It might be stretching a point to reference Christmas during what has so far been a flaming June in Norfolk, but the night before our fixtures were released used to be like Christmas Eve to me as in sheer anticipation of what might follow on *Christmas Day* when the announcements were made.
Would it be Palace, QPR or Watford away for our first game of the season? You know, inspiring stuff like that which often kept me awake on the night before *Christmas*.
And would it be the fine officers of Norfolk or Suffolk Constabulary who were in line for overtime rates when we played 1p5wich Town on Boxing Day?***
Back in our Ron Saunders-inspired promotion season to the old Division One, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Shoot magazine’s league ladder, which readers of a certain vintage will recall as an oversized A4 piece of cut-out cardboard in June followed by a set of 22 pop-out tabs in July which you could adjust according to the week-by-week performance of the teams.
The tabs were in respective club colours and the print quality was so primitive that bleeding meant you could easily confuse Arsenal with Man U if you weren’t careful. But there was no mistaking the only team printed in yellow and green.
A thirst for nostalgia led me to investigate who made up Division One for the 1972-73 season and the complement is not a million miles away from PL season 2021-22, as follows:
Everton, Ipswich [I know], Man Citeh, Southampton, Derby, Stoke, Leeds, Sheff Utd, WHU, Arsenal, Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester, Liverpool, WBA, Birmingham, Man U, Chelsea, Coventry, Wolves and ourselves. 22 of what were then the finest teams England had to offer.
Nearly 50 years on the Premier League announced the fixtures this morning, every single one of which will be subject to change for broadcasting reasons thanks to Sky and BT Sports so I think I’m justified in saying that I’m by no means as excited as I used to be and slept like a felled tree trunk last night.
So a quick run through this time’s list offers us:
First up on Saturday 22 August: Liverpool (home) – no worries there then – but the next three are Citeh (a), Leicester (h) and Arsenal (a). Tough start or what?
Boxing Day: Arsenal (h) – a Christmas cracker for us fans to be sure.
New Year’s Day: Leicester (a) – not as cruel as Newcastle for the travelling Y’Army!
The run-in over the last half a dozen games is a mixed bag of Man U, Newcastle, Villa, West Ham and Wolves, ending with Tottenham at Carrow Road on May 22.
There are no easy games in the PL, as these fixtures have surely proved but the 13-year-old me with his Shoot league ladder and huge expectations has grown into a weatherbeaten, cynical old git who simply worries and wonders: after this Christmas, will we be coming down with the decorations?
Let’s hope not. I’m certainly not actively inviting it, especially as I simply don’t have a clue what the squad will look like!
***My memories go back through slightly over 50 years of supporting City and yes, we really did play Ipswich Town on Boxing Day back in the previous century. It seems like a millennium ago now for more than one reason.