Jake gets fired up about football
It’s been a strange summer for us football fans hasn’t it? I didn’t know whether to reflect on the World Cup with frustration and disappointment, as England seemed to slide inevitably towards international obscurity, or just marvel at the wonderful goals, plucky performance and shock results as the tournament unfolded.
I guess in some ways England’s exit made it an easier tournament to enjoy. The anxiety and knotted stomach I associate with watching the country I love gave way to a more relaxed, ‘impartial observer’ experience and even with games finishing at 1am, the entertainment was easily enough to keep me wide awake. Trying to clean my teeth and get in bed without waking my wife and getting told off was a very different challenge.
As for Roy’s Boys, I do see reasons to be cheerful. Our biggest issue is that we had no world-class player in his prime. The twilight of one potentially golden generation, whilst the ability of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley is for us to watch, debate, and hopefully enjoy for many years to come.
However, if national struggles, but international brilliance has served one purpose, it seems to have got people fired-up for the start of the new Premier League season.
The lads who were part of the England squad are, I’m sure, keen to forget Brazil and prove that, on a domestic level at least, they can be world class. Especially Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw who both know that performing for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United brings far greater scrutiny and expectation than they’re used to.
And for those that entertained us from foreign shores, we get to welcome a few new faces. For the loss of Luis Suarez from our domestic game, we say 'hi' to Alexis Sanchez, adding potency to Arsenal’s attack, Wenger will hope. Diego Costa failed to have a shot on target in Brazil but has shown at Atletico Madrid that he can impact games and score goals. And what about the young, exciting Divok Origi who displaced Romelu Lukaku in the Belgian national side in Brazil, joining Liverpool?
Then there are those who either didn’t make their nations squads due to form, fitness or age. Ander Herrera at Manchester United, Fernando at Manchester’s other club and young Mario Pasalic joins a re-shaped Chelsea team.
Not only Jose, but we have the expertise of Rio Ferdinand, Steve McManaman, Ian Wright, Neil Warnock and David Ginola amongst the line-up... and what games we’ll get to cover?! In 12 months time I’ll be preparing to welcome Champions League and Europa League football to a new home, to add to the FA Cup, and Premier League games that we already have.
And we have some crackers this season. I am delighted we will be the channel where Louis Van Gaal makes his Premier League debut, at Old Trafford, and in the opening five games we feature almost half the league, nine teams in action including Arsenal v Man City and the Merseyside Derby.
Here’s how it shapes up on BT Sport until November, quality matches every weekend…
Man Utd v Swansea
What a way to start the season. United are the team to watch in the early days with a new boss, a raft of new players and a point to prove. A winning start for Van Gaal not guaranteed against a tricky Swansea side.
Villa v Newcastle
Last season wasn't good enough for either of these sides. Both need to forget about off-field issues in recent months and focus on a strong start to the season. Newcastle won this fixture last time out - can they do it again?
Burnley v Man Utd
Chelsea first at home, and next Manchester United. It's a tough start to life at Turf Moor but the Burnley players will know a big scalp early in the season can set the tone for the campaign. United can't afford to lose games like this.
Arsenal v Man City
The first time Arsenal face a fellow top four side from last season. Their first real Premier League test, and yet again a match not to miss live on BT Sport.
QPR v Stoke
After such a strong season, Mark Hughes' Stoke side will start the new season full of confidence and looking to prove they're not one-season wonders. I think QPR's fanatical support will make Loftus Road a tough place to visit - whoever you are.
Liverpool v Everton
We had two cracking Merseyside Derbies on BT Sport last season and they rarely disappoint. Everton will be out for revenge after being swept aside at Anfield last time out. Can't wait.
Manchester Utd v Everton
This was a famous result last season as Everton went to Old Trafford and added to the misery for their former boss David Moyes. Louis Van Gaal will be well aware of the methods and success of his counterpart Roberto Martinez, and wouldn't Roberto love to defeat a manager who impressed so much at the World Cup? Two sides with the top four on their minds going toe to toe.
Man City v Tottenham
I can't wait to see how Tottenham adapt to life under Mauriccio Pochettino. The Etihad delivered plenty of goals and entertainment last season; I expect more of the same. By this stage we'll know if City's championship defence is on track.
West Ham v Man City
West Ham lost this game 3-1 last season, and conceded 14 goals in four games against City. Don't expect The Hammers to be so soft this time around. They've backed Sam Allardyce who will be well aware this season that things must improve. However, City will enter this game brimming with confidence and the home fans will need to be in good voice!
Newcastle v Liverpool
Every game is a big one for the Toon Army, but when the greatest sides in the country turn up at St James Park, it generates an atmosphere like nothing else. Last season this game threw up a pulsating 2-2 draw as Liverpool twice came from behind to draw with ten-man Newcastle. More of the same this season please.
Liverpool v Chelsea
The games that define seasons. These clashes between teams aiming to win the title are decisive and often dramatic. The kind of match you simply can't miss if you're a football fan. Once more live ONLY on BT Sport.
WBA v Arsenal
West Brom survived by the skin of their teeth last season and the fans want to see a big improvement. This match last time out saw a spirited West Brom bag a draw. Wenger will be wary.
And all that is before the end of November. Not bad, and that’s before we start covering the giant-killings and upsets that the FA Cup will no doubt deliver.
I can’t wait to get going with the second season of coverage on BT Sport. I promise we will be working hard to make the coverage even more compelling than last time out. To nick the phrase from our new ads, ‘you have to see it to believe it’, and I really hope you do.