Friday 20 June 2014
With Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers returning to the Barclays Premier League for the new season, there was plenty of excitement at the promoted clubs when the 2014/15's fixtures were announced on Wednesday, with Foxes manager Nigel Pearson describing it as a "special" experience.
"It's a bit more special this year as we'll be back in the Premier League after a long absence and there are a lot of attractive fixtures for fans to look forward to"
All three clubs were awarded a home match on the opening day and the three managers, while pleased to begin the season in front of their fans, all realised the scale of the task ahead of them as they strive to keep heir side in the Barclays Premier League.
Leicester were the standout team in the Championship last season as they won the title with 102 points, nine more than Burnley, the runners-up. And with the start of the season now less than two months away, manager Nigel Pearson knows how special it is going to be for the fans, after a 10-year absence from the league.
"The day the fixtures come out is always an exciting one for supporters as I suppose it starts the countdown to the new season," Pearson told the club's website. "It's a bit more special this year as we'll be back in the Premier League after a long absence and there are a lot of attractive fixtures for fans to look forward to."
The Foxes begin their campaign at home to Everton who qualified for the UEFA Europa League last season after just falling short of a top-four place, and coincidentally the two sides will get an early sight of each other as they meet in a pre-season friendly in Bangkok on 27 July. Leicester's second match is away to Chelsea and Pearson is under no illusion about the challenge facing his side.
"Starting against Everton is obviously going to be a big challenge," he said. "They had a very good season last year, have a manager who has made a big impact since joining them and a squad with some very good players.
"But every game at this level will be a big test and we will have to make sure we're ready by preparing as well as we possibly can. Pre-season is always an important time of year as it gives your players a base from which to work ahead of a long season. Stepping up a division makes this one as important as ever, so when we return next month we'll be fully focused on being ready for Everton on the opening weekend and every challenge beyond that."
Burnley have built on their promotion by announcing that manager Sean Dyche has signed a new contract and he cannot wait to start life as a Barclays Premier League manager for the first time. The Clarets host Chelsea at Turf Moor in the opening matchweek before travelling to south Wales to play Swansea City. Manchester United, the 13-times winners of the Barclays Premier League, are the visitors to Burnley in Matchweek 3 and Dyche is relishing the prospect of welcoming the big clubs.
"It's terrific. The Premier League has rolled out the red carpet for us and it's a real welcome, with the big guns coming to Turf Moor straightaway"
"It's terrific," Dyche told the club's website. "The Premier League has rolled out the red carpet for us and it's a real welcome, with the big guns coming to Turf Moor straightaway.
"It's great for the team, great for the fans and great for the town actually. It is kind of welcome back to the Premier League, but in the best sense. We all want to see the best teams at Turf Moor. That's what we have been striving to achieve really; to play against those big clubs, and straight away they're here."
"Certainly the obvious highlight is the great challenge, playing clubs of that size. But this is the magic of Premier League and that's what you want. We know we're going to play everyone at some point. It’s one of those things, so we look forward to them all, for sure."
It was an instant return for Queens Park Rangers who after being relegated from the Barclays Premier League in 2013, secured promotion in dramatic fashion with a last minute goal by Bobby Zamora in the Championship play-off final against Derby County.
They will face Hull City at home in their first match, before a trip back to White Hart Lane for manager Harry Redknapp as QPR visit Tottenham Hotspur. Redknapp managed Spurs for over three years between 2008 and 2012 and he knows that his side have two hard matches to open with.
"There'll be a great atmosphere at Spurs and it will be an interesting game"
"It's a tough start," he told the club's website. "Hull's going to be a tough opening game. They did a great job last year, Steve Bruce brought some good players in and they'll be looking to improve again this year. They'll be tough opposition."
On his first trip back to Spurs as a manager he said: "It's another tough fixture. They've got a new manager, so it'll be his first home game. There'll be a great atmosphere and it will be an interesting game. When you look at them there are no easy games in the Premier League. I'm sure the fans are looking forward to it."
For QPR striker Charlie Austin, it's a coincidence that his side open against Hull, because it was the club he nearly joined before moving to Loftus Road in August last year.
"It's funny that fixture [Hull City] has come up first and I'm looking forward to playing them with QPR," he told the club's website. "The start is probably kinder than it could have been but let's be honest this is the Premier League, the best league in the world, so you aren’t going to get any easy games regardless of who they are against. It's hit home now I’m in the Premier League. I've been looking at where we are starting at and finishing at and everywhere in between."
Austin was QPR's top scorer last season with 19 goals and the other two matches that his eye was drawn to straightaway on Wednesday were those against Liverpool, the side he supported as a boy.
"I'm looking forward to the Liverpool games but every game is going to be special now I'm in the Premier League and I’m determined to make the most of it," he said. "It's a few weeks now until the hard work of pre-season starts but you know what is at the end of it – Premier League football – that is something to look forward to."