Farewell to summer
By Matt Rowson
Summertime. What a fine word.
Wandering through the park in the warm, gentle sunshine of the British July. Enjoying a good game of cricket on the telly. Having free weekends to spend however you like, wherever you like. Whiling away time pottering around in the garden. Finding the time to spring-clean the kitchen. Breaking into a cold sweat at three pm on a Saturday afternoon....
The summer is bollocks.
But guess what? It's over! Yippee! Saturday's approach is like opening a window and feeling the breeze on your face when you wake up with a thumping hangover (yes, I went to Amsterdam). Or like a thunderstorm on a baking, humid evening. The best Friday afternoon of the year. Marvellous.
Whatever this season holds in store, this is the time for optimism, unconstrained as it is by unforeseen injury crises, unfavourable referees, or the emotional trauma of losing 4-0 at Coventry. One national magazine's fans' predictions had seventeen of the twenty-four correspondents predicting top-half finishes for their clubs. Last season, we were eagerly looking forward to striking a blow for the small guy in the Premiership (we did, twice. Big guys punch harder, though).
Kicking off with an away game is undeniably a bit of a disappointment, whatever the portents held by the opening trip to Portsmouth of two years ago. There were also gentler potential openings than Huddersfield, albeit catching a half-decent side before they pick up momentum may be no bad thing.
In particular, and notwithstanding any late transfer developments between now and the weekend, the time of writing sees Huddersfield still without an obvious replacement for Marcus Stewart. The bizarre sale of the striker to Ipswich as the run-in approached was the footballing equivalent of giving Mike Tyson a free punch, but was hardly out of character for Steve Bruce whose lack of managerial success has until now generally been someone else's fault.
Nor does Steve win any brownie points for his proclamation that two-legged Worthy Cup ties are a bit below him and Huddersfield, which he followed with a demand for a change in the structure of the tournament, forgetting briefly that he is no longer at Old Trafford. Nobody listens to Ralph Milne much these days, either Steve.
Town's keeper will be the imposing Dutchman Nico Vaesen. Cover is provided by Welshman Martyn Margetson, whose page on the official site is worth visiting if only because the picture, abetted by Margetson's choice of sweater, looks like something out of an early-eighties match programme.
Right-back is another Welshman Steve Jenkins, who seems to be thought of as a weak link in the side, almost a third of respondents to a website poll citing a new right-back as top priority. Regular left-back is player-of-the-year Jamie Vincent, but he will be missing having broken his wrist falling off a chair at home (!). His place will probably go to one time Vicarage Road loanee Craig Armstrong, with Rob Edwards another option.
In the centre of defence former Bury bruiser Chris Lucketti will take pride of place. In the absence of injured Ken Monkou, the popular but limited Kevin Gray and one-paced Jon Dyson come into contention. Another option may be American international Gregg Berhalter, currently impressing during a trial spell with the Terriers despite a tendency to get caught in possession. Alan Heary, another promising defender, is out injured.
Midfield is a strong area for the Terriers, with beermonster Kenny Irons partnering talented Dutchman Dean Gorre in the centre. Width will probably come from the perpetually promising Ben Thornley on the left and Simon Baldry on the right. Other midfield options include Chris Beech, scorer at Vicarage Road two seasons ago, and sparker of many a Watford celebration Chris Holland, who probably won't be volunteering to take any penalty that Huddersfield may win....
Ex-Swindon forward Chris Hay has also been employed wide in midfield, having been unable to secure a striking place.
Attacking positions look likely to go to Martin Smith, recruited ostensibly as a replacement for Stewart, and another Dutchman Clyde Wijnhard, a talented player with a tendency to wander offside and no chin. Other attacking options include the popular but rarely effective Delroy Facey, and possibly free agent Kevin Gallen, who has long been in talks with Bruce. They're both into "Big Brother", apparently. The much-vaunted return of Andy Booth from Hillsborough is also still mooted.
Another season, then. Disappointment, or delirium? Well, I guess if I predict we'll win the FA Cup, the Premiership, the Champions League and the US Presidential election (not the Worthy Cup - Man.United can win that) then mere promotion will constitute a disappointment, won't it?