Here Comes the Summer!

Last updated : 24 May 2002 By The Rochdaler

When I was a mere slip of a lad the close season was something to be dreaded, an interminably long period of life without football, nothing to occupy yourself with on a Saturday for up to twelve long weeks.

Twelve weeks of making a right pest of yourself, annoying the grown ups, "I'm bored Mum". Three months of hanging about street corners, occasionally provoking a chase from the old nutter that lived at No.73 in a desperate attempt to relieve the tedium of a football free weekend.

As I have grown older (but not much wiser) my outlook on the close season has changed somewhat. For a start it is now considerably shorter than in those bygone days (of yore), and with the introduction of blanket TV coverage from the various football tournaments of the World, you are never far away from access to a game.

Secondly, as you get older your horizons broaden with respect to your social activities, lager, the dancin' and all that goes with it, other sporting activities and the additional freedoms of adulthood all combine to keep you reasonably well occupied while our hero1s in blue are off on their well earned rest or knocking their pans in at the World Cup, Euro Champs or Copa America.

Even so, the close season is still a pain, especially financially where we now have to stump up a small fortune for a season ticket weeks before a ball is kicked in anger. And now with the onset of the annual ritual of the new kit launch Rangers FC manages to keep one hand in our wallets and purses (I'm not sexist) even though we may be far away from The Presbyterian Palace of football.

Another pain of the close season is the feeding frenzy of speculation, fantasy and downright dishonesty indulged in by the nations media. Take the dishonesty first of all. With no actual football to report, juiced up hacks go sniffing around for stories and snippets that can be blown out of all proportion in order to fill their allocation of column inches in those grubby little tabloids we know and loath so well.

As I write the "Rab Douglas in Spanish Riot" furore whipped up by the Current Bun is just dying down, a truly classic example. I have no doubt that there was some little altercation between the bold Rab and some blootered Mhankies. The scene can be pictured easily, some shouting and taunts from the drunks followed by a swift exit from the player. Cue a phone call to the "Current" from a witness to the spat and hey presto, Celtic player in riot shame banner headlines the next day. A sad and often repeated scenario with Old Firm players, just ask Barry Ferguson.

Then there is the speculation fantasy league of imminent signings by the Old Firm. Barely a day will pass without some "exclusive" appearing on the back page, "Ronaldo for Rangers exclusive", "Father Ted for Celtic exclusive" etc, etc. It1s all crap, pure and simple and it will only get worse.

Take Dick Advocaat (please) for example. Just imagine that in his role of Holland Manager he flies out to Italy to meet say, Edgar Davids. Before you can say boo the Rebel will be have Rangers signing half the players of Serie A. When you throw in all these agents trying to punt their clients all over Europe, sending out faxes letting it be known that so and so is looking for a move then you have a bottomless well of imminent signings to plaster across the back page. Thank God at least we have the World Cup this year, it may distract some of the hacks from exercising their limited imaginations too liberally.

Another major pain of the close season I am reliably informed is the women (OK I am sexist). Although I am in the fortunate position of being happily single, I see many of my compadres and acquaintances lives being made an absolute misery by all those erstwhile football widows. They seem to think that just because there is no game on then their menfolk should go shopping with them, take them on a night out or even, God forbid, take the weans out for the day. Some deranged types even expect the guys to decorate the kitchen or carry out other menial household chores. My God, have they never heard of the pub, the bookies or the golf course? I will leave the next line blank for the Ed to print the usual disclaimer to the above paragraph. (only joking ladies, honest).

Of course, the biggest, inescapable pain of the close season is no Rangers. For all Rangers fanatics the close season is akin to a period of cold turkey. Not having our weekly fix of the Gers is an upsetting, depressing experience that can turn easy going chaps like myself into growling, irritable sods, dare I say it, like bears with a sore head. The alternative distractions from the footy only go so far, I need my Rangers, so of course the next season cannot come quick enough as far as I am concerned.

Despite throwing the league away again last season I am looking forward to the coming contest with as much excitement and anticipation as ever. Things are looking up, the future is most definitely carrot heided and freckly. I think it can be said with some confidence that Oor Eck has won over most of the Doubting Thomases, myself included, who were somewhat underwhelmed by his appointment. Although we failed to beat the Mhankies in a league match last season, the cup games have shown that we have found the measure of their assortment of cluggers and "dead ball specialists".

Bring on the day.

Yours in a cheerfully optimistic sort of way.

The Rochdaler