We’re getting close to that time again. Squads are nearing completion. Pre-seasons friendlies are underway. It’s almost time for kick off.
Which means it’s almost time for the inevitable, dispiriting, infuriating argument about whether you’re a disgrace to your family and your community if you watch the Premier League but don’t go to support your local team.
It’s the kind of argument that will take place primarily on social media with faceless nameless avatars having a pop at someone with a Liverpool crest for an avatar. It’s the kind of argument I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to avoid reading on social media.
In that spirit, I’ve tried to do a few things to lessen my zombie scrolling time.
I’ve run. You know the old saying about not knowing someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? Well I tried running in my own shoes and I will not complain or question anyone’s fitness next season.
Running is hard! I haven’t run, apart from to get across the street in about 7 years. As of writing, I have only gone out running once. There’s a healthy mental debate going on in my mind about whether or not I want to subject myself to that again.
The fact that I had to google whether or not the heart rate my watch said I reached was safe when I got back should be an indicator of how unfit and unhealthy I am.
I also decided I would start listening to Audiobooks. I’m too lazy to read so I prefer having someone else do the reading for me.
I wanted to listen to something that would completely distract me from the outside world. I didn’t want to listen to something that would make me feel bad about myself, or get angry at anyone, or irritated. Just something nice.
I started with Dave Grohl’s Storyteller, which was fine. I like Dave. But by the end, his stories about how magnificent his life is and how much he loves his kids just wasn’t cutting it.
I needed to find something with a bit more edge to it. Then I remembered being recommended The Billionaires Club by James Montague. Which I started listening to and immediately regretted it because I knew the moral conundrums that lay in the weeds, which was definitely where I was heading.
Here’s a brief description of the book;
“Once upon a time football was run by modest local businessmen. Today it is the plaything of billionaire oligarchs, staggeringly wealthy from oil and gas, from royalty, or from murkier sources. But who are these new masters of the universe? Where did all their money come from? Why am I asking you?”
Ok, I added that last question in myself. But cool stories about Dave Grohl’s meet cutes with Paul McCartney this was not!
The reading, listening to, or in fact simple ownership of this book comes complete with it’s own ‘High Horse’ and accompanying ‘Map to Moral High Ground’ where you can pontificate comfortably and point at the disgraceful monetization of the beautiful game from a safe and righteous position upon your noble steed.
It’s this moral high horse high wire act which I find genuinely infuriating and is precisely the kind of blustering grand standing that makes me want to throw my phone at random passers by on the street in frustration.
As much as I wanted to avoid being sucked into having my very own lofty ideals and sharing them with people as if they have any more merit than the ideas that come from my dog? Here we are.
The truth is that I have found it harder and harder to watch the Premier League in recent months. Newcastle United players taking the knee before games while being owned by who they are owned by is just a notch above, or below, Man City players doing it.
As much as I’d love to turn away from the Super Leagues for good, I know I never will. There will always be a fascination with what is happening with the super rich and powerful especially if the best players in the world continue to ignore where the money that pays their wages is coming from.
Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes right? I don’t really blame football players for making as much money as they can in the very short career lifespan that they have. I would find it very, very hard to turn down Saudi money if I was a professional who’s career could be cut short by injury at any minute.
But when organisations like the Premier League allow these ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ to take over English football’s most prized assets…and Chelsea…saddle these clubs with monumental debt, give legitimate faces to some of the most heinous and horrific practices around the world, they are the ones to blame.
As I said, I have found it harder to watch these Super League teams but I’m still doing it. The voices are just getting louder when I do it. “How did they pay for that stadium? Where are those transfer fees coming from? Does anyone love anyone more than Glenn Hoddle loves Mason Mount?”
When the latest takeover of Dundalk was happening I felt compelled to write something about how important it is for a football club, particularly in a town like Dundalk, to stay local.
We all had our heads turned by the possibility of becoming a Rosenborg or a Bate Borisov where we would coast to titles season after season and then crack the Champions League off the back of that.
I know there were many who were suspicious of the best laid plans from the start and there were those on the majestic hillsides of the moral high ground who knew this would happen from day one and don’t worry, they will let you know, at the very first opportunity, who they are.
But what the past couple of seasons should have made clear to us is just how important community engagement is with a football club. Just how important it is to feel like you are part of the club in whatever capacity that is. Just how important it is to feel proud of your football club.
The main aspect that irritates me about being a fan of football on the television compared to going to your local team is the notion or the pressure to choose one or the other. You shouldn’t have to choose.
We all want full stadiums and great infrastructure and wall to wall media coverage but that isn’t going to happen by shaming people or telling them they’re not football fans if they don’t go down to Oriel on a Friday night. The League of Ireland is such a magnificent, unique product and it needs to be marketed and delivered as such.
When you see all that has happened, all that clubs like Man City, PSG, Chelsea and Newcastle have become, it should make you feel proud to know that you support your local team and you have chosen to be a part of whatever chaotic adventure your team provide for you this season.