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14 September 2016

The new football season is here – but what’s new about it?

Dodgy hair, killer ads – and how Mourinho beat Ibrahimovic 14-4.

By Hunter Davies

So, what’s new about the new season? I am going deaf. That’s the first thing – or Sky is playing silly buggers.

Before my wife died, I was always telling her I was missing certain words and told her not to mumble. She would shout back, really loud. I’d shout back, really loud, saying I’d only missed a vowel, no need to shout. So quiet these days.

In the past few weeks I’ve been putting the sound up on the TV, from the 50 mark to 80. But only when watching Sky, not the BBC or BT. Yet I’m watching on the same TV set with the same ears.

I realised, by putting the sound up on Sky, trying to hear the boring commentary, that the noise of the crowd was deafening. Had to put it down again. So what is going on?

My theory is that Sky is now deliberately amplifying the crowd sound effects, just to improve the atmosphere of the Premier League – the best, most competitive, richest in the world, blah, blah. It helps them sell the games abroad, making it a more exciting package. There, the game is normally given a local commentary, so it doesn’t matter if the original English one is being ruined by overloud sound effects.

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The Fall of Joe Hart It’s a corny, clichéd Greek drama, the collapse of a once-godlike figure for England and Man City. Who would have expected he’d suddenly get the boot from City? It was his awful mistakes in the Euro that started the rot. I always liked the way he smiled ruefully, playfully, seemed to enjoy being a goalkeeper, which, of course, is a crap job, with little pleasure in it: you do nothing for ages then get blamed for one small mistake. I remember talking to Pat Jennings, the Spurs and Arsenal goalie, who always came off the pitch with a headache, he said, having had to concentrate so hard, worried something would go wrong.

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Yes, Joe seemed happy with his lot – which perhaps was a weakness, a sign of overconfidence, not bothering to work enough on things, such as his passing.

But I think his downfall was his hair. Or, at least, appearing in some awful advert for hair stuff, some brand of shampoo. It makes me laugh when I spot it in the newspapers, as his hair is awful and getting thinner every season.

Why does he waste time doing the ads, when he is so well paid? I always felt the downfall of Mourinho at Chelsea began when he started smirking away in appalling adverts for watches. Stick to the day job, chaps.

Managers on the march This is the season when we suddenly have the world’s best managers, unquote, over here showing us how to manage, such as Mourinho and Guardiola, joining all the other star foreign managers who have kindly come to our assistance – Ranieri, Klopp, Wenger, Pochettino, Koeman . . . Oh, God, the list is too long to repeat.

But is it true that they’ve taken over from the players as the star attraction?

I conducted a little survey during the Man United v Leicester Community Shield game. I counted how many TV close-ups of the managers there were compared with the players. Mourinho was the winner, with 14 – showing him shouting, waving, writing, or just looking pensive. Second was Ranieri, with nine close-ups. Third was Ibrahimovic – supposedly our best new superstar – with four.

Jamie Vardy, our best player last season, got only two. Yet Ibrahimovic and Vardy scored goals while the two managers just stood around, watching.

Conclusive proof, I would suggest, that we are indeed obsessed by managers.

It will mean in future that there will be fewer pointless close-ups of pretty women in the crowds, which I greatly enjoyed. We now only have eyes for the star managers.

I created my own definition of a close-up, ignoring any that were caused by injuries, as opposed to camera lust for celebs. My findings are about to go to the football department at De Montfort University, Leicester. I could be Dr Davies soon. Bit of respect . . .

Hunter Davies’s “The Beatles Book” is newly published by Ebury Press (£30)

This article appears in the 07 Sep 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Three Brexiteers