Boro's Dates With Destiny Revealed
SWEAR down, when I predicted Barnsley away for Boro's opener I did not have any inside knowledge. The secrecy of the fixtures is hermetically sealed, as closely guarded as the nuclear trigger and everyone in the loop is required to sign a grave covenant of utmost confidentiality in new born baby's blood. I didn't know. I couldn't know.
But hey, it is the power of football's inevitability drive: Our old 'friend' Mido signs for Barnsley... that made the opening day date nailed on. And Boro WILL visit Oakwell on August 18th for the big kick off. It was a given. Here's what I calculated yesterday...
"We usually get a Yorkshire team for the opener and four of the last five have been at home. We are due a short haul away day... Oakwell it is then. Barnsley away for the opener with heavyweight hitman Mido nailed on for a brace. The flat-cappers will then rave about his quality and predict he will fire them to promotion while Boro's habitual phone-in moaners will gnash and wail about how we let him slip away when we could have had him on a free but they will be his only goals of the season and he will be up on the ramps by September and back at Zamalek via lowloader come January."
As for the rest, it is time to impose your own world view on what is essentially a random list of dates, time to reflect your own hopes and fears onto the unknown. Go on, pick a path through this little lot and plot a route to glory... or despair.
I'm not allowed to use a fixture list on here for licencing reasons. It is not strictly an edition of the licencing publication. If I do then the Football DataCo heavies who vigorously enforce the Football League's copyright can kick my door in at dawn, seize the Gazette servers and sell off my children's kidneys to pay the whooping fine. This is serious stuff.
But obviously the full fixture fixture lists are all over the place now. In a news context I am allowed to discuss them. So let's do that. Let's see where the the mighty Mogganaut will begin to roll on the path to play-off success. Or not. Delete as applicable.
I always find it strange that people can brand the fixtures as "tough" or "easy" looking at this stage when most clubs barely have two-thirds of their first team fixed and we can't know how they will shape up when the action starts. But football lore demands it. So I will make a sweeping statement and say: blimey, September looks tough - Ipswich, Blackpool, Blackburn, Leicester. The back end of October is testing too. I'm not a massive fan of December either. Oh no, we are all going to die!
So those fixtures then...
Boro start with Barnsley that should have been easy enough but which must now be regarded with some trepidation as parmo powered predator Mido - who has sealed a deal that includes him being carried to Oakwell on a golden Sedan Chair wafted by ostrich feathers wielded by the Tykes' junior side - wheezes about for 69 minutes before scoring. He will score another in November, probably against Leeds.
After that we have Burnley and Crystal Palace at home to August, both on the fringes of the play-offs last term and so officially "tricky" but we should be looking to win those if we have any serious ambitions. We need a good start and we need few entertaining performances at home to raise morale and shift the last few season tickets (ha!)
September has a testing look about it: Millwall away is always a fraught trip, for fans at least, then in a flurry we have Ipswich (H), Blackpool and Blackburn (A) and Leicester at home. All four of those will have promotion ambitions of their own - Leicester are the bookies favourites - and new players will gelled by then. By the time of the Foxes game will will start to have some idea of where we are are in the scheme of things.
October brings Derby at home then longish trips to Watford and Brighton then back at the Riverside for bookies play-off contenders Hull and Bolton. Those last two could be testing. Anyone starting to panic yet. Mogga out!
November... Forest away... haven't won there since the repeal of the Corn Laws. Charlton away, old school and nice to go back there after a long break, Cardiff away - Dragon Slaying for real this time and Boro will have to change out of their red shirts.
December ... Birmingham away, Peterborough away, Wolves at home then the seventies throwback retro semi-derby of Leeds away just before Christmas. Blackburn at home on Boxing Day and Blackpool at home a few days later. That's a result. Travelwise.
January... Derby away on New Years day... could be a lot worse. Then Watford home, Leicester away, Leeds home plus FA Cup games... always a pivotal month of either dashed dreams or suddenly soaring foam fume levels.
February... the long trek to Ipswich (abandoned, fog, 37), easy win over Mido-less relegation strugglers Barnsley then tough back-to-back away at hard-to-beat Palace and fringe play-off hopefuls Burnley and three points from Millwall at home.
March... starting to show the strains now, injuries piling up, loans deadline comes and goes, threadbare squad etc etc ... Cardiff at home, away to Huddersfield and Bristol, home to Birmingham, away to Wolves. Make or break time.
April... one last surge to gatecrash the play-off zone: Peterborough at home to nudge us in, away at Hull to claw us back out, Brighton at home, Forest at home - with the weight of history relieved after last year's historic win - then away to title chasing Bolton (potential set-back) and home to Charlton for the goal-scoring return of Justin Hoyte.
Then finish in May away at Sheff Wed. Everyone likes to go to Hillsborough. Historical shadows aside. It's a nice short trip to a good old fashioned football ground, with generally friendly natives, and we will be going in shirt sleeves needing a win to squeeze into the play-offs. Against a team with nothing to play for. What could possibly go wrong?