AND we’re off! The fixtures are out and that is the official start of the speculation season. We can now actively impose own own preconceptions on reality and either pick out a path to glory as the #mogganaut powers Boro to inevitable promotion or see the tricky run of fixtures where the wheels fall off and we start to splutter and slip back into danger. And whack a few days holiday or shift changes in now ready for the juicy ones.
First impressions: A tough, physical start with Pompey at home then Leeds away then relegated Birmingham at home soon after makes it a tricky August. We haven’t got a clue what the team will be after September 1st but with Burnley (A), Ipswich (H) and Leicester (H) that is a tough month too however we line-up then. Let’s not kid ourselves. It is going to be hard all the way. The Championship is a war of attrition.
Some highlights. And lowlights. Bistol and Cardiff away in December! That’s some driving in the dark. We may as well stay over. But to compensation we have the Crimbo jumpers on for Hull at home on Boxing Day and then Peterborough at home on the Saturday. And Blackpool away on New Years Day wil be bracing but its not too bad a trip.
The first long haul is Palace away on Setember 17. The other ones where we will pick up some air miles are Brighton away (March 31) and Southampton away (hotly tipped as the opener) is October 29th. Millwall is February 18th and West Ham is March 20th.
There are a lot more miles for Tees travellers this term. We have lost short hauls to Preston, Scunny and Sheffiled United and gained Brighton, Southampton and Peterborough. From the Premiership West Ham was a straight swap for QPR, Norwich and Swansea are probably a decent trade off too while Blackpool for Birmingham is not bad.
Irony fans will have noted that Steve McClaren makes a romantic Riverside return on Valentines Day – aw, bless – by which time he will no longer be newsworthy. We go down there for a sniff of Forest’s ‘history and tradition’ on on October 18. Leeds at home is March 10th so cover the kids ears and cancel all police leave for that one.
We finish the season at Watford on April 28th… unless we are in the play-offs.