Belfast Telegraph

It's dread, White and Blues, as new season approaches

By Billy Weir

How is your wee countdown clock going? No, I don't mean the one Richard Whiteley used to hand out, I mean the one inside all football fans' heads ticking off the seconds until the start of the season.

It has been a long summer. With no World Cup or European Championships, and not even an Olympics or, dare I say it, a Commonwealth Games, to distract us, it seems an eternity since we had our fix of the beautiful game.

Yes, there was the Women's World Cup and a seemingly never-ending array of made-up pre-season tournaments for Premier League teams to go off and get very sweaty in foreign lands and flog a few shirts (less sweaty ones) in the process, but it isn't the same.

Quite simply, if we don't get some proper football soon, Jim White could well combust, although what would erupt out of him doesn't bear thinking about, but it is safe to assume that it would be yellow.

He was more a lighter shade of green on Tuesday though as FL92 took to the skies, rivers, fields and highways and by-ways for Sky Sports News' mad dash around all 92 clubs, with reporters forced to indulge in all manner of madness and then apologise for the dressing room antics of giddy footballers with the intelligence of an empty bottle of Mr Matey.

Of course Jim is everyone's Mr Matey, meeting a never-ending array of old pals on his travels, interspersed with a brief dalliance with Hughie and Ralph in the helicopter as things didn't go completely smoothly.

Elsewhere, all sense of decency and decorum had long since disintegrated, reporter James Cooper leaping into the bath to interview Oldham's manager, Pete Colley being driven about by Ray Wilkins in a tractor and David Craig being forced to watch Southend boss Phil Brown have his back waxed. In fairness, Craig covers Newcastle matches so he's no stranger to unpleasant viewing.

There was much more besides, but the climax came with a meeting with the Special One and it was nice of White to allow Jose Mourinho to call him that when he dropped in to see him.

Thankfully he was in slightly less moody form than on Sunday when the real season got under way, well, if you were to believe BT Sport, as the Charity Shield saw Chelsea take on Arsenal at Wembley.

Yes, I know it's now the Community Shield, but it will always be the Charity Shield, although Jose wasn't playing the game at all in his pre-match 'chat' with Ray Stubbs.

"Today is a trophy, a little one, but a trophy and it is more important than a summer tournament," he said, stopping just short of adding but slightly less important than two wee lads playing kerbsie.

No such qualms for BT Sport, who haven't been shy over the summer in telling us how important they are and presenter Paul Dempsey had clearly got the memo just to give us another gentle nudge.

"Welcome everybody to BT Sport, the new home of football, appropriately today from the home of football, what a great season it is shaping up to be on BT Sport," he hinted and even the Mr Matey bottle had ascertained where the match was being shown.

He was joined by 'new' signings Glenn Hoddle, looking typically dapper, but it was hard to concentrate on Rio Ferdinand who was smartly turned out but appeared to be wearing loafers without socks while Ian Wright looked as if he'd been dragged out of a skip.

It may have been a 'little' trophy but even Arsene Wenger was in good mood at the end after their 1-0 win, joining the BT Sport team live on BT Sport for a little chat and kicking things off with 'I must say you have a good team' as a BT Sport engineer hot-footed it to the Frenchman's house to install BT Sport pronto.

The camera then panned in on a forlorn John Terry looking up enviously at the little trophy while after he'd shaken hands with all the Arsenal players and conveniently forgotten to shake Wenger's hand, Mourinho tossed his even littler trophy to a young lad in the stand. John Terry later wrestled it off him.

No such problems though for another Chelsea captain, Katie Chapman, who 24 hours earlier had lifted a smaller but bigger trophy when the Blues beat the Ladypies (and I am not making that up) of Notts County in the first Women's FA Cup Final to be played at the home of football.

This was shown live on BBC1, the caravan of football now, given we only go there briefly at weekends or a couple of weeks if it's a huge trophy to play for, but if you thought BT Sport were the only ones to go on and on and on about something it was nothing to the Beeb and England's World Cup heroines.

Aptly, given their third place finish at the World Cup, Lucy Bronze, one of the lionesses, joined the annoyingly chirpy Jacqui Oatley on the sidelines and you wonder if they will have a pundit with the surname of Embarrassing First Round Exit to keep up this theme when the men play at Russia 2018.

But this was all about the ladies and it was just a shame the match was rubbish, won by the scruffiest of all goals from Ji So-Yun, a South African if we were to believe commentator Steve Bower, although there was a little more confusion as he also referred to her as 'the Korean Messi'.

He added that Chelsea coach Emma Hayes refers to her as 'the little magician'. Well if she can transform nationalities quicker than it takes to saw the lovely Debbie McGee in two, she must be good, but whatever her origins, her goal had them dancing in the streets of Stamford Bridge, Soweto and Seoul at the end.

And so then to the irony of someone called Chapman lifting the trophy on an historic day for womankind, although there was a kerfuffle when a Joanna Teri attempted to nudge her out of the way climbing the steps.

The countdown is almost over, but where to watch over the next few months - BBC, Sky or BT Sport? That's a whole different conundrum.


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