And so another new Premier League season draws near. In two weeks time we will be in the midst of the first round of fixtures, possibly the most intoxicating time of the season. At no other point for the next nine months will the majority of us feel so full of hope, so innocently expectant.
This is also, with the possible exception of FA Cup third round day, the most cliché ridden time of the year. But even in the most overused clichés there is a backbone of truth. This is the time of the year where we all look forward with hope for our team and try and predict what the next few months will bring.
This summer has seen a few interesting plots develop that look likely to shape the coming season. The continuing emergence of Manchester City, the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas at Stamford Bridge, King Kenny’s revival at Anfield and the return of QPR to the top flight. But all of these have already had thousands of words written about them. The true joy of the start of the season is that all teams are equal, so let’s look at some of the teams that might not normally be in the spotlight.
Blackburn Rovers fans would be forgiven for entering the new season with a little fear. Things have not really gone too well since the Ewood Park club were taken over by the Venkys chicken consortium. There is not too much confidence in the manager Steve Kean and if their start is slow then the pressure could soon ratchet up. With stars like Chris Samba posturing for moves, it appears that all is not well in Lancashire.
In Merseyside, as usual, the focus has been on Liverpool. However, the club on the other side of Stanley Park are perhaps the greatest example of what it can be like to be left behind as football’s gravy train rumbles on. Another summer and another quiet one for Everton fans has led to yet more calls for a buyer to come forward from Bill Kenwright and yet more speculation as to what the Toffees can expect this year.
The Everton story is possibly the most important one this year. If they can still be competitive at the right end of the table on such a meagre budget then there will be hope for all clubs as the financial fair play rules loom. If they struggle and slip further away from the European places then warning bells should start to ring for some of clubs who are spending big to try and force their way up the league.
Finally for this tour around the stories less read, we have Stoke City’s Europa League adventure. While Everton’s story can be seen as quite sad, Stoke’s shows what can be done with a well run club. From dwelling in the lower echelons of the league, The Potters will now embark on an adventure on the continent that their loyal and loud fans richly deserve. It is refreshing to see different clubs representing England in European competition other than the usual suspects. It gives hope to clubs like Sunderland and Newcastle who will both be looking at Stoke and thinking that there is no reason that they can’t do the same.
The beauty of the Premier League is the intriguing stories throughout the league. Even the teams who are almost certain to sit in mid table come the season end have dreams of cup runs and upsetting the odds. I just hope that this year we as fans don’t get sucked into thinking that the top stories are the only stories, or indeed the best stories.
What are you looking forward to this season outside of the top five or six clubs?