x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

How to read a football calendar

If a footballer is allocated one of the early months in a club calendar, it means his position is in doubt.

It has become a long-standing joke between men of a certain age that Christmas is a time when a loved one indulges their son's or husband's or father's inner child and presents them with their favourite football team's official calendar.

It is a small novelty item that shows appreciation for the recipient's passion, without the permanence of, say, Watford wallpaper or the puerility of a Blackburn bedspread.

It reminds the receiver of bygone days when football was beautiful and calendars were merely innocent merchandise.

Nowadays, however, after the wrapping is removed systematically (for wrapping really is unnecessary when the contents are so undisputed), rather than lust in the sight of the heroic faces of players such as Ian Rush and Bryan Robson, instead the heart beats just a tad faster as the allocation of player-to-month is surveyed.

Perhaps it is a cynicism that comes with age, but to my mind whimsical decisions no longer exist in the world of football.

Every decision is cold and calculated and calendars are no exception. If a player is allocated one of the early months, it means his position at the club is in doubt; if a player features as Mr December, he is the central cog on which the team plans to revolve.

Arsenal's official calendar last year, for instance, featured Cesc Fabregas.

The Spaniard had been linked with Barcelona for months, and it was widely expected he would leave in the summer.

Nobody wants reminded for the whole month of November that their club captain jumped ship months earlier, so Fabregas featured as Mr February.

Likewise, if there is such a thing as a sure bet in domestic football these days, the December page of a football calendar can point it out.

John Terry will still be at Chelsea in 12 months, Ashley Young will last more than a year at Old Trafford, as will Stewart Downing at Anfield.

How do we know? They are all dashing Mr Decembers for 2012.

The same cannot be said for Fernando Torres, who is Mr July at Chelsea.

But most worryingly of all, and fans of Tottenham Hotspur should perhaps stop reading, Luka Modric - the Croatian long-linked with a move away from White Hart Lane, is, drum roll ... Mr January. The transfer window opens in five days time.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae