International Blues


Is it only me who hates international weeks?

Perhaps it’s a Scottish thing.

All too often, our performances are the kind you watch from behind your hands, but only if there’s no room behind the sofa.

The match against Poland was a case in point; you could feel the tension mounting up as the game wore on.

The last minute equaliser was coming as surely as Glasgow rain.

Even without it, I dread these spells away from club football.

You spend most of your time worrying that key players will get injured. If you’ve suffered a defeat, or a major event, before the international break there’s no immediate catharsis. You smart for an extra week or more, itching to see your team getting back to business by giving someone a good pasting.

Chelsea fans must feel like that, half mad with frustration that they’re not watching their club get its season back on the rails.

Liverpool fans must be almost climbing the walls as they wait for Klopp to take charge of his first game.

Manchester United fans, likewise, must be dying to get back on duty trying to lift their team above the limitations of its coach.

Even worse than all of that is that international breaks can screw up momentum.

Arsene Wegner can’t be terribly thrilled that it’s interrupted his, with the team playing better football at the moment than they have in a long, long time. There have been blips along the way, of course, such as their defeat at the hands of Mourinho’s stuttering Chelsea, as well as those dreadful Champions League results which have put them in real, real trouble in that tournament, but they destroyed Manchester United inside the first 20 minutes earlier this month, and their fans must be longing for the resumption of domestic business.

Likewise at Manchester City, who’s 6-1 rout of Newcastle has put them top of the Premiership with a scintillating display.

International football just puts everything on hold, and when, as with Liverpool, you’re got things happening at your club, big things, it becomes a waste of time.

Sunderland, like Liverpool, have replaced their boss since the last series of games were played, as I predicted on this site, with Sam Allardyce coming in to replace the hapless Advocaat.

Their fans will be keen to see what he can do, and Sam’s style of play, which can be absolutely awful to watch at times, is exactly the sort of “no nonsense, win and that’s all that counts” thing their ailing club needs to pull them clear of the present danger.

If he can pull it off then surely Steve McClaren isn’t going to be long in his own post, because the Geordie club looks doomed at the moment.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the international break has delayed the inevitable there.

There’s simply no way McClaren looks capable of turning things around and Ashley will have to act fast if he’s going to save them from being relegated.

Leicester fans too must be going crazy. This season has started superbly well, and the club is probably in the best place it’s been since a certain Martin O’Neill was in charge.

They are playing great football and scoring goals for fun.

None of this is to say that international football can’t be exciting.

We Scotland fans know it well, unfortunately.

Poland’s late goal was one of those shock moments only football can produce, a goal that simply wiped away an entire qualifying campaign at a stroke.

It was gutting to watch; I actually screamed at the TV screen as the defence failed to clear the ball and the big striker Lewandowski homed in.

By then we knew the Republic of Ireland were ahead against the Germans, and their fans have to be bouncing despite narrowly missing out on automatic qualification.

They’ve beaten the world champions, so the play-off matches should hold absolutely no fears for them.

Likewise the fans of Northern Ireland, who topped their group and are through. Wales too exceeded expectations and have made it and England’s procession was typically straightforward, although tougher tests await them.

Yes it can be exciting.

But club football is where it’s at. It’s what we all look forward to.

And come the weekend we’re right back at it.