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No false start

The big Premier League kick-off silenced the doubters, says Jeff

Features - Jeff Stelling Posted 23rd August 2012 view comments

The start of the Premier League season has been a terrible one for all those doom-mongers who vilified football after the Olympics and said it was in for a big fall.

It seemed to me that the game was being blamed for everything from the Greek economic crisis to the wet weather we have experienced in England over the summer.

But in the opening week of the season we had no major incidents, no outrageous behaviour, some fantastic performances, some unexpected results and some great goals from the likes of Pavel Pogrebnyak, Michu and Zoltan Gera.

Jol: the Dutchman's Fulham side began their campaign with a comprehensive win over Norwich

Jol: the Dutchman's Fulham side began their campaign with a comprehensive win over Norwich

A prime example of football's excellent behaviour was in Wednesday night's game between Chelsea and Reading when Fernando Torres' goal at a crucial stage of the contest, which was clearly offside, was accepted by the Royals; there was no haranguing of the referee and such like.

Football has done itself proud this week.

Impact

Everton are traditionally desperately slow starters but if they can back up their excellent victory over Man United by getting something at Aston Villa this weekend, they could really surprise a few people.

It seemed to me that the game was being blamed for everything from the Greek economic crisis to the wet weather we have experienced in England over the summer.

Jeff Stelling
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If you look at the side that started against United, Maroune Fellaini, someone who I've always thought would make a big impact this season, was near unplayable; Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin at the back were fantastic; Leon Osman was brilliant in midfield, while they also have a talented centre-forward in Nikica Jelavic.

The Merseysiders may not have the strongest squad in the division but I think they have enough in their ranks with Johnny Heitinga, Sheamus Coleman, Steven Naismith, Victor Anichebe, Magaye Gueye and young Ross Barkley, a kid with a promising future, in reserve.

David Moyes has also drafted in Olympiakos forward Kevin Mirallas; I know nothing about his abilities but he has a good goalscoring record in Greece and the Everton boss has been pretty gushing in his praise of his new recruit.

I don't expect Moyes to leave the money the club received for Jack Rodwell in the bank, but they do not need to sign hoards of players to have a strong campaign, and the terrific football they played against Sir Alex Ferguson's men should fill their fans with confidence.

United, meanwhile, lacked a bit of creativity at Goodison Park but I'm sure Robin van Persie will start against Fulham on Saturday and quickly become a massive player for the Old Trafford club.

Test

Fulham, though, will be buoyant after their 5-0 thrashing of Norwich on the opening day and are looking to secure a fourth top-10 finish in five seasons.

I was shocked by the margin of their win over the Canaries but maybe I shouldn't have been; at home the Cottagers have been a revelation on their own turf in recent campaigns, while they have some lovely footballers in the side.

I thought the Londoners may struggle without Danny Murphy to steady the ship, the Clint Dempsey situation and the fact that they lost Pogrebnyak to Reading, so Martin Jol's summer signings were a big test of his judgment.

It is only early days, of course, but Mladen Petric started fantastically and could combine well with the likes of Bryan Ruiz, who we didn't see the best of last year, and Moussa Dembele, who is rumoured to be attracting the attention of higher-ranked clubs.

Jol hasn't always endeared himself to some of his players as he has a very forthright way of speaking, but always endears himself to the fans because they know that what he says is by and large true to what he feels - which you cannot say about all managers.

JEFF'S GEM OF THE WEEK

We have the Performance of the Week award on Soccer Saturday but it is very rare that I agree with the choice of winner. So in my column this season I thought I would dish my own accolade out and this week's clear victors are Portsmouth.

I thought their 1-1 draw with Bournemouth and 2-2 stalemate with Colchester were miraculous results for a side cobbled together with players one one-month rolling contracts, some of whom needed to be introduced to each other before the opening game.

I still think it is mission absolutely, totally, utterly impossible for manager Michael Appleton, as not only does he have to gel a group of players who have come from all levels of the British footballing pyramid, but he will also have to deal with another 10-point penalty which will leave Pompey a long way behind the other teams.

Goodness knows what the future holds but Portsmouth have some of the best fans in the country. I hope it works out for them. I think they have got a fantastic guy in the manager's seat, though; Appleton is a young man with a big - and growing - reputation.

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