Rog previews the beautiful, glorious Premiere League Season that stretches before us.
I write with fingers a-tingle. Our nation’s long nightmare -- having to cope with the 89 days between one Premier League season ending and the new one beginning -- is nearly over.
And let’s be clear. The First Day of a Premier League season is the most collectively hope-filled of all First Days. The team you love has just signed the likes of Pepe, Moise Kean, Christian Pulisic, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, or failing that, 30-50 feral hogs. For one day only, our shared dreams of glory remain intact, undented. We can ignore the fact that our team wasn’t able to offload that goal-starved striker, and convince ourselves he will resummon the form better days and slap home 30 goals. The aging defender we did not replace will have a Lion in Winter of a campaign. And the glaringly imbalanced squad that we’ve built that will somehow last longer than a Dothraki Cavalry charge. As we approach the 380 games that shine bright ahead of us over the next 282 days, let’s raise a glass to Make Believe and Magical Thinking. Let cognitive dissonance reign... “once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
2. The bad news is: The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW IS ALSO BACK. At 1:30 p.m. ET TODAY (PRIMETIME!) on NBCSN, who are broadcasting all day from England (#NotInvited). This is Season Six for us. Pretty good for a show that has three initials, none of which are “CSI.” In all seriousness, it is a total thrill to have this sub-optimal, rickety show of ours keep chugging along into its sixth year. We have learned a lot from doing this thing, but it is your love, support, Tweets, emails, and wonder that truly power us.
3. I have just come back from England, where I have had the joy of making the third series of “Promoted,” reveling in the histories, cultures, and characters surrounding each of the newly-promoted teams. Sheffield United and Aston Villa share a similar narrative of childhood season ticket holders returning to the clubs in their hour of need to rekindle the true passion of their team, fuse it with a tactical menace, and lead them back to the Promised Land. Norwich though is just as remarkable a story. A small market team overcoming the lack of financial might with sage investment in their youth academy and a savant approach to the transfer market, unearthing elite talent where no one else is looking.
I interviewed a lot of remarkable characters: Aston Villa’s charismatic young captain Jack Grealish, Villa fan and once-in-a-generation talent and the Blade’s 33-year-old goal machine, Billy Sharpe, who calls himself, “Just another Fat Lad from Sheffield.” But the one who stood out the most was Norwich’s striker, Pukki. A quiet Finn who failed to set the world on fire at almost every big league he has moved to -- La Liga, Bundesliga and the Scottish Premier League -- only to arrive at Norwich on a free transfer and come alive in their fast paced, kinetic attack, slapping home 29 goals. Today, at 29 years of age, he will take the field at Anfield and make his childhood dream come true by finally becoming a Premier League player. Never Stop Believing, folks.
HERE’s your full slate of games this weekend, courtesy of the GFOPs at NBC Sports. And remember, MiB is BACK TODAY at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN for a special episode in which we’ll preview the season ahead, which is carefully perched on the script writers’ scroll like an Ethan and Joel Coen screenplay on a Hollywood executive’s desk.
4. I experienced mixed emotions watching Wayne Rooney announce that he is returning to England to take a player-coaching role with Derby. In the last episode of our podcast, Wayne talked with passion about his future in coaching [LISTEN HERE]. That future came quicker than many had imagined. He will leave at the end of this season, having transformed DC United, and lashed a highlight reel’s worth of signature moments which will long live in league lore. My sadness is less that we are losing a man who has, in a short time, done a lot for the American game. More than that, I believe being in America has done a lot for Wayne. To see him genuinely enjoy being here and rekindle the joy he had for the game when he was a kid -- let’s just say I am sorry that has to end so quickly. We will tape more with Wayne before he decamps. I have no doubt he will have a ton to bring to the lives of young talent as a coach.
6. The MiB Fantasy Football League is back. Compete against Rog, Davo and GFOPs around the world in our league. Sign up HERE, using the league code: tnvn4e. There will be a prize at the end of the season, TBD.
7. I just watched “Chernobyl” on a flight. Please drop whatever you are doing and watch it too. Jared Harris: best Manchester United-related performance since Sir Alex Ferguson departed. It is the best thing I have watched in years, apart from “Fleabag”. Finishing with a song for the season, which is, I hope, can help us bring a lot more love to Football, and a lot less hate. (God knows there is enough of that in the real world.) It captures my emotions this season-eve: “Leyla” by Altın Gün.