Football invokes an emotional intensity in the average fan that is only rivalled by the birth of a child, death of a relative or, perhaps, their wedding day.
But how do you get through it when the team is so utterly dreadful that it’s impossible to care to such an extent? Well, you laugh, of course.
Footballers get paid several thousand pounds per week to do their job. When they don’t do it well, don’t get angry. Or, at least, don’t stay in a state of perpetual anger. It’s just not worth it. Instead, look at every little daft thing that happens and try to see the lighter side of it all.
Last night’s Scotland v Canada match was a good case in point. This writer tuned in out of professional responsibility, and even then it was difficult to raise any sort of interest. Aside from Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, the starting XI offered very little in the way of intrigue, the opposition (no offence Canada) were hardly glamourous, and it was played in front of less than 10,000 people in a stadium that could have held twice as much.
Then it dawned on me. This was a terrible game. Not just boring terrible, like the Manchester United v Chelsea abominations of recent years, but terrible technically. Passes and touches were all over the place, and decision making wasn’t any better. When a football game reaches such depths, there’s always room for comedy.
Therefore, in honour of this match, which by the hour-mark had become a life experience, I put together a live-timeline to fully appreciate the dreadfulness in all its glory.
2.34 Charlie Mulgrew tries to take the ball out of defence and takes a touch so heavy he has to run for 15 yards to catch up with it. Yes folks, it’s going to be a long night.
10.44 If we hadn’t already figured out that this Scotland team is a disorganised rabble hell-bent on self-destruction and keeping our football nation in its state of chronic depression, then the point is hammered home by the opening goal, which is scored by Fraser Aird. That’s Falkirk’s second-choice right winger, Fraser Aird.
17.12 Canadian goalkeeper takes a by-kick that somehow starts a Scotland counter attack. Despite neither hooking it badly or thrashing it along the ground, the clearance only gets about 40 yards from goal. It’s a reminder that this dreadfully windy and cold night in Edinburgh is not the time to spend £22 to see a badly out of sorts Scotland team struggle against Canada.
25.40 Aird runs through the entire Scotland defence and shoots wide, robbing of us a moment in time where it would have been Scotland 0-2 Fraser Aird.
34.11 The Sky cameras focus on Hibs boss Neil Lennon sitting in the stand. He’s pretending to watch the game but you can tell he’s worrying how much this shocker is cutting up the already bumpy Easter Road surface.
34.41 Scotland score in the most fittingly shambolic way possible. The collection of buffoonery has to be broken down piece by piece to truly be appreciated.
• Lee Wallace’s cross is deflected by Manjrekar James
• Goalkeeper Thomas goes to push the ball clear but doesn’t get it past the sliding Steven Naismith in front of him
• Ball hits thigh of Naismith and rolls over the buttocks of left-back Maxim Tissot
• Tissot, on the deck, whirls round in a panic and goes to clear
• Instead of clearing, he whacks the ball off Scott Arfield who, due to actually being on his feet, was in a much better position to remove the danger
• The ball spins out a further eight yards to Tom Cairney who mishits his first-time volley
• Ever the instinctive hitman, Naismith sticks out a leg and cushions the ball back across goal, as it slowly bounces over the line.
As an aside, if you watch the footage of this goal on YouTube, provided by ESPN’s Spanish language channel, the commentator decides to do the traditional South American “Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal” after Naismith’s deflection crosses the line.
My friend, this is the least deserving “Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal” of all time.
36.39 For about the 30th time this half, Aird completely owns Lee Wallace. The Rangers defender is bewilderingly terrified of a man he presumably kept in his back pocket at training for three years. Kieran Tierney is back for Sunday, right?
45.10 About half-a-dozen fans boo the team’s first half performance as the referee brings the period to a close. These are the only six people left in Scotland who still care about this game/team/life.
49.38 A ridiculously heavy touch from Chris Martin brings the wrath of the Scotland support. It really highlights the dislike the Tartan Army have towards the Fulham striker that even in a match where they don’t have the energy to drown out the sound of their own players talking to each other, they still have the energy to boo Martin.
51.33 Another tremendous run from Fraser Aird. Who is this guy?
63.03 A cheer goes up as Leigh Griffiths enters the fray. It’s the first time the home crowd have come close to excitement, and that’s including the muted celebrations of the goal. The “excitement” soon dies down, however, and quickly there is an audible groan of disappointment when his first touch is a return pass attempt that’s about ten yards short. They’ve realised the collective c**pness has also infected the local hero.
67.32 This man’s hair. It’s clear Canada got bored of the game themselves and wanted to have an afro-off with Ikechi Anya.
69.01 “It’s not like Robert Snodgrass,” says Sky Sports co-commentator Davie Provan after the midfielder failed to trap a Leigh Griffiths through ball. Provan clearly hasn’t seen any of Snodgrass’ games - with the exception of Malta away - since he returned from injury. Believe me, Davie, it’s very much like him of late.
75.01 Bannan sells not one but two defenders with one of the most telegraphed fakes you’re likely to see, and yet curls the free shot from 18 yards about 18 yards over the bar.
75.45 John McGinn is introduced just to check if the home fans are still awake. Surprisingly, it turns out they are.
77.58 Aird continues his Beast Mode antics with a 25-yard, top corner strike with his weaker left foot. McGregor puts his incredulity to the side and pulls off a strong save to push it around the post.
86.26 And it continues. Aird fires an arrowed drive from over 30 yards (!) that flies just beyond the far top corner. It draws an “honest to f***” shout from a punter who’s had quite enough of a Falkirk squad player looking like Cristiano Ronaldo.
92.43 The most coherent Scottish move of the night ends with Jordan Rhodes blocking his own effort from inside the six yard box. A fitting ending to the evening.
93.59 Oh wait. No. There’s more. A rehearsed corner-kick designed to cross for John McGinn alone on the edge of the box is snuffed out by THREE Canadian defenders. Subtlety is not one of this team’s strong points. Scratch that. Football is not one of this team’s strong points.
94.14 Sweet merciful relief. The referee blows his full-time whistle, and the crowd gives a short, sharp boo. It should be more fervent but it’s freezing and having been tortured for 94 minutes, they rightly just want to get home in a hurry. Gordon Strachan later calls the game “invaluable”. The sheer work rate that goes into this man’s trolling of his own fanbase is something to behold. He never takes time off.