Sunday, August 14, 2011

Normality returns

In the memorable words of John Fogerty, "Here we are and here we are and here we go, all aboard and we're hittin' the road, here we go". Now I know what you're thinking: it was "ver" Quo who gave us Rocking All Over The World, but you would be wrong. It was Fogerty, and with his following stanza, "well giddy up and giddy up and get away", we doff a welcoming cap to the 20th Barclays Premier League season.

Finally, after several weeks of finding something more meaningful to do on a Saturday or Sunday - like talking to loved ones, for example - the real thing is upon us. And it's downhill from here.

After the first eight games, we know this: QPR, after an expensive 0-4 lesson by Bolton are as good as relegated (source: most people); Joey Barton has guaranteed himself pantomime villain-in-chief status for the remaining weeks of the transfer window until Newcastle offloads him; and Arsenal have continued in the manner to which they've become accustomed under Le Professeur, i.e. a lot of attractive thrashing about but no result. You can make up erectile dysfunction jokes about that comment in your own time.

Liverpool, allegedly revived under 'King Kenny', failed to deliver more than a point from their home encounter with Sunderland, while football's very own Charlie Bucket, Andreas Villas-Boas, celebrated his first competitive outing in charge of the Wonka chocolate factory by delivering a 0-0 draw against Stoke with a Chelsea side which didn't look all that different from the last Chelsea side to be coached by Jose Mourinho. Four years and four managers ago.

Unlike Arsenal, some things are reassuringly unchanged: Manchester United got straight back into their annoying habit of nicking winning goals in the closing stages of a game, after West Brom had held them at 1-1 for the best part of 45 minutes. Throw into the mix the fact that Alan Hansen hasn't come up with any new insight or analysis on Match of the Day (viz: "they lack pace", "they've got strength and depth", "the have fantastic pace", "they lack any strength or depth" - apply to the team of your choosing).

So the opening weekend of the Premier League has come and gone with the most remarkable stat being that no home side recorded a win in any of the fixtures played. Spurs-Everton will wait for another day, thanks to a group of morons in hoodies, so we only have Manchester City's band of mercenaries tomorrow night to give us a home win as they take on Prem new boys Swansea at Eastlands.

You would expect this encounter will follow the script. If it doesn't, two things will happen: firstly, there will be one or two beads of sweat rolling down temples within the well appointed court of Sheikh Mansour. Second, a large percentage of us who follow the beautiful game will yawn, tediously, in acceptance of the reality that we are now in the Phoney War of the Premier League, echoing that period between September 1939 and the spring of 1940 when nothing much happened between anyone, save Hitler's occupation of Poland, and various diplomats writing very cross letters indeed.

This having been the opening weekend of the 2011-12 Premier League, we have already been provided with the most irrelevant thing since the book of Italian motoring etiquette was published - the first league table of the season. I'm sure, right now, Bolton fans are positively beside themselves at being top of the league on alphabetical grounds, and that there are young lads in Lancashire who will cherish this moment until their dying days. I'm sure they will pay little attention to the binary nature of the points table after Game One. But, what the hey - when every pundit to a man (and the odd woman) is predicting another Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool/Arsenal final four - or any combination therein - optimism over Bolton's current position is as misplaced as predicting a Lib-Dem landslide at 8pm on election night. Sorry son - it ain't gonna happen.

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