Well, they're underway in England (and some other leagues, too!), or at least the lower divisions are. Millwall dropped their first match, 4-3 away to Oldham, much to the surprise of nobody. What was a bit surprising was that the Lions were leading an expected-to-be-very-good Oldham side 3-1 with 20 minutes to go. Perhaps there is hope for the season after all!
And what can we expect when the Premiership boys get going in a week or so? Go to it, Kobold seers (and we'll try to forget about the whole Mets-Tigers unpleasantness from awhile back):
- First of all, it's reasonable to suppose that the big four (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal) will divy up the four Champions League spots among themselves. Arsenal, at this moment, appear to be the weakest of that lot (sorry, CR!), and will probably be looking over their shoulders at possible top-4 interlopers like Everton, Aston Villa, and Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City could nose their way in as well.
- Expect a lot of attention to be paid to Hull City A.F.C., newly arrived in the top division for the first time in their 104 years of existence. It's an excellent feel-good story, particularly given that a mere ten years ago they were struggling at the very bottom of the entire League, and nearly folded. Prior to this season, they were primarily known for wearing a bizarre tiger-striped kit during the '92-'93 season.
Sadly, their stay in the Premiership is likely to be a short one. Expect them to be relegated, along with Wigan and fellow new arrivals Stoke City.
- Here, then, is a reasonable expectation of what the final table will look like come next May:
1 Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3 Liverpool 4 Arsenal 5 Tottenham Hotspur 6 Aston Villa 7 Everton 8 Manchester City 9 Portsmouth 10 Newcastle 11 West Ham United 12 Bolton Wanderers 13 Blackburn 14 Middlesbrough 15 Sunderland 16 Fulham 17 West Bromwich Albion 18 Wigan Athletic 19 Hull City 20 Stoke City
- Finally, moving away the Premiership (a looooong way away), let us spare a moment to mourn the passing of Halifax Town Football Club. The luck finally ran out for the team that was once so poor it couldn't afford to feed the clubhouse cat, let alone pay the players (this situation was swiftly rectified by the team's supporters, who donated somewhat in excess of a ton of cat food, along with almost no actual money). They went out with a bit of a bang, overcoming a 10-point penalty for begin broke to avoid relegation from the Conference National Division (basically the 5th division of the English league structure. However, the good news is that the team has risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes, and will contest the upcoming season as FC Halifax Town in the Unibond Northern League Divison One (the 8th division, if you will). The cat's opinion of all of this is unrecorded.