And so it begins again, this time at St Andrew’s.
For the traditionalist football supporter, fixture release day earmarks the beginning of the season, and as they scan the list for certain games, with personal or historical meaning or just through curiosity, that feeling of excitement is pertinent as they scan for games where collecting three points is a reality and expectation.
The list is here.
On opening day City return to a place that last season yielded three points, a game notable for Jamal Lewis’ senior debut and two priceless moments from Alex Pritchard’s. Birmingham, for their part, are now attempting to stabilise under Garry Monk’s stewardship.
The club requested an away fixture due to the ongoing work on the pitch, but they expect it to be in pristine condition come that first home game.
Following this, the first bow at home comes against newly relegated West Bromwich Albion, a side who have been recognised as a stable Premier League club prior to last season before sacking Tony Pulis and appointing Alan Pardew – a calamitous decision. A late revival from Darren Moore gave the Baggies life, but that was extinguished at Selhurst Park.
They will arrive at Carrow Road with fresh invigoration.
The key dates for the derbies are September 1st at Portman Road, and the reverse fixture at Carrow Roads on February 9th, although expect both to be moved to the Sunday,
It’s fair to say that the beginning of the season looks, on paper, likely to produce more points than the run-in, with Stoke and Aston Villa being the final away fixtures of the season. Both pose difficult tests should anything be riding on those games.
Despite there not being a standout team in the division, things look considerably tougher in regards to the division as a collective. With Swansea, West Brom and Stoke, three teams arrive with an air of unpredictability and wealth.
On the flip side, Wigan and Blackburn have the capability to upset the apple cart. For Rotherham, avoiding relegation seems to the objective of Norfolk born Paul Warne.
For City, this season sees a new slate, but one where the club will have to perform and adapt quickly to prevent their fan base from turning. The reality is progression is expected and, at time of writing, with the sales of Josh Murphy and James Maddison, the need to source a goal threat is becoming more pivotal to any potential success in 2018/19.
Maddison in particular will be irreplaceable, and the money they’ve gained from those sales will be used to plug the gaping hole in the finances, but there will be opportunity for a small percentage of the Josh Murphy sale to redevelop and strength the squad.
To replace those players in terms of quality and productivity is an impossible task considering the financial situation in NR1 at present. Instead, Norwich will need to source players who can strengthen the team as a unit. Sharing the load will be imperative to any degree of success Daniel Farke’s men will have.
At present, there is a sense of disappointment and anger surrounding the club’s current transfer policy, but there are still weeks to go until the finalisation of squads and the beginning of the season – incomings will arrive and outgoings will slow down beyond a few fringe players and a certain striker.
But it comes around quickly and before long the new season will be upon us, and the glamour of Birmingham is where it will all begin.
Perhaps there is less of an expectation to achieve the playoffs than in previous seasons, but supporters will rightfully demand an improved season and one where Farke’s football offers more entertainment and cutting edge while maintaining defensive strength.
Fulham were sitting in lower mid-table during the festive season last year, before an unstoppable insurgence up the division culminated in promotion at Wembley. This league is one of the most demanding and challenging, both physically and mentally, on players.
Now the fixtures have been released, eyes will quickly turn to the transfer market, with several additions expected by supporters to reignite a sense of optimism that is currently not present in the vast majority of the fan base, following a series of key players departing to the Promised Land. Patience has been served, and for many, it’s now about deliverance.
It all begins on the 4th August and I, for one, cannot wait.