The football withdrawal symptoms are kicking in hard. Even normally reasonable people are seriously considering watching the Swedish Allsvenskan.
But help is at hand. After all, what could be more exciting than watching your team’s second-string take on a second-string Atletico Madrid at 3am and it ending in penalties?
To aid you in your pre-season planning we’ve laid out four tropes you’re sure to witness over the next few weeks.
THE SOULLESS, INEXPLICABLE COMPETITION DESIGNED BY PEOPLE WHO’VE CLEARLY NEVER SEEN A GAME OF FOOTBALL IN THEIR LIVES
Step forward the International Champions Cup – a tournament that sounds like something Pro-Evolution Soccer would’ve created because it didn’t have the rights to the real names, and which appears to have been designed by a drunk guy on a night bus.
The competition pits 18 teams against each other in 23 stadiums dotted around the world before one of them is (unwittingly) crowned the International Champions Cup champions. In order to avoid any drama creeping in, it employs a weird league-style system which literally nobody can be bothered to keep up with.
We can only presume it all ends with ‘We Are The Champions’ playing on a loop while the ‘winners’ sheepishly lift a trophy they’ll later leave in their hotel rather than bother taking home.
Even Jose Mourinho would struggle to insist the International Champions Cup is his priority and keep a straight face, unless he wins it.
A ‘BIG TEAM’ ACCIDENTALLY PLAYING AGAINST A PUB TEAM
Perhaps the most magical of all pre-season friendlies involves a group of baffled Premier League stars running in 20 or 30 goals against a team of Sunday Leaguers who are trying to take selfies with the man they’re marking at corners.
There’s nothing like the excitement of hearing a new signing has scored a double hat-trick, even if it later turns out it was against a team who had to send an email round to find 11 players, but you do have to slightly question what can be learned from these bizarre encounters.
Usually these kinds of games are a literal case of a club being in the right place at the right time, e.g. the local ninth-tier team in a small Alpine village where a Premier League club has based itself and is going stir crazy listening to Tony Pulis’s karaoke in the evenings.
Everton demonstrated this model perfectly with their heroic 22-0 vanquishing of Austrians ATV Irdning.
One goal (probably the 19th or 20th but everyone had lost count) went viral as the shellshocked ‘keeper appeared to have given up. Irdning later clarified that their No. 1 hadn’t lost the will to live but instead had believed Nicola Vlasic to be offside and so turned his back on him and let him score, which paints a much better picture of his goalkeeping prowess.
At least the Irdning players get the chance to tell their grandchildren they played against a Premier League team and to insist repeatedly there is no footage online.
THE ENDLESS MARKETING-INSPIRED ROAD TRIP
This was once Manchester United’s bread and butter in the good old days. Just weeks after moaning about fixture congestion, a fuming Sir Alex would shuttle his men to the airport and embark upon a 150-game tour of the Far East. Famously the club left Kleberson behind on their 2003 tour of Japan and decided it wasn’t worth going back for him – he was never seen again.
United and Liverpool are still doing something of an American road trip, but it’s less a teen buddy movie and more Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – a haunting tale of post-apocalyptic regret.
Even in pre-season Jose Mourinho isn’t exactly gung-ho in his style and United’s game against St Jose Earthquakes was so dull that most fans inside the Levi’s Stadium would probably have rather witnessed an actual earthquake.
THE CLUB THAT CLEARLY FORGOT TO GET ANYTHING BOOKED SO SCRAMBLED TO FIND SOMEONE TO PLAY
While their rivals are off to Dubai, China, Los Angeles or Spain, there’s always at least one club booking a B&B in Tenby and pretending that was their plan all the long. It’s a lot more authentic to train in those conditions after all.
This year Cardiff get the honour of least exciting pre-season tour with their two-game odyssey in Cornwall and Devon, playing Bodmin Town and Torquay United – oh, the glamour of the big time.
IN CONCLUSION, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO LEARN FROM PRE-SEASON?