So, we now know the opening fixtures for the new Premier League season – and there's some tasty encounters in there.
Manchester United vs Leeds United is a stand-out. One of the fiercest rivalries in English football will be eagerly anticipated, especially with fans allowed back into Old Trafford.
The other half of Manchester has a real mouthwatering opener too, with champions City travelling to Tottenham Hotspur. Whose colours will Harry Kane be wearing that day?
And then there are the newly-promoted teams. All have the bonus of being at home – Norwich have a tough test at home to Liverpool, while Watford host Aston Villa. The big one, though, sees Brentford take on Arsenal in their first-ever top flight fixture. Wha a day for them.
Of course, it feels like two minutes since the Bees won their Championship play-off final. The 2020/21 season, at times, felt never-ending. Games came thick and fast, every time you turned the TV on there seemed to be another game, with a strange kick-off inside a soulless stadium.
By the end of the campaign, we had fans back in – and what a difference it made. What a miss they’d been. Atmosphere, singing, cheering and – yes – boos. Football is a poorer place without them. In fact, it is nothing without them.
That won’t stop fans being royally shafted again over the next nine moths, though hopefully for the last time. Games will be switched for TV purposes at the drop of a hat without consultation with the people who matter most, the supporters. Fans will be faced with long journeys at ridiculous times, when trains have stopped running.
It’s just what happens. This is the Premier League. Money talks.
It will hopefully be the last season it is like this, however. A review of the practices will be completed by the time the 2022/23 fixtures are released, with fan experience put front and centre. Not, for example, sending Newcastle fans 322 miles down the country on New Year’s Day to play Southampton, or making Brighton supporters travel 270 miles on the same day to Everton’s Goodison Park.
If there is one good thing to come out of the pandemic it should be this.
For now, though, supporters up and down the country will be scouring the fixture lists and making advance train and hotel bookings wherever they see fit to try and save a few pennies, with fingers crossed that their games don’t get altered for TV scheduling. Saturday 14 August, 3pm kick-off, may be the date at the top of the list, but we all know that at least five of those games will be switched to either lunchtime or evening, a Sunday slot or Monday Night Football with Neville, Carragher & Co.
Let’s hope they try to be mindful of the supporters this time.
Premier League fixtures – opening day
Saturday 14 August: Brentford v Arsenal; Burnley v Brighton; Chelsea v Crystal Palace; Everton v Southampton; Leicester City v Wolves; Manchester United v Leeds United; Newcastle United v West Ham United; Norwich City v Liverpool; Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City; Watford v Aston Villa.