In the words of Hank Kingsley, hey now.
The waiting is all but over and the Premier League Game of Death is about to commence in earnest. And nothing says let’s get ready to rumble in the most moneyed season of the richest league in the world than putting up a new sign on your stadium that makes it look like a Falls Road amateur boxing club or a really stabby South London community centre.
Do these things get approved with a big rubber stamp that simply declares ‘THAT’LL DO’?
When it comes to the football itself, well, as we’ve said all summer, this really does feel like a leap of faith. Roberto Martinez represents a massive unknown quantity and although he has made some additions around the edges of his squad, he begins with more or less the side that finished sixth in the Premier League last season, and that could be viewed as either a blessing or a curse.
On the face of it, Everton’s consistently decent league finishes in recent years are proof that he has good players; certainly better than those he was in charge of at Wigan Athletic. However, expectations are that much higher at Goodison as a result and any deviation from the usual 6th/7th placed finish is going to sit squarely with the new manager.
The hope is that he can take the solid, professional unit he inherited and bring some degree of attacking, passing panache that will provide that extra element has held us back from winning the big, key games and qualifying for Europe consistently.
On the other hand the worry is that his adherence to a certain style will reduce the squad to the sum of its parts and undo the things that made Everton such difficult opponents for even the biggest teams in the country over the last decade, especially at Goodison. Because that will be the acid test for the new boss – next week against West Bromwich Albion, not this opener versus Norwich.
After all, you can always find excuses at away games in the Premier League, because they are still notoriously difficult to win. Unless you are one of the super-rich top three, most victories away from home are considered something of a bonus and the majority of managers are reasonably happy with a point on their travels.
Everton murdered Norwich for large portions of this fixture last season before some weird American came on who almost had to ask which way they were kicking, he was so new to the side, and caused fucking havoc, despite being patently shit. The upshot was a Norwich winner four minutes into injury time which seemed to signal the absolute final straw for a portion of Blues in terms their tolerance of David Moyes. It wasn’t helped that it was scored by that mallet-headed ming Grant Holt.
Going back to the difference between results home and away, it’s still at your own ground where the mood at the club is set. Goodison simply has to remain a bastard of a place for visiting teams and Martinez desperately needs a winning start next week to set the fans’ minds at ease. That might seem harsh, but that’s the way the game works now. It’s all about perception, and the likeable Spaniard has to come across as someone who can, first and foremost, win games. Otherwise he will find out rather quickly that picking out the positives of a narrow defeat won’t wash here.
Oddly enough though, his style might actually be more suited to playing away from home and hitting teams on the break. Wigan’s most memorable results always seemed to come like that anyway.
That’s all a roundabout way of saying that absolutely anything could happen on Saturday and in the coming weeks. Which is sort of exciting but also a bit terrifying at the same time.
Fingers crossed though that we get off to a flyer, to settle the nerves of the players, the fans, and probably the new manager himself.
Finally, a small editorial note. This website would like to go on record once again as one that thinks, admission prices aside, that the Premier League is fucking ace. All the stuff that everyone moans about is actually the game’s lifleblood at the top level. Stupid money, endless scandal, gobshite players and outrageous behaviour – some cunt bit someone live on telly last season! – you absolutely love it you dirty soccer slags.
You all pretend you don’t but you talk about almost nothing else. Or have you been too engrossed with the Athletics World Championships in Russia to even notice the season starting? Hmm? (Let’s be honest, no one even knew that was taking place until Stephen Fry mentioned it.)
Just as one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, one man’s football Judas is another’s back-of-the-Echo-holding-up-a-scarf hero, and another man’s shitty kick off is someone else’s Super Sunday. Just don’t make the age-old mistake of saying ‘modern football is no good’ because your team is last.
Strap yourself in bitches, this shit’s about to get real.