The new Premier League season: garish shirts, the offside law, GDS, JFK and BT
Serious newcomers expected to make a better challenge to Sky than managed by Setanta or ESPN. They have 38 live Premier League games to be shown on Saturday lunchtimes, as opposed to Sky's 116. Liverpool against Stoke on Saturday offers an underwhelming start; Spurs at home to Chelsea and Manchester United later this autumn have greater ratings potential. Michael Owen will be the main co-commentator alongside Darren Fletcher from 5 Live and Ian Darke. Steve McManaman, Rio Ferdinand and David James are also pundits.
New faces (1) – Manuel Pellegrini
Whereas Stoke City went for a trusty old face in Mark Hughes, now in charge of his fifth Premier League club in five years, one of his former employers Manchester City have introduced a new one in the urbane Chilean Manuel Pellegrini. The 59 year-old made a good impression at his initial media conference, responding to the demand to win five trophies in five years with: "Only five?" After the madness of a year at Real Madrid, even City life should seem quieter.
Arsenal are the only club without a new home kit, and 15 of the 20 have two new strips, home and away. Liverpool's away shirt is the most garish, Newcastle's the most controversial for its large "Wonga" logo. Crystal Palace have gone for red and blue halves; Southampton's famous stripes seem to have disappeared altogether.
New faces (2) – Shahid Khan
A memorable face too with a shock of black hair and moustache to match for Fulham's new owner. The club have had some colourful chairmen down the years and Khan, born in Pakistan and also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, certainly looks the part.
Of almost 100 players recruited this summer, only 36 have come from British clubs. The three new teams (all with British managers) have shopped mainly at home, Swansea and Sunderland (Spanish and Italian managers) have each bought seven of nine new signings from abroad.
Football's most confusing law has been amended (by Fifa) yet again in an attempt to clarify whether an attacking player is "active" or not. The intention, laudable enough, is to give greater advantage to the attacking side. A player will not now be given offside if the ball is played to him by an opponent.
Played in three sections last season, before Manchester United beat Spurs in the final, the Under-21 League has been revamped into one competition of 22 clubs, who play each other once only. It is confined to clubs with a Category A academy, including League One Wolves.
New old face – Joe Kinnear
"JFK" as he is known to the north-east media pack – the "F" standing for a deleted expletive – is back as the wholly unexpected choice to be Newcastle United's director of football. At Wimbledon he was an undeniably successful Premier League manager for several seasons. But Newcastle surprised many by giving him a job after four years out of the game, and he seems certain to cross swords with the manager, Alan Pardew, and the media again at some stage. Dull it won't be.
Goal-line technology comes to football. Known as the Goal Decision System, it will hopefully be less controversial than cricket's DRS. Last season there were 31 instances of debate about whether the ball was over the line, on three of which a goal should have been given but was not. Seven cameras will be trained on each goal, flashing an instant message to match officials if the ball goes in. Clubs have had to pay around £250,000 each for installation.
The Bluebirds, rebranded by owner Vincent Tan, join Swansea, bringing with them another new stadium and giving Wales two clubs in the top flight for the first time. Cardiff were last there in 1962. Crystal Palace return for a fourth spell and Hull for a second.
Robert Madley (West Yorkshire), who sent off three players on his Premier League debut at Southampton v West Bromwich last season, is one of three new referees promoted to the full-time Select Group. He could even be joined in future by his brother Andy, who is only one step below on the ladder. Others promoted are Roger East and Craig Pawson. East is 48, Madley only 27.
How the table was...
1 Manchester United
2 Manchester City
8 West Bromwich
10 West Ham
15 Aston Villa
... and how it will be?
2 Manchester City
3 Manchester United
7 West Ham
11 Aston Villa
12 West Bromwich
20 Crystal Palace
Belfast Telegraph Digital