Pete Sixsmith welcomes the arrival of the pre-Murdochisation fixtures list …
For a self confessed football addict like me, June is the worst month of the year. No football anywhere in the North East, just the remnants of the Scottish Junior programme over the border. Saturday afternoons are spent inhaling fresh air instead of stale beer, frying onions and embrocation. Evenings are spent hunched over GCSE History papers or slumped in front of a TV set, desperately searching for news of transfers on teletext or Finnish League games on some obscure channel.
There are minor buzzes when the pre season games are announced. This years are excellent and should warm the players up a bit more than a holiday in Portugal and a canter at Athlone did last year. The Amsterdam tournament has the blood racing in that it gives Mr Horan and myself a chance to revisit one of Europe ‘s most liberal cities. Abandoning his mantle of Jonah, he has resumed a previous incarnation as Thomas Cook and has booked relatively cheap flights from Leeds/Bradford and what sounds like a decent hotel in the city. All geared up for beer, brown cafes and whatever other attractions Amsterdam may throw at us.
Trains are booked for Edinburgh and Glasgow, although rumours persist that Setanta wants a 6.00p.m.start for the Celtic game. Old clever clogs tried to out Thomas Cook Mr Horan and got an excellent deal from Penrith to Glasgow (£15.00 return) and is now worried that his investment and his reputation as a wizard on the National Rail website may well take a hammering.
Today, we have the fixtures for the new season and the whiff of Elliman’s Rub is getting stronger. First game at Bolton is a good start for us. It’s not far, we should get plenty of tickets and I can have my lunch in the Balcony Bistro in Lancaster Market.
Chelsea at home on a Tuesday night could be a stiff one, but after that well, Bruce and his staff must be rubbing their hands together. Blackburn, Stoke, Hull , Burnley and Wolves are all games that we should get something from. Without going over the top, we should have been able to collect a fair number of points by the time the nights are drawing in.
We could have new players in by then and have said goodbye to some old friends. Bruce is determined to strengthen the defence and a Richard Dunne who plays as he did in Sofia for Ireland would be a real asset. On the other hand, the Dunne that played for City at times last season would make Steve Hetzke look like a world beater.
So, the run in to August 15th begins now. I am sure that all at the club realise that another new start (new owner, new management team, new local derby) gives us a great opportunity to wipe out the awful memories of the Geordie Nation and replace it with the Mackem Millennium.
As for the shoe twirlers and serial Messiah hunters, Scunthorpe away on a Tuesday night has a lovely ring about it