Pre-Season Blues (Barnsley – NFFC Programme Notes)

I have been a deeply troubled individual since heartbreak at the Liberty Stadium on May 16th. I have tried to stay strong, for the benefit of loved ones, but not even an infinite supply of false smiles can conceal the fact that, as a self confessed football addict, I have been suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.

Pre-season is always a soul destroying time to be a football fan, but it’s considerably worse when there’s no major international tournament during the summer. I’ve endured 82 days of cold turkey and it’s taken its toll.

I first knew I had a problem when my wife returned home from work to find I’d rearranged all the living room furniture to resemble the 4-2-3-1 formation, which I think we should play this season. She was even more disturbed to find I’d had to borrow one of our wealthy neighbour’s spare chairs to play at left back. Unfortunately, I have to give it back to him at the end of the season.

My wife thought that buying some pet fish would distract me from my pre-season blues but it only made matters worse. I named them Robbie Findley and David McGoldfish and spent the next week studying how well they interacted as a partnership. Their speed, movement and boundless energy got me even more excited about the new season.

Convinced that I could combat my addiction to football by hibernating for the entire summer, I went to sleep, in the vain hope that I would wake and the new season be upon us. Three hours later I sat bolt upright, a cold sweat glazed across my furrowed brow, having dreamt that Forest had re-signed Danny Sonner for an undisclosed fee.

That’s when I realised that football is even more compulsive when it’s not being played. As long as that infernal transfer window remains open, we football addicts are condemned to endure long sleepless nights, pondering what our squad will look like by the time the window shuts.

In the age of the internet, it’s no longer possible for fans to push the beautiful game into the background whilst sunning themselves in foreign lands. My summer days have consisted of refreshing the official website every three minutes and then scouring the internet for out-of-contract players who I think we ought to sign. It’s no life, I tell you.

This gave me my fix for a while; the problem was that Findley and McGoldfish appeared distinctly disinterested in my favoured starting eleven, so in desperation I got tempted into looking at fan sites and forums to see what all the other football addicts were saying. This was a terrible idea.

The forums have been alive with sinister plots worthy of Sepp Blatter’s diary this summer, but it’s the transfer rumours that torment the football addict most. First of all, there are the ‘prophets of doom’, who are convinced that the whole squad are to be sold, in exchange for five magic beans. Then there are the ‘fantasists’ who insist they’ve just seen Lionel Messi in Greggs, with a sausage and bean melt in one hand and directions to the City Ground in the other. But perhaps worst of all are the ‘inventors,’ who either try their hand at lazy journalism or simply make things up to relieve their boredom, in the absence of Championship football.

You can guarantee that as soon as ‘Sky Sports News’ announces a player has been released by his club, somebody will start a thread, claiming that the player in question has been spotted at the City Ground. Furthermore, having spent some time perusing the forums, I think I know the age, height and star sign of every available left back in the country. Predictably, as soon as Steve McClaren was named Forest’s new manager, we were being linked with every Dutchman from Dennis Bergkamp to Dick Van Dyke.

The internet is a huge part of football media nowadays but in order to separate truth from fiction you need a giant cyber sieve. I no longer believe we’ve signed a player until he’s played at least ten games for us.

It’s because Forest fans are so passionate about the club that pre-season is such a rollercoaster of emotions; personally, I can’t wait for the rumours and speculation to end and for the Championship season to begin. All the frustration and angst will fade when the whistle blows today, so let’s get behind them and make it a season to remember!


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