The Premier League is back in our lives again after a three month break. And there were already several feel-good stories to put a smile on my face (and hopefully yours too).
Here’s my top 4:
4. Southampton’s fight against Liverpool
New Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has seen half of his would-be starting XI leave the club in the summer. However, on the basis of their performance against a strong Liverpool side, the Dutchman will be buoyed by the resolve of his team. Southampton was the better team overall and will argue that the performance was aimed at those of us who have tipped them for relegation. And, rightfully so. Koeman will hope to retain the unsettled Morgan Schneiderlein to complement the industry of MOTM Victor Wanyama. Debutant striker Pelle showed glimpses of his hold-up play and should form a great partnership with new signing Shane Long (and Ward-Prowse). With attacking fullbacks in Clyne and Bertrand providing the outlet for the creative Tadic, there is more balance and ability in this first XI than was widely believed. A lack of squad depth may yet prove to be an Achilles heel, but, for now, Saints fans will be buzzing.
3. Newcastle United’s memorial for two fans
Soccer these days is marked by big money and a lack of loyalty. Very often, the last people the owners (particularly Mike Ashley) think of are the fans. However, in Sunday’s game, Newcastle United recognized the loss of two fans in the Malaysian Airlines disaster. John Alder and Liam Sweeney were on their way to New Zealand to watch Newcastle play during their pre-season tour. They never came home. And, the glorious tribute at St. James’ Park was heart-warming for fans everywhere to see. All the fans in the stadium, the staff and players of both clubs deserve a great deal of credit for the heart-felt tribute to two fallen lovers of the beautiful game.
2. Leicester City
The Foxes played their first Premier League game in a decade against Everton. The pandemonium of Ulloa’s first goal seemed like it would amount to little when Naismith scored before halftime. However, a late equalizer from Chris Woods gave Leicester a deserved point against a Barkley-less Everton side. The young Kiwi striker’s appearance in the Premier League – almost 5 years after he played for West Brom – will give him confidence as he fights for a spot alongside veteran strikers Gary Taylor-Fletcher and David Nugent and debutant Ulloa. These are the afternoons that Leicester fans have dreamed of since being relegated in 2004. Interestingly, the first game of that season also ended in a 2-2 draw (against Southampton). Hopefully they will be able to avoid repeating relegation (and off-field issues) that marked their campaign that year.
1. Ki-Sung Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson
Swansea’s South Korean and Icelandic duo found the back of the net during their win over mighty Manchester United. In spite of showing glimpses of form at Spurs and Sunderland, the duo are now back at the Liberty Stadium and will be hoping to get a sustained run in Garry Monk’s side. Both players can unlock defenses with their creativity, and Monk can utilize them alongside the industrious Jonjo Shelvey to provide a strong core for the side. With Wilfried Bony and Bafetimbi Gomis ahead of them, we might see Yueng and Sigurdsson – now both in their mid-20s – to have a breakout season.