Combined XIs: The Last Bastion of Lazy Fools

Flint's Off on One

While most of you will be looking out of your window tomorrow probably shivering at the very sight of this weird, cold white stuff and battered under by ‘The Beast From the East’, I will be shelled up in a tiny room in a place where -15 Celsius is considered positively tropical. Siberia is not, ahem, a glamorous place. Vast rivers freeze over for half the year, and over a metre of snow can quite happily fall overnight.

The chances are, we’ll be up to much the same thing; glued to the box watching Liverpool v Manchester United. Either you have an affiliation to one side, or you’re neutral – it makes no difference. The point is, you pretty much have no choice in the matter. Whether you consciously realise it or not, your very being depends on the flashing content pouring into your eyes. Go on, try it – peel yourself away from the telly before the post-match comments have finished.

Now before we launch into a sweeping broadside on Sky’s incessant drilling of our brains to validate their product, stop. No, this will not be a laboured attack on the capitalist greed of the broadcasters. They’re only doing their jobs, for Christ’s sake – you’re the mug for filling their pockets and believing their hype.

There is another virus spreading ominously into the inevitable swathe of pre and post-match content. Anywhere you like nowadays ahead of a ‘top-six’ clash, a derby, or even a simple grudge match, you simply cannot avoid these godawful hybrid XIs designed to ‘spark debate’. It’s almost as if we have become brainless shells incapable of thinking, conversing or starting communication for ourselves.

“Ah but Jack Pitt-Brooke put Alberto Moreno ahead of Luke Shaw!” you are supposed to cry. “Miguel Delaney reckons Anthony Martial is better than Sadio Mané – what’s he been smoking??” You ought to ponder. Nothing against either man at all. I am merely using their names as spurious hypothetical examples.

The point is, are we not bloody capable of sparking these arguments ourselves? Do we really need a newspaper or website to prompt us into fits of rage over subjective nonsense? I think we are quite capable to that once in the company of other fans. Quite frankly it insults my intelligence and opinions that there are any of these at all. What they are there for is for one pure and simple fact – they want clicks.

Right, time to reply to the predictable rebuttals coming my way. First up – “It’s just a bit of fun, why not have them?” Ok, well if that is what journalism has now become, then we’re living in a very poor time. Leave this sort of tosh to spotty teenagers hiding behind their bedroom curtains. Sure, if you’ve had a few pints and your Scouse-supporting mate (they have to have SOME friends) starts mouthing off about how Lukaku is shite and is only good for tapping in other people’s crosses, then by all means go for it and explain why he would get in a joint team.

Isn’t that the point, though? It’s the sort of harmless but meaningless discussion that naturally sprouts forth between mates. Why a full-time journalist, who has worked hard to earn his position, would feel the need to pimp himself out in this vein is beyond me. Wouldn’t a look at the psychology of the managers or an interview behind the scenes with backroom staff be more original and revealing than rehashing the same old fucking garbage 60 times a season?

Next: “Everyone’s doing it, so they’d be mad not to.” Let’s be fair though for a moment. Any paper or website that doesn’t publish one of these monstrosities is automatically losing out; they simply can’t afford to not have an attention-grabbing click-bait headline. It’s harsh to hound the journalist’s morals when they are obliged to run this tripe in a business sense, so I will cut the byline some slack.

I guess it is the situation that is to blame – but who created that? Moronic idiots who can’t demand an ounce of challenging thought or debate. Bloody sods – these are probably the same people who use words like ‘snowflake’ and think Donald Trump is a ‘lad’. Oxygen thieves.

“Debate is all part of what makes football great,” the final dissenters mutter. For once I agree. Debate is essential, but debate formulated from natural discussion, not from a flimsy, hypothetical subjective viewpoint. Debate is the very core of this very column, but I like to think that my reasoning is at least a representation of genuine consideration, not a throwaway thought purely to rile you readers up.

Here endeth the lesson. In the end, of course you’re free to make up your own mind what you want to read – just as long as it is not brainless garbage that dilutes anything of meaningful substance.