The games themselves are nothing to shout about either. Today Arsenal drew one-one with Hangzhou Greentown, while at the time of writing Chelsea are one up at Portsmouth. Even exciting scores like Liverpool’s 6-3 against Malaysia XI, or Lazio’s 16-0 win over Auronzo di Cadore seem empty, hollow results that no one really gave a crap about apart from the organizers.
So is pre season just a load of fluff? For fitness coaches, it is the most important time of year, for managers a distraction from hassles with agents and futile attempts to do any kind of business with Harry Redknapp. For the players, it is purgatorial work outs, combined with an extended vacation to somewhere nice. Or, in the case of Chelsea, somewhere bland and rainy.
Pre season has always been an important part of the sporting calendar. Whether in football, cricket, baseball or something else, it is a period inexorably linked to pain, suffering, and of course, the new season’s start. However, over the past few years that holy grail of footballing excitement, the beginning of a countdown to season’s start has begun to lose its luster. The process started in 2008 when, watching Tottenham Hotspur and in particular Darren Bent inspire over the summer, I became convinced that with manager of the century Juande Ramos at the helm, Spurs were set for the Champions League. Needless to say, I was wrong.
An overblown assumption of mine, or a sign that all of pre season is meaningless, it is hard to say, but there is no doubt that this period of the football year is becoming more and more disillusioning. Years ago when trans continental competition was rare, pre season was a time for clubs to test themselves against adversaries from around the world; for some even, it was more important than certain competitive games.
Yet now, I have found myself more interested in the many varying kit unveilings, than in Arsenal’s failed attempts to beat a Chinese village team, or Chelsea’s swashbuckling warm up tour of some of England’s most boring locations. No, if pre season ever did have a little magic, it has lost it all in a wave of commercialization, one so vast it spreads from the shores of China, to the California beaches, and back again, to the home of Wycombe Wanderers.