8 August ~ Last week I went to a football match in which nothing was won or lost, the pace was slow and the flow stilted by 13 substitutions. I’ve seen Burnley before. I’ve watched Rangers for decades. And I’ve attended more friendlies than most fans would think advisable in one lifetime. But when the post denied Burnley the chance to go 3-0 up after just 23 minutes I realised it could become the biggest defeat I’d ever seen my team suffer and that, consequently, I cared deeply about this match.
6 August ~ The start of 2016-17 can't come soon enough for Oldham Athletic fans like me. Last season ended on something approaching a high. From near certainties for relegation, the return of John Sheridan as manager kickstarted a remarkable recovery that saw us survive for another season in League One.
5 August ~ For the first time ever, Bundesliga 2 hosts a higher number of former national champions than the top division. Tonight, Kaiserslautern and Hannover 96 contest the inaugural match of the new season. A pairing like that wouldn't look out of the place in the Bundesliga given that those two sides share no less than six national championships between them. Indeed, preceding the set-up of the Bundesliga, Kaiserslautern and Hannover met in the 1954 national final, the rank outsiders from the north thumping their more illustrious opponents 5-1.
4 August ~ “Clap, clap, clap, clap… Fish!” is still reverberating around my head a couple of months after Grimsby’s play-off final victory and return to the Football League. It doesn’t seem over six years since I wrote about going to work past the street named after Mariners legend Jackie Bestall and how he would be turning in his grave as we slipped into non-League. There is a whole generation of Grimsby fans (my own boys included) who had never experienced promotion, only relegation.
4 August ~ “Right at the very top (of the bottom half of the table),” predicted Dundee United fan Ken Gall ahead of the 2015-16 Scottish Premiership season. He wasn’t the only one who didn’t see their relegation coming – the rest of the division’s contributors had United in seventh too. Yet manager Jackie McNamara was sacked by the end of September and they won just two matches before Christmas as they went down for the first time since 1995.
3 August ~ “With a takeover saga looming, a half-finished stand and rumours rife about matters financial, it isn’t the pre-season preparation Cobblers fans would have hoped for,” wrote Northampton Town fan Mark Pacan ahead of the 2015-16 League Two season, before predicting: “Best case scenario, play-offs. Worst case scenario, relegation and oblivion.”
2 August ~ “I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we make the play-offs,” said Wigan fan Ian Aspinall ahead of the 2015-16 League One season, after pointing to their high turnover of players, untried manager and the League’s youngest chairman. Ian must have been amazed, then, when his team were promoted as champions come May, top scorers in the league thanks in large part to the form of Will Grigg. It won’t as come as much of a shock to the other League One contributors, however, who had Wigan down as runners-up.
1 August ~ “Automatic promotion,” asserted Burnley fan Kevin Clarke ahead of the 2015-16 Championship season. “It goes against everything I believe in as a Burnley fan to predict this, but there really is no reason why not.” It took them a couple of games to get going but in the end Kevin’s confidence was well placed and his team sealed an immediate return to the Premier League, going up as champions by four points.
14 July ~ On Tuesday, Joachim Löw finally confirmed that he has every intention to honour his contract as Germany head coach, running until the 2018 World Cup. Not everybody is celebrating. In spite of guiding Germany to five semi-finals in a row (six, if you insist on counting 2006 in which Löw served as an assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann), with one World Cup trophy thrown in, Löw continues to polarise opinions: is he the tactical magician responsible for those triumphs, or an addicted tinkerer whose butt continues to be saved by the extraordinarily gifted bunch of players we currently are producing?
8 July ~ The car horns were sounding in Lille way past 1am, more than a couple of hours after the final whistle of France’s semi-final against Germany. Social media showed scenes of celebration across the country after Les Bleus’ 2-0 win sealed their place in the Euro 2016 final.