One of the things I remember most about the 2004/05 season is the importance of a good start.
As one of the newly promoted sides, there was obviously some interest in how we, along with West Brom and Palace would acclimatise to the top flight.
The results were pretty damning.
It wasn’t until the eighth round of fixtures that any of us registered a win. That barren run gave the national media its story and with each passing week the scrutiny and pressure intensified. It took City until late November to finally bag three points at the fourteenth time of asking.
Our recent stint in the top flight showed that as the Premier League riches have grown, so has the accompanying circus of statistics and analysis. I still recall the sleepless nights I had, fretting over why we were the only team yet to score from open-play in the first 20 minutes of an away match.
Of course the facts are that you play everyone twice and your final points tally determines where you finish, regardless of when and how those points are gained.
But that would be to ignore the importance of momentum and pressure. We will all feel far more comfortable if points are collected on a regular basis and each ‘milestone’ (first win, first away points, clean-sheet and so on) is ticked sooner rather than later to keep the statisticians at bay.
So what has the fixture list thrown up for us this time round?
On face value it would appear we have a reasonable start and a real opportunity to pick up early points against some of the division’s ‘lesser lights’.
Our home form will be crucial and with Palace, Stoke, Bournemouth, Leicester and West Brom the first visitors to Carrow Road, there’s a chance to build some form and confidence.
That could prove crucial as we head towards November and a difficult run of seven fixtures including matches against all of last season’s top four and culminating in a Boxing Day trip to White Hart Lane.
It’s wishful thinking on my part but the commencement of the group stages of the Champions League around that time may just provide something of a distraction and an opportunity to upset one of the big guns?
Within that sequence we also have home games against Swansea and Everton which will possibly provide a truer reflection of what lies ahead. For any team with mid-table aspirations, those are exactly the sorts of fixtures you need and even expect to win.
Fail to do so and we could be looking at a run of John Carver proportions and an extremely bleak Christmas.
The last time we graced the Premier League (although I’m not sure graced is the right term), much was made of the run-in. It was a wretched series of fixtures that created a sense of inevitability long before relegation was confirmed.
With Arsenal (a), Man United (h) and Everton (a) to round off this season, comparisons are predictable but in truth the preceding games in April have a far kinder look to them.
Teams will blow hot and cold during the year. Playing Leicester towards the end of last season was a very different proposition to before Christmas. So much will depend on meeting sides at the ‘right time’ – the week before a managerial sacking rather than the first game for his successor as an example.
The reality is that there will be all manner of twists and turns, highs and lows, frayed nerves and bitten fingernails but this is what we strived for over the course of last year and that glorious Bank Holiday Monday.
In the style of a true Premier League statistician, I could point out that we haven’t won an opening fixture for twelve years. I could also highlight the last time we met Palace on the opening day of a Premier League season. The 1-1 draw at Carrow Road in 2004 marked the start of that aforementioned thirteen game winless streak and a season that ultimately ended in relegation.
But I’d rather focus on the fact that we have a close-knit squad with plenty of top-flight experience and a support who are fully behind the team. Most importantly perhaps, we have a manager who will approach each match with a meticulously prepared game plan and a fierce determination to win.
Bring it on!