International friendlies are a pain in the arse. Seriously, whilst they may be of value to the National Squad in terms of training together and keeping some semblance of team spirit and tactics together, for the average fan they disrupt the week as club football goes into hibernation. Do not get me wrong. I love competitive International Football as the matches are completely different to Premiership and Champions League fodder served up every week. It is easy to identify the intelligent players and those that are drones, carrying out their orders from a different manager just as they would every Saturday and Wednesday.
What irks me is that they are friendlies. I hate club friendlies as well. Players do not give as much effort as a competitive match, unless the opposition are a local rival, a top club side or in Englands case, Brazil, Argentina, Germany or France; even the matches played in recent years against the Dutch, Portuguese and Spaniards have been lacklustre and too often England are on the wrong end of these results. Maybe England need to tour South America again, the last time I can remember was 1984 memorable for John Barnes goal in the Maracana and Ray Wilkins outburst against a ball boy in Chile, “Give Me The Ball You Little Wanker!” which was approximately two feet away from a microphone and transmitted in all its glory onto British TV screens. Put the players in a hostile atmosphere, make them show their character. These matches can take place at the end of the season, there is no logistical reason preventing it in the years when there are no international tournaments. If the clubs can drag their players around the world for money festooned pre-season tours then the same players can generate some money for their country.
The media have been saving up their pub stories for this week. The subject of the latest is Michael Ballack, who has agreed to sign for Chelsea after Bayern are eliminated from the Champions League – Chelsea are likely to go out at the same stage, i.e. next week – for a staggering £121,000 per week (The Daily Mail), he hasn’t you know (The Star, Michael Ballacks Mr 15%) or he is you know (The Sun) but he’s going to play as a striker (The Sun). Whether this is true or not, I care not but hopefully one of the more enterprising hacks or their sub-editors is saving up these future headlines:
“Ballacks! Jose fumes as Michael signs for Real Madrid / Internazionale / Man Utd / Rochdale”
“Never Mind The Ballacks, Here’s Samuel Eto’o”
“What a load of Ballacks” when he has a bad game.
Unashamed Plug: The Charlatans have a new album out on 17th April, “Simpatico”, preceded by a single, “Blackened Blue Eyes”, released on 3rd April. Previews of this and demos of three other tracks are available at the groups myspace site, here. When the album and singles are released, pop along to your local record store or ask those nice chaps at Reflex to help you obtain them – link is on the right under “Non Football Links”.
Todays tunes are two live tracks from US groups, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists & The Waco Brothers. Ted Leo first came to my attention with a cover of The Jam’s Ghosts and the wonderfully titled, Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?, which is one of about 20 MP3’s on their site, here, for you to download. The Group play tuneful “indie” songs which is the best way I can think at this hour to describe it. The Cover Version I’ve chosen is from a gig on 26th August last year.
The Waco Brothers take on I Fought The Law, a Bobby Fuller song, evoking the spirit of The Clash’s cover version. I know nothing else about them as I’ve yet to listen to the boot of one of their recent gigs that I was given. Sorry guys, although apparently they are one of the bands who have signed up to The Live Music Archive, artists who have given their agreement to Live Recordings being shared by fans. I would urge you all to email your favourite artists and get their agreement to boots being shared through this site.