Football Fixtures release review

It doesn’t seem so long ago that the domestic football season came to an end, but here we are yet again with the release of the Premier League fixtures. No doubt some will be happy with the opening few games whilst others will be looking towards the run ins their respective clubs will have to get through to either stay in the league, qualify for Champions League/Europa League and the grand prize of the Premier League title.

The opening set of fixtures sees Premier League Champions Chelsea kick off their defence with a home game against Burnley. It’s a repeat of last seasons opener and the blues will be hoping to have a repeat the same which saw a 3-0 win. The Blues find themselves though with a mix of the top six thrown in. Following Burnley it’s a trip to Wembley in the London derby at Spurs. By the end of September, they would have hosted four of last seasons top seven. Chelsea have a relatively good Christmas period as they have back to back home games where they face Brighton & Stoke City with the return trip to Everton just before Christmas. If Chelsea are in the hunt for the title come April, it will be a good run seeing how tricky March is. Trips to the Etihad and Turf Moor are mixed in with games at home against Palace and Tottenham. April brings West Ham and Huddersfield to the Bridge alongside trips to Southampton and Swansea. The final two games see a visit from Liverpool and a trip to Newcastle Utd.  Liverpool have started are currently unbeaten in the league against Chelsea since 2014. Results between Conte’s men and Newcastle have been even with a mix of wins and losses although United fans will be keen to forget their last visit to the Bridge.

Staying with Newcastle Utd, their return to Premier League football sees them host runners up Tottenham. It will be interesting to see how Spurs line up in the coming season, will players join or even leave, one thing is for sure is that the Magpies wont be fussed and will be looking to open their return with three points and Premier League security under the managerial guidance of Rafa Bentez. they follow that up with a trip to fellow promoted club Huddersfield Town. The Magpies will be looking to repeat the victory that they managed in the Championship last season. Newcastle Utd see a mixed bag affair for the Christmas fixtures. Pre Christmas Eve fixture sees a trip to West Ham, where the visitors will be hoping that they grab three points at the London stadium. Boxing Day and the final fixture of the year sees two home games in the shape of Manchester City and last seasons Championship runners up Brighton. A couple of juicy fixtures no doubt as many enjoy the festive period. Their  New Years Day fixture sees a trip to Stoke, possibly not the best journey for anyone with sore heads.

New boys Brighton kick off their top flight return with the hosting of Manchester City, not the easiest start for the club but as the old addage goes, everyone has to play each other at some point in the season. It’s a double dose on the road as they travel to Leicester City and Watford. These are certainly winnable games in the league. Christmas and New Year looks challenging as the Seagulls have the return  fixtures against Watford pre Christmas Eve, a trip to defending Champions Chelsea and a return against Newcastle Utd.

Their run in mind you is a bit trickier, they host Tottenham and Man Utd, before going to Anfield on the final game of the season. Certainly not the best run in if looking for Premier League survival.

Manchester City have a mixed start in terms of opponents. Having faced Brighton on the opening day, they find themselves facing Everton and Liverpool at home with Bournemouth sandwiched inbetween. Finishing wise Man City have a reasonable run in. Only Tottenham from the top five are in City’s possible title push. Finishing with newly promoted Huddersfield, who could be battling relegation or even securing mid table safety.

Liverpool kick off their campaign with a trip to Watford. Bogey team Crystal Palace are at Anfield next in back to back home games which sees Arsenal heading up next. It’s first of two games running which see top team clashes. Last season Liverpool came out top and unbeaten against Utd Chelsea Arsenal Spurs and City. This season they will look to repeat it once again. Pre Christmas sees a trip to Arsenal following home games against Swansea and Leicester City. Liverpool, hoping to be challengers once again for the title will see visits to Chelsea with home games against Stoke and a final game at home to Brighton. It will be interesting to see if  any summer signings make a huge impact during the season.

Manchester United will be hoping to go better than last season, where draws proved the end to United’s title and top four challenge. This season West Ham, Swansea, Leicester and Stoke are the opening opponents for the Europa League champions. Christmas looks certain to bring festive cheer, although a new look Everton might be a bit more tricky for United, who could be seeing the return of Ronaldo, if reports are to be believed. Whilst May might be easy, April could be tricky. Man City and Arsenal stand in the way together with Bournemouth and West Brom.

Tottenham will find themselves having to deal with a different stadium for their home games. With the renovation of White Hart Lane,  last seasons runners up will be hosting their games at Wembley.  Champions League is one thing, but 19 games might have an effect on their title aspirations. Chelsea, Burnley and Swansea are the first three visitors to Spurs temporary home. It’s natural to think that Spurs might struggle, but there is no guarantee that their opposition will necessarily have any advantage. Christmas for Spurs is Burnley, Southampton and West Ham. It will be interesting to see what presents they get.  Tottenham’s run in sees Watford, West Brom and Leicester in the run in.

Finally its Arsenal, who this season will be having Thursday night football. Having played Leicester and Stoke, it’s the tricky visit to Liverpool followed by a visit from Bournemouth and a trip to defending champions Chelsea. West Brom and Brighton are next. Christmas sees more return trips for the Gunners who will be hoping to have a happy Christmas. Arsenal’s run in, which could see them either challenging for the title or a top four place looks fairly easy as Man Utd look the strongest of the opponents Huddersfield and Stoke.

It is looking very interesting in the coming season, especially with the chase for Champions League football. There will be no worries about top four spots as they will all be automatically qualifying for the group stages.

Changing Lanes – Dan Raywood Spurs blog

It’s been a few weeks since the end of the football season, and add a week since the last Spurs game of the season at its home – White Hart Lane. I was not able to attend the victory over Manchester United, but the scenes were incredible both during and after the match.

Since then, work has commenced in full on the new stadium, and today 19 June, I took a first walk past the building site that is the switch from old to new stadium. What was surprising to me as a visitor to the area and a local resident was the increase in development of the new site. The old Shelf side/east and west stands are all but gone, while all that remains of the north stand/Paxton Road is the scaffold feature that runs across it’s roof.

On the south stand, or Park Lane end which housed the most vocal supporters and away fans, most of the stand remains, although from what I could see most of the seats had been removed. Also gone was the Spurs Shop, so up the road in Enfield would likely be the nearest point of call for merchandise.

There are many ways to keep up with the development, but what surprised me was the speed at which the new development had stepped up. There were many words written about the last game at the Lane and how many were over-reacting to the last game. Yes there was a ‘Trigger’ factor as each stand has been rebuilt in the last few decades, including the Paxton Road stand since I first visited in the mid 1990s, but this doesn’t take away fans’ memories of attending the stadium and what they had seen, and who they attended with.

Around two years ago, I did a stadium tour of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. In there, many sections of seats date back decades to its original construction. The reason? Well nostalgia for one, but also because there was a desire from supporters to keep these old seats. After all, wouldn’t you want the opportunity to sit in the same seats that your parents or even grandparents sat in?

Sadly the rush to get a world class quality stadium is apparent in top level football and Spurs feel the need to follow what Manchester City, Arsenal, Reading, Leicester City, Bolton, Middlesbrough and others have done. It’s a shame, but a need that must be met to keep up financially, and a fantastic stadium will be waiting in a year’s time.

As for Spurs, last week I attended the showing of a film about the history of Tottenham Hotspur and the area of N17, and how the ground grew and changed around the club’s development. It had raised over £6,000 by last weekend for charities supporting young people in North London, and was a fantastic presentation narrated by Flav from Spurs podcast The Fighting Cock, with plenty of history that even this Spurs history junkie could devour! It’s well worth a view if you are a Spurs fan, or just interested in how a club grew up in a community, and became one of its focal points.

Sin Bins and shootouts – UEFA talks

UEFA will be meeting to discuss the idea of introducing sin bins along with changing the method of the penalty shootout. Why they need to discuss making changes or introducing things that really aren’t necessary is beyond me, but UEFA seem to think it’s a good idea but then UEFA introduced the ill-fated silver goal in 2003.

Sin bins have over the past three years been tested in UEFA development competitions and so you would think that if they were deemed successful then they would be introduced further into higher leagues already. The English FA though have decided that they will introduce them on a trial basis. Leagues that are six tiers below the National League and lower.

I don’t see the point of introducing the sin bin, it’s pointless and unecessary. It might sound great but it will possibly lead to more expense for Sunday league clubs. Why would that be? Well if you are to have a ‘sin bin’ in the lower levels, someone will need to monitor. The referee and assistants will be needing to concentrate on the game rather than someone having time out of the game.  It might even lead to the team with a player down resorting to negative tactics, but that’s just my opinion.

There is a simple way to reorder the balance of respecting the referee and the game. It’s not a sin bin, it’s in fact an idea from rugby union. Have the referee with a mic so the conversations between player and referee are heard. This should in one step cut out the dissent from players and the players who try to surround a referee.

So to the dreaded penalty shoot out. Fantastic for the neutrals but not so much for fans of the teams involved. Currently it is the ABAB approach which has worked well for decades. Following an IFAB meeting, it was trialled at the UEFA Under-17 European wish to trial. Spain met Germany in the semi final. The game ended goalless in 90 minutes and extra time. Spain won 4-2 but the ABBA process looked like making barely any difference. Spain were in the final against England and the game went to penalties. Yes England did lose. Again the ABBA setup seemed to make no difference as Spain won 4-1.

To be honest, instead of faffing about with various things, the football governing bodies should be making progress with video technology and retrospective action which we will see in the Premier League in the coming season. Diving will be punished retrospectively.