Time to dream of title celebrations
FOR ALL of you wringing your hands at the prospect of the new Premier League season kicking off, it’s time to get ready for those all too familiar anti-climaxes when promised Scintillating Saturdays, Super Sundays and Mesmerising Mondays turn out to be as exciting as watching Oireachtas Report on a loop.
I tend to be drawn more to the English Football League myself and will religiously tune in to Quest every Saturday evening to catch up on the action from the Championship, League One and League Two, and as a Swindon Town fan I’m kept waiting as they’re in the basement division that’s lower than a snake’s belly.
In complete contrast to the money-fuelled Premier League, the most appealing thing about the lower divisions across the water is the unpredictably of it all, and you genuinely could pick a glut of clubs in each league that have a realistic chance of promotion, if not the title itself.
On Saturday, for the sixth season in a row, Swindon enjoyed a victory on the opening day, but I won’t be counting my chickens just yet as most of those campaigns ended with little else but frustration and a dash of disappointment.
However, the hope always remains as long as the dream is still alive, and that’s what keeps fans coming back for more every season, despite year after year of heartache.
I’m all too aware that for most the top flight is where it’s at and the long, drawn-out title race between Manchester City and Liverpool somewhat saved the Premier League season the last time around.
However, once Pep Guardiola’s side got their noses in front there was an air of inevitability about it all as it was impossible to see where they could possibly drop any points, such was the gap between the top two and those simply making up the numbers.
That said, despite the league table illustrating otherwise, there is strength in depth in England as they had the monopoly on the European finals, with Liverpool besting Spurs in the Champions League decider and Chelsea getting the better of local rivals Arsenal to lift the Europa League.
After toppling records like bowling pins in the previous campaign and doggedly clinging on to their crown last season, Manchester City will be extremely difficult to stop in their bid for three-in-a-row.
The Champions League was the only trophy that eluded them last season and their determination to put that right could be their Achille’s heel, but given the wealth of talent at their disposal it’s difficult to see them taking their eye off the ball on the home front.
It’s pretty clear that their main obstacle will again be Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp’s men pushed them so hard last term and they ended the season on a high, picking up the Champions League trophy their efforts deserved.
If any team are to profit from a City wobble, they are far and away the most likely to do so.
Tottenham look like the only side that have a prayer of bridging the gap to the top two, although it would be very difficult to envisage them making up enough ground to summon up a sustained title challenge.
The top three in all likelihood will be Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs, in that order, with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal fighting out for the final Champions League spot.
Despite their transfer embargo, Frank Lampard’s side might have enough to snatch fourth place, leaving United and Arsenal out in wilderness yet again.
Given the unpredictability of the lower half of the table, it’s probably prudent to keep the powder dry regarding who I expect to be relegated to the abyss of the Championship, although I’ll still be able to keep abreast of how they’re doing next season when I flick on the highlights show on Quest.
At the end of this term hopefully yours truly will have a smile wider than the vast Wiltshire countryside as the mighty Swindon Town march to glory and I’ll have to plan a title celebration of my own.
League Two champions has a nice ring to it, but given the lack of fellow Robins fans in these parts I’d probably be hosting the party in a phone box.
A nice ring to it indeed!
New manager Frank Lampard could steer Chelsea to a Champions League place.