The beautiful game. We all like to believe that this phenomenon we give up our weekends for and spend far too much of our cash on is a thing of genuine beauty.
But has old age caught up with it? Or have we got to the point where substance is everything – with or without style?
Norwich City's last defeat at Stoke City got me thinking. This isn't sour grapes because Stoke won, but I can honestly say I wouldn't want to watch them every week. They bombarded the Canaries' back-line with long throws, hoofs and high balls all afternoon as they bullied their way to a 2-1 win.
It definitely wasn't pretty to watch, but a look at the league table will tell you how effective that approach has been for Tony Pulis this season. Stoke are in the top six and will take some shifting from the play-off places which might persuade a few more teams that the road to Championship success is marked Route One.
This weekend Stoke play Newcastle United in the FA Cup in a game which promises to leave a few midfielders with stiff necks from watching the ball fly over their heads. The Newcastle fans haven't taken to Sam Allardyce at all and their biggest groan is that he doesn't play 'the Newcastle way.'
I'm never quite sure how to take this. Should the Geordie faithful be admired for sticking to their guns and demanding flowing play or are they arrogant for believing they deserve to watch more stylish football than the rest of us?
I didn't hear many Bolton fans complaining that Big Sam didn't play 'The Bolton Way' as he turned them from a decent Championship team to UEFA Cup regulars.
Teams that do rely on the direct approach don't like it being pointed out to them. Tony Pulis was in spiky form when he gave a remarkable post-match Press conference after his Stoke side beat Norwich. His boast that The Potters deserved to win by six goals was way wide of the mark and he also tried to convince a room fall of bewildered journalists that his side had won the game by playing some good football…
I remember interviewing a Bolton supporter ahead of one of their games against Norwich back in that Premier League season (which now feels an incredibly long time ago) and he got downright angry at suggestions that his team were not the best to watch.
Effective it might be, but the no-nonsense approach does seem to cause embarrassment. No one likes admitting they are a long ball team. This could be why 'The Crazy Gang' are perhaps the one exception to the rule.
The Wimbledon of the Vinnie Jones-John Fashanu era revelled in being the most direct team around and won a fair amount of respect for it. If there's one thing worse than watching the long ball game it is a manager shuffling awkwardly and insisting they're not like that at all.
It's another reason why Norwich City are onto such a good thing. Glenn Roeder was clearly unimpressed with Pulis after the Stoke game and he believes in playing the passing game. 'There's no future in playing the long ball game at this club or in this country,' Roeder said recently pointing at England's desperate attempts to equalise in that infamous game against Croatia.
Roeder's biggest achievement in two months as Norwich City manager has been how gritty he's made us. Suddenly the Canaries are a difficult side to beat.
I've already lost count of the amount of times I've heard a player or a fan say: 'We would have lost that game earlier in the season…' after matches recently.
There's a big difference between being hard to beat and playing long ball. At the moment, the Norwich manager appears to have a policy of starting matches with one out-and-out winger and three, tight central midfielders. A return of 20 points in two months makes that approach difficult to argue with. Roeder is rebuilding Norwich from the back.
You can't start playing free-flowing attacking football until you've stopped conceding goals so protecting the defence a little more has been a sensible first move. When you're scrapping at the bottom of the division as Norwich are, avoiding defeat has to be the first target in games. Once you've done that you can look to win it.
Another aspect that's improved at Carrow Road lately is the execution of set pieces. There was a time when fans were wondering whether Norwich ever practised corners and free-kicks. I'm sure they always have done, but those training sessions now seem to be going better than ever. Martin Taylor, Darel Russell and Dion Dublin have all turned corners into goals recently and it's vital that trend continues.
I've got no statistics to back it up, having neither the time or the mathematical ability, but it appears to me that set-pieces are becoming more and more important at all levels of football.
Last month's 'Grand Slam Sunday' pitted the Premier League's big four against each other in a mass of hyperbole and hysteria. Which of the footballing galacticos would turn out to be match winners?
Predictably the games didn't live up to the hype and produced just two goals. Manchester United beat Liverpool with a well-worked corner and Arsenal needed a William Gallas header, again from a corner, to beat Chelsea.
More and more goals seem to be coming like this. If it's good enough for Arsenal, then it's definitely good enough for Norwich City.
If they can tighten up defensively from set pieces and keep improving the ones they get, it would go a long way towards ensuring Championship safety. Who knows, we could even be there by the time Mr Pulis brings his basketball-sized team to Carrow Road for the re-match in March…