Simon O'Rourke: First impressions of the football season

By Simon O'Rourke, Sports Correspondent

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So Callum Wilson, Jeff Hendrick and Harrogate Town should be feeling pretty good about themselves today. 

True football fans always, always have that extra layer of anticipation and excitement before the first game of a new campaign. It's that tantalising blank page. The delicious sense that, at that moment, anything is possible.

Of course, that feeling usually doesn't last, because you realise the left back is still rubbish, or the midfield can't pass water, or such-and-such up front still can't locate the barn door.But just occasionally, day one goes well, which allows you to keep dreaming a little longer. 

Newcastle United's opening win at West Ham was perfect on many levels. First, there was Callum Wilson. A centre forward, doing centre forward things and scoring a goal that centre forwards are supposed to score. A dirty, nasty centre forward's goal, which is precisely the sort of thing he was brought in to do and precisely the sort of thing the Magpies were lacking last season. 

Calum Wilson made it a memorable debut with the Magpies Credit: PA

On the other hand, Jeff Hendrick's debut goal was the dream debut goal. A beautifully struck 4-iron into the top bin, to clinch all three points. His all-round performance was a pleasant surprise as well.

Hendrick the unheralded may not have generated headlines when he signed from Burnley, but on this evidence, he is going to be a useful component for Steve Bruce. But apart from the individual stuff, this was just reassuring for Magpies Fans. This unique year has featured a uniquely frustrating takeover saga and it's fair to say optimism for the new campaign was a bit thin on the ground. After this result, it's a little easier to think of the glass being half full as opposed to half empty. 

The second goal came from another of Newcastle's new signings, Jeff Hendrick Credit: PA

One final point for Newcastle Fans: You can't judge too much on the result of one game, but after what we've seen this weekend from the likes of Fulham, West Brom and West Ham, I wouldn't be worrying too much about relegation battles. 

It was a dream start to League 2 for Harrogate Town Credit: PA

Harrogate Town waited more than a century for its first football league match. When the moment arrived on Saturday, the players stepped up and embraced history. They won 4-0 at Southend and they're top of League 2 after the first weekend. Whatever they go on to achieve this season, and beyond, no one can ever take that away from them. Bravo.

Elsewhere, both Middlesbrough and Sunderland failed to make a good first impression. Neil Warnock won't be too upset by the narrow defeat at Watford, largely because Watford are most people's promotion favourites in the championship. But it was still a bit of a letdown.

As for the Black Cats, of course, one point is better than no points, but a 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers was a very mediocre start to their season. It's a scoreline that's weighed them down in recent years. Who can forget the Jack Ross campaign when whatever day of the week it was, Sunderland were drawing one-one against somebody. Saturday was very underwhelming for Black Cats fans.

Of course, there's oodles of time for Boro and Sunderland to achieve their aims this season. Equally, there's no guarantee Newcastle and Harrogate won't stuff things up in the months to come. But, in terms of expectation and enthusiasm, first impressions do count. 


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