For the one or two who are unaware, 9:00am on Wednesday is ‘go time’ for next season’s fixtures – not just for the Premier League, but for the minor divisions too (Championship etc).
The fact this has been the source of a fair amount of discussion of late probably says more about the lack of transfer-related paperwork currently in David McNally’s in-tray than it does about the significance of the fixture list.
Of course, there is a natural curiosity about where the first away-day will take us, and whether or not we’re likely to get points on the board in the first week – but as the final game of last season proved: to try and second-guess the result of your average Premier League game is a fairly futile exercise.
At around this time every year one of the nationals – usually a broadsheet – gives us chapter and verse around the complexities of compiling said list, and sure enough The Guardian hasn’t disappointed. While it apologetically describes the process as ‘laborious’, it is actually quite interesting (or is it just me?) and offers one or two little nuggets I was unaware of.
For example, did you know that the organisers ‘attempt to give clubs a home match either before or after an FA Cup tie, so as to avoid three successive away games and tricky financial situations for lower-league sides’. I didn’t.
The bit that we already know regarding the targeting of certain fixtures at over specific periods (shortish trips over the Christmas period etc) clearly includes the very specific: ‘Norwich to play Crystal Palace away on New Year’s Day’ instruction. Mark my words.
As for the rest of it… I guess it would be good to open with a game we regard as ‘winnable’, although history tells us that those from North London and the North-West are sometimes slow off the mark, with a point or three theoretically ‘there for the taking’ perhaps?
Logic would suggest this to be the case mainly when their pre-season has been ‘staggered’ by the extended break of those who have been playing in World Cups and Euros, so maybe that argument is little light this summer. I’m not sure the Confederations Cup counts…
Either way, it would be unusual to lock horns with one of the big boys on the first day. Although I am prepared to be proved wrong, I can seldom recall an opening game considered one of the bonus variety.
Maybe, in seasons gone by, the computer had been told to spare ‘little Norwich’ an opening day humiliation, but then proceeded to ignore the fact that Fulham (a) is every bit as daunting for us as a trip to old Trafford.
It would also be good to kick-off at home for a change – Wigan (a) and Fulham (a) not the sort to get the adrenalin flowing for any reason other than being the first game – with an opening day victory at Carrow Road (or anywhere for that matter) long overdue.
On that basis, if the computer were to throw up a Crystal Palace (h) or Hull (h) I suspect there would be few complaints emanating from Colney, even though the old adage tells us that the promoted teams invariably benefit from the promotion ‘bounce’.
As always, the whole caboodle relies massively on a healthy dose of good fortune; the ability to catch your opponents on an ‘off’ day – or midst a ‘wobble’ – being a priceless knack in the quest for mid-table mediocrity.
Of course it works both ways… just ask Sir Alex.
City’s win over Man Utd, in the middle of that priceless ten-game unbeaten run, was a classic example of what can be achieved courtesy of a purple patch – the flip-side being that abject away-day at the DW during the barren run, when it was nigh on impossible to see where the next win was coming from.
While the fixture computer will ensure the Yellow Army travels no further than the environs of the capital over the Christmas period – a Boxing Day trip to the North-East thankfully not on the agenda – it will pay scant regard to the wishes of the away-supporter when it comes to Sunday afternoon and Monday evening games.
Instead Mr Murdoch retains the right to take one look at the published list and then tinker as he sees fit.
So, in spite of being spared a New Year’s Day in South Wales (we’ll be in South London of course) we would still be wise to brace ourselves for some long hauls that, while fitting in nicely with the Sky schedules, will continue to wreak havoc with our wallets and sleep patterns.
In that regard, nothing will change.
So… the ‘specific instructions’ aside, the computer will throw up a random schedule that will more than likely having us chewing our nails in June over a ‘nasty looking run-in’ that is ten months away.
But we should not fear; with RvW on his way and more arrivals imminent let’s raise our own bar and brace ourselves for a good one.
City are not shopping in the bargain basement any more. Whatever the fixture list delivers, let’s hope season 2013/14 reflects it.