It’s 4:40 am. It’s Saturday morning in Brisbane, Australia. Most people are still sound asleep whilst others are returning home from a big Friday night out. Then you have the select band of madmen (and woman) who rise up for a monumental day on the calender for 2013.
Friday, August 2nd 2013 is not just a run of the mill Friday. It is the day the football league in England kicked off for a new season. Whilst supporters of Premier League clubs are required to hold out another two weeks for top flight action to commence, it is down in League One where Sheffield United and Notts County, two of the oldest clubs in England played out a cracking match at Bramall Lane (the oldest professional football ground in the world), resulting in a 2-1 victory to United over a ten men Notts County.
So how did we find our way to the 125th anniversary of the football league in England? William McGregor, chairman of Aston Villa set the ball rolling in early March 1888 after previously, in 1885 being granted permission to form a football league. The game had been played in various guises since 1863 according to official records.
On September 8th in 1888 Notts County, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Accrington, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Preston North End, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Stoke F.C and West Bromwich Albion began the first round of fixtures. Preston went the entire season undefeated and also won the FA Cup (begun in 1971-72) to complete the first league and cup “double”, a feat rarely achieved. Aston Villa (1897), Tottenham Hotspur (1901), Arsenal (1971, 1998 & 2002), Liverpool (1986), Manchester United (1994, 96, 99) and Chelsea (2010) are the only other clubs to have registered the “double”.
The English Championship (and other lower leagues) commences later tonight with the lunch time (UK) kick off between Burnley and Bolton Wanderers, both foundation clubs of the football league. Later that afternoon the bulk of Championship, League One & Two fixtures take place. On Sunday Derby County and Blackburn Rovers, also foundation clubs finish off the opening round of fixtures in the Championship. A healthy number of matches are televised here in Australia this weekend on Setanta Sports which gives us all a fantastic opportunity to focus on some quality football as we await kick off in the Premier League on August 17 and other major European Leagues.
The hardest aspect for Australian football fans is juggling the late nights and early starts with our work and social commitments throughout the season. I for one will most definitely be entertaining some sleepy days in the work place over the Australian summer as I keep track of the multiple leagues running around Europe.
Nothing beats the feeling of having ones main source of sporting enjoyment back in the spotlight! The papers, websites and social media networks will feed us all a regular diet of all the drama ensuing from the coming nine months or so in the world of football as we warm up for the World Cup in Brazil.
We all start the new season loaded with spade fulls of optimism in relation to how we think our teams will travel over the season. By November, when the balls turn yellow and the grimness of a European winter settles in we will all have a good indication of how enjoyable or miserable our teams season will be.
Good luck to your team in season 2013/14. And good luck to all my Australian football fans as you struggle your way through the myriad of late night kick offs and early morning morning risings to follow your heroes in the greatest game to be played out on planet earth.