Unscathed

I usually write posts on here in the afternoon or evening ready for publication the following morning.

This time though, it wouldn’t have made any sense to do that, because I wouldn’t have known what to write.

The jury was still out. Overnight deliberations.

Although we lost, physically, the first football game post knee surgery went well last night – but it’s always the morning after that the truth really comes out, isn’t it?

The great news is that I’m writing this post from a static bike at the gym. I’m cycling through Monument Valley. So things can’t be that bad, can they? And yes, I’m taking it easy because yes, I am a bit stiff here and there, but the knee is certainly no worse than anywhere else.

I am unscathed.

Thanks to the guys for taking me back so readily and with such open arms. Not that I ever expected anything else.

Next week, we go again.

Five fine

After my problems with my knee at the beginning of the year (and then throughout the rest of the year, if we’re being completely honest), I’ve been working hard to put things right.

I’m happy to say that it’s paying off.

Some decent weight loss (still a work in progress), a huge improvement in fitness (also ongoing) and, this last weekend, a 5km run. Walking isn’t an issue, but that constant impact on the knee as one runs isn’t good. 5km might not sound like much, but given that I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to run again, it was huge.

I was dragged out to try a flat parkrun on the weekend and – without wanting to blow my own trumpet – I smashed it. No knee issues whatsoever, and I finished feeling that I could have gone faster or further if I’d wanted to.

Boom.

Sure, a little muscle stiffness here and there the next day, but nothing terrible. And so now I’m moving straight onto the next hurdle: a game of football on Tuesday evening. Running apparently isn’t an issue, but that constant impact on the knee as one plays football isn’t good. A game of football on Tuesday evening might not sound like much, but given that I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to play a game of football again, it will be huge.

Hold thumbs for great news on Wednesday morning.

Top

This happened for a week last season and things didn’t work out quite as I would have liked. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth celebrating again now.

After a hard-fought win over Hull City yesterday – the mighty Sheffield United are top of the league. And while I might not be the Premiership (yet), you can only beat who you’re up against, and we seem to be doing that quite nicely. Who knows if it’ll last?

I hope so, but in the meantime, some song lyrics come to mind.

Smile for the while and let’s be jolly
We shouldn’t be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can

More tenuous football news links to one hit wonders from the 1980s will surely follow. Or perhaps not

The UEFA Nations League

I tried to understand what a UEFA Nations League is and how it worked.

Firstly, I went to the UEFA website: horse’s mouth and all that. And then, when my brain exploded thanks to lines like this:

Due to excessive travel restrictions, any group could not contain a maximum of one of these pairs: Andorra & Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Azerbaijan

I asked online for assistance, which came in the form of a link from The Guru. Thanks, The Guru.

Because yes, Football365 seem to have done a good job in attempting to simplify a rather complex format. And am I alone in thinking that UEFA might actually be onto something here? It actually looks quite good.

And there’s more great news for me too: Supersport – who failed to secure the rights for the English League Cup or the Championship – have managed to scrape some cash together to buy some UEFA Nations League goodness.

Tonight kicks off (quite literally) with the following fixtures:

Kazakhstan v Georgia
SS3 HD (4pm)

Armenia v Liechtenstein
SS3 HD (6pm)

Wales v Rep. Ireland
SS6 HD (8.45pm)

Germany v France
SS3 HD (8.45pm)

Slovenia v Bulgaria
SS11 HD (8.45pm)

Czech Republic v Ukraine
SS7 HD (8.45pm)

I know what I’ll be doing at 1800.

Draft night

Being a football manager is easy money, right?

Pick your best 11 players each week, spout a cliché to the cameras in the tunnel after the match, carefully grumble about the standard of refereeing in the press conference, and then head home to your massive mansion and relax on a pile of large denomination banknotes.

I’m about to prove this theory by managing my fantasy football team – the Regal Beagles – to glory in our (now) regular draft league, starting tonight.

At least, we get to pick the players this evening. It’s a social event, with participants amassing at a secret Sea Point venue and others dialling in from the USA and Indonesia. There will be beer and pizza (in Sea Point, at least).

The actual league only begins on Friday, and I think I have a pretty formidable first XI (+ five subs) lined up. Sadly, there are 13 other players in the league, and I’m guessing that they will be after some (or more) of my team.

The way to sort this out amicably is the draft system, whereby everyone takes turns to choose a player. The draft system works by randomly assigning a draft number to each participant and then running through 1-14, and then 14-1. And repeat.
So essentially, manager 1 (who happens to be The Mexican) gets to choose the best player, but then only gets to choose the 28th best player as well. Manager 14 (The Ginger Ninja), might only get the 14th best player on offer, but then he also gets to choose the 15th best as well.

Last year, I got the first draft pick and I chose brilliantly: Mo Salah, no less. Sadly, by the time the 28th and 29th picks came around, the bottom of the fantasy barrel was already clearly on show and things went badly from there on in. I thought I was terrible at being a football manager, but some of the stats nerds on the team actually did some calculations and worked out that I was just very, very unlucky.

And lightning surely can’t strike twice, right?

This year, I got pick number 7, and I think I’ve already worked out who will be choosing whom in front of me. Obviously, I can’t reveal just who my first choices will be, for reasons of tactical security. But I think we can probably say that Mo Salah will be plying his trade somewhere away from Los Beaglez this year.

Of course, it’s not serious (but it is); it’s just for fun (but it matters); it’s all about the banter (and the points… always the points).

More news on the state of play once the teams have been picked and once the season has started.