Football’s Silly Season

by | Oct 11, 2019

International breaks are rapidly becoming football’s equivalent to silly season. Without a glut of Premier League and EFL football to report on over the course of the break, newspapers and social media desperately need to fill their pages with football-related content, but the truth of the matter is that, with an England team that is steadfastly refusing to dissolve into chaos in the way that many would like, there isn’t a great deal to say over the course of these extended weekends.

England might trip up in Prague this evening, but they’re already four points clear of third-placed Kosovo with a game in hand, and the likelihood that the current talented group of players will trip over their feet on the way to qualification feels slim. Of course, England playing in a city like Prague on a Friday night offers hope to outrage-mongers that England fans will live down to expectations in the same way that they did in Portugal during the summer and in Amsterdam in the spring. But if that happens, it likely won’t be until later in the afternoon, and while ENGLAND’S SHAME headlines would ensure that the churn keeps turning for a little longer, there are no guarantees of serious disorder in Prague tonight, even if the likelihood of there being so is likely higher than any of us would probably like it to be.

For those who like their news more outlandish and harmless, there was Sean Harvey’s claim that the EFL were planning to do a draw for the League Cup from space. Logistically, this is obviously far from impossible (and, if there was a way of firing Ian Holloway on a one way ticket to Andromeda, it would likely be considered desirable), but it also seemed as though it encapsulated the absolute pomposity of the modern game in one simple sentence. The idea that a cup draw should just be a thing that happens in order to decide the next round of a sporting competition is – pun not intended – completely alien to the likes of Harvey. It has to be turned into an event, no matter how ridiculous it might all sound when taken in isolation.

Non-League Day, meanwhile, is scheduled for tomorrow, but there is only so much mileage that anyone can take from suggesting that, with no Premier League or Championship football on, perhaps those after a fix of live football over the weekend could drop down a few levels and take in a game from the FA Trophy or FA Vase. And in any case, Non-League Day isn’t for those of us who watch the non-league game throughout the rest of the year any more. Non-League Day is about offering reduced prices to Premier League season ticket holders, because apparently there is a belief that people who spend hundreds of pounds a year on Premier League season tickets would attend more non-league matches if the entrance fee is £5 rather than £8 that trumps just about every other consideration.

Nature abhors a vacuum, though, so thank goodness that the adventures of Colleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy this week have been keeping us all amused instead. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few days – and considering the state of the news these days, who could blame you? – the wife of Wayne, who may or may not be a former footballer (it can be difficult to tell), has been showing off her detective skills this week. Colleenbo found that stories about her from her private Instagram area had been being leaked to The Sun over an extended period of time, leading to her coming to an ingenious solution in order to find the culprit. Over time, blocked her contacts and checked to see if the stories were being leaked, and eventually she narrowed it down to the account of Rebekah Vardy, wife of the Leicester City striker Jamie.

Vardy denied the allegation, but the argument has now been rumbling on a for a couple of days, with the whole of social media being given an opportunity to indulge its favourite pastimes: leaping to conclusions, picking sides, and telling repetitive jokes. The Sun has been making hay from it all as well, splashing the story over their front page (they’re on Team Vardy, as though that even needs to be said) for the last couple of days without addressing the question of who, then, has been leaking stories from Colleenbo’s private account to them. There’s no defence of “public interest” that is even worth the air that it’s spoken with, of course, but why worry about that when your dying medium can have a little life breathed into it by selectively reporting the story on your front page? Because Rooney and Vardy are both media personalities in their own right, both have staff who would probably have access to these “private” accounts, so it’s entirely plausible that it was neither Rooney or Vardy who leaked the stories themselves. Someone has, though.

In many respects, though, this story is something of a throwback. We might have been forgiven thinking that the noxious acronym “WAG” had been combined to the dustbin of slang history in same way that, say, using the word “bonk” to refer to having sex hasn’t been in the lexicon in this country for something like three decades, now. You hear “WAG”, and suddenly it’s the early summer of 2006 all over again. There has also been something a little unpleasant about the positioning of this story as being some form of “cat fight”, as though it is now inevitable that both women involved will now meet in a boxing ring, pull off a high heel each, and try to claw out one of their opponents’ eyes with it. We may be chuckling along at it all, but we’re all voyeurs in the end.