The Football League decided to rename their three divisions this season. What was ‘New’ Division One was now called the Championship, Division Two was renamed League One and Division Three became League Two.
It’s a curious occasion, then. Here we are, eager to analyse and dissect and predict…and willing to base our opinions on something that takes place in conditions that are completely untypical of what will follow over the next nine months. Sitting in the shade of the stand, it’s easy to forget the impact of the weather…until you emerge into the sunlight on your way out at the end, and you’re physically beaten back by a wave of sheer, savage solar energy. Yeah, I know…they’re well-paid professional athletes and everything. But Christ, this would be about physical survival, not about peak performance. Drawing conclusions on the basis of one game would be – and often is – absurd at any time. More so now than ever.
AS THE sun set on last season’s opening afternoon Graham Taylor, the Watford manager, stood on the touch line at Fratton Park, wearing shorts and a smile, after his freshly-promoted team had beaten Portsmouth with the help of an outrageous own goal. Newly promoted once more, Taylor was left content after his enthusiastic side contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of a draw with a similarly comical self-inflicted blow.
BSAD report: At Vicarage Road, excitement crackles in the air like static. For a spine-shivering moment loitering in Occupation Road, I can vividly recall the mood before our First Division debut against Everton all those years ago. This feels the same, and it’s impossible to believe that we’re anything other than invincible. I hadn’t been aware of waiting for the Premiership kickoff – life seems full to overflowing right now, summer seemed too short – but suddenly impatience overwhelms everything.
Watford Observer, 9th August 1996
This was our final visit to the Vetch Field. We didn’t meet Swansea again until 2008 by which time they had moved to the Liberty Stadium.