And finally, after six weeks, we’re back. Between them, Bulldog and BT have contrived to make for six weeks’ worth of internet-free living. I’d love to say that I spent this time expanding my mind, broadening my horizons and wallowing in culture but it would be, as I daresay you’ve already guessed, an utter lie. What I have been doing for the last 6 weeks is watching a hell of a lot of TV (I’ve developed a particular affection for Jeremy Kyle’s habit of shouting at people and then just letting them wander off on his show), watching a hell of a lot of DVDs (was it wrong of me to buy a DVD of the 1970 FA Cup Final only because I saw for sale for £2), and drinking/smoking/otherwise consuming far too much.
Do I feel good on it? Well, I’ve just had a look in the mirror and I don’t feel that much older. Probably the most exciting thing to happen over the last few weeks was the acquisition of our new geek toys last Friday. It’s not every day you can walk into PC World with £800 to spend (unless you’re Bill Gates), so we were delighted to go there last week and come out with a shiny new laptop, a new wireless router, a 160 gigabyte USB hard-drive, and a couple of other bits and pieces. Take it from me, if you really want to cheer yourself up, go and buy a new laptop. It’s the best anti-depressant money can buy.
In a couple of weeks, the World Cup starts. This will send me into a near apoplectic state of delight. Every four years, the best footballers in the world come together for the world’s biggest sporting event. Sod the Olympics. Bugger the European Championships. This is the real stuff. Although the first World Cup I remember was in 1982, I have absorbed myself in the history of the tournament to such an extent that I can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Nobby Stiles as if I was living in Wembley stadium in 1966. Names such as Eusebio, Just Fontaine, Fritz Walter and Nils Liedholm store up parts of my brain that should be used for considerably more useful information, such as how to change a plug. And I am utterly, shamelessly unrepentant about it.
What the World Cup offers is pure drama. It’s the nearest thing we have to the gladiators of Roman times. It’s beamed around the world of course so, for a few weeks, to a lesser or greater extent, each country takes it’s brief turn in the spotlight. Should Wayne Rooney defy medical convention and dance through some hapless defence to score at any point during the summer, the eyes of the world will be watching. And this is what matters: whereas the players (and indeed the supporters of the big clubs) have been blinded by Mammon, worshipping at the cash-soaked altar of the “Champions” League, preferring their club team to their national team, we, the supporters, are still there. We will all be watching. When a team fucks up (and there will be a few that do, there always are), they will have to return home shame-faced. It’s not often that you see genuine contrition from the modern generation of brash multi-millionaires. But for a few weeks every four years, they are merely an extension of us – channelling our hopes and fears, our pride and our prejudices through the most brilliantly simple medium the world has ever known.
The World Cup is also the purest form of football. Roman Abramovich cannot step in and buy the World Cup for Russia. There are perennial favourites, of course, but the strength of each team at any given time is arbitrary. Sven Goran Eriksson has a squad of thirty-odd million to choose from, but that’s his lot. He can’t go abroad and find a cheap replacement for Ashley Cole. He can’t take Jan Koller on loan from the Czech Republic because Wayne Rooney is injured. And the thought is always in the back of the mind… what if Ukraine hit a sudden rich vein of form and go on to win the tournament? What if Brazil implode and lose all three of their group matches? It’s unlikely, I’ll grant you that. But it’s a hell of a lot more likely than Chelsea not winning next year’s Premiership. Consider this: Greece went from 80/1 to win the European Championships. France were knocked out of the last World Cup in the group stages after earning just one point from three games and failing to score a single goal. You never know.
So, this website will be taken over by football for a few weeks. Normal service may or may not resume some time after the 9th July. More to follow very soon, because I have a lot to say about this particular subject.