Preamble Shambles: The Five Preseason Behaviours We Are All Guilty Of

Obsessing over the same kit every year? Hyping up your useless youth players? We've all done it
19:00, 13 Jul 2023

Like it or not, the football season is almost here again. Barely a month after Manchester City lifted the Champions League trophy and a week-and-a-half since Jack Grealish got home from the afterparty, teams are already playing their preseason fixtures.

Preseason, a time when anything feels possible. Whether you have your eyes on trophies, European qualification, promotion or even just survival; it’s all on the table. But this time of year does make football supporters act foolishly at times. 

The Sportsman has compiled a list of five behaviours we’re all guilty of during the long months of transfer talk, meaningless friendlies and anticipation.


Getting Excited For Signings Who Won’t Play

Transfers have developed into one of the most discussed aspects of football over the last decade. Sky Sports News hang their entire yellow-tinged brand on the practice, with a bi-annual deadline day extravaganza as famous for prosthetic appendages as late deals. 

Some transfers are more exciting than others, but not every club can sign Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham. Some fans are left to feed off scraps while well-off teams hoover up the world’s best. Hence the rise of this trend, where prospects and squad depth buys are overhyped into oblivion simply because your club finally did something, anything, in the window.

Has your club just plundered Osasuna under-18s for a right-back with one Spain youth cap? Time to tweet a YouTube highlight clip dubbing him the next Cafu. Landed a 38-year-old third-choice goalkeeper who hasn’t played in six years? Get his name on your shirt. Has your team just signed Jesse Lingard? Maybe just block the club’s official social media account until he stops dancing.

Preseason Results Being The Be-All And End-All

Manchester United beat Liverpool 4-0 during preseason in July 2022. Red Devils supporters proclaimed their side was back. That new manager Erik ten Hag had hacked football and would shake up the natural order. United lost 7-0 to Liverpool at Anfield in March. The lesson here is that in preseason looks can be deceiving.

That doesn’t stop us sweating mercilessly as our side goes a goal down to a team of bricklayers from the seventh tier in a friendly. Starved of football for a month-long eternity, every morsel of the beautiful game takes on greater significance. A defeat, even in a game devised solely as a warm-up, is a disaster. A victory is a triumph of immeasurable importance. Which brings us nicely on to a modern phenomenon that makes us all act up in preseason…

Cups Named After Brands Matter (Briefly)

Tottenham Hotspur are often mocked for never winning trophies. They have not lifted a major honour since the 2008 League Cup. But they have hoisted a number of pieces of questionable silverware since. The list reads more like the FTSE 100 than a list of football honours. They have won the Audi Cup, Kirin Cup, Barclays Asia Trophy, Vodacom Challenge and the frankly excessive Jockey Club Kitchee Centre Challenge Cup since that Wembley triumph. It’s less a trophy cabinet than a list of clients from Don Draper’s Rolodex.

All the big clubs are guilty of it. Arsenal are six-time Emirates Cup holders, with the now-defunct annual tournament taking place at their stadium of the same name. United fans got the unfamiliar sight of their players lifting a trophy when clinching the Bangkok Century Cup last year. Fans accuse others of taking these daft trophies too seriously, other supporters then take them more seriously to wind those fans up. Everyone gets bored. Rinse, repeat.

The most amusing part of this corporate-sponsored silliness is the players almost apologetically lifting the 20-quid Oxfam vase-looking thing for about two seconds while a stuffed-shirt CEO shakes their hand and fireworks go off behind them. A career achievement I’m sure the likes of Harry Kane and Bruno Fernandes will never forget.

Acting Like The New Kit Is Different

The unveiling of a new kit is an exciting time for a fan. You’re going to be seeing a lot of it during the season, so it needs to be nice. Perhaps your team has changed manufacturer and you’re interested in a new take on a classic? Or you’re hoping for a bold reimagining that perhaps includes a nifty collar or some weird, aerodynamic mesh panels? Without football to watch we all seem to become Alexander McQueen, searching boldly for the next fashion innovation.

But some clubs take the p*ss don’t they? Ajax’s kit was greeted by palpitations on Twitter over how “clean” and “fresh” it looked. It’s a big red stripe with white sleeves, just like it always is. Revolutionary work, lads.

Newcastle are repeat offenders here. Their new kit has black and white stripes with a slightly v-shaped collar. Last year it was black and white stripes with a slightly rounder collar. The year before featured pink and yellow Mr Blobby spots and a big picture of Ant and Dec’s faces. Just kidding, it was black and white with a slightly v-shaped collar. We’re onto you, Magpies.

Developing A Vast Knowledge of Academy Players

Preseason friendlies start so early these days that often players who have played international football or have ventured deep in the European competitions don’t even play in the first games. But that’s no problem for the modern fan. 

An hour on YouTube later and you’ll know everything about the no-hopers and never-will-bes filling your squad while the real stars are busy. That 18-year-old left winger who will end up at Coventry City on a free next summer? You’ve seen every goal he scored in the FA Youth Cup last season. Your statuesque goalkeeper who looks 41 but somehow plays for your under-18s? You’ve watched every minute of his three Estonia youth caps. Jesse Lingard? He’s there too. He’s always there.

These are your people. Your team. The real players, not the global superstars. Researching these guys and watching them shamble through a far-flung friendly against Mohan Bagan Super Giant has given you an unbreakable bond with them. Until the proper players are back and you forget each and every one of them ever existed.

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