Barnet 0 Oxford United 2

Perhaps Sam Deering saw it as just being professional; the little hitch-kick into tight tuck following the challenge from Jake Wright that resulted in Wright’s dismissal late on in the win over Barnet on Saturday.
To be fair to Deering, it seems unlikely he was aware that Wright was the man making the challenge and that he was on a booking. It does seem likely that he was simply executing a deeply ingrained response to a challenge. Forget the professional foul; that was the professional dive.
Pundits refer to this kind of cheating as ‘drawing the foul’, and use it in that patronisingly exclusive way that puts you as a fan in your place – ‘if you’ve never played professional football, then you wouldn’t understand.’
No doubt Deering will have brushed off the criticism he received from his former manager, coach and team-mates. Its just part of the game, that’s what Alan Shearer and Gary Linekar say.
But if you’re going to be a professional cheat, then you’ve also got to be very good with it. Sam Deering isn’t good enough to act all prime time. During his Oxford career, he occasionally came on to ignite some pace into a game when it lulled, but when used from the start, he rarely delivered.
Compare him, then, to Alfie Potter, both very similar players, both afflicted with a talent that is difficult to channel, particularly in the lower leagues. What makes Potter different to Deering, and why, I think Chris Wilder persists with him and disposed of Deering is because Potter works. You never get complaints from him; he bounces off lunging tackles, and he overall mentality seems pretty level headed. Wilder can see that Potter offers something, and is prepared to work with him to get the most out of him. Deering, on the other hand, became too labour intensive to be worth improving; whether that was making racist comments on Facebook, turning up to training late, or not delivering on the pitch.
Deering will never play for Wilder again, that’s for sure, so I don’t really expect him to show respect for his former manager specifically, but, as I say, these are deep-set learnt behaviours. The more he does it, the more he’s likely to do it, the more he gets a reputation the less likely he is for managers to bother with him. Potter, on the other hand, is much more likely to sustain a career in the game.

Yellows 0 Chesterfield 0, Barnet 2 Yellows 2

There’s a point in every season when I find myself building short-term allegiances to teams all over the country. As games become more like shoot-outs, I become a passive consumer rather than a fan. Like one of those people who believe that football means more when there’s money on it.

I’m becoming more interested in Schalke, for example. I’d like to see Uncle Avram save West Ham (although I’d also like to see Wolves stay up and I’m not going to get both). Anyone who prevents Manchester City or Chelsea from winning things gets my vote as they are the devil incarnet. Should either win the Champions League then football will end because it will finally prove the hypothesis that you can buy success.

The noise that greeted Notts County’s winner against Swindon towards the end of our draw with Chesterfield proved I’m not alone. It helps, of course, that our season is over, and that our interests can move elsewhere. The Chesterfield game was an attractive spectacle, but if they had a bit more to play for, if we did too, if it was a little less hot, if it wasn’t at the arse-end of a long season, then it would have been a more memorable and meaningful fixture. As entertaining as it was, in an ‘if’ season, this was the ultimate ‘if’ fixture, League 2 football described through the medium of dance.

I’m a sucker for the underdog, and love a good “miracle escape” so Monday’s Barnet fixture left me in a bit of a quandary. Barnet, I’d generally consider to be a rather meaningless club, but now they are in the crap I’d quite like them to survive especially with the Deering/Midson connection. 3 points for them would have been gold dust, 3 for us would have no value at all. A small piece of me didn’t have a problem with them winning. Perhaps we could have written it off as a charitable donation. In the end, I suppose a draw was about right.

Yellows 2 Barnet 1

I’d love to go to a World Cup, but this is looking increasingly unlikely as time goes on. A lack of time and money and growing responsibilities dictate it so.

And because FIFA is corrupt, of course. You don’t need a Panorama programme to tell you that, they admit it themselves. But it was evident on Thursday as England; who could evidently deliver an excellent platform for a great World Cup, were done for by the dark arts of bribery and/or a deluded self-importance that FIFA Council have the ability to change the world. Financially or mentally, FIFA are plainly corrupted.

Of course with global communications, and FIFA’s obsessive branding the location of a World Cup is largely irrelevant. South Africa 2010 looked exactly like Germany 2006 except for a couple of wide eyed smiling black children and some ‘ethnic’ daubing.

This is the World Cup’s central narrative; it relieves the poor of their problems and FIFA have a responsibility to divest its magical powers in places that have previously not had their fairly dust sprinkled on them. Like poor deprived Russia and Qatar, obviously.

It’s evident that a World Cup doesn’t change peoples’ lives. Neither USA ’94 nor Japan and Korea 2002 witnessed any significant change in either their footballing or national fortunes as a result of hosting the tournament. It’s too early to say definitively whether South Africa will benefit from its month in the limelight. I suspect that violent townships and AIDS will still be dominant factors of South African life when we watch Qatar being dumped out of their own tournament by a Group Of Death featuring Sweden, Burkino Faso and the newly formed Peoples’ Republic of Newbury.

I actually believe in the restorative powers of football. It is truly remarkable that people, who otherwise want to kill each other, will observe a set of anachronistic rules for the singular objective of playing a game.

The World Cup is a summers’ entertainment not a vehicle of hope and regeneration. As if to illustrate this, on Saturday, the turnstile seemed to have an extra reassuring thunk as I walked through it. The sleet was cold and there was a hazy gloom. People shivered holding cups of hot chocolate with their hats dragged down over their ears. It was a reassuringly British scene that has not fundamentally changed in 30 years or more.

The game was a classic lower league mid-season war of attrition. Whatever uncertainty and change we face in our lives, this offers continuity and a baseline. Whatever turmoil you face, you can still go to a game on Saturday afternoon and, quite regardless of its quality, know pretty much what you’re going to get. This shared experience is what counts. With James Constable’s heroic return to form, it was football at its life affirming best. Better this than a month with Planet FIFA any day.