Sunday morning. It's warm, no strike that its hot, humid even and I'm awake early. As is my custom I start planning the days tasks. Mundane stuff, cleaning, washing, ironing, going to the match, shopping... [Comedy double take moment] Going to the match... in July, surely not! Quite a few years ago I swore that I'd never go to another pre-season friendly... Lots of reasons why, mainly because its an waste of money and petrol to attend a pointless, meaningless kick-about in the sun. Its the pointlessness of it all, combined with the sure knowledge that the one meaningful tackle that goes in will completely knacker your most important player for at least half of the season... Shearer at Everton anyone?
That said, some of my funniest moments have come at some of the friendlies. I can vividly recall the chemically inebriated chaps in front of me at Burnley about 10 years ago, wondering how the players could concentrate with the dragon coming out of the centre circle... And no, it wasn't Nicky Butt.
So why are myself, the Favourite Nephew and the New Mum heading to Elland Road this afternoon? Part of it is to see what has happened to the team. I get the sense of a changing of the guard at NUFC at the moment. Some of the stalwart players have wandered away. Nolan will be a big loss in terms of his leadership, but he was getting slower by the day, and hardly a box-to-box midfielder. All the noises from Jose suggest he's on his way to join the likes of Carroll and his mackem mate at Liverpool, which will be a shame, but I can't blame him. The other 'new' players like Gosling and Ben Arfa will make a difference to the team. Its changing, as it should in order to avoid that 'difficult second season syndrome'. To me it felt like most of last season was a lot easier than I expected, and I suspect, a lot easier than NUFC expected. Staying in the Premiership wasn't really in doubt. The reason for this, was that a number of teams where in even greater disarray than the Toon... Odd sensation wasn't it? West Ham were a joke (possibly something to do with the number of ex-Toon players on their books), Blackpool were all bluster and enthusiasm, until they got found out... and Birmingham just had too many of our ex-players on their books as well.
Anyway, I have a frisson of excitement this morning. I'm looking forward to seeing the new players - especially Sylvain Marveaux and Yohan Cabaye, seeing what they can bring to the team. Also, it will be good to see Gosling and Ben Arfa... Oh, hang on - he got injured in a meaningless friendly last week didn't he?? Hear that noise? That's the sound of my case being rested.
Howay the Lads, lets see what jollity we can have this season...