The football season hangover period is the most puzzling time of the year. You’re not quite sure what to do with yourself. Saturday rolls round and there’s no match to go to. Sure, there’s still games on the telly; all of the cup finals and the play-offs but aside from the Mackems getting beat in the last minute against Charlton it’s all a bit empty. There’s international tournaments as well, the Women’s World Cup, the Copa America and the African Cup of Nations are all on this summer but it’s not quite the same as Lewis Wing bending one in the top bins, is it?
You find yourself going to IKEA with the missus to pick out some new cabinets and hastily arranging barbecues with the family that end up with you all sat inside as it pisses down and your Uncle Knobhead whinges about Brexit and your crap sausages. You’ve even taken up jogging, haven’t you? Think you’re going to get into shape for the annual all-inclusive holiday in Lanzarote. It’s in two weeks, mate. You’ve got no chance.
You’re looking for anything to fill the void until August when it’s back to following Them Reds up and down the country. It’s too far away. “How do normal people cope doing this all year?” you ask yourself as the flat pack falls apart for the third time in a row.
Fear not because tomorrow is full of hope. Tomorrow is full of joy. Tomorrow brings light at the end of the tunnel for tomorrow is fixture release day.
Before we carry on, if you’re one of those people who says “fixtures don’t matter, you play everyone twice anyway” then get out. Leave, right now. You’re boring and you definitely heat fish in the communal microwave at work. Disgusting.
Fixture release day is the day everything falls back into place for football fans across the country. It give us the opportunity to map out 9 months of our lives following our beloved team. It can alter expectations and help create memories. It can shape a season and it throws up a lot of questions for away trips.
Are we going to be sipping pints in the sun at Barnsley or down by the river at Fulham to open the season? Will we be mobilising a Red Army of 5000+ at away day favourites Blackburn, Huddersfield and Wigan on a Saturday as they hand over a full stand or will we draw the short straw of them being shifted into midweek? Are we going to be having weekends in the capital for Charlton and Millwall away, spending a full weeks wages on one round?
When’s the match at perennial bogey team Nottingham Forest, so we can just write that off as a loss to start with? Hopefully Bristol City will be a Saturday as well so me and the boys can go back to the gay district and have a boogie to some Spandaeu Ballet while the regulars watch on amazed that 40 football lads in adidas trainers, Stone Island jackets and Fjallraven tops are actually nice fellas. We are, honest.
It’s not just the motorway raves and away days that’re important on fixture release day. We’ll be finding out who the first team to come to Fortress Riverside (currently under renovation) will be, we’ll be finding out who we’ve got on Tuesday nights so the football fliers can be put in to allow everyone to be down the boozer for 4pm. We’ll find out when the big one is against Leeds.
There’ll be eyes on if we’ll be kick-starting the Easter bank holiday weekend on home turf and if we can pull the hallowed Holy Grail of back to back home games over Christmas. You know the one, the magical time between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve where your diet is turkey sandwiches, chocolate and all sorts of alcohol and nobody knows what day it is.
What about New Year’s Day itself? Shaking off the first hangover of 2020 will be much more bearable if we’re at home instead of everyone being crammed onto a sweaty coach passing round the leftover Baileys and Limoncello.
There’s the on the field reasons for being excited and slightly nervous for the fixtures coming out, too. No matter what anyone says, the way the fixtures fall will likely have a massive impact on where you’ll find Boro sitting in the table come May and the overall mood on Teesside.
A tough opening flurry could have us chasing the leading pack for a while and give the cyber cynics the first round of ammo to aim at Woody and the new identity. Likewise, a springtime run-in against the sides who could be around us in the table might offer the “in our hands” caveat that every football fan is after. Even in a season where patience is paramount, we’ll all be hoping for another Week of Destiny.
So get ready to say goodbye to Saturdays in River Island with your significant other and say hello to Saturdays at the Riverside with your mates. It’s time to swap family commitments for forays to Sheff Wed, Stoke, Swansea and beyond. You’re going to need to make room for the new season’s wall chart because tomorrow the football season starts. Sort of. It’s not quite Christmas but at least we’ll have our list all ready. We know what’ll be waiting this year.
Hopefully it’s a good one.
Image Credit: The Gazette