We, as football fans, are hamsters on a wheel. From a very young age we endure and enjoy in equal moderation an endlessly repetitive loop of summer transfer rumours, August delusions, promising cup runs, and tantalising glimpses of glory before reality inevitably smacks us hard across the chops and our teams once again break our weary hearts. Then the whole tawdry affair resumes all over again.
Wouldn’t it be nice, just for once, to break that cycle? To unburden yourself from the duty and responsibility of following a single team and instead indulge in some selfish thrill-seeking? Your club will still be there waiting for you next year on your return. In truth it will barely have noticed your departure.
After years of loyal and devoted service don’t you deserve a well-earned hiatus from watching the same eleven men produce the same predictable dross, all whilst sitting next to a fat man with questionable hygiene who insists on shouting xenophobic abuse to any player born twenty miles or more from the ground?
For the exorbitant price you pay just for the privilege of watching a game of footy each weekend shouldn’t each match truly matter – a fiercely contested derby or perhaps a proverbial six-pointer?
So sack off your season ticket, put aside your allegiance until next August (at least in person), and take a Ross-and-Rachel style break from all the stress and strife of following the one solitary club. Instead treat yourself to a best of package…a fantasy fixture list….a dream season.
Aug 6th – Afc Wimbledon v Bristol Rovers
After having their club taken away from them in the cruellest (FA-sanctioned) circumstances Afc Wimbledon are no longer wombling free in the footballing wilderness.
From the Combined Counties League to just one level below their soulless usurpers MK Dons the past nine years has been one hell of a journey and ultimately a victory for all that is good in the game. This is a landmark fixture and one to truly celebrate and cherish.
Aug 15th Man City v Swansea
A genuinely intriguing opening fixture to the Premier League campaign. Brendan Rogers’ newbies – the first Welsh side to dine at the big table – travel to Eastlands to face Tevez? Aguerro? Both? Welcome to the big time boyos.
Aug 20th – Swindon v Oxford
Argentina has the Superclasico. Scotland has the Old Firm. Greece has the Eternal Enemies clash. Down Wiltshire way they have the A420 derby. It’s no less passionate however. Okay, it is.
Aug 27th – Hearts v Hibs
Thumb through some of Irvine Welsh’s finest scribbling on the train journey up then revel in a fierce, hate-filled Scottish derby only minus the religious bigotry.
Sept 3rd – Scotland v Czech Republic
A must-win for the Scots should they have any hope of qualifying for next years’ Euros.
Sept 10th – Bury v Rochdale
A Lancashire hotpot. Two neighbouring underdogs scrapping away in an unfamiliar division one higher than their traditional berth in the lowest tier.
Sept 17th – Millwall v West Ham
Watch ID beforehand to get yourself in the mood. ‘Love you Gumbo!!’
Sept 24th – Stoke v Man Utd
The Potters pushed United close on both occasions last season and all the talk in their scrums will be about revenge on some dubious refereeing decisions. This should be a tasty one.
Oct 1st – Everton v Liverpool
The shellsuit derby is always more exciting at Goodison. Fact.
Oct 15th – Sheff Utd v Sheff Weds
A few years ago this Steel City derby would have taken place in the top flight. A couple of years ago in the Championship. Now incredibly it’s a third tier clash.
Oct 22nd – Aston Villa v West Brom
With Brum demoted the Villains will have to look to the Black Country to get their local kicks this year.
Oct 29th – Leeds v Cardiff
After three consecutive derbies how about treating yourself to this genteel meeting of minds between two clubs who have a shared appreciation and respect for their differences (neighbouring countries) and similarities (a fondness for sheep). Lovely.
Nov 5th – Fulham v Spurs
A chance for Martin Jol to enact some revenge on the club that sacked him in such callous circumstances. Expect some fireworks appropriately enough on the Thames.
Nov 19th – Crawley Town v Oxford
A chance to see how the nouveau riche of the lower leagues are adapting to the step up to Div 2. Plus it’s an opportunity to thank them personally for the comedy gold at Old Trafford last season.
Nov 26th – Liverpool v Man City
Each side stuffed the other 3-0 at home last term. On both occasions the away team failed to turn up. Should City stem the trend this could be a cracker.
Dec 3rd – Leeds v Millwall
Breathe in the bitter bile and embrace the hatred. That strange noise you hear as you depart Elland Road is the collective knuckles dragging along the ground.
Dec 11th – Real Madrid v Barcelona
All-in packages are available for a price of a Chelsea burger so there’s no excuse not to experience the deafening roar of the Bernabeu in arguably the greatest spectacle in world football. All together now….su pelaje es de Matalan.
Dec 17th – Man City v Arsenal
Possibly Adebayor’s sole lasting legacy on English soil was creating bad blood between this pair. It’s heartening to see that new bitter rivalries can still develop in this soulless corporate football world we now inhabit. If Nasri joins City this summer this one could run and run.
Dec 26th – Derby v Leeds
Watching a game on Boxing Day is as traditional as over-cooked sprouts so this fixture needs to be evocative. That’s why Derby v Leeds is just the ticket. Wear a scarf around your wrist, splash on the Brut, and pretend it’s the seventies.
Dec 31st – Liverpool v Newcastle
These two always seem to throw up a goal-fest so it’s your best opportunity to see out the year with a 4-3 thriller.
Jan 2nd – Plymouth v Torquay
Not only is this a West Country grudge game – Straw Dogs on grass – but they’re joint pre-season favourites for the title.
Jan 14th – Sheff Weds v Charlton
Slim pickings this week so how about two sides who will probably be in contention for promotion and who both knock it about a bit?
Jan 21st – Arsenal v Man Utd
From Winterburn v McClair to Wenger v Ferguson this one has always been a reliable tinderbox just waiting to explode again at any given moment.
Jan 31st – Crystal Palace v Brighton
Considering the geography – with nearer rivals for each – its strange how this has become such a bitter encounter with genuine derby-fuelled antipathy. But feathers fly whenever the Eagles and Seagulls clash.
Feb 4th – Derby v Notts Forest
If you’re single and depressed, with Valentines Day just around the corner, why not stand between both sets of fans and shout out ‘Clough was an alchy!’? Perhaps not but you would at least gain the gratitude of the police for momentarily uniting two clubs who have a renewed loathing for one another after both games last season ended in fisticuffs and controversy. Revenge and hatred have been on the boil ever since.
Feb11th – Man Utd – Liverpool
Whether it’s a Murphy free-kick or a Berbatov conjuring act there is usually something special that decides this fixture – one of the best in the footballing calendar.
Feb 25th – Arsenal v Spurs
To paraphrase the great Eric Morecombe this has all of the passion and hatred of any derby around…only with the vowels not necessarily in the right order. ‘Crouch, fack aff yoo fackin cant’ and so on.
March 3rd – Newcastle v Sunderland
Well-travelled Brits tend to dismiss these isles as being a mere postage stamp compared to the huge expanses say of America. They should spend ninety minutes in the company of this lot. It’s a different world where even the beer tastes funny.
March 11th – St Pauli v Karlsruhe
A unique and individual outfit close to Hamburg’s Reeperbahn so it would be rude not to make a weekend of it. St Pauli are less a club and more a political punk movement with a skull and crossbones emblem and a strong socialist ethos. It’s run by left-wing fans who listen to a lot of Sister of Mercy, down strong lager and campaign stridently against racism, fascism, homophobia and low-income housing. It’s an experience and atmosphere like no other. Sadly they were demoted last season yet they still retain more season ticket holders than most in the Bundesliga.
March 17th – Man City v Chelsea
Tevez has been a real thorn in Chelsea’s side over the past couple of years in this fixture and will potentially be a big absence. If he stays he’ll score. He always does.
March 24th – Rangers v Celtic
An atheist’s hell – if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron – but an Old Firm war still has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. An adrenaline surge equivalent to sticking your finger in a live socket for ninety minutes.
March 31st – Forest Green Rovers v Barrow
After all the carbon emissions you’ve spewed out on your travels so far why not balance it out a little by visiting the first environmentally friendly football stadium in the UK? The pitch is organic (cow manure is used to encourage growth), rainwater is recycled, and even red meat is banned from the ground so there is no half-time burger.
April 7th – Kilmarnock v Celtic
The concluding fixture of the SPL and, should it go to the wire in the inevitable Glaswegian two-hander, then Celtic have by far the hardest challenge. Rangers are at home to St Mirren.
April 9th – Fulham v Chelsea
An Easter Bank Holiday Monday spent in the picturesque setting of Craven Cottage, hopefully basking in sunshine by the Thames, whilst watching Jol’s Fulham hopefully dent Chelsea’s title hopes? Yes please.
April 14th – Notts Forest v Blackpool
My sincerest apologies for the forthcoming clichés – We’re now at the ‘business end’ of the season and these two clubs should be ‘there or thereabouts’. Two sides who like to ‘play the right way’. In short, a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle.
April 21st – Arsenal v Chelsea
Chortle with glee as Wenger throws a hissyfit and kicks fuck out of a water bottle as his title aspirations once more come to nothing.
April 28th – Man City v Man Utd
Could conceivably be a title decider for either club. Could possibly be one of the biggest games in the Premier League’s short history. Could theoretically be one of the most exciting games in your entire life. Would you really want to be anywhere else?
May 5th – Rotherham v Northampton
A change of pace admittedly but this is the final day of the Football League calendar and here is a clash between two sides almost guaranteed to be either in the promotion mix or vying for the play-offs.
May 13th – Sunderland v Man Utd
It’s safe to presume that United will be in the thick of it yet again this term. Should the title race go to the wire then Wearside is the place to be. The Stadium of Light could be a tricky proposition with the Elephant Man Bruce determined to finally get one over the old man. Or he’ll roll over and have his belly rubbed once again followed by a love-in on the pitch as the trophy is paraded. If it’s the latter (unless you’re a red) slope off into the night and remember all the good times of a one-off spectacular dream season.