Perhaps it is merely a sign of advancing age, but it seems that as each year goes by the distance between the end of one Premier League season and the beginning of the next grows ever narrower.
And so it is that before a ball has been bowled in a test match; a serve returned at Wimbledon; a chord strummed at Glastonbury or a starting pistol fired at the World Athletics Championships; the fixtures for the forthcoming season have already been released for fans to pore over.
Of course, every team has to play every other twice during the course of the season, and how those fixtures are distributed should not – and most of the time does not – make much difference. Nevertheless, for us armchair strategists and water-cooler pundits, there is innocent fun to be had in attempting to forecast your team’s passage through the season.
For Burnley fans, the commencement of the club’s first consecutive season in the top flight since the seventies carries a sense of anticipation perhaps even greater than last year.
A glance at the fixtures reveals a distinct anomaly between Burnley’s first five home fixtures and their first five away from Turf Moor. Whilst the home games look distinctly winnable, it seems that the nation’s top clubs are lining up to take it in turns to entertain the Clarets.
The season starts for Burnley at the home of the defending champions, Chelsea. This represents both a challenge and a privilege for the Clarets and in any event, it is perhaps a good game to get out of the way early.
Next on the road is a trip to Wembley, the temporary accommodation for Tottenham Hotspur whilst White Hart Lane is undergoing its make-over. This match will have to be moved from its current date of Saturday the 26th August, due to the Rugby League Challenge Cup final.
Through this column, I would like to issue a personal plea to the Premier League, Sky Sports or whoever NOT to move this match to a Monday night and thereby deny myself and hundreds of other Burnley fans, the opportunity of going to see their team play at the National Stadium.
Whilst on the subject, it is surely not beyond the wit of man to introduce a rule whereby all midweek fixtures are played between teams no more than one hundred miles apart? Burnley’s 500 mile round trip to Bournemouth in November is scheduled for a Tuesday night; an enterprise requiring two days off work and overnight accommodation for supporters to attend.
If Burnley are to avoid the problems they experienced on their travels last season, then an early away win would be desirable. But after Chelsea and Spurs, Burnley then face trips to Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City – not many points on offer there. On the other hand, however, if the Clarets were to win even one of those games, it would provide an enormous boost in confidence and inject some momentum.
There doesn’t look to be too much festive cheer on offer either, as the Christmas period features home games against Spurs and Liverpool as well as trips to Manchester United and Premier League newcomers, Huddersfield; all condensed into nine hectic days.
On the flip-side, Burnley’s run-in through April and May does not – on the face of -look too daunting and the hope is that if Burnley are in need of points by the time those matches come around, they stand a good chance of being able to secure them.
All this is, of course, pure conjecture. As the season progresses there will be ups and downs for every team; there will be unexpected wins and shock defeats; there will be teams clawing their way out of the relegation mire and teams being drawn into it; there will be surges of form; managerial turbulence and players on hot streaks. This is why we love the game.
BRING IT ON !
This preview of the Clarets' new season's fixtures was written and composed by uber Burnley Football Club fan Dave Thornley. (TEC).