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Don’t let a bad dessert spoil a good meal

20 June, 2014

There are many parts to a good meal. The starter, the dessert, the company you are with of course. And the main course is, well, the main course. Any one of these parts may be good or bad, but it’s the main course you remember most.

 

A football season is much like a good meal. There is the starter, which covers the first couple of months from August to about the end of October. During this time, teams and fans are feeling their way into the new season. New players or managers are still settling in with their surroundings, fans are still watching in shirt sleeves and in daylight, any success or failure at this point is enjoyed but everyone knows that it can all change – it’s a marathon not a sprint, it’s still early doors, lets see where we are at Christmas and so on.

Once the clocks change at the end of October, the dark evenings draw in and the autumn has properly arrived. About a quarter of the season has passed, the first few rounds of the league cup have been played and the league tables have settled down into something like the shape they will take for the season. The main course, the meaningful matches of the season, are under way, and we can all either enjoy the sumptuous feast we are tucking in to, or vainly wish we could be back at home eating beans on toast, depending how the football is going.

The side order of the FA cup is served around now (although not until after Christmas for the top two divisions) and this can either complement a great main course, be a welcome distraction from a bad one, or be swallowed and finished in one unpleasant mouthful.

Come May, the season reaches its finale. Plates are pushed to one side as the meal is over. A bad season leaves us feeling the nausea of relegation or disappointment at a bad year, success is like mopping the last of a bread roll in that wonderful sauce and savouring every last mouthful. Or maybe it has been largely forgettable, filling a whole but nothing special.

And the company is always good of course – the beers in the pub before and after every game are part of the ritual, an integral and enjoyable part, even on the days when the football isn’t.

But wait, every two years there is dessert in the form of an international tournament. This alternates between the European championships and the World Cup. And like a dessert, these tournaments are something short and sweet to enjoy after a long season. Or to be thoroughly disappointed by. Two years ago, England didn’t win the European championship. That I know, but how we played, who we played, even what country we played in; all that has been forgotten. It’s irrelevant. But I do remember running on the pitch after the last game of the season as Southampton were promoted back to the Premier League. One of the happiest footballing moments of my life.

This year’s World Cup has been a disaster for England. Two games played, two games lost. One more to play, an irrelevance as we already know we aren’t progressing. But I don’t let a bad dessert ruin a good meal. At home, the 2013-14 season has been a good one. Saints finished in our highest position for 11 years, gained our highest points total for 30 years, had four different players represent England. As main courses go, it was another triumph.

Okay the manager left at the end, but he has been replaced by someone better. If any of the players leave, as Rickie Lambert already has (with the best wishes and thanks of the fans), they will be replaced with better. I’m already excited for mid-August when the starters are served.

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