Football’s back… but nobody has told Southend yet!
London 2012 was an incredible sporting event that truly encapsulated everything that was great about Britain. Housewives switched over from Loose Women to watch judo, students delayed going out to catch a glimpse at people sprinting round a running track, while even masochists had something to love – I mean, someone had to enjoy the Men’s 20km race walk right?
The Olympics exuded such feel-good feelings that folk began to get a touch cynical about a sport which was the ugly step-sister of the games – football. Newspaper columnists, idiots on twitter, and particularly strong fans of the discus began to bemoan the beautiful game, and everything it stood for.
“Oh, you’d never see an athlete competing in the games acting like a footballer would you?” they sneered. “These guys are real role-models. We should focus on these true heroes rather than footballers. They’re all overpaid idiots anyway aren’t they?”
Listen, perhaps the cynics were right, and maybe all these athletes, the majority of whom we have forgotten the names of, would stand up to the interrogation that footballers are subjected to day after day, year after year.
Or, perhaps these athletes, of whom we only hear about once every couple of years, would fold like accordions if we were constantly told of the negatives – missing drug tests, failed drug tests, cheating drug tests, every single day in the newspapers.
No, footballers aren’t perfect, and there are some pretty reprehensible beasts in every aspect of the game, but despite all that, it remains the true people’s sport. And despite finding myself get excited about volleyball – men’s, indoor volleyball of all sports during the Olympics, despite me cheering on wrestlers, and weightlifter’s, nothing can adequately compare to the sheer extremes of emotions football conveys in all of us.
Which brings me to the start of this season, and a start for Southend United that could politely be described as disastrous. Despite the signing of living legend Freddy Eastwood on a permanent deal, pre-season was average, and the rest of our summer signings did not inspire a great deal of confidence. Still though, the tipsters were fancying us for a season of promotion glory, and while that might still happen, the position we find ourselves in at the moment couldn’t be much worse.
In fact, they genuinely couldn’t be any worse, as we are bottom of the league. And not just any league, League Two, the bottom of the tier. So, we are officially the worst team in the entire football league. 92 teams will take part in this season, and as we speak, we are 92nd.
The lowest of the low. Two games, two defeats, zero goals scored. The fans are beginning to panic, the Adam’s apple bobbing frantically. Pies are destroyed with shaky hands, and Bovril is beginning to spill over.
This is where it gets difficult for a football fan. If I clear my mind, and open my memory, I can just about see the league table from last season. Fourth place, missing out on automatic promotion by the narrowest of margins, before a play-off defeat to a Crewe team who had turned into Barcelona during the second half of the season. I can remember that, I can remember being in the upper echelons of the table, but at the moment, it looks a long way away.
It’s hard to believe when confidence is being sapped from all avenues. Whether it’s the clubs own twitter account revealing the manager was shouting at the players after a defeat, or Bilel Mohsni, one of the best footballers outside of the Premier League spending the summer away from the club, having made the decision to seek his career elsewhere.
It perhaps sums up our club, that as we speak, instead of being a West Ham player (who made a bid for him that was rejected by Southend), or playing for us, he is instead spending his time in his native France, being no use to anybody else. I’ve always believed in the romanticism of football, but also the pragmatic – if you’re paying somebody wages, then get the most out of them while you are.
Still though, we’re two games in, and there is an enormous amount of football left to play. Give it another couple of months and the names of the Olympians of London 2012 will have further faded away into the memory banks, tucked away until a Sports Personality of the Year montage.
But football stays, it was there before we were all born, and it’ll be there long after we die. It’s lasting, it’s here, and it’s not going anywhere. Like it or not, it’s the best thing going today, and if I can say that when we’re officially the worst team in the country, think how I’ll feel when we actually win a game…