Date: 10th July 2008 at 11:52am
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Slowly it all begins to get real again. Instead of the interminable transfer speculation and diet of manufactured stories that we have been forced to feed on since the end of the season we can start to see real players kicking a real ball again. For football junkies the Euro`s provided the footballing equivalent of methadone for a couple of weeks and some of us could bask in the reflected glory of the successes of our club players in national shirts. But it`s not like the buzz you get from the real thing. On July 19th the run in to the opening game of the season, on the 16th August against the Baggies (though maybe strictly speaking it is the CL qualifier on the 12-13th August against as yet unknown opposition) begins with a friendly against Barnet. Not the most high profile event but right now it`s a desert oasis just in front of us. Something real to digest, assess and review no matter how modest it is as a footballing contest. In between these two games are some more interesting encounters in our annual pilgrimage to Austria and both Amsterdam and Emirates tournaments with stop offs in Hungary and Germany slotted in. More methadone maybe but very welcome nonetheless.

Before then we have to endure the transfer circus and the media carnival that though we want to ignore, and even promise ourselves that we will ignore, is still always there like a persistent hangover. We go through it every summer heightened by the information age, which has increased the quantity of information but not the quality. Eventually we will all get more discerning about the information sources we trust and we`ll filter out those we don`t but at present it is all dumped in front of us like a doormat full of junkmail. You`ll sift through it all only to find that the only communication of any substance is one from HM Customs and Revenue!

But the internet age is biting back. Tabloid distortions are nothing new. Much the same stories we are currently fed have been manufactured distorted and spun for decades. The difference now is that with a click of a mouse the source of these stories can be found pretty quickly and journalistic absurdities exposed for all to see. Tales of Wenger`s transfer chequebook and Hleb`s criticisms have been scotched by searching out their context, and where needed running them through an online translator, to arrive at the truth. Stories of Sagna discontent emerging today can be settled by reading the original item in L`Equipe. In fact there is little need to do it yourself as a small army of determined bloggers are competing to do it for you. So fast is information accessed and processed now that the old journalistic adage that today`s newspapers are tomorrow`s fish and chip wrapping is replaced as today`s tabloid news is turned into instant digital chipwrap.

As for the brown envelope from the Revenue, which almost always looks as though it will be bad news, well sometimes it contains a rebate cheque. The players that are departing always seem to be indispensable but in reality they never are no matter how inconvenient their departure might be. This time last year whoever we were expecting to be amongst our saviours for the season now behind us Flamini and Adebayor probably wouldn`t have been too high on too many lists. Rosicky, van Persie and Eduardo would probably have figured more prominently with Hleb maybe somewhere between. Yet we did well enough while missing the first three for big chunks of the season. Gilberto almost certainly would have seemed not only a dead cert as captain but one of the first names on the team sheet given his performances the season before last. Now Flamini and Adebayor seem difficult to replace and Gilberto disposable.

Whoever next season`s heroes might be they may not always be the ones you expect looking at the season from this end. That`s what football does – it creates heroes just as quickly as it gets rid of them. More often than not the players you thought indispensable weren’t and those disposable more useful than you imagined. There is always someone else to cheer and another game to watch – eventually.

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