So the football season is kind of already back upon us, if you enjoy obscure Champions League and Europa League qualifiers in Eastern Europe (something I haven't quite got my teeth into yet, but the summer is but a few weeks old), but for most of us the wait will go on for at least a couple more weeks yet. As the fan of an English second division side the new season is now only 17 days away, as Reading will be kicking off their new campaign on 6th August at home to Preston North End. For Bundesliga lovers the wait goes on slightly longer: Bayern Munich host the season curtain raiser on 26th August, although the 2. Bundesliga gets underway on 5th August with FC Kaiserslautern welcoming newly relegated Hannover 96.
Hertha Berlin fans can look forward to a clash with either Brondy or Hibs in their Europa League qualifying match on 28th July. Schalke clash with Eintracht Frankfurt on the first day of the season, a real editorial derby for me and Axel to get our teeth into and which deserves a special preview podcast in the run up to the opening day. The Pokal begins on August 19th and the season truly gets up and running by the end of August as all the big leagues across Europe get underway: Ligue 1 on 12th August, Premier League on 13th August, La Liga on 21st August. Serie A have yet to announce their fixtures. If the Euros didn't quite feed your hunger, there isn't long now until the new season can really get you excited again. But I have a recommendation for you: enjoy pre-season while it lasts. Here's why:
1) Last Season Is History
I ended last season with a rather disappointed and let down feeling towards my two favourite clubs, Reading FC in England and FC Schalke 04 in Germany. The Royals and the Koenigsblau (Royal Blues) had both failed to spark into life over the course of the season and Reading were left floundering in mid-table, whilst Schalke missed out on the Champions League and only secured automatic Europa League qualification on the final day. Reading had a squad capable of reaching the play-offs and Schalke were frustratingly inconsistent. After a number of Reading players impressed in France at the Euros a little of that pride was restored and now last season lies in the history books. Both sides have new managers and trainers and there are a number of personnel changes going on too. Both sides will look different come the first day of the season, meaning last season can be completely forgotten. The same can be said for your club if they failed to hit the heady heights of success you had hoped for.
2) New Faces
Apologies to Hertha fans, who are yet to see a new face come through the door in the capital, but for most sides the summer is the biggest time of excitement with regards to new players turning up and young players breaking through. Whether at Borussia Dortmund, where three key players have been replaced by a host of young, talented stars; Bayern Munich, where Carlo Ancelloti is taking over; or Schalke, where the transfer record has been broken to sign Breel Embolo. The changes will affect how next season goes for your side, or if not then how the seasons in the future will go at the very least. It is not only players joining the club that makes this time of year exciting, but also that this is the time when young players are given their chance to train with the first team and make a good impression. If you are a lower league fan this is particularly important, so keep an eye on who starts in your friendlies and who is catching the eye in training. The next big thing could be making his mark in pre-season.
These two lead to the final, glorious part of pre-season: the hope and optimism. After the pain of last season fades and the new players freshen up the squad; after the new manager has spoken of exciting ideas and a change of tactics; and after the young stars have displayed their talent against the local non-league side, it is finally time to get the real thing underway. In the coming months most will see those hopes fade and die; some will see them crushed as their team spiral in the opposite direction and their great hope is sidelined for six months; most will keep just a little of that hope until the very last weeks of the season. But for now, everyone can dream a little and everyone believes it is finally going to be their year. The year they get promoted; the year they stave off relegation; the year they qualify for Europe or even, possibly, the year they win the title. For now, everything is possible and everything seems perfect. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Winter is coming.
And in the winter, hopes are slayed and dreams crushed by the snow and rain of a mid-table 0-0 bore-fest. In August the sun is shining and everyone is within a few points of first place. Savour it.
Our season previews will begin going up on the site very soon and the podcast will be up and running on a regular basis too. We hope you are as excited for the new season as we are, especially given that this is our first full season as a site, and that you take heed and enjoy these heady days of pre-season summer. The Bundesliga will be back soon; who knows, Reading might already have crushed my optimism before Schalke have even kicked a ball. But for now, anything is possible.
Enjoy your summer break, but we will be expecting you back fit and ready for camp very soon!