With the pressure off, the Secret Junior Footballer enjoys games at this time of year.
Isn’t it a lovely feeling to come to the end of the season without a serious setback or injury with the summer stretching out in front of you?
It brings you back to your schooldays when that final bell after the last summer exam prompted a stampede to the door of the school, desks and chairs being kicked over in the process while teachers ran for cover.
It’s not quite the same as a junior footballer but it’s pleasant nonetheless. Those final few games, when you’re neither in contention for a title nor for relegation, can take on an almost serene quality where an open and expansive game of football takes the place of the normal kick–and-rush mud fights. It’s as if the players are unafraid of making a mistake because there literally are no consequences.
So it makes you think of the pressure that we put upon ourselves to make that pass, take that shot, slide in for that tackle and for what? Are the sleepless nights and Saturday nights on the couch with a two litre bottle of Ballygowan really worth it? If we win, we’re happy for a day or two then it’s back to training on Tuesday. If we lose we’re sad for a day or two and then it’s back to training on Tuesday.
Even if we manage to put a bit of a run together, it doesn’t really have a huge impact on our day to day lives so why then does every one of us get as nervous before a big game as we did when we were kids?
For the Secret Junior Footballer, it’s easy to answer. We want to win EVERYTHING. Even when we think we don’t, we do. Deep down I want to win the league, win the cup, win the FAI, win the Munster Junior, and win the Lawson.
I know, to a 100% certainty that we will not win all of those titles but I still want to. The second I don’t want to win them, I’ll retire. The day the league becomes mathematically impossible to win, I want to finish second, or third, or I want to beat our local rivals, or beat the team above us because our star striker from last year decided to jump ship for them over the summer, the swine.
As kids, we chased medals and titles and being able to gloat over our enemies. The fear of not being able to do that was what made us nervous before games. As adults, it’s exactly the same. Wanting to win, even if it’s impossible to do so, is all that matters.
This rumoured business of manipulating the bookies to make a few quid in what remains of the season is completely contrary to why any of us started to play the game.
How any manager could sign one of those players in the future, knowing that they’ve taken a dive is beyond me. If winning the game isn’t all that matters then why play?