The new set of Premier League fixtures are announced on Thursday, and Newcastle fans will be hoping for an easier first few weeks than they had last season.

For years, the fixtures were randomly selected, with a few small variations based around preventing rivals both playing at home, or clashing with other big events in the town or city.

But recently, it has changed, and that randomness has been replaced by scheduling games for specific teams at specific times – largely for television purposes.

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For example, on the opening weekend, the top six teams – based on an average of the previous three seasons – are not scheduled to play each other. Likewise on the final weekend of the season.

At other times, too, it is manipulated to suit the Premier League, and of course, Sky and BT.

It means that the chances of Newcastle, and other teams, being given a difficult start are greatly increased, and to me, that is not right.

Take Newcastle’s start last season, as an example. Our opening game was at home to Tottenham – for the second season in a row. We unluckily lost that game, but with five of our first eight games being against the so-called top teams, a good start was nigh on impossible, when it could have made all the difference.

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I know the old adage says you have to play everyone twice, but the point is, it genuinely does matter at what stage you play them.

Our season was always likely to be an uphill struggle when the fixtures were announced a year ago.

 

With those games, we were always going to be playing catch-up, and for all Rafa Benitez’s insistence that it would not, confidence and morale were always going to take a hit when a quarter of the season is gone by the first week in October, and you are already second bottom.

Compare that to the previous season, when we again opened at home to Spurs, but only played them and Liverpool from the ‘big clubs’ in the first eight games.

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We lost the opener, and then the next game at Huddersfield as they were carried along on a Premier League wave. But then we lost only one of the next six, and were sitting in ninth place.

So yes, confidence is a real factor, and manipulating the schedule in favour of the top six sides, is yet another sign of the growing irrelevance placed upon the other 14 teams.

Football fans lose out when fixtures are no longer random

And even as a football fan, in general, I feel hoodwinked.

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I am old enough to remember 1989, the year Liverpool and Arsenal were battling it out at the top of the table, with the Gunners having to win by two goals at Anfield to overhaul the Merseysiders to the title.

Of course, they did win 2-0, and it was a finale to a season like no other – including that Aguero one.

I feel cheated that thanks to virtually hand-picking opponents on the final weekend, we are unlikely to ever see an event like that again.

So when they are announced on Thursday, those who say it does not matter who we play, or when we play them – it does. And I will be hoping for a favourable draw, but I am not holding my breath.

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