The World Cup third-place play-off aside, there is perhaps no game in football that summons as many clichés from supporters, journalists and TV broadcasters alike as the Community Shield. Year after year, the same lines are thrown out over the point of the exercise, or lack of it, with the game being described as a “glorified friendly” that acts as a “curtain raiser” to the season ahead. We’re told “not to read too much into the performance” and that the losing team “won’t lose too much sleep over the result”, with “bigger challenges ahead”. Bollocks.
While many of these things are true, there is an arrogance around many fans’, players’ and managers’ attitudes towards the competition which is dangerous in this age of modern football, where money and glamour continue to morph how we see the game. The match itself will be cast away by so many fans of the Premier League, and perhaps even sections of the two squads contesting the 2018 affair, as meaningless. They don’t quite get it. They just don’t quite get what this is all about.
Community Shield is pointless. Replace it with Black PL XI vs White PL XI.
— Olly (@Giroudesquee) April 21, 2017
As football has become modernised, more and more emphasis has been taken away from the smaller competitions, the less competitive tournaments and trophies, and instead, it’s been heaped onto both the bigger prizes and the off-the-field exploits such as mega transfer deals among Europe’s elite.
It’s not just the annual Wembley kick-off to the season that’s been left behind in the rat race, trailing behind Middle Eastern oil money and Budweiser’s latest F.A. Cup sponsorship deal. The League Cup and even the F.A. Cup are now seemingly only cherries on top of successful seasons, or trophy-shaped appeasements to keep the wolves from the door for another few months.
I have a mate who a few months ago claimed that the F.A. Cup wasn’t a major trophy anymore. Even more surprisingly, he’s an Arsenal fan. According to his logic, he hasn’t seen his team win a major trophy since 2004. Why would anyone shape their own thoughts like that to make their existence as a football fan even more pitiful?
We’re all in this to have a laugh, be part of some amazing moments, to enjoy the journey and hopefully see our side win some silverware along the way. For me, regardless of whether your team are as brilliant as Barcelona or as shite as Sunderland, you should find a way of enjoying it.
If you rely on the on-the-pitch success for your happiness, you have no control over where this ride is going to take you, and I mean that in the gloomiest way possible. But to try and limit and belittle what the smaller victories and trophies mean, is a new low. City and Chelsea supporters should be bouncing into Wembley on Sunday. A chance to see their side lift silverware at the home of football (even though the New Wembley is as about prestigious as my back garden, but that’s a discussion for another day), a chance to see your side play competitive football again after 10 weeks without it, a chance to turn a four into a five on the walls of their respective roll of honours.
If you’re waiting to have a good time until you win the league or the European Cup, you should know that it may never arrive. What comes on a consistent basis for these two teams, and all the top six in the Premier League for that matter, is finals, semi-finals, trophies, huge ties against huge teams, and a chance to watch the biggest names in the sport on the biggest stage. Days like this Sunday should be enjoyed by both sides. What’s the point of saying it doesn’t matter? Who does it help? Does it really in any way make that much-anticipated Premier League win or that Champions League triumph any sweeter when it does come after years of disappointment? What if it never comes? What was the point of it all then?
My Arsenal-supporting mate had a choice to make in the last 14 years. He could’ve enjoyed the ride, he could’ve made the most out of those four F.A. Cup wins and those two League Cup finals. He could’ve got excited about Arsenal lifting four community shields, beating Chelsea, United and Manchester City in the process. He could’ve almost driven himself to insanity with excitement for the week leading up to the Champions League final with Barcelona. But he didn’t, and he can never have those days back.
So to Manchester City and Chelsea supporters, Maurizio Sarri, Pep Guardiola, Chelsea players, Manchester City players and even BT Sport. Don’t be too cool for school this Sunday, this is what it’s all about. In March 2014, Sunderland were leading in a League Cup Final against Manchester City, 35 minutes away from victory. In eight days time, they’ll travel away to play Luton Town in League One. In the words of Biggie Smalls, “things done changed”.
All the best