Early Doors

Get on with it

Early Doors

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After 47 agonising days, Big Football came back! And then it went off again!

Meaningless warm-up matches against Danish part-timers and uninteresting European qualifiers against Danish part-timers notwithstanding, Saturday's big kick-off in the Premier League saw the return of top class action after what has felt a hell of a lot longer than a month-and-a-half.

But now, just as the ball has got rolling, half of the players have decamped from their clubs to their international squads for the annual round of badly-timed friendlies.

There is an almost full programme next weekend, but the weekend's winning momentum is disrupted for managers such as Paul Ince and Gary Megson, while bosses like Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce lose the chance to conduct a full post mortem with their players following their disappointing defeats.

In fact, the only manager to really benefit is Hull City's Phil Brown, where the most international thing about the Tigers' squad is his entirely natural tan.

So much for getting on with the game. The Premier League's new fair play initiative designed to get players and referees to skip hand-in-hand through sun-kissed meadows together. One of the main poster boys for the movement is Chelsea skipper John Terry.

That's right, the same JT who likes nothing better than invading a poor official's personal space and spraying him with a thick layer of sweat and spittle while protesting a throw in. They should have just brought in Jaap Stam and Paolo di Canio and had done with it.

Any hopes that the worthy campaign would lead to Nemanja Vidic and Phil Dowd spoon-feeding each other ice cream took a big hit with the sight of Steven Gerrard and Rafael Benitez berating officials during Liverpool's match at Sunderland, while David James's booking for kicking the ball away showed that even the most experienced pros couldn't even make it to half-time of the opening match without throwing a hissy fit.

Still, best not dwell on these things, there will be plenty of time for that once that nice new-season smell has worn off and you're watching highlights of Stoke's visit to the JJB.

For the time being we can revel in those wild assumptions that are made when huge significance is placed in the first 90 minutes of a new campaign: Hull will stay up, Villa are going to challenge for a Top Four place and Jonas Gutierrez is really good and not the new Albert Luque at all.

There are also the mixed fortunes of the latest raft of new arrivals to digest, as for every Nasri, Elmander or Deco there is a Keane, Kaboul or Gera, and we even have the season's first 'crisis club' in the shape of Manchester City.

But, of course, there are some things that never change. Spare a thought for Dean Ashton's allergy to the Three Lions once more rearing its ugly head, Valeri Bojinov's aversion to football of any kind striking him down at the cruellest of times, and Deco still gets away with murder no matter what country he plays in.

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Plenty of you seemed to have beef with ED's entirely plausible predictions for this season, but arttidesco is pining for the days when another wise old soothsayer called the shots - "We should be consulting the Great Oracle Lothar Matthaeus about what is really going to happen next season."

Kevmun82 is already looking to the future - "I'm looking forward to Christmas. Not because of Christmas itself, you understand, but because it's that special time of year when there's mass sackings, debauched Christmas team parties (hello, Man U!), and it's the time of year when Stevie G utters his annual Christmas message to the nation - 'Ah well, next season will be our season'."

Today - So, ED is still sticking to its pre-season predictions. Have the results results made you change any of yours?

COMING UP - The action at the Beijing Olympics enters its last week. Make the most of it before its gone by following our LIVE comments here. you can also keep up-to-date on how the Brits are doing here.

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