Was our passion for the League of Nations just a summer adventure?

Your correspondent got a good idea of ​​where the UEFA Nations League stands in the grand scheme of things when daytime TV bosses told us we were being ousted from Virgin Media Two in favor of Love Island.

Our usual live football slot, we were informed, would be taken over by shirtless dudes and sulky jezebels, an invasive species against which the end of the football season stood no chance. As well as asking Brian Kerr to don speedos and soak in a fake tan, we had to accept that UEFA’s much-maligned summer jamboree would be shown in the perfectly acceptable but slightly more humble environment of Virgin Media Three. With the pursuit of romance a biggest ratings winner, the League of Nations was the love that dare not speak its name.

To be fair to the programmers, many players involved in the Nations League, exhausted after the ravages of the club season, failed to match the vigorous enthusiasm of the excited himbos entering Love Island. In tactical terms, the efforts of Casa Amor’s excited clientele resemble Jurgen Klopp’s energetic, inspired vigor of gegenpressing, more so than the slow fare featured in many Nations League games. In Love Island parlance, the act of courting a potential mate is even dubbed ‘grafting’, a term that suggests James Milner shutting down an opposition midfielder rather than any act of romantic seduction.

While Love Island acts as an Attenborough-style study of the mating rituals of our particular species of shaved primate, its success is also down to the way it simulates the breathless whirlwind of holiday romance. This means that sincere statements made in the heady, hormonal heat rarely survive exposure to dull reality. The romantic bonds forged under the Spanish sun quickly dissolve when the smitten heroine realizes her tanned Adonis is just a gym instructor from Bolton whose mother is still doing her laundry.

While passions have rarely erupted so intensely on Virgin Media Three – and, at least in the studio, there were fewer six-packs – it was thought how much of the Nations League fare we were watching was the footballing equivalent of a summer throw. Would we remember all this when the nights began to fall? Did we ridicule League A’s relegation battle? Did we make a connection with that nice Hansi Flick or were we totally mugged?

For Gareth Southgate, the past two weeks can certainly be categorized under Holidays From Hell. The England manager doesn’t strike you as one to seek out Ibiza’s grim pulpits at the best of times; something mild involving caravans would have been enough for his team as they prepared for a World Cup for which they imagined themselves among the favorites.

Instead, poor old Gareth lost his luggage, arrived to find his hotel was a construction site, and suffered a third-degree sunburn on the first day. Add to that two nasty encounters with a rowdy group of Hungarians and the English boss will stick to hiking in the Lake District going forward. Despite being the most successful England manager of the past 50 years, Southgate and his team’s supporters suddenly suffer from the characteristic of all unhappy holidaymakers: familiarity breeds contempt.

While Southgate may wish to remind fans of the domestic bliss they’ve enjoyed so far, many are starting to feel like Shirley Valentine. Desperate to escape the drudgery of Gareth’s egg and fries on a Tuesday, they yearn for steamy encounters with a mustachioed man named Costas.

While some of the Nations League fighters sought rest and relaxation (often in the middle of matches), others yearned for new excitement with a handsome stranger. On the rebound from the recent World Cup heartbreak, Italy manager Roberto Mancini embarked on a promiscuous frenzy. Bidding a tearful farewell to an old flame in Giorgio Chiellini, Mancini proceeded to use 35 players in his side’s five matches, including 12 debutants. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, but that’s a lot of frogs. You hope he stays in touch.

And what about the great romantic himself, Stephen Kenny? Her long courtship with the Irish public is a classic case of beauty in the eye of the beholder. While Kenny has swept away many with his sweet nothings, he gives many more.

Not much has changed in that regard over the past two weeks of summer frolic. Kenny’s attempts to crack down on the remaining skeptics got off to a rocky start. While the opening games against Armenia and Ukraine were an opportunity to test his best lines, his team’s performances amounted to little more than a whisper “do you come here often?”

Kenny’s fans preferred to focus on the sunny days against Scotland and Ukraine away from home rather than the lackluster washout of the first week. For them, love is blind, and the passionate ardor with which the Irish youngsters have thrown themselves into these last matches will be the enduring snapshot of this escapade, rather than its flaccid opening encounters.

Ultimately, the best proof of the fleeting value of that Nations League stay comes from Wales, who have found something real and lasting elsewhere. By qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 64 years, Gareth Bale and his team-mates have truly found ‘the right one’, and unlike the locals on Love Island, the Welsh will huddle with their summer catch when the months winter will come. .