Well, of course I don’t, and I particularly don’t at the start of July when there’s nothing of any great footballing significance going on in my little corner of the football universe. Well, until now, anyway. The Copa America is rumbling on (more on than either later tonight or in the morning), but back at home the new season is, already, starting to come to life. You might not have noticed it yet, but it has. I’ve already been instructed that my first pre-season friendly will be Worthing against Brighton & Hove Albion on the 14th of July. That’s less than a fortnight away. I don’t usually do pre-season friendlies, but it already feels like a very long time since the end of the last domestic season, so I’ve signed me up for it. Elsewhere, the very first shoots of the new season are starting to sprout. You may wish to look away if you already think that the football season runs to too long nowadays.
The FA Cup: Oh yes. The draw for the Extra Preliminary, Premlinary and First Qualifying Rounds of the 2008 FA Cup has been made. The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round contains teams so small that even the most dedicated of football supporter would have enormous difficulty recognising all of the teams taking part in it, but there are one or two names that might ring a bell deep in your subconscious. Tow Law Town (away to Hebburn United) is where Chris Waddle started his career whilst still working in a sausage factory and Bishop Auckland (away to Chester-Le-Street Town) were once the famous amateur team in the country and won the FA Amateur Cup ten times, whilst Darwen (away to AFC Emley) and Glossop North End (at home to Eccleshall) are former Football League clubs. The First Qualifying Round sees FC United of Manchester enter (they’re away to Trafford or Atherton LR), whilst Enfield Town entertain AFC Hayes (formerly known as Brook House) and former giant-killers Canvey Island travel to Rothwell. Now, you might not think that this is very exciting, but I’d sooner be at any of these matches than at a Third Round match at a half-empty stadium between two Premier League teams that would sooner be anywhere else than playing in the oldest cup competition in the world.
The FA Carlsberg Trophy: The Trophy has suffered over recent years as the result of the Conference bestriding non-league football like a behemoth and the enforced move away from Wembley, but last year’s final at the new stadium breathed some life into the old competition, and this year’s draw will be more keenly anticipated than previous years. The Premilinary Round features former winners Kingstonian and Canvey Island (both of whom provide a cautionary tale of how not to run a small club), whilst AFC Wimbledon come into the First Qualifying Round with a home match against Hendon and former non-league double winners Wealdstone travel to Leighton Town or Molesey. Thrilling stuff.
The Intertoto Cup: I suppose that there should probably be some sort of special award for Llanelli, who became the first British team to be knocked out of Europe. They were knocked out on away goals after a 6-6 aggregate draw against FK Vetra of Lithuania. Whilst the first round tends to include teams with names like FC Honka Espoo and Tobol Kostanay, the Second Round, which starts this Saturday, includes names that are somewhat more familiar to most of us. Trabzonspor or Turkey, Legia Warsaw, St Gallen of Switzerland, Rapid Vienna and Cork City are amongst those having to face the indignity of having to start their domestic season before Wimbledon has finished but, before we laugh too long and hard at their misfortune, there’s only a fortnight’s respite for Blackburn Rovers, SV Hamburg, Sampdoria, RC Lens and Atletico Madrid, who all enter at the Third Round stage. That match at Ewood Park is practically guaranteed to be a sell-out, isn’t it?