It seems a little perverse, starting the football season at the beginning of August. Think about it – games will be played in today’s blazing sunshine, in driving November rain, on the day after Christmas, in a new year entirely, then in May’s blazing sunshine. It will all be with the same aim in mind – winning the league. At the precipice of a new campaign, it feels a little daunting, and I’m not even playing.
Yet of course the overriding feeling is one of excitement. After one round of games, anything could happen this season. Bournemouth could storm to the title with 110 points. Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal could all get relegated. Brendan Rogers could be revealed as a terrifying space lizard from Mars. They are all possibilities.
They are all improbable, however (although I’m still not sure about Rogers). The Premier League has been called unpredictable this year – unpredictable in the sense that the same top four as last year will remain the top four this year, only with third and fourth maybe swapped around, although that is seen as a touch fanciful. The league has been labelled as exciting, because the three promoted teams might not all struggle and finish in the bottom six, although, again, this is going beyond the bounds of reasonable probability.
So the Prem isn’t stoking too many fires around here. The real excitement is being reserved for the Football League, where when you say anything can happen, it really can (in footballing terms – although Steve Evans at Rotherham looks rather like an overfed space lizard to me).
The start of this season was slightly unusual as both Premier League and Football League started on the same day, and while it’s a change that I know is necessary in order to give more prep time to the England squad for Euro 2016, it is not one I really like. The first day of the campaign is one of very few days in which the Football League has unquestioned centre stage, where the media takes just a few hours out from debating how long Mourinho’s stubble is going to be on the first Premier League matchday and talks about the majority of English league football.
Perhaps the Football League could have kicked off a week earlier, or the Premier League could have had an extra round of midweek fixtures. Either way, I was disappointed that the in-depth discussion on 5Live was all about Manchester United, not Oxford United.
Still, the identity of the three most entertaining leagues this year will be no secret. Last year’s Championship was exceptional, and I can’t predict a repeat any more than we can hope to relieve the climax of the 2012 Premier League season any time soon. It is a world, though, in which a team that was on -17 points in League Two and going out of business five years prior can be Championship champions, and the FA Cup winners of two years prior can be decisively relegated. I say, bring it on.
by Matthew Smith