Friday 16 August 2013
For the clubs at the top of the Barclays Premier League the Season Launch allowed clubs with contrasting obectives to share their thoughts for the forthcoming 2013/14 season. The general feeling from the managers and captains of the four clubs who visited Bacon’s College, in southeast London, was one of great anticipation.
“There's excitement,” said David Moyes, the new manager of Manchester United, the defending Barclays Premier League champions, of the days leading up to the start of the season. “Anybody that starts a new job will tell you there is nervousness and trepidation about the whole thing but overall I'm really looking forward to it.”
"You try not to show the emotions but I still get butterflies"
For Ian Holloway, the Crystal Palace manager, who guided his side to the top flight last season, there is a different goal from Moyes, one of remaining in the division, but he held similar feelings to the Scot.
“It's fantastic, a great feeling,” Holloway said. “You try not to show the emotions. I am still excited, I get butterflies.
“It is something the club has missed for the past eight years and how far the Premier League has gone in that time is pretty scary. It is a fantastic opportunity for my lads to go enjoy themselves.”
One of the attractive factors of the competition that many people at Premier League clubs point to is the competitive nature of the division. Sides at the top of the league expect a hard match even at home to those lower down.
Manchester United lost their opening match of last season before going to winning the title, but 29 of their 89 points came after the team were in a losing position. Nemanja Vidic, the United captain, expects that their status of champions will only make his team’s task harder, starting with a trip to Swansea City on Saturday, the first of a difficult set of fixtures for United that includes Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
“It's always hard to defend the trophy,” Vidic said. “You are the champions and people always want to beat the champions. But we've done it before, I have done it once when we won two times in a row.
"The surprise factor is always present”
“Yeah, we have some good memories from facing Swansea. We have had some tough matches against them and it looks like they have made a few good new signings. It will definitely be a tough match.
“It’s the toughest schedule I have been involved with. They're really tough games, and that is why I said the first game is really important to us. Obviously after that we have some derby games: Chelsea, Liverpool, City. Hopefully we can start well and then we can follow that course.”
Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs head coach, starts his season with a trip to promoted Palace but he is aware that no game can be viewed as easy.
“Last year we were given a kind start and we ended with only two points from first three fixtures,” Villas-Boas said. “This is what makes this game unpredictable. The surprise factor is always present.”
For the third season in a row, the average goals a game in the Barclays Premier League exceeded 2.8 and such a rate is set to continue, if not improve after the raft of strikers brought in over the summer by clubs.
Spurs and Norwich are two of the sides who have invested the extra TV money for this season in buying forwards. Villas-Boas brought in from Valencia Roberto Soldado, whom he called “a world-class striker”, while Chris Hughton, the Norwich manager, spoke at the event of signing Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel to boost a strikeforce that claimed only 41 goals last season.
“We've addressed that [the low scoring] with the individuals we've got, but it still is about getting that balance right and if we're scoring more but losing more games, that isn't the right recipe,” Hughton said. “Particularly away from home when you are going to such tough arenas and tough games that you know that anything you get is a real bonus.
“So we've got to make sure that with these attacking options, we are providing them with a platform to do what they do best.”
Each side will have their own targets ahead of the new season. For Palace and their captain Paddy McCarthy it is one of avoiding relegation, but that does not mean that Ian Holloway’s team will handle the task with trepidation.
“We will approach it with no fear,” McCarthy said. “We've earned the right to be in the Premier League and we are going to enjoy every last minute of it. Our initial target is to survive, but if we can get that achieved early on we will look to push on.”
"The clubs have been working hard on away fans going to games"
For that to happen McCarthy points to Palace maintaining a good home record at a packed Selhurst Park throughout the season.
Sell-outs at Palace’s stadium will help the League to better the mark set last season of having the stadiums 95% full, which is one of the key objectives for Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore from the campaign. “If we can beat that I will be very happy,” Scudamore said.
To help to achieve this target he is especially targeting an uplift in away attendances this campaign.
“The clubs have been working hard on away fans going to games with initiatives and I am hopeful that we will see improvements here,” Scudamore said. “Stoke are going to Liverpool on Saturday with 3,000 fans and they have never taken more than 1,500 before in the Premier League. That is progress and if we can see that across other clubs I'd be very happy.
“All clubs have had to invest in this area. More than £4m will be spent in this area. Stoke have given free away travel so that will make a big difference.”