Giles Smith’s Thursday Thoughts
column Thu 7 Sep 2017
With a busy few days of football at Stamford Bridge on the horizon, season ticket holder Giles Smith is licking his lips as he gives his fan’s-eye view in this week’s column…
It’s here at last! That time in the year that we football fans live for: when the waiting is over and the longed-for moment is at last upon us; when the talking can finally stop and the action begin; that wonderful point when everyone’s hopes and dreams are still intact, and when we can all wonder what stories might yet come to be written on the fresh, blank page of the season ahead.
Yes, it’s the resumption of Premier League football after the first international break, and if you’re not excited when this fabled day on the calendar comes around, then maybe football isn’t really your game.
Get up to much during the interval? I had a fairly quiet one, for the most part. I’m always tempted to take them at their word and greet the international break by having an international break. But in this case, it’s a bit soon after the summer and I’d probably struggle to get the time off work. Still, sometimes knocking about at home can be just as restorative as heading off and putting your feet up somewhere more exotic, and I’m properly refreshed and raring to go now, and I don’t doubt that you’re the same.
I just hope we can pick up where we left off – which, if you cast your mind back, you’ll remember was comprehensively beating a strong Everton side at Stamford Bridge on an unfashionably sunny Sunday lunchtime.
It all seems such a long time ago, now, of course, but it was a victory which made the opening day’s mishap (remember that?) look even more like an isolated moment of madness and took us to the campaign’s first enforced holiday period in rather good shape.
Ordinarily at this point you might be talking about unnecessary frustration and disrupted rhythm. However, this year there’s at least some consolation in the form of an immediate burst of games – four in 10 days, three of them at home – to help get us back in the swing. First of all, when proper football resumes on Saturday, we face Leicester away. And directly after that, on the Tuesday, we make our longed-for return to the top table of European football against Qarabag, repeating to ourselves, I’m sure, as we walk to the stadium, the traditional mantra about there being no easy games at this level.
Then, on the following Sunday, it’s Arsenal at home in the Premier League – and then, on the Wednesday after that, the magic of the Carabao Cup brings Nottingham Forest to our place – this following the controversial third-round draw for that competition a couple of weeks ago, which, in what was definitely a first for the League Cup, took place in China at 4.15am British time.
People complained about that, but I’ve got to say, I wasn’t among them. Indeed, I thought it was quite a smart move, promotionally speaking, because most years, when the draw for the League Cup third round takes place, barely anybody notices, but this year people couldn’t stop going on about it.
Also, you couldn’t watch the draw because a) it wasn’t on the telly and b) you were asleep. So, instead, you simply heard about it afterwards. If only the same could have been said about the interminable draw for the Champions League groups stage in Monaco, in which a cast of around 25 people took what felt like the best part of a day to accomplish something which could have been achieved in about five minutes by somebody working alone with a sheet of A4 paper and a pair of scissors. There’s a lot to be said, one ended up reflecting on that occasion, as Francesco Totti gamely dipped his hand into yet another plastic tub of Kinder Eggs, for simply waking up and reading about these things in the form of a text or a tweet.
So well done to the Carabao Cup people. And why not take the League Cup message around the world a bit? It’s the second oldest club cup competition in English football, after all, and the Premier League has always talked a big game about going global (you’ll recall Richard Scudamore’s ‘39th game’ proposal), yet without ultimately doing anything about it.
So all credit to the EFL for having the gumption to pack a bag of numbered balls and actually get out there and try to make something of itself in the wider world. Other cup competitions could take a leaf from the EFL’s book in this regard, and you’ll know, if the draw for the Buildbase FA Trophy ever ends up coming from Dar es Salaam at 2.30am British time, that the Carabao Cup didn’t travel to Beijing in vain.
Now: bring on some football.