Something is horribly, horribly wrong.
It is just after three on a Saturday afternoon. I am standing in the ladies underwear section of Rochdale’s Marks and Sparks, my wife is waving something gauzy at me and saying, ‘well, what do you think?’ I make a vaguely positive noise which manages to convey the sense that I am actually paying attention.
The facts of the matter are that I am miles away – well probably just about one mile away to be precise. In my heart I know that I shouldn’t be in M&S, let alone picking out ladies under things – I should be on the familiar grey concrete of the Sandy. But this is July. Even if I could get into the Sandy I would be on my own – well before large, serious men uttered the immortal line ‘we don’t want any trouble do we, sir’ that is. There is no football for weeks yet. This is the Dead Zone. Population: every British football fan. Welcome, make yourself comfy.
It happens every year. Having finally got over whatever happened last season and told all of your season stories for the third or fourth time to an audience of friends and family who aren’t even trying to stifle their yawns anymore – there are those uncomfortable few weeks before the friendly’s begin and then the season proper starts. The Dead Zone.
Spare moments are invested in trawling the internet for any news about Dale, any news at all – literally any news. I have followed the details of the work on the Spotland playing surface with an enthusiasm approaching obsession – those little green shoots are never far from my thoughts. They are almost like children to me.
Then of course there is transfer news – or not as the case may be. Since the surprise signing of Jason Kennedy – and those feet of his which seem to be able to defy the laws of physics – there hasn’t been any signings or even any hints of signings.
So having let ten players go at the end of last season and allowed Rambo to seek his fortune in ‘that’ Yorkshire – there is ample room for rumours. Alfie going to Huddersfield, Buckley going to Birmingham etc, etc. Transfer rumours are truly brilliant. Since the season ended I have heard loads of them, each more exotic and fanciful than the last. The ones I hear from my Gold Bond man are always good value – because he sort of works for the club they always have that veneer of truth that really draw you in. The best kind are always the ones you get from the ‘man in the pub’ though. The number of people you met in pubs around the Borough who have an aunty whose next door neighbour does a bit of painting and decorating on the side – and swears that Brett Ormerod or some other football notable is moving into the house he is working on in Wardle – is literally stunning.
Having seen Mr. Hill’s approach to signing players over the last few years, my guess is that he certainly has plans and that we will all be suitably surprised and delighted when the ‘fishul site trumpets the arrival of who knows who. In the mean time I can indulge my taste for foundless rumours and maybe start a few of my own – for example, when I was in B&Q on Friday I am certain I saw Ryan Giggs buying a patio heater and a set of steamer chairs. Please feel free to pass this along – ideally when you are in the pub. Introduce it by saying: ‘this bloke on t’interweb said…’ Everyone will believe you – coz it came off t’interweb.
Oh, and there is the small matter of football fashion. Dale have inexplicably decided to drop the world’s No.1 sportswear manufacturer, Nike, in favour of the Cabrini. I mean c’mon! Cabrini! Truly it is the brand of the pikey.
Thankfully the home kit will remain almost unchanged from the dashing Inter Milan look alike which debuted last season. However, the serviceable white and the eye watering yellow of last season’s away kits are no more. They are to be replaced by an all purple number. Yes, purple. Being a gentleman of advancing years and burgeoning waistline my sincere concern is that I will look like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – basically, like a giant damson – and pay £40 for the priviledge.
This is what the Dead Zone does to you. In a vacuum of actual football, sustained by the meagerest diet of facts and wretching from the insipid confectionary of rumour you begin to lose your marbles and start fretting about how ridiculous you will look in your new replica away kit or how the grass is coming along at Spotland. This really is no state for any chap to be in.
However, there is a cure. Well sort of. The cure is hope. Whilst the Dead Zone is a fact free area – it is also completely free of bad news. No injuries, no humiliating defeats, no defensive mishaps in the 93rd minute. In the Dead Zone everything is still possible. Daggers will score 37 goals next season, Arthur will keep an unprecedented 40 clean sheets, Jonah will remain injury free, Buckley will develop Jedi mind powers and use them to confuse and beguile defenders the length and breadth of the land – oh, and Alfie will score the goal that secures promotion with an extravagant bicycle kick – from the edge of his own 18 yard box.
That is the beauty of the Dead Zone – nothing may be happening, but nothing bad has happened either – and next season will definitely be the season, almost without question, probably.
Enjoy the summer and believe the sign.
Written by Richard Eden-Maughan on 5th July 2009