For football fans up and down the country, the publication of the season’s football fixtures is a day of excitement and nervous anticipation – often mixed with a hint of naive optimism.
Initial questions of opening-day opponents are soon replaced by thoughts of key local derbies; arch rival battles and permutations for league glory, survival or mid-table mediocrity.
Incessant tapping may be heard across the land as supporters reach for calculators to tot up how and where points may be gained or lost; bogey sides, opponents who are traditionally brushed aside with consummate ease and games in those historically ‘black’ months where sides are notoriously poor.
If these contemplations become too sobering there is always the cheeky weekend away trip with the mates, often to such far-flung exotic locations like Bournemouth or Brighton & Hove Albion. Or, for an even more personal take, the nearest away trip to a birthday or anniversary.
For many, particularly in a non-international tournament year, the football fixtures are a familiar sanctuary, a beacon of hope to lift the spirit to be able to survive another month and a half’s worth of empty Saturday’s and trips with the family to the local safari park.
The fixtures mean fans can dream of substituting screaming sugar-overloaded kids for screaming beer-fuelled fanatical fans standing as one on a wet Tuesday evening in Watford.
To the non-football supporters in the workplace, eyebrows are raised in bemusement as a deluge of holiday requests flood in and looks of incredulity are shot across the office as these are ‘pending’ in case it clashes with Rita’s request for her third-cousin-twice-removeds reaffirmation of vows.
After all, with the cost of UK public transport more expensive and convoluted than a Richard Branson balloon attempt, the logistics of transport have to be made sooner rather than later to ease the financial burden of watching a game at The Emirates...
Are games reached by bus, train, rail, car or even plane? Can travel be made without an entire day-off? How late should you leave? And what plausible excuses other than popping out for a pint of milk for three hours can you give the missus?
And just when every base is covered, every excuse made, every ticket paid for and every white lie justified and conscience is (reasonably) clear, the live TV football coverage re-arranges the games.
Best laid plans and all that...
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