Randomly generated or just a plain fix?

No matter who the manager, or how big or small the club is, it is inevitable that at some point during the season of 38 games, the manager or fans will complain about the fixture list and state it is clearly biased or in favour of their rivals.

Already this season in the Premier League, we have already had Roberto Mancini, manager of league leaders City complain about the fact he feels most of their fixtures after Champions league games are tough away matches, whereas the other three clubs also in Europe’s premier competition do not face such tough matches. Conspiracy he cried.

Mourinho, when he was manger at Chelsea, complained that not only did the FA make it more difficult for English clubs in the Champions league due to being uncooperative when it came to switching fixtures around, but that Arsenal were always afforded more favourable games than Chelsea at key times of the season – Chelsea were treated like the ‘devil’ the Special One said.

Of course, United are often the ones people pick out as having more favourable fixtures than any other Premier League side – home matches on Boxing day and New year, playing a bottom half side on the last day of the season etc. Even so this has not stopped Fergie from having a customary moan about various things fixture related, claiming his team get ‘cheated’ by the supposedly computer generated list, and after the 2009/2010 season stated that ‘I’m not saying what they do down there, but next year we will be sending someone down to see how it happens I can assure you.’ This was before facing 4 games in 16 days when competing for the quadruple.

So how do these fixtures actually come to pass? Is it really a coincidence that on Fergie’s 25th anniversary weekend United play Sunderland – who are not only managed by a former United player and firm favourite of Fergie, but also have what seems to be half the former United squad on their books.

The FA will tell you that the randomly generated fixture list is most certainly not fixed, with many considerations being taken into place before the fixtures are compiled – for example teams such as City and United will not play home games on the same weekend, not to mention the vast amount of European fixtures than need to be accommodated– yet most fans will feel the fixture list is questionable at times.

It is remarkable how teams who are challenging for the title will often begin their campaign at home or against a promoted side, not to mention the fact the top six often seem to see a remarkable amount of each other firstly around the October / November time and then again in April / May.

How Sky Sports must love the Premier League fixture computer, as for a random little device, it is remarkably lucky when it comes to setting up the fixtures each season for a brilliant run in over key times in the season – not to mention the ‘Super Sunday’ coincidences.

It is not just English fixtures that come under scrutiny however, the Champions League throws up a remarkable amount of ties that seem to be a case of coincidence? I think not. For example – Mourinho going back to Porto straight after leaving for Chelsea, then Chelsea at Inter etc.

The ‘sentimental’ ties always seem to appear, and a betting man would be wise to place their house, wife and kids on the fact that after the debacle of last season, Real and Barca will not draw each other under any circumstances until the final. Funny how it works like that really. Either God has a massive sense of humour or draws for competitions and fixture lists are not as impartial as governing bodies would like to have us believe.

No matter what the fixture, in reality a team of real quality will manage to win the matches put in front of them no matter what, and for a fixture list to be truly random, even more complaints would be levelled at the FA.

Certain factors such as other European fixtures and teams in close proximity playing away on alternative weekends are things that can’t really be ignored – but when does this list stop? The question of to what extent this should be allowed to affect the ‘computer generated fixtures’ is a valid one, and some people I am sure would prefer a completely random list, whereas others would want all considerations factored in.

Yes teams and managers will always complain that the fixture list is unfair, and whilst the FA would reply with the answer that not everyone can be pleased all the time and it is just luck of the draw, it might be time for the smaller teams to start getting some of this ‘luck!’

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