As we hurtle into 2008, Brian from The Run of Play looks at what not to care about in the coming year.
The start of a new year is traditionally a time to take stock, reassess your priorities, and decide what to focus on during the year to come. For football fans, that means figuring out which of the dozens of storylines running through the media at any given time — some of them fascinating, some of them duller than a jar of olives on Valium — you’re going to follow, and which you can safely ignore.
That’s why, to help you plot your approach to 2008, I’ve isolated five stories which I think you can cut out of your life without missing anything important — no matter how much the television, the press, or the internet tries to persuade you otherwise. Each of these stories is going to come back during the coming weeks and months, and I highly encourage you to get in on the ground floor and start ignoring them now. Clearing them from your mind can only help you focus on aspects of football that you might actually enjoy.
1. Joey Barton’s legal troubles. Because they have nothing to do with anything and aren’t even interesting or funny in themselves. Honestly, if the news that Joey Barton got into a scuffle over a stuffed peacock outside a 24-hour dry cleaner makes you feel the faintest twinge of curiosity, I’m afraid you’re already lost. It’s not a great sign that you’re even still reading this paragraph. There are days when I care so little about whether Joey Barton is in jail that I can barely chew my own food.
What to care about instead: The more sympathetically crazy Stephen Ireland.
2. David Beckham’s 100th cap for England. Beckham deserves his 100th cap and will surely get it at some point, most likely in England’s friendly against Switzerland in February. But the fluttery press speculation about whether or not Capello will start him, or make him captain, or drop him completely, or let him enter on rollerskates to the overture from Starlight Express, serves no purpose except to fill column inches and help football writers make it home in time for dinner.
What to care about instead: Capello’s tactical approach for his first few matches in charge. I’m especially excited to see what he’ll try with the England midfield—not just the old Lampard/Gerrard conundrum, but whether he’ll keep the players in the 4-4-2 scheme that they’re comfortable with but that tends to take the central midfielders out of the game, or try a different scheme that might integrate them more effectively.
3. The MyFootballClub revolution. You’re an intelligent person. You like to read the internet. Maybe you like to think that the web’s reconfiguration of global information flow will have profound, even utopian, consequences for the character of human experience. But it’s not going to happen by letting 20,000 people vote online to set transfer policy for a fifth-division football club. It’s just not. I don’t care what the New York Times said.
What to care about instead: The deportation case against Al Bangura, which shows that we’re not yet living in a world without limits or borders.
4. World Cup disaster stories. Did you know that the World Cup is in South Africa? Did you know that South Africa is a third-world country? Did you know that some of the stadium construction is running behind schedule? Did you know that I can press my hands against my cheeks and make my mouth into the shape of an “O”?
What to care about instead: The hidden costs of making the World Cup run smoothly. South Africa’s government (supposedly under pressure from FIFA) is already planning a forced relocation of slum-dwellers to keep football tourists from seeing the nation’s poverty. Stories like this can be hard to find, but they’re out there if you look.
5. The next club for Mourinho / Ronaldinho is Inter / Barcelona / Milan. The moment either one signs a contract, you can start caring intensely. Until then, you’d be better off staring out the window at the clouds drifting by overhead. That one looks like Gerd Müller! That one’s a pirate ship! Look!
What to care about instead: Which Premier League club will sign Croatia’s talented midfielder Luka Modrić.
What am I leaving out? Which stories are you looking forward to completely shutting out over the next few months? Conversely, which are the stories you think are going to be important?
Brian Phillips is steadfastly ignoring himself at The Run of Play.