I struggle to generate too much personal excitement over the releasing of the fixtures. It’s probably an age thing and I was most definitely not “buzzing” over the prospect.
The order in which we play our 46 games could become important as the season unfolds but as things stand it’s largely relevant. For me today is ‘when do we play that lot day’. And the answer is away on October 21, and at home on February 17,
The EFL’s computer has however played a trick or two, not least its decision to send us to Craven Cottage on opening day; the scene of much carnage in the recent and not too recent past. Twitter (via the stat provider that is @OptaJoe) immediately informed us: ‘Fulham have won six of their last seven home league games against Norwich City, keeping clean sheets on five occasions. Routine.’
Great eh. Although I’m positive this will (literally) mean ‘Jack’ to Daniel Farke and his team, and imagine the fillip for the whole club if the hoodoo of Craven Cottage can be smashed to smithereens. But Fulham are a good side, regardless of any stats, and as Championship openers go they don’t get much tougher.
The computer’s second ‘trick’ – well, more of a shafting in truth – is to send us up to both Sunderland and Middlesbrough in midweek. So much for the EFL doing its best to avoid massively long trips for away fans in midweek. Oddly, perhaps not oddly, the reverse fixtures are both on Saturdays.
On paper, August is a tough month with Fulham at the Cottage being followed by home games against Sunderland and QPR, and then two consecutive away games at Villa and Millwall. If Team Farke were hoping to be broken in gently into the maelstrom that is the Championship, they will be disappointed, although my suspicion is they’ll be ready.
‘Sink or swim’ is how I’ve seen our first six fixtures described, but I’m not too sure. Hopefully there will be an acceptance among the faithful that something long-term and sustainable is being built here – or at least that’s the intention – and when re-building a team with several new faces there will likely be a bedding in period.
As David Wagner’s Huddersfield seems to be the parallel by which all things Webber and Farke are judged, it’s worthy of note that he lost five of his first seven games, albeit he admittedly arrived mid-season.
But the point remains… we, as fans, need to give this a chance to work and not kick off at the first sign of the brown stuff.
Other than the computer’s decision to send us to the north-east twice in midweek and send us to Craven Cottage on August 5, it’s also deemed away trips appropriate for us on Boxing Day and the last day of the season – at Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.
But it is what it is and to bemoan the order of our 46 games (as I’ve just done) before a ball has been even kicked is a tad futile.
With the pre-season fitness testing just a mere five days away, the fixtures now there in black and white and the leaking of the new kit (possibly) it is now all starting to feel a bit more real.
And for that reason I really am “buzzing”.