Weekender: Riots, billionaires and Mr Brightside

1. Rioting threatens stately Villa home
Aston Villa will be glad their game at Fulham has the go-ahead despite the rioting. They wouldn’t want to start their season next weekend against Blackburn at Villa Park: in each of their first league games after the 1981 Brixton riot, the 1985 Broadwater Farm riot and the 1990 Poll Tax riot, they lost 2-1 at home. On the other hand, social unrest brings the best out of Norwich, Shrewsbury, Portsmouth and Hartlepool, who won their first league games after each of those three riots.

2. Winning isn’t everything for Norwich & Wigan
Norwich needn't fret if they lose their opener at Wigan. The Canaries lost at home to Watford on the first day of last term, before bouncing back to gain promotion. This came 12 months after the Norfolk outfit were infamously gubbed 7-1 at home by Colchester, whoe manager Paul Lambert switched sides and led them to the title. Wigan, meanwhile, avoided the drop last season having started with a 4-0 home humping by Blackpool, who ended up relegated. In fact, the Latics have won just one of their six Premier League openers – in 2009/10, when they mustered their lowest top-flight points haul. Perhaps they’ll both try to lose.

3. Not everything comes to those who wait
If Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish shakes hands with Fulham skipper Aaron Hughes at Craven Cottage tomorrow, he may do so with a twinge of jealousy. On Wednesday, Hughes finally broke his international scoring duck on his 77th appearance – the same number of caps Big Eck got without ever troubling the scoresheet. You could argue it's a defender thing – Arne Friedrich bagged his first goal for Germany on his 77th appearance, which happened to be a World Cup quarter-final, while Fabio Cannavaro waited until cap 78 – but perhaps nobody has been more patient than Greece anchorman Theo Zagorakis, who scored on his 101st international outing.

4. What's eating Neil Warnock?
With Ian Holloway away there's a Premier League vacancy for a chirpy soundbite-machine, and Neil Warnock may fancy his chances. However, unlike Blackpool's Mr Brightside, the Yorkshireman has tended toward the irascible during his ill-fated one-season top-flight campaigns. In 1992 his Notts County side were relegated after selling star strikers Paul Rideout and Tommy Johnson to help fund a Meadow Lane revamp, and in 2006 his beloved Sheffield United went down amid acrimony and court cases over the Carlos Tevez transfer and a limp Liverpool line-up at drop-dodging Fulham. Our prediction for this season's bugbear: skinflint billionaires.

5. Baggies know best
If you want a scoreline tip, speak to a West Midlander. Analysis of the data from Sky Sports' weekly Super 6 predictor game shows that West Brom fans were the most accurate tipsters in the Premier League, followed by Birmingham and Wolves. West Ham fans were the most misguided, with tips from Fulham and Newcastle fans also to be ignored.

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The return of football heralded the end of all civilisation – but for once it wasn’t the people’s game to blame for the world’s ills. Huzzah!

The Football League kicked off last Friday evening, with newly-relegated Blackpool triumphing over not-so-newly-relegated Hull City in a match that failed to raise the pulse. But things cranked up a notch on Saturday, with Southampton dispatching Leeds in a highly-impressive 3-1 victory, big-spending Leicester scraping a narrow 1-0 win at Coventry, and Brighton coming from behind to win their first competitive game at the Amex Community Stadium 2-1 against Doncaster.

In League One, Phil Brown went from orange to red, and then maybe green, as his Preston side were humbled 4-2 at home to Colchester, while there was frustration for the Football League’s new boys, with late goals seeing Wimbledon defeated by Bristol Rovers and Crawley held by Port Vale.

There was still time for Sam Allardyce’s West Ham all-stars to be defeated by Cardiff, before Manchesters United and City did battle in what we’re obliged to call the ‘traditional season curtain raiser’ at Wembley. City blustered into a two-goal lead, only to let it slip, with Nani turning the game on its head with two goals in a 3-2 win for the Premier League champions. And to think people claim City are losing their identity...

While the League Cup was partly interrupted by flatscreen-pilfering scrotes, there was still time for Premier League ejectees Derby, Hull, Portsmouth and Blackpool to be sent packing by lower-league ragamuffins Shrewsbury, Macclesfield, Barnet and Sheffield Wednesday.

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Sporting chance can bring the community together
Football found itself in an unusual position this week. Where there is public disorder our game has frequently been cited as the cause rather than the cure, but at the Nottingham derby – covered by FourFourTwo for a feature in the next issue – there was a pleasing glimpse of the potential for football to bring society together.

The game might not have gone ahead, with rioting around the country and an arson attack on a police station less than two miles from the City Ground, but the good folk of Nottingham were determined to have their first derby for 17 years. Expressing vocal disgust at the malcontents and joining for chants celebrating their fair city, the united fans gave a powerful demonstration of the power of football to do good.

This is neither the time nor place to go into the sociological reasons for the unrest, but suffice it to say that sport has always provided an escape route from deprivation, be it in a Brazilian favela or a British inner-city sink estate. Almost every documentary filmed about the urban underclass features the boxing-club owner giving the kids "somewhere to spend that energy" or the football club coach giving them "something to keep them off the streets". Pity, then, that the recent cuts have seen the closure of so many similar social schemes.

Pity also that the undoubted gentrification of the professional game has taken it far from the reach of many in the new generation. Nobody wants a return to the bad old days but there's little doubt that identifying with your local team helps social cohesion. It's harder to smash your town up when you've travelled the country singing its praises.
– Gary Parkinson, FourFourTwo.com editor

We're busily transferring 15 years of FFT interviews to our online archive. Among the 400 we've uploaded so far:

"How do people find the time to Twitter?"
– Web exclusive, Jun 2010: Jeff Stelling

"Coming from Bath, I supported Manchester United"
– Boy's A Bit Special, May 2007: Scott Sinclair

"I shouldn’t say this, but the atmosphere at White Hart Lane is very good"
– Q&A, Mar 2011: Samir Nasri

This Weekender was brought to you by James Maw, Gary Parkinson, Gregg Davies, Huw DaviesChris Mayer, Scott Simpkin and fishfingers 'n' beans