If you’ve ever wondered how I decide what subject I’m going to pontificate on when filling these pages (I know you haven’t, but let’s just go with it for the purposes of this piece) it’s usually after Jamie Carragher and Ed Chamberlain have ended their post match analysis on Monday Night Football.
This is the point at which I’ve scoured every TV channel, newspaper, website and social media platform for 60 hours, taking in the best, and the worst, of that weekend’s punditry, comment and critique. I love it.
It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though. By the time the Champions League games roll around on a Tuesday night, the rest of the house is already suffering from a severe case of FFF; football footage fatigue.
You can spot the classic symptoms in others from the loud tutting, heavy sighing and a rolling of the eyes every time you switch channels over and the TV screen fills up with the green of a football pitch.
Luckily for those who suffer from this affliction, their discomfort can easily be alleviated simply by standing up and leaving the room.
There are plenty of times over the last three years when I’ve contemplated cutting all ties with football and doing something totally different; working into the world of advertising, being a mid-century design furniture dealer, I’ve even thought about training to become a barber, but the one drawback to all of those is that I can’t fob off any complaints about watching too much football on TV by telling everyone “It’s my job. I have to watch it.”.
Which is actually true on both counts, whether it be for my role as a coach or a writer.
What watching so much action and grazing over the blanket analysis at your disposal allows you to do is take off your blinkers and see what everyone else is looking at.
Even as someone who has played and coached professionally, there are always things that you miss, details, viewpoints you haven’t considered.
After sifting through it all, by Monday night I’ve turned into a magpie (a real one, not one of them).
Even then, there are weekends when nothing of interest pops up despite the plethora of coverage, or even worse still, weekends free of football when you have to rely on your own cunning and past experiences to dig you out.
I’ve found myself doing that a lot lately. So much so they should start to call this ‘The Throwback Thursday Column’.
So, in a bid to travel back in time while also staying topical, I’m going to play a game with you called ‘What happens next?’, which was once one of the rounds on A Question of Sport.
I’ll be honest, I stopped watching the show a long time ago so I’m not even sure whether it’s still part of it.
If you need a timescale as to when my interest ceased, Ally McCoist was still one of the team captains, back when the ‘Mystery Guest’ round hadn’t become so easy, it might as well be a multiple choice question posed by Holly Willoughby to win a holiday of a lifetime on This Morning; a time when it was nigh on impossible to make out that it was actually Jim Leighton who was playing crown green bowls against David Bryant (ask your grandad).
Perhaps it’s because we live in a world of overexposure and saturation, where any mishap or extraordinary feat is played a million times across all platforms of media that the ‘What Happens Next?’ format has become too easy, too predictable.
That said, it hasn’t stopped the producers of Virtually Famous from making a whole show from literally that.
To the quiz. So what generally happened was a piece of footage was played from something like a first round qualifying match at Wimbledon played so far away from the Centre Court you couldn’t even hear Maria Sharapova grunt. Yes, that far away.
Then the action was frozen at a seemingly innocuous point in play and the question of ‘What happened next?’ was posed. So let me set the scene.
This weekend sees Sam Allardyce return to face West Ham at The Boleyn Ground, which leads to questions on how he will be received by home fans and whether he will be relishing the chance to upset his former employers after leaving in the summer.
It’s the 89th minute and the deadlock is yet to be broken. Wahbi Khazri stands over the ball before viciously whipping in another of his trademark free kicks.
Lamine Kone, meanwhile, is steaming towards the near post and as the ball hurtles towards him, glances the ball across the despairing dive of Darren Randolph and creeps inside his far post to take all three points.
The time for the big question has arrived; What happens next?
Do you think Big Sam will:
A: Turn around to the Boleyn faithful and respectfully hold his hand up in apology, head bowed, solemnly, for added sincerity.
B: Stand unmoved, hands in pockets, gently reminding his players to stay focused and see out the remaining few minutes.
C: Spin to face the two Davids, Sullivan and Gold, pumping his fist and shouting expletives in their direction before grabbing a flag from the vociferous away Sunderland support and planting it in the centre circle, a la Graeme Souness.
Being a staunch champion of the ‘Anti-muted celebration’, I would of course go for ‘C’ as my chosen answer and after the circumstances in which Big Sam left The Hammers, I’d expect him to.
Whether the club were correct in replacing him with Slaven Bilic is for others to discuss, but the outside perception was that he was never fully appreciated for the work he did for that club at a time when they were a side on the slide.
It might seem a big statement, but it’s a simple fact, if they hadn’t been promoted after just one season in the Championship they might still be there.
That would lead to this simple fact; no Sam Allardyce, no Olympic Stadium, no bright beaming future.
I know that if he stabilises this club and puts Sunderland in a position to kick on and compete in the top half of the table as West Ham do now, the red carpet will be rolled out for him should he ever return and lead another team out at the Stadium of Light in the future, not subjected to jeers and sneers for not playing a certain brand of football.
A brand of football that for a long time brought West Ham little success. Hopefully their fans can now look at the bigger picture and will give Sam the reception he richly deserves.