First of all, if there’s anybody left that actually still bothers to read this, please accept my apologies for not having updated this since Tuesday. I could have made all manner of excuses about having been busy and so on, but I haven’t. What I have been this week is utterly disheartened with football. The behaviour of Chelsea over the William Gallas episode has been shameful. But, then, Gallas has hardly been a model of propriety throughout the course of his career, flouncing his way out of Marseille, Real Madrid and now Chelsea. This is the problem with the game nowadays: it’s almost impossible to have any sympathy with any of those concerned.
This week’s international friendlies threw everything into some sort of focus. The debate over pre-qualification for smaller countries rumbled on all week and was both vindicated and contradicted by the week’s results. On the one hand, there was Germany sticking a jaw-dropping thirteen goals past the hapless Liechenstein. I haven’t seen the highlights of it yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing just how bad Liechenstein were. In these situations in which you get an utterly, utterly one-sided match, it’s usually the case that one of the teams plays quite well, while the other one is just completely hopeless. I’m assuming that the highlights will confirm that Liechenstein had a team of no more than eight players, and that they were all wearing flip-flops or something. Meanwhile, England reverted back to type by grinding out a workmanlike 1-0 win in Macedonia. This match was a massive banana skin waiting to happen, so I suppose that it was an achievement of sorts, but seeing them revert to their usual stagnant type as soon as the going got tough was thoroughly depressing. No chance of that happening with Northern Ireland, though. Having got dumped on their arses by the mighty Iceland last weekend, their supporters might have been expecting the worse against Spain in the week, but Norn Iron confounded everybody and everything by winning 3-2. Scotland also had an excellent 2-1 win in Lithuania, who had stretched Italy in Naples the previous weekend. The BBC, though (as ever), chose to largely ignore this. Their midweek highlights package (at least in England) featured eleven minutes of these two matches combined, along with half an hour or so of England’s snore-a-thon.
More interesting was UEFA’s decision to provisionally allow Gibraltar membership, which opens up the intriguing possibility of them being in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. Now, considering that such luminaries as the Faroes, Liechenstein and Andorra have been allowed in, this might strike you as being a singularly uncontroversial decision, but this isn’t factoring in Spain and their bordering-on-the-insane territorial claims over the rock (before I get dragged into an argument over it, let me quickly point out that Britain doesn’t particularly want sovereignty of Gibraltar – it’s just that it’s what the people there want). The Spanish foreign ministry have promised to do everything in their power to prevent UEFA make what is, to them, a catastrophic decision. I’m not overly fussed about the politics of it all, so I’ll just comment that the Spanish foreign ministry should butt out of this sort of thing. I, for one, would welcome them into international football. Especially if they decided to field a team made up of the monkeys that live on the rock.
This weekend’s fixtures start with the most interesting one. After Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur, I can’t help but think that a lot of the rest of the weekend will be something of an anti-climax, although the Merseyside derby could prove to be an interesting one, with Everton having had a considerably better start to the weekend than their rivals. Also… which of the schizophrenic Middlesbroughs will turn up at Ashburton Grove this afternoon? The one that beat Chelsea, or… the other one? I, sadly, will not be at a match this afternoon. If I was to be at one this afternoon, though, it would be Notts County vs Accrington Stanley. Not sure entirely why – it’s just got a nice ring to it.