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Monday, 26 March 2012

Blackburn and Arsenal: Should We Admit Sometimes, We Just Don't Know?


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We live in a world of analysis. Every last scoop of information, every last thinning patch of hair on a pop stars head, every single pound a morally bankrupt politician swipes is carefully processed, studied, researched, accounted for and scrutinised to absurd lengths. And even if we do not know these things, they are usually invented and sold to the public; dressed up as facts; shrouded with shadowy ‘sources’ that what’s-his-name spoke to about you-know-who, regarding you-know-what in order to accumulate evidence for some incident, line of argument or rumour. Our judgements – our world even – is ubiquitous. Even speaking as someone who has never really known life without the internet or without such potent levels of information…well every painting seems to have eyes. And those eyes seem to follow us everywhere we go. You say the wrong thing? It’s on camera. An affair? The story will be sold. We know these things. It’s just how it is, right?


Well, yes. Until we are proved wrong. And our knowledge – knowledge that has never been so in depth – is often transferred to football. Tactics, formations, what latest mind game Sir Alex Ferguson is playing, the salary Frank Lampard commands, Arsenal’s inability to win a trophy and even that fancy-Dan hair piece Mark Clattenburg had inserted some time ago. Football is studied obsessively. Everyone has an opinion and everybody assumes that each game tells of its own conclusion. Despite the glaringly obvious fact that United will slip up at some point in the season, we still had that City fan crying when they lost to Swansea. Everyone seems to sit at desks and predict what will happen, and look for patterns in teams. But do you ever think sometimes we should simply admit that we do not know? Do you think we should admit we just didn’t see that one coming?

I think we should.


Take Blackburn Rovers. Wasn’t their fate sealed a few months ago in December, when they faced Bolton? Thousands of Lancashire faces contorted with opprobrium, hurling insults at Steve Kean who seemingly hadn’t a clue about how to run a football club. Bolton won and Blackburn were rock bottom. They were going down and even David Moyes left at half-time because of the chaotic hatred whirling around the stadium. But now in March – and at the time of writing – Blackburn are actually off the bottom. Because of some fine, determined, spirited play and of course an excellent dose of the king-sized footballer Yakubu…well sh*t, who’d thunk it? We didn’t know Kean could sprinkle a handful of togetherness and grit onto the side. We certainly didn’t think Blackburn could beat Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford. There it is; we didn’t know. Our knowledge was lacking.


God, isn’t that just refreshing? Isn’t it quite brilliant to know that we didn’t know? Who wants to live in a world like the novel ‘1984’ anyway, where the watchful, analysing eyes of Big Brother study everything? Not me; because not knowing stuff is actually brilliant. There’s a hint of mystery and excitement stuffed inside life when we are found out to be a bit…wrong. My point is that we cannot write the script in life, we certainly cannot write the script in football and most important of all, we cannot predict every letter that will appear on the page. We can only watch as words are formed. Hey, why would we want to be able to predict everything? That takes away possibility and suspense and emotion. It would leave us as detached robots that couldn’t interact with anything and anyone because of the monotony of knowing what they would bring.


Look at Arsenal. Their season has been up and down so frequently, so erratically, that we couldn’t possibly predict them actually overtaking Harry Redknapp’s top-top terrific Tott-er-nham side. For all of the high-tech equipment we have to analyse games and for all of the ways we (inadvertently) try to force football into nicely pocketed messages of information…we just couldn’t predict Arsenal beating Chelsea 5-3. You just have to take a step back from the cameras and steo back from Jamie Redknapp’s infuriating misuse of the word ‘literally’ and think, ‘right…what the hell was all that about?’. Don’t try to analyse it. Don’t try to know why it happened and do not try to figure out when it will happen again. Your head would explode. Once you delve into the analysis of such a wonderfully random game like the encounter between Chelsea and Arsenal then in my humble opinion, you lose sight of what made it so enthralling in the first place. You lose sight of the allure. You lose the crazy sparks that stoked up the brilliant fire in the first place.


When you think about it, football is a simple game. Blokes kicking around a football and trying to aim it within two giant posts that hold up a net. Not hard. Not complicated. Aha! That’s where it gets us. There’s the enigma. Because football is complicated; football is full of the unexpected; it can go as smoothly as planned but then at the last minute jump up, crank into action, pull your trousers down and make you look like a fool, all in front of 50 thousand fans who point fingers and laugh. Despite the thousands of football blogs, records, history, convincing arguments and journals of information, we’ll never be able to know or predict or sort everything football gives us into neat piles. We’ll never be able to predict what is essentially the unpredictable. We can’t know everything and even when our predictions do turn out to be right, our stroke of luck will not last.


Do you think we should admit that sometimes, we don’t know? That often we are mere pawns in the ever-powerful game of chess football likes to play? I’ll admit it. I’ll admit that football is just one big, beautiful, nonsensical mess, and sometmes when the pace is in full-flow, I simply haven’t got a clue. Ahhh.

Jack Heaney

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