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Another Season of Goals and Hopes

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Yes, folks, football is back: the beautiful game of two halves, with teams on paper setting out their stalls to give 110% to each game as it comes at the end of the day. Get ready for another season of missed's and bellowed youthfulness.

Much as I enjoy the game, I'd prefer it if they didn't kick off until September. Cricket still has two Tests and three trophies to decide, the kids are on holiday, and I've no wish yet to switch from shorts to jeans. With final whistles being blown around five in the afternoon, it seems to get dark much earlier than it should.

But, you've got to be ambivalent about football, haven't you?

It can be an amazing and gripping spectacle: the silky skills of Luka Modric; Nedum Onuoha's goal against Chelsea; the fairy tale of that Dean Windass' volley at Wembley; yet another nail-biting escape from relegation by Forest Green Rovers.

I will confess to emitting whoops of pleasure in bath and kitchen, even going to see Rovers play Swindon in the FA Cup. I stood on the terraces, was drenched by freezing rain and saw the lads go ahead, only to be beaten 3-2. No giant-killing, but memorable.

On the other hand, the game encourages a partisanship that can turn nasty, they're all paid too much, and most of them cheat. Then there's the systemic failure, inherent in all capitalist-competitive structures, which leads to fewer and fewer winners. Money has evilly outgrown other roots, especially those of grass.

More follower than fan, I'll nevertheless spend the coming months cheering on the four (don't ask) teams I support: Spurs won the double when I was ten; the Tigers were my home town team as a teenager; passionate Mackems at a Boothferry Park replay stole my heart; caretaker Sid and I scrounged materials for a school play from land next to the old Lawn Ground.

'Men in exile feed on dreams of hope,' as Aeschylus pointed out, centuries ago.

Or, to paraphrase The Bard: "The game's afoot. Follow your spirit, and upon this charge. Cry, 'Come on, lads, get stuck in! Maybe this year we'll win something.'"

Marcus's daily bog here.