All set for a new season

Published : Aug 16, 2014 00:00 IST

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal expects to make his mark early this coming season.-
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal expects to make his mark early this coming season.-

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal expects to make his mark early this coming season.-

This year’s English Premier League is going to be full of talking points, rows, fight, controversy and heaven alone knows what else, writes Ted Corbett.

The new English football season is about to begin — thank heaven for that!

Instead of England football, cricket and rugby defeats we may be able to wallow in the controversy that will — inevitably — surround the Premier League with its highly paid, often highly skilled, always talkative, ever ready to complain, big names, big mouthed stars... and I don’t just mean the players.

Bosses, managers, coaches from the really old-timer Harry Redknapp, back in the top flight to some unknown who will sneak into a lesser club when the first prominent manager is sacked. It will probably be no later than a week into September. You get less chance to make your case in the Premier League than a mouse among a herd of elephants or a family of cats — but isn’t that half the fun.

My late Mum, who died aged 96, used, in her later years, to watch TV and murmur, at the sight of ships pitching in Atlantic gales, lorry drivers reversing into narrow alleyways and brave soldiers charging across Afghanistan: “Oh I do hope I never have to do that.”

I have her genes and there are days when I also think, as I see the latest football casualty drive away from his place of work for the last time: “I hope that never happens to me.”

As I watch the hundreds of televised matches or trudge towards some ground I also realise there is a price to be paid for the high wages, the thrill of being a star and the daily publicity and I am happy I am no longer in the frontline of that particular war.

Instead I can lean back to anticipate the daily battle for supremacy that is English football.

This coming season there will be, just to take one instance, the close-quarters clashes between the two Manchester managers. Those moments ought to be worth the price of admission — that is to say, the satellite TV fee — alone.

At Old Trafford, less than a mile from the cricket ground, we have the new manager Louis van Gaal, manager of United and already suggesting that he can be a big fish in the pool until recently occupied by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Van Gaal guided Holland to third place in the World Cup and, without so much as going home for a chat to his family, flew straight to Manchester and clearly expects to make his mark early this coming season.

He held an open training session — that is to say he let the Press in — and it was noticeable that he roared like the old lion Ferguson when his players failed to live up to his high standards. Sir Alex had a temper like no one else in football and clearly van Gaal wants to emulate that scale of ferocity.

LVG — it’s become the custom to define foreign managers by their initials — has already criticised the pre-season schedule but adds: “The focus of what I have seen in training is top level.”

Five miles east Manuel Pellegrini, in charge of Manchester City who won the Premier League last season, is never short of a word and as the club has deep pockets after being injected with oil cash from the Middle East he can afford to relax. Only the transfer ban that comes in for most of the season stops City from buying anyone they wish.

City are already — listen, the season has not yet begun — in the middle of a racial storm after their under-21 team claimed they had been racially abused by a side in Croatia. City’s youngsters walked off, led off by Patrick Vieira. You might just remember what a tough nut he was in his career.

Yes, the clubs may be at opposite sides of the city but they are going to cause sparks to fly as they battle for the Premier League title.

Their rivals from London will be Arsenal, led by the veteran Arsene Wenger, and Chelsea, whose manager Jose Mourinho anointed himself ‘The Special One’ when he arrived at the club from Portugal and has gloried in the title ever since.

Mourinho dances in a special spotlight and if there is anyone who thinks they can anticipate his next move on a regular basis they are mistaken.

Already he has brought back that piratical and rumbustious centre-forward, the 36-year-old thunderstorm Didier Drogba; a bold move. The club will certainly be grateful for the column inches the story has brought.

He seems to feel he is not centre-stage at the moment. Perhaps his motive is genuine, perhaps he is simply trying to sell a few tickets, especially as the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich may suffer a cash loss in the aftermath of the Malaysian Airways crash. He has billions whether you count in pound, dollars, rupees or roubles but the British government have been threatening to tie it up and that could result in Abramovich walking out on Chelsea.

Wenger has been more open-handed with his cash this transfer window but one of the Russian money bags behind Arsenal faces the same problem as Abramovich and that will cause additional worries as those same four sides fight for the title.

You can throw Tottenham Hotspur into the mix and Everton have to be watched carefully and, oh joy, this new season is going to be full of talking points, rows, fight, controversy and heaven alone knows what else.

Don’t go away.

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