Fixture list for 2011 is out. As you've probably already seen it and read it a dozen times and worked out our potential points tally for the opening five or six games. Doesn't look too daunting this season as there appears to be no 'month from hell' (ala April of season past). Although that particular month of hell in the end turned out to be nothing more than a skip down the yellow brick road.
Obviously the most telling sign of the list is our inclusion in a couple of Sky Sports Super Sundays.
Feels a bit dirty, doesn't it?
Although I don't believe for a second that we will be embraced into the elite or have Howard Webb award as penalties. And I'm sure to compensate our arrival and aid Keyes and Gray, the Big Four will be refereed to us the Big Three (with an additional special mention to Liverpool and their divine right), and we'll continue to sit amongst the chasing pack again. Plucky Spurs, can they do it again? Quite happy for us to be underdogs/written off once more.
Having been scorned for so long as a team deluding ourselves that we could ever possibly finish 4th, having done so, the hype and pressure will now concern the retention of said position - as anything more would be considered a title challenge, and we're not quite up to that standard yet. Although continued stagnation for the likes of Arsenal (and if Liverpool fail to swim above water once more) we might find ourselves flirting with 'it'. Until Chelsea and Utd pull away once more. One step at a time. But if you look at how fragmented the goons were and yet how close they actually came - it's a very thin line between success and failure. And the line is almost as thin, separating us/others and 3rd spot.
Anything less than a sustained challenge to equal or better ourselves (i.e. failure to get into the CL group stages or/and finishing 5th or below) would be a bit gut wrenching. But it's a risk, the latter more so, because of the sheer openness of the Prem these days.
All depends on about a thousand things. I'm sure City will have their own ideas, if they don't muck up their cohesion with another major influx of players. Villa and Everton should never be discounted. And obviously our rivals, West Ham.
For THFC, there are two areas for improvement:
- Not losing to the newly promoted sides at home (or away for that matter). It's a trend we've seen in the past, but even amongst all the glory last season - we still suffered, especially at the Lane
- Winning a game away against a seasoned 'Top 4' side (Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool)
We've invaded Top 4 space. One of the seasoned members dislodged themselves. Others also harbour ambitions to knock on the door. There's no guest list, it's open invitation. You just have to get there before the lock in.
Fact is, if we do progress and do so with focus and intent and consolidate CL football season in season out, then our standing will change. And that dirty feeling will be near impossible to wash off.