The male Bactrian camel is a singular beast. His method of attracting a mate is to spit and urinate copiously. The signal the camel is sending out to the females is: ‘I am so confident of finding water in the desert I can afford to – quite literally – piss it away.’
You might think something similar is going on with footballers the way they hurl water about these days. Except of course that water is a lot easier to find for professional footballers that it is for the Bactrian camel. No sniffing the hot breeze of the Gobi, for them. All they have to do is stand by the touchline, hold an arm out and a bottle will be tossed in their direction. Then it’s one squirt in the mouth, one in the face and toss it aside without a thought for the ballboy whose head it’s just rattled off.
It didn’t used to be this way. Back in the day players had to wait till half-time for a drink (or to ‘take on liquid’ as the pundits insist on calling it in an attempt to add a patina of science). Back then liquids generally came in the form of orange quarters – quite why nobody knew, though I suspect it was because in the 1970s this was the only way to get men to eat fruit.
The current trouble started at US ’94 when Jack Charlton got into an almighty fury when he wasn’t allowed to give Steve Staunton a drink. Nobody wants to see anyone – not even Steve Staunton – collapse of dehydration, but while that might be a genuine fear in July in Florida, it’s surely altogether less of a concern in, say, Derby, in December?
Yet once Charlton got his way the insistence on minute-by-minute rehydration spread throughout the English game faster than anything since cycling shorts. Now every match is marred by constant interruptions for pointless and oafish drinking. Every injury interruption looks like the end of a Sunday morning fun run. It’s a shambles. And lately energy bars have started to appear too. Why stop there? Why not toss a few burgers on as well? Go on, have a picnic, char-grill a few sardines, bring the dog.
It’s not just the players either. Managers are constantly chugging away too. Steve McClaren’s tenure as England boss is defined for most by his brolly, but he spent the bulk of his time on the bench nervously sipping at a bottle of Evian like a first time comic waiting to do a midnight show at The Tunnel Club. No wonder he always had that weird fixed grin in post-match interviews – he was desperate to get away to the toilet.
I believe it’s time to put a stop to this indiscriminate glugging. The introduction of a cricket-style drinks break is the answer. At the midway point in both halves the referee would give a peep on his whistle, signal to the dug-outs and, as the players congregated in the centre circle, on would come substitutes from both sides, dressed in blazers, each bearing a silver tray of refreshments.
To add to the excitement the new law would insist that all drinks are served in the appropriate glasses and cups. This will create interest for fans. What is in that brandy balloon? Which player is having a schooner of Warninks advocaat? Plus you will be able to get a spread bet on how far onto the pitch Phil Jones gets before he drops the lot.
Is Harry right? Are we taking on unnecessary liquid? Is there any need for this nonsense? Let us know by emailing [email protected]
You can follow Harry Pearson on Twitter (@camsell59)