2010/11: Pre-season – The Phoney War.
Only 19 days till the Championship 2010/11 season kicks off and the phoney-war that is pre-friendlies continues. Leeds United with a win and a loss from their Slovakian adventure, return to England for two games in 4 days at Bury (tonight) and Hartlepool United on Saturday, before taking to Europe and pleasing the army of Scandinavian Whites with a game in Norway. Then it’s a sprinkling of away fixtures against non-league neighbours within the region and the one home friendly against Wolves, before the real thing starts against Derby County in front of the television cameras. Grayson’s team entering the season with a sense of relish at the challenge ahead, fuelled by some solid signings and an air of stability around Elland Road.
The same cannot be said of a number of clubs within the division. Leading the way in the “club in turmoil stakes” are Portsmouth who continue where they left off last season with all the trials and tribulations of administration, the tax-man at the door and the departure of many of the Premier League squad. Crystal Palace will also hope that their fortunes are on the up after narrowly avoiding both relegation and going out of business. Elsewhere, events at Hull City have reached a bizarre point, where in an effort to reduce the club wage bill, the Tigers are desperately trying to offload the injury prone Jimmy Bullard. It is alleged Bullard didn’t complete a loan deal to Celtic due to his excessive wage demands. Wigan Athletic and Fulham fans will no doubt be chuckling at this news. One player travelling North of the border to Celtic is ex-Cardiff City captain Joe Ledley. Amongst his parting platitudes was the following, “I haven’t won anything in my career, I think it’s time now in my career and I can go and win some trophies”. How about this Joe, stay loyal to the club as its captain and win a trophy with Cardiff through getting promoted?
There will be different types of pressure at QPR, Nottingham Forest, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town. Hopes at Loftus Road will be high as owners will demand a significant return on the investment in the club. Billy Davies took his young side to the brink of a Play-Off Final and there will be huge expectation down by the Trent of a return to the Premier League. The Turf Moor faithful will wonder if they can bounce straight back. Whilst on Teeside, it is hoped that signings from the Old Firm will lead to New Form and the Boro’ gaining promotion. Will Roy Keane make it through the season? At the first sign of trouble will he be on his tractor out of East Anglia, departing with the words, that he can’t take this team any further?
For others, merely staying in the Championship will be enough and as fans we know that our dreams for the new season should always be tempered by a pinch of reality. And as Newcastle United proved last season, a club in turmoil can come together in adversity and ultimately triumph, so all may not be gloom and doom for those clubs currently struggling. It’s all to play for. Enjoy all the remaining sparring until Saturday 7th August.
If you do get down having witnessed a hapless display in a friendly over the next few weeks, just remember 25th July 2009…Leyton Orient 6, Newcastle United 1.
Friendlies in the grand scheme of things? To misquote Edwin Starr, “What are they good for? Absolutely nothing!”