Tournament qualifying is football’s equivalent of a doctor’s appointment. You know that you need to have it but every time you see it in the calendar you kind of wish you could get out of it.
Just as the Premier League gains some momentum, you suddenly have to manufacture enthusiasm to watch England take on the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, Wales visit Slovakia or Scotland playing anyone.
You can’t help but feel it might be time to decide who enters major international championships by a completely random lucky dip draw or just letting literally every nation eligible in and running a 211-team World Cup knockout tournament.
But there are ways to get through the next few days relatively unscathed, you just have to work a bit harder to find the entertainment value.
Form random allegiances
With all your club loves and hatreds off the table, all that remains to do is to create a series of totally random opinions on which nations you want to win and which you hate with a passion that will last all of 90 minutes.
Once you decide you’re Austria ’til you die then you just need to find a dodgy stream, learn the anthem so you can belt it out to the bafflement of your neighbours and then decide which player will be your hero and which your scapegoat.
If you like a bit of edge to your football experience then make sure you invest in the shirt of your nation of choice and find the only bar in town that’ll be full of fans from the other country, ensuring you’ve learned how to sing ‘who the f*** are North Macedonia’ in passable colloquial Macedonian.
Try finding a national team that shares the characteristics of your club.
Liverpool fans might want to get behind Spain while Watford supporters might feel more affinity with the Andorra Ultras.
There’s nothing like an international week for a massive and ultimately unsuccessful accumulator.
After you’ve racked up all the Belgium to beat San Marino and Iceland to win against Andorra level bets you sit back proudly and realise that your £10 is set to net you a cool £10.12.
But then it slowly dawns on you that your assessment of Bosnia v Finland is largely based on your love of Jari Litmanen, who retired from international football a decade ago, and your certainty that Ukraine will thrash Lithuania is mostly down to their respective Eurovision Song Content records.
You can be sure that either the first bet will immediately fail, denying you any entertainment, or you’ll be cruelly denied in the 94th minute of the final game meaning you forever hold a bitter grudge against Kazakhstan.
We all know that Football Manager can dangerously play with your perception of what is real and what is in fact entirely confined to your laptop,
Take advantage of what is largely the embarrassing phenomenon of creating mythical yet complex personal relationships with real-life players by taking over the reins at an obscure national team on Football Manager and suddenly you’re on your feet, wiping tears from your eyes when a young Kyrgyzstani winger nets his debut international goal in real life.
You may want to stop short of booking a flight to Bishkek to buy him a celebratory round of fermented mare’s milk because he will think you are quite literally insane.
By the time the Premier League kicks off again you’ll be skipping Crystal Palace v Man City to watch the highlights of FC Dordoi Bishkek’s latest conquest.