First up, we passed 10,000 visitors yesterday. So, thank you for stopping by (again). The new season starts next week in Scotland, and I daresay that there’ll be a full preview of that on here at some point over the next seven days (unless I can find someone to write it for he it’ll have to be done by me – I should probably start researching it), but in the meantime it’s more friendlies today, most notably between Arsenal and Ajax at Ashburton Grove (on a point of principle, I’m not calling their new stadium by its sponsors’ name). It’s Dennis Bergkamp’s farewell, and I think it’s fair to say that he has probably been the most successful import ever into the Premiership. Seven million quid exceptionally well spent (and, as someone that is fairly scared of flying, it’s nice to know that there’s someone even more spacky about it than me).
It also marks the final farewell to Highbury. Much as I hate Arsenal (and I really, really do, at a very profound and occasionally profane level), I’m going to miss the old place. It may have become the Highbury Library in it’s final years (when the truth was that it wasn’t that much worse than anywhere else), but one has to say that two of the stands were stunning pieces of architecture and, as listed buildings, can’t be demolished (they’re being converted into flats). One by one, the famous stadia of England are being demolished – Spurs are talking of moving out of White Hart Lane, and Everton and Liverpool are desperate to move out of Goodison Park and Anfield – and, I have to say, it upsets me somewhat. I made reference to the demolition of the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park. Football clubs really should take more care of their legacies in this respect.
Elsewhere, there are a number of other friendly matches going on this afternoon. I wish there was another competition that brought forward fixtures like Dunfermline vs Carlisle, Rochester Raging Rhinos (they’re American, not from the Medway towns) vs Sheffield Wednesday, Northampton Spencer vs Peterborough and Manchester United vs Kaiser Chiefs (the team, not the band). The thing about friendlies is (and it took me about the age of 16 to realise this) that they’re never going to be as good as you hope they will be. The people that go to them are the football equivalents of heroin addicts. So desperate for their fix that they’ll travel to to Hitchin from Bristol on a Saturday afternoon in July (as I daresay at least some Bristol Rovers fans will be doing as I write this), they have my complete admiration. I can only aspire to such dedication.
Finally, the Intertoto Cup. It’s, well, the finals today. Newcastle, like pigs snuffling for truffles, are in Norway needing to beat Lillestrom for a place in this year’s UEFA Cup. I daresay that Damien Duff, who is apparently in the process of joining the long and illustrious list of players to snub Spurs in order to join Newcastle. So: turning down Martin Jol, fighting for a place in the Champions League and with one eye on winning a cup or two, in favour of Glenn Roeder, and the once-in-a-lifetime to play Michael Owen and Kieron Dyer at cards on the St James Park injury table. What a great career move.