“Truth,” believed David Hume “springs from argument amongst friends.” I’m not quite sure what Mr. Hume had in mind when he declared this, but it certainly wasn’t football. Rational argument and logic are impossible when it comes to the arcane world of football. Rest assured, I wouldn’t contradict the good Mr. Hume without sufficient cause.
A mate was telling me about Gary Neville’s autobiography the other day. In said volume, Neville describes an incident that I use in support of my theory. United were playing Lille in the round of sixteen of the Champions League. Ryan Giggs, that old fossil, scored a free-kick whilst the Lille keeper was marshalling his wall. Giggs celebrated, Lille protested and the referee gave the goal. Pandemonium ensued. Lille, like the intrepid Gallic warriors that they are, threatened a walkout. Neville, Man Utd skipper, tried to reason with his Lille counterpart. This seemed to make Ferguson mad and the Scotsman told Neville to keep away from the Lille players. Neville, in a moment of madness, told Ferguson to f*** off. That, needless to say, did not go down well. Neville was subjected to a torrent of Scotch invective, fined a week’s wages and then, to top it off, dropped from the squad for the next two matches.
The factor relevant to our subject is not the dodgy manners of English captains or the massive egos of their Scottish managers, fascinating though these topics may be. What concerns us is the fact that the general public had no idea about this at that time. Consequently, when Wes Brown was picked to man United’s right flank against Fulham in the next match, people were taken aback. Speculation was rife. The wily old fox was deploying Brown to nullify Fulham’s aerial threat; or perhaps it was a masterstroke to bully Fulham into submission on the wings; maybe United were going to play a 3-4-2-1 (does that even make ten in total?) with Brown as a teraquista or whatever that is supposed to be and so on and so forth. I’m sure Mr. McMahon and his merry band came up with some beauties. All the while, the real reason for Brown’s inclusion at Neville’s expense was Ferguson’s desire to show who the Alpha Male was at Old Trafford.
I suppose most football decisions are based on the inanest (inane, inaner and inanest? Whatever next?) of reasons. Whilst we speculate about aerial threats and false nines and men-in-holes (that does sound rather dirty, doesn’t it?) and so on, the managers concerned are merely swearing at their charges and urging them to get stuck in.
Arguing about football issues is neither useful, nor entertaining, nor in any way desirable. Though you may be addicted to this game (as you no doubt are, trawling this site instead of wetting your brow with honest sweat), we urge you to spend less time arguing about it (or watch others like the great McMahon do so) and spend more time doing other football-related stuff. There’s loads you can do once you stop discussing about it. You can play FIFA, PES or FM. You can play fantasy football. You can continue to trawl this very excellent site. You can jerk off to Barcelona’s sensual brand of tiki-taka. You can do anything but argue, discuss, debate, opine, talk about, chat, converse, discourse, lecture, preach, harangue (that’s all the thesaurus has to offer) about the game.
As it is, there are very few things cast in stone when it comes to football and hindsight is the arguer’s best friend. Apart from the score-line (not even that in case of drunk fans), few would agree upon the tactics and performances on display.” Bramble had a shocker!”.” Are you nuts? He was the best player in the park!”. So, there you have it: whenever a mate toddles around with a pensive gleam in his eye after your team has been beaten by Accrington Stanley at home in the third round of the cup, head him off and talk about the situation in Syria.