There’s to be a summer bonanza of football. It will be like the World Cup, or the Euros we’re missing. So will there be wallcharts and sticker books? And, given that it’s all on the telly, how about some of those scene-setting moments of “comedy” which patronise and stereotype the games’ host towns?
One thing’s for sure: when England’s “Prem” comes roaring back on 17 June, the Broadcast Enhancement Group will have done their damnedest. The what? This is the special task force set up by league bosses who will be striving to ensure that, as much as possible, the matches don’t look and sound like they’re happening in empty stadia.
It’s not known who’s in the BEG and how they will achieve this but there seems to be a basic target of being better than the Germans. The Bundesliga’s return has been carefully monitored and the Prem want to improve on its echo chambers with games played out to the accompaniment of occasional strangulated yelps.
We should not be surprised that the Prem is going to this effort. It is of course the best league in the world. Best teams, best attackers, best defenders. Well, sometimes. As training for the big resumption was stepped up, John McGinn was illuminating on the quality of English back-lines, or more specifically their attitude.
“Down here you’re up against some top-quality players,” the Scotland midfielder said, “but they don’t always fancy having to track your run and they can switch off for a moment. I remember in Scotland making similar kinds of runs and finding myself being booted into the stand. So [in England] I have been able to capitalise on maybe a wee bit of laziness.”
I can recall those runs he made for Hibs, two in particular when Hearts’ Harry Cochrane and Blair Alston, then of St Johnstone, attempted to out-Bruce Lee each other. You don’t see kung-fu tackling in England anymore and I suppose that must be Pep Guardiola’s influence. McGinn, though, wasn’t critical of the rough and tumble he used to experience.
“I find myself defending Scottish football all the time,” he said. “There’s so much honesty in it. I’ve got more goals in England and some of that does come down to playing slightly higher up the park but there’s also the reason that in Scotland you’ve got honest defenders who will chase you all the way and prevent you from scoring. In England there’s this slight arrogance that you don’t get in Scotland.”
Well said, Super John. There are some fantastic footballers in the Prem, we all know that, but it’s not perfect. Who wants perfection anyway? I don’t agree with Guardiola that football always has to be beautiful. He seems to think tackling is somehow ugly, which partly explains why Manchester City will return to action 25 points off the lead.
Meanwhile, the BEG must already be hard at work trying to make the telly coverage look great. I’m intrigued to find out who’s involved. Cecil B. DeMille, perhaps the original greatest showman, is unavailable on account of the fact he died in 1959. The next best thing is Stanley Baxter who seemed to spend the equivalent of a medium-sized South American country’s annual GDP on just one dance number, everyone dressed as teacakes. Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen? The makeover dudes from Queer Eye? Actually, rather than Broadcast Enhancement Group, Queer Eye for the Socially-Distanced Guy sounds way better.
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