It’s that time of year when we busy folk who follow multiple sporting interests reach peak confusion, with football returning alongside the established summer sports of cricket and rugby league.
In truth, football hardly seems to have been away at all.
We had an international tournament for Gareth Southgate’s senior England men’s team, which I’ve already confined to my mind’s waste bin – and then we had a rather more memorable
Women’s World Cup, during which Phil Neville’s excitingly talented and well-drilled outfit earned a lot of credit, only falling to eventual winners in the United States, and that at the semi-final stage.
But now, with the pre-season programme done and dusted, it’s time for the whole thing to start over again, after hardly even a decent interval has elapsed since Leeds United’s disappointing end to the last campaign. Some will argue that, if anything, the Leeds squad at the time of writing is weaker than the one which so narrowly failed a couple of months ago.
My rationale, so far, is best summed up as “Bielsa knows best”. The proof of the pudding, as always, will be in the eating – and, as always, my appetite is sufficiently whetted. So bring it on, we’ll travel to Bristol on Sunday with the same old feeling of nervous expectation.
About rugby league, perhaps the less said the better if you’re a Leeds Rhinos fan, as is my particular persuasion. The current state of the club is baffling for anyone who saw the Rhinos carry all before them not so long ago.
But the current season is drawing to its climax with the spectre of relegation haunting the streets and back alleys of Headingley, despite the fact that the fabric of the stadium has never been more shiny and attractive. The fear of having the best ground in the Championship will, we must fervently hope, help the underachieving team avoid the humiliating drop.
If that turns out to be the case, surely the Rhinos powers that be must use the winter reprieve to get their house into order squad and management wise, rather than resting on the laurels of a superb home base.
As for the cricket – well, let’s look at the international picture, rather than being too parochial. For England, it’s already been a superb summer, even though the Ashes series is only just upon us. I must confess here that, when I was but a callow youth, I couldn’t really see the appeal of cricket.
I remember one summer being treacherously delighted when protestors angling for the release of one George Davis sabotaged the Headingley pitch, causing the abandonment of an Ashes test as a draw. I saw it, at the age of 13 and knowing no better, as a release from a dreary spectacle – all I hoped was that there would now be something more interesting on the telly. I can’t imagine feeling that way now.
This summer has been a positive feast of entertainment for cricket fans.
The World Cup was gripping, with England going into the tournament as favourites and doing their level best at one stage to make a mockery of that status. Happily, they recovered and went into the final courtesy of an absolute demolition of Australia – always a joy to behold.
The narrowest of narrow squeaks against New Zealand at Lord’s gave them the trophy, then, at the same venue, a ridiculously entertaining one-off Test match against Ireland saw the Sons of Erin outplay England for most of the first two days, only to end up thrashed courtesy of a devastating final session which saw England shatter Irish dreams of victory.
It’s been a blast.
Good luck to all of my teams over the next year or so.