The new season has come around quickly, hasn’t it?
After all, it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to Reading in appropriate fashion, putting four goals past them at the Boleyn and finishing in a respectable 10th place. But what does the opening to the new season hold? Our first match is a home affair against Cardiff City, promoted from the Championship last season. Those with slightly longer memories might remember that we played this lot at the start of our own season back in the Championship, where we were beaten 1-0 with a last-minute goal from Kenny Miller.
It promises to be an interesting match this time around — you might feel that we ought to make amends for that day but then Cardiff might feel that they owe us one after we spanked them in the playoffs 5-0 on aggregate in that same Championship season. Certainly this has the capability of being quite a close match but you would hope that we would have enough in our locker to squeeze past the boys in blue. Our second game is, on paper anyway, a tough one away to Newcastle. However, put simply, they were awful last season — they lost 6-0 at home to Liverpool, for heaven’s sake.
They’ve lost five out of their last nine Premier League matches, only winning two of them — against Fulham and QPR. They’ve had a pretty chaotic pre-season with the Joe Kinnear episode and some decidedly mixed friendly results. Provided we go to St James’ Park with the correct attitude, we can obtain a decent result.
Our third match is back at the Boleyn to welcome Stoke City. Last season, we drew in this fixture when a win would have marked our best start to a season since 1986. Mark Hughes, who you might remember “helpedâ€ QPR on their way to spending virtually the whole season in the relegation zone last year, is now the man in charge of The Potters. In my view this is also a winnable game; they’re a beatable side, though they do have the capacity to surprise.
A lot of people have asked me how I think we will do this season. Some have mentioned the dreaded “second season syndromeâ€, others have suggested that we might rely too much on the likes of Andy Carroll. Personally, I don’t really buy into the whole “you’ll always struggle in the second seasonâ€ thing; we have some quality players who, provided they actually turn up from time to time, should see us safely home.
I don’t expect us to take nine points from our opening games — between five and seven is more realistic — but if we can’t play well and at least get some points against the likes of Cardiff and Stoke at home, especially when the squad is fresh, then we probably shouldn’t be playing top flight football anyway. Let’s hope we get off to a winning start.