It was Brighton who understandably took the limelight. The Seagulls started life at their long-awaited new home with a fairytale victory over Doncaster Rovers, straight from a feel-good movie manuscript. The hosts did not have it all their own way. Manager Gus Poyet was sent to the stands for his furious outburst after referee Eddie Ilderton booked Kazenga Lua Lua for diving in the penalty area despite clear contact, and it was the visitors’ prolific Billy Sharp who registered the first ever goal at the Falmer Stadium.
In truth, Doncaster were unlucky to be the script’s enemy beaten at the death, and one has to feel for manager Sean O’Driscoll, who saw his side decimated by injuries last season and now has two fresh ones to contend with after Sharp and fellow striker James Hayter were stretchered off during the second-half.
Nevertheless, Brighton will be hoping the Falmer Stadium remains a fortress, as strong home form is vital for a newly-promoted side. On Saturday’s evidence, this will not prove a problem for Southampton, who demolished Leeds United at St Mary’s with a stunning display and a 3-1 score line that flattered the visitors.
Peterborough’s progress will possibly be the most intriguing to follow – not least due to Darren Ferguson’s woes in consecutive seasons. Two years ago Ferguson lost his job at London Road despite guiding the Posh to two consecutive promotions, and last season he suffered the same fate at Preston North End. After returning to Peterborough in January and helping his side back into the second tier, one would hope Ferguson is given a full season to truly test his managerial credentials at Championship level.
Regardless, we should be entertained by Peterborough if last season’s amazing stats are anything to go by. Ferguson’s team scored an incredible 106 goals – by far the highest total in all four divisions – but conceded 75, more than any other team in the same division bar relegated Bristol Rovers. Time will tell if the balance remains in their favour at the end of this campaign.
At the other end of the scale, of course, those relegated from the Premier League need to stop the rot in order to climb back up the ladder – and it was bad news for Birmingham City and West Ham United, who both suffered opening-day defeats.
The Hammers are tipped by many to go straight back up, and in Sam Allardyce have an ambitious manager following the departure of Avram Grant. However, with the likes of Scott Parker and Carlton Cole likely to leave before the end of the August transfer window, Allardyce has his work cut out to bring in reinforcements. With Alex McLeish having controversially defected from Birmingham to Aston Villa, the Carling Cup holders have also had a rocky summer, and there was an inexperienced look about the line-up beaten by Derby County on Saturday.
On the other hand, there was a more resilient feel about Blackpool, who got the season up and running on Friday evening with a slightly fortuitous 1-0 win at Hull City. Many parts of the country adopted Ian Holloway’s side as their second team for their remarkably open and attractive football in last season’s Premier League. Sadly, it ultimately failed, and this may be a rebuilding campaign for Holloway, who signed 10 new players in the summer but lost the influential Charlie Adam, DJ Campbell and David Vaughan.