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Sleepy soccer: is this our reward?

OPINION: After the footie-starved lockdown, the only people making a fist of jazzing up the restart are the Arsenal defenders and Spurs manager Jose Mourinho

25 June, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho

AFTER Sky ran off with the football in 1992 and had the cheek to bill you just to fall asleep in front of a match on a Sunday afternoon, Channel 4 came up with the counter-offer of Italian football.

We were, it seemed, still going to get a feast of games.

But a few weeks in we found ourselves longing for even just a glimpse of Ipswich Town versus QPR.

It turned out, over there, everything was slower and defensive and boring. They eventually tried to liven it up with presenter James Richardson’s sassy analysis and preposterous bowls of ice cream, but there was no getting away from the fact: we liked football faster. So we either buckled and paid Sky their ransom or went to the pub more and made one pint of your cheapest last 90 minutes.

But a-ha, look at us now! After our indoor spring, many of us were treating the prospect of football being on the TV every single night as some form of reward for sticking through all those lockdown Zoom family quizzes that your cousins should really have stopped organising by now.

But the excitement has quickly turned into a horrific timewarp back to Football Italia, when we had to make do with drifting off to six-man Italian defences shutting up shop after an early goal.

The only people who are making a fist of jazzing it up the restart are the Arsenal defenders and Spurs manager Jose Mourinho. In the case of the Gunners, you’ve seen that circus before, and with David Luiz signing a new contract, you will no doubt see it again.

In the case of Mourinho, this week he bitterly prepared a spreadsheet to answer criticism that Harry Kane may struggle to score goals under his management. Riddled with errors, his figures said something like Didier Drogba had scored 312 goals every season and he rabbited on similarly about managing Ronaldo and Benzema. It was only later that I found out he had put this much effort into responding to, wait for it, comments from Paul Merson.

The “special one” is now getting wrinkled by The Merse?

It reminds me of “The Andros Townsend Story”. Five years ago, Merson had doubted Townsend’s international credentials but Townsend ended up scoring in some match we’ve all forgotten. Afterwards, he tweeted Merson a how’d-ya-like-me-now? message, telling reporters:

“As soon as the goal went in, I was just desperate to get that tweet out.”

Here was a man who had reached what may have been the apex of his career and all he could think about was tweeting Merson. The game was still not over, but all he could think about, by his own admission, was tweeting Merson. Must tweet Merson. Must tweet Merson.

We’re going to need something more to keep us going.

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