Could you access the internet this morning ? Was it slow, or just completely locked up ? If you’re a football fan, your
patience will have been tested, but you’ll know the reason.
The release of the fixtures for the new season is one of the most eagerly awaited days of the year. The fanatical, go everwhere supporters can start planning diaries from August the 3rd through to next spring, while home fans are able to pencil in the weekends when they’ll be standing or sitting in their regular place. There are, though, fewer midweek league fixtures after further representation from the smaller clubs. It has to make sense.
All this is the starting point. At the top of the pyramid, television companies will have their say. Games WILL be moved. Across the leagues through, clubs have a short window to move matches to avoid clashes with other events or for a variety of football reasons, for example, bringing forward a long away trip on a Saturday to a Friday night, to allow extra recovery time before a match the following Tuesday. The core, though, is there for all to see.
An experienced lower league player once told me he always liked to know where he would be training on the first day of pre-season. If you have a contract that’s not a problem, but for those with deals about to expire at the end of the month, the release of the fixtures probably focusses the mind.
It sharpens the minds of the agents too. Time is ticking by, budgets are being allocated and some players are not fixed up. My guess is their phones will become increasingly busy over the next few weeks, and sights may have to be lowered to avoid being left out of the loop for too long.
Fixtures wise, a dozen teams knew their opening match 24 hours ahead of everyone else. This is the 125th anniversary of the start of the Football League, and so six matches were allocated on the opening weekend to mark that fact.
Three could have been played 125 years ago, one is at the oldest Football League venue still in use, and another, given the current make up of the Football League, is the fixture played on most occasions. The last features the League’s newest club and one of the original 12, although they have folded and reformed since. A nice touch.
The thing about the opening day’s games is that everyone, even allowing for the pessimism of some supporters, has a level of hope. There will be a “new” element to the team in terms of manager or players, and with that brings optimism of something better. The hype, though, can be overpowering, and for that reason I’d prefer to be in the away dressing room.
Win 5-0 at home in the first game (and I’ve seen one of those) and suddenly expectations go through the roof. A quiet draw away from home in an even game and the season is off and running, but it’s not running away with you.
There are five Saturdays in August this year. Look at the table after the last of them, and with the transfer window shut, and you’ll get an idea of whose optimism was well founded and whose has evaporated. A manager or two may even have paid the price by that stage for a poor start and been shown the door.
Now, where’s the Sat Nav…..
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