Saturday 25 July ~
Due to the nature of my work, occasionally I get offered the odd freebie. Like most people, when it comes to free stuff, I'm not too fussy. For instance, I am the proud owner of a hardback copy of The Original Football Idol, the autobiography of Plymouth Argyle legend Tommy Tynan, that remains unread beyond the first paragraph. However, yesterday I became the third person at the paper I occasionally work for to turn down a pair of tickets for Sunday's Wembley Cup. Apparently they had a face value of £59: no one seemed to care. No one wanted to watch the Wembley Cup.
According to the Wembley Stadium press release "the Wembley Cup has been developed to provide an exciting curtain-raiser to the new season and is a must-see event for football fans". Having seen highlights of Celtic slicing through the Al Ahly defence in the opening fixture on Friday evening the words "must see" seem to have been used in a similarly loose sense to the recent "must see" sequel to the Transformers movie. The press release also promises "Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Luka Modric and Robbie Keane". Keane came on as a substitute while Barcelona gave a start to just one player from the Champions League final.
This would not be a problem if it was billed and priced like a run of the mill pre-season friendly but it is the presentation of such a kickabout as a worthwhile tournament that grates. Much like the use of Wembley for increasingly flimsy excuses for football matches, the idea of turning a bunch of friendlies into a needless tournament is the kind of transparent moneymaking scheme that has become tediously prevalent in the few weeks of the year when we aren’t beaten around the head with Super Sundays.
Pre-season friendlies are, as a rule, pretty turgid affairs, the only highlights usually being the chance to see a new signing attempting to impress or check out a new home shirt failing to look quite right. It is a necessary evil that is never going to be a great spectacle, like stretches before a match, and it doesn't need to pretend it is anything else. When the Wembley Cup is presented on Sunday it is unlikely that the fans of the victorious club will see their weekend's work as positively as the club's accountants will. Josh Widdicombe