The release of the fixture list is always something to look forward to. As a West Ham supporter, it’s a time of optimism and also the opportunity to forget the previous season, which usually is one of disappointment, and instead start to believe that just maybe this could be our season.
As usual I was there at exactly 9am waiting for that fixture list release and as usual I was drawn immediately to certain dates in that calendar. First game of the season, last few games of the season, Boxing Day and, of course, those associated with birthdays and my wedding anniversary.
This year though the fixture list release has seen me take a closer study and that study all relates to the going ons at our great club. This season could be different. For once the board have finally decided to gamble and invest in our future.
So the question is would the “super computer” give us a nice and easy start to the season? Well in an unparalleled occurrence our opening game of the season was actually leaked and thus it was no surprise when it was confirmed as Liverpool away.
Of all the games, a trip to Anfield had to be the hardest game of the season – and so it turned out to be. History shows that of all the grounds we have visited, Anfield is the one that traditionally West Ham just roll over and accept a beating, one win in 50 odd years is proof of this.
It was a fixture that brought two of the biggest spenders over the summer together, and while I didn’t think the fans were as afraid as in previous years, history repeated itself once again with a heavy defeat. If we want to move to another level this is a game where we should be seeing a point as a stepping stone to greater things.
As for the rest of our early season fixtures, our next seven league games look a real challenge. After Liverpool we have a mixture of four home games (Bournemouth, Wolves, Chelsea, Manchester United) and two further away days (Arsenal and Everton).
If last season is anything to go by, and replacing Wolves with West Brom (well geographically they are close to each other), we would end up with a return of just eight points out of a possible 21, with nine goals scored and 14 conceded. A repeat of that would be a disaster. Home form in the first few months is crucial.
In the past away teams have used the rented stadium to their own ends. We must make it a fortress, a winning team will increase the atmosphere within the ground and may even make those who leave early or go off for a pint rather than watch the game, actually remain in their seats to cheer the team on.
The first away day at Liverpool had the potential to trigger a belief that we can actually win on the road. Our travelling support clearly think we can because away days are invariably always sold out and I personally was at a meaningless friendly in Walsall where West Ham fans virtually outnumbered those of Aston Villa.
Ever the pessimist rather than the optimist, I can see a possible 15 points from our next seven games, doubling our total from those same fixtures last season. The first eight games will clearly define our season, if our new players do not gel and struggle with the rigours of the Premier League we may be in trouble. But with a proven Premier League manager in Manuel Pellegrini in charge I believe we may finally have turned a corner.
Arnautovic winning the golden boot and Pellegrini manager of the year? Who knows but I have a feeling it maybe more fun than last year.