Submitted by Tom Acres on 30 March 2015 - 6:17pm
Amidst the weekly rush of reporting assignments, law reading, and the increasing desperation with which I hash together a public affairs essay, I can at least look forward to the weekend's football as a form of escapism.
Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that the final weekend of a busy March didn't only rob me of the pleasure of Premier League football, but it served up something so wretched that I voluntarily returned to aforementioned publics essay with previously unheard of enthusiasm.
Yes, it's that time in the season when we're denied the guaranteed drama of club football, and are instead asked to show interest in the development of our national team.
Championships are there to be won, Champions League places are up for grabs, relegation is close to being finalised in leagues all across Europe - it's an exciting time, probably the most exciting period of any football season - and yet here we are kidding ourselves into thinking Roy Hodgson might finally be on to something because we beat Lithuania.
England qualification campaigns are like a box of chocolates that only contain Bounties; you know exactly what you're going to get and it's always shit.
Say what you like about Steve McLaren's failure to see us through to Euro 2008, but he served up our most exciting qualification campaign in decades.
Roy, on the other hand, saw us into Brazil pretty much by default, and is overseeing a similarly free run at a major tournament this time around. Are we still all going to act surprised and disappointed when we go to France next summer as group winners and immediately have our pants pulled down by someone half-decent?
If England played good football, then maybe, just maybe, we could be tempted into showing a fleeting interest. But this is a side managed by a man who named Javier Mascherano as the world's best player, and a man who after a brandy or two would likely recast his vote and pick Paul Konchesky.
Now obviously there is a need for these Euro qualifiers to take place at some stage, but why now? Is there not a better time? And even if there isn't, it doesn't make them any less spiteful for robbing us of the one thing we can all look forward to come the weekend.
Times have changed, and it's fairly evident that most football fans have far more affinity to their club than they do to their country. I dislike Wayne Rooney and a handful of the other England players, and I make no apologies when I say I was happier to hear of Aaron Ramsey's goal and assist for Wales and an injury-free game for Alexis Sanchez against Brazil than I was when I heard England had just gone 4-0 up against some students, postmen and accountants.
For me, the only interest to come from international breaks is if a player from your club does something of repute. It seems as though even when the players are away with their countries the headlines come from the implications inflicted upon their club based on what they say and do.
Now everyone loves the European Championships and the World Cup, but that's because they give us top level football during a period of the year when we wouldn't normally expect to see any.
I'm not a hater of international football, but when the international football gets in the way of what I really love - Arsenal - then it's difficult not to resent it.
Elsewhere, Spurs fans were happy to see Harry Kane score on Friday, but probably not as happy as they were to hear he didn't get injured and derail their bid for Europe. Chelsea fans are spending the break praying for the wellbeing of Eden Hazard, and Manchester United fans will be hoping that Falcao stays fi.... actually they're probably indifferent on Falcao to be honest.
But, on the whole, most football fans care more about their clubs than their countries. We follow our clubs every week, and at this most crucial stage of the season nobody wants to see, or even pretend to be interested in seeing, England vs Lithuania. On Tuesday we're treated to a load of friendlies. There is no tension and no excitement, you occasionally get a shock but for the most part the qualifiers just go by the book. It's boring.
On Saturday afternoon I wasn't sat in front of the TV waiting for Soccer Saturday or making plans to hunt down a stream for the Arsenal game, it was a football-less Saturday and as far as I'm concerned that's like Christmas without turkey.
So, international break, on behalf of myself and, I reckon, a strong proportion of football fans, please do hurry up and finish.