Well, good morning everyone and, if I may say so, a very merry Christmas to you all. You will have noted that I managed another correct prediction – Les Reed was, sensitively enough, sacked from the Charlton job on Christmas Eve, and Alan Pardew has been installed in his place. Too little, too late? We shall see.
Moving onto more substantial matters, today sees one of those fixtures of British football that amuses and confuses foreigners in roughly equal measures. The bank holiday fixture list. Four matches in nine days – a timely reminder that, really, the game is still played for the benefit of the people who watch it rather than the people who run it or, indeed, play it.
It has always been this bad. Looking back the other day at Spurs’ fixtures from their double winning 1960-61 season, I noted that, in that particular season, Spurs played West Ham on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (though it should be pointed out that the League was much more inclined towards these double headers at the time – Spurs started that season with an appropriately jolly pair of fixtures against Blackpool). These days, when players are adjudged to be exhausted if they play more than one match every ten days, the congestion continues to the extent that it has almost become a tradition for a handful of managers to bemoan their fate at having to criss-cross the country at a time when they would rather prefer to be at home pulling Christmas crackers and having arguments over the turkey and cranberry sauce.
You’ve probably already worked out where my sympathies lie. If you earn £20,000 per week, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to actually entertain us over the Christmas period. The average Premiership footballer earns enough money to retire on in five or six years nowadays, so I think that they can give up a few bank holidays for us while they’re in the prime of their lives. Because so many people have time off, crowds are huge and the Football League used to try accommodate this by arranging derby matches for this period. Sadly, this seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour in the Premiership these days, with their computer spewing out a seemingly random assortment of fixtures in the middle of July – you have to have some sympathy with the Tottenham supporters that had to travel to Newcastle three days before Christmas. Further down the food chain, though (where the clubs are more dependent on gate receipt money than the bigger clubs), there are more interesting fixtures, so today, for example, we have Chester vs Macclesfield, Lincoln vs Boston and Brentford vs Millwall.
Sadly, the trains aren’t running with sufficient regularity for me to be able to make St Albans vs Stevenage match at Clarence Park this afternoon – their first meaningful derby match in over a decade. So it’s off to… erm… Worthing vs Horsham in the Ryman League Premier Division for me this afternoon. Perfect for working off yesterday’s day of excess.