As a fundraiser it is a worthy event, even in a half-full stadium. But the Community Shield as a contest and spectacle is mostly worthless, especially when one of the teams – in this case Manchester City – deploys a skeletal side because many of their players are making their way back from tournaments that matter to them. Even its symbolic value as a curtain raiser feels forced, like new socks on Father’s Day, something no one particularly wants but most accept out of politeness. A rethink of the format is in order. Or the teams could just make a donation to good causes and save everyone the bother of turning up for a half-speed chore in a cluttered schedule.
It was not always like this. It used to be worse . . . and then for a while better. When Spurs won the Double in 1961, they could not play themselves in the Charity Shield so instead faced an England XI. That would not have been an option this year because England’s players – with the exception of Jack Grealish, apparently – are still working their way back from Euro 2020. When Arsenal did the Double in 1971, they shirked the Charity Shield altogether, so Leicester got to play in it for the first time on the basis that they had won the Second Division. Manchester City’s appearance the following year seemed even more random: after the league champions, Derby County, and the FA Cup winners, Leeds United, decided they could not bear to face each other, City were called up because, well, they had finished fourth in the league, and they faced Aston Villa, who had won Division Three.
While they duelled at Villa Park, the Leeds manager, Don Revie, spent the day scouting St Mirren’s Gordon McQueen in a friendly at Norwich.
It was not until the event was moved to Wembley for the 1974 edition that the Charity Shield gained a kind of nobility, with Johnny Giles conferring gravitas by belting Kevin Keegan in the mush. Violence indirectly imbued the showpiece with even more significance in the 1980s, when the European ban for English clubs following the Heysel disaster reduced the number of trophies available. But since then the Shield has seldom been even a diversion, except when it gave reason to laugh at Gérard Houllier or José Mourinho for counting it as a major honour. Two fingers to that.
Pep Guardiola has always said he considers it to be a fully fledged trophy. But his lineup here told another story. Leicester, meanwhile, announced only on Friday that goals scored in this kickabout would be included in players’ official records and thus, five years after the event, revised Jamie Vardy’s tally upwards by one to include his strike in the 2016 edition.
Asked in the buildup what this game could tell us about Leicester’s readiness for the forthcoming season, Rodgers replied “not a great deal” but praised it as a useful warm-up. To that extent he could take satisfaction from the fact that his team looked sharper than City’s second string.
After the numbing finale to last season’s league campaign for Leicester, Rodgers is eager for his team to start strongly this season, so he will have been pleased by the result and to see how brightly Harvey Barnes performed after being sidelined by injury in February. The new signing Ryan Bertrand was also a plus, showing plenty of dynamism and nous down the left.
Guardiola gave outings to a pair of teenagers, Cole Palmer and Sam Edozie, who, given City’s extravagant collection of attackers, will probably not be seen again for a couple of years even though they are obviously talented. Ferran Torres operated as an ineffective false nine, as City’s only senior striker, Gabriel Jesus, was given the day off on the grounds that he had been to this summer’s Copa America, where he played 48 minutes for Brazil before getting sent off for kicking a Chilean in the head.
In the 65th minute the City fans who turned up were treated to the first sight of Grealish in their colours (white and green, for the latest marketing purposes). They hailed his introduction, then Leicester fans booed his every inconsequential touch for a lark. There was little else to get excited about. At least not until Leicester’s two main summer recruits – Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré – were cast on for the last 20 minutes to give glimpses of their qualities.
Shoot-outs are often entertaining but we were denied even that drama, as Nathan Aké’s error and Kelechi Iheanacho’s sharpness gave the Leicester striker the chance to end this nonsense in normal time.
Having said all that, Leicester fans, players and even their chairman made merry after the final whistle and that is the stuff memories are made of – even if everyone else will have forgotten about this event the moment it finished.