Pre-season has officially began, and I'd hazard a guess chairman and manager are looking at one or two targets, presumably not the ones that are publicly stating they do not want to join us. Hype might be something Man City are tagged with because of the money they continue to spend (on quality players) but let's not pretend that we - THFC - are not just a little bit under pressure for the season ahead. Harry might do his best to deflect attention but there is no doubt that having finished 4th, we'll have to aim for more of the same once again, so to not end up a footnote in the history of the Prem as that team that finished 4th then didn't do much after that.
So, what of expectations?
We finished 4th. We've got to the next stage, and we got there through sheer hard graft and belief. Qualities that we have lacked in the past, but now have in abundance. We need to not just continue this ethic but must better it, simply because the teams around us will no doubt believe they are not far off from where we sat at the close of last season. City, Villa, probably Everton too and quite obviously Liverpool - all of them will be looking to improve. Can't be resting on the past - which is exactly what last season is (be it a lovely warm glowing past). No cigars please.
Simply this: Get into the group stages. Would be gut wrenching to miss out. I'm not suggesting once there we have any specific set of expectations, rather just get into the group stages and enjoy the experience - without fear. We'll be up against seasoned clubs with plenty of CL experience. Let's lose our cherry in style, under the floodlights, pushing the ball around the park with a bit of swagger. It's important, mainly because if our players get a taste of it - the proper stuff - they'll want it again the following season. If we get into the groups, I'd be made up to get out of them but I'm not exactly getting all delusions of grandeur about things. One step at a time.
We might be about to witness a new dawn in the Prem where teams 'share' 4th spot and possibly even 3rd. A gangbang with only one or two achieving the fabled moneyshot. We need to be looking at 4th as the priority. The longer you spend within the top 4 the easier it should get with each passing season, mainly because guaranteed CL football increases stature and thus increases the likelihood of players NOT rejecting you because you're not part of the elite.
It's simple. Our best players need to stay and can't be sold off and to do this they have to perform well - the whole team does - because if they do then there's not that much of a reason for them to want to bugger off, not if we are progressing well. Selling key players only leads to more transitions and more reconstruction work. It's best avoided, but the irony is, its the very same players who need to work their magic for it all to come together. Also, yoof players, it's about time some of these youngsters make an impact. i.e. Bostock. Far too often, we fail to see any of the potential materialise leaving us frustrated. Possible reasons? We over-rate the kids we have. Not that Bostock is one of ours (signed from Palace, not academy). As for the academy players, probably asking too much to see them this season. But there's promise there. We need a new home bred hero.
The FA Cup
No reason why we can't have another cup run. Our squad is big and bad (good) enough to deal with the fixture list. Not so much the Carling Cup though (ooh, look at us getting all big billy bollocks, you've changed man, you've changed).
That will do for now. Oh, and the moon on a stick. If available.
More on individual players later in the week.