By Tony Attwood
In retrospect it was a pretty dumb thought. One of my dumbest in fact. For it was based on the notion that something which was within the ambit of the semi-skimmed kamikaze-by-proxy fruitcakes who run football would be sensible.
And yet somehow after this season’s tough start with players drifting back over a number of weeks due to the world cup nonsense, I had hoped that the summer of 2015 would be one of those interregnum periods in which by and large we didn’t lose most of our players, and everyone could go and have a little break.
Oh what a silly old man I am turning out to be.
For it is a truth universally acknowledged that if there is something incredibly stupid that a group of very rich people can do which involves a football, then the operators of Premier League clubs with combine with Uefa and Fifa to do it.
And indeed do it now, on the basis that they should have done it last year, but somehow were dissuaded by a swarm of passing pterodactyls with somewhat superior IQs than they.
Allow me t0 explain.
Back in the old days, the days before the Premier League, when the world was barely formed and huge antelopes swamed in the warm shores of the Pacific Ocean as it lapped to coast of Cambridge, football clubs would go on post-season tours, allowing expectant young men the chance to see how primitive the rest of the world was, and show off their stuff in far-off Copenhagen and Vienna.
Such tours vanished from the calendars by the end of the last century and were replaced by pre-season events in which matches are arranged on Lunar Outposts dotted around the Sea of Tranquillity, while cities in the USA host 30 minute each way matches with six breaks in each quarter for TV commercials.
But now the Brave New World of pre-season tours has been disrupted as the post-season tour is back. Arsène Wenger has expressed his relief that Arsenal will not be involved.
“I am quite pleased with that because pre-season is always a difficult time to prepare well,” he said. “The commercial pressures are difficult but you want to find a compromise. We cannot ignore anymore the worldwide reputation and I would say [a tour] is more PR than finances.
“I hope we can benefit from keeping our tour short. In recent years, I was always worried that we had a qualifier for the Champions League so let’s first make sure that we don’t need that, and then we’ll see. It is interesting that we have only one week to dedicate to a tour.”
So for Arsenal it will be two games in Singapore (our first visit since 1991) in the Barclays Asia Trophy on 15-18 July, where we shall be involved alongside the mighty Stoke City (emergency medical teams at the ready) and Everton in the newly built 55,000-capacity National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.
What Arsenal also looked into was a trip to India, and for a while it really looked like that would happen. Mr Wenger said of that, “I would love to go to India personally because I have never been with a team. It is a country that opens to football, but we could not find a way. We looked into it.”
So far, so moderately sane. But take a wander up the Seven Sisters Road and all is not quite so on-this-planet.
Tottenham Hotspur have a post-season tour; they play in Malaysia on 27 May and Australia on 30 May.
Chelsea have talked about a post-season tour to Japan to celebrate the club’s new £40m-a-season shirt sponsorship deal with Yokohama Rubber.
The plan is that their players who play in Euro qualifiers between 12 and 14 June would go to the post season games, and then trot back and team up with their countries for friendlies and qualifiers.
Chelsea (and Man United) are also expecting to go for a jolly in the United States, with Chelsea also hoping to fill in the occasional thursday afternoon with matches once more in the Far East pre-season, while Manchester City and Liverpool go to Australia at around the same time. Liverpool, representing all that is honest and straightforward in football are also taking in Malaysia.
But that is not all for the post-season. England play Slovenia in Euro 2016 on 14 June. The Copa América is also on from 11 June to 4 July in Chile and that means Ospina and Alexis will be busy until then, and fly back home in time for pre-season training. Knowing our luck Gabriel will be selected for Brazil. The season in England starts on 8 August.
Mr Wenger says he voted against this. “I opposed the early start because I preferred to play one more game over Christmas because everybody has the squad that can deal with it and give the players a real rest in the summer.
“They voted to start early in August and that is a bit of a nightmare… That is after a season where you have had no winter break. I don’t see where you go from there to give the players a proper rest. It is impossible. You have had no rest in the winter; now the decision is no rest in the summer, either.”
All of which means that players who don’t play for their countries are once again increasing in value, and we need to get in as many of those as we can.
In fact, the way things are going, I suspect it won’t be long before players say, “Pay me another £10,000 a week and I will tell my country I am retiring from internationals.”
But to return to the headline – with all this going on, what we really really don’t want is to have to play another Champs League qualifier in August.
Two international events on this day in
14 April 1934: Frank Moss makes his international debut. When Arsenal bought him he was a reserve goal keeper for second division Preston. He played in three consecutive title winning seasons.
Also on 14 April 1934: Cliff Bastin scored for England against Scotland – six years after playing his first game ever – for Exeter Reserves against Bath City