against Thailand…Torres was easily the best player on the pitch though he came on late as a sub. I have some published highlights of the Liverpool-Thailand match.

  7. PaulC

    July 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I agree, even though the intensity isn’t there, I’d watch Liverpool regardless of who they’re playing.
    I am excited for what Nemeth and Pacheco will be down the road. The only problem I have is the length to which we’re travelling and the opposition we’re facing. I know we make a lot of money going on these long trips, but I’d rather see us play some decent opposition like when we go to the preseason Ajax tournament.

  8. Eric

    July 22, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Joaq, amen to that.

  9. Joaq

    July 22, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I watch pre-season football matches because it truly gets me in the head for the mid-august kick off. International pre-season matches exist for two reasons, publicity, and practice. That is it. I am not looking for a good match nor am I looking for a wonder goal. For me, watching these pre-season fixtures remind me of how wonderful the actual season is. These international matches are not meant for big clubs to pick on foreign countries nor are they for the clubs from foreign countries to upset the big clubs. They create a stir amongst supporters and attempt to get potential footy fans involved and interested in different clubs and countries. As much as we’d all like to believe that our favorite players would die for the colors and badge of their shirt, we need to remember all of these clubs are businesses. Businesses that require money to function. Without marketing yourself on an international level, you are robbing yourself of earning the support, financially and emotionally, of thousands of different demographics that exist across the globe.

    In the end, I really do not expect much nor get much from pre-season fixtures except the fact the season is coming and God, I can’t wait.

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