Happy new season! It’s early August, optimism fills the air – although for some fans it may have already dissipated after game one – and everything is to play for.
The National Leagues swung into action last weekend, along with Steps 5 and 6, while the rest of Non-League will join in the coming weeks with the Extra Preliminary round of the FA Cup kicking-off this week.
Along with fresh managers and squads, this season has seen a number of new rules we’ll all be getting used to in the early parts of the campaign.
Will the new goal kick rule – where the ball no longer has to leave the penalty area before the defender touches it – play into the hands of alert attackers? Or will a team benefit from the chance of taking a quick free-kick before a card is issued? Those who know the rules inside-out can absolutely benefit.
And the same goes for the referees, who know they need to be on top of the law changes so they are smoothly enforced in the heat of battle.
The NLP recently spent a day with Step 2 referees – a feature you can read in the coming weeks – to see the work they put in during the off-season. It was fascinating insight and dispelled any myth, that some seem to hold, the officials just turn up and off they go.
This season will also see the introduction of temporary dismissals (sin bins) at Step 5 and below for dissent. The FA say that trials have shown a 38 per cent in reduction in back-chat to officials.
The idea is an instant punishment will make players think again when it comes to opening their mouth. Wheareas before, they could take the yellow card and carry on playing. They will now directly impact their own team immediately.
No one wants to let down their peers and hopefully it will lead to positive on-pitch management from players before the referee even has to get involved.
Football can be resistant to change at the best of times and a quick glance across social media shows a number of managers and players are sceptical of the introduction.
But, if it works and is applied sensibly, then can anyone really say it is a bad thing? Dissent is a real issue at all levels of the game. So let’s try and do something about it.
We’ll watch with interest to see how it is implemented, how well it works and if it makes football a better experience for everyone involved – players, officials, managers, coaches and fans.
If it does and means the actual football is the talking point, then that will be even more reason for
Fitting that Justin Edinburgh’s last signing Josh Wright scored the winner for Leyton Orient on Saturday as they paid tribute to their boss upon their return to the Football League.
Like the rest of the football world, we were shocked by the untimely death of the O’s boss at the beginning of June.
Only a few weeks earlier, Edinburgh had been at our National Game Awards to collect the Manager of the Year prize.
It was, in fact, the second time he has picked that gong up, having also attended a few years earlier following his triumph with Newport County.
Midfielder Wright was Edinburgh’s key target in the summer and someone who had played for him before. When he scored in the 1-0 win against Cheltenham yesterday, Wright pointed to the sky in remembrance.
We’ll all get caught up in the drama and passion as this season unfolds – and so we should.
But perhaps it’s also a good time to pause to remember how precious life can be and that football is here to be enjoyed. All the best for the new season.