Football fans are eagerly and optimistically awaiting the start of a new season. Amongst the monotonous tide of pre-season friendlies, though, there have been some interesting pieces of news from the last forty-eight hours so I thought I would reflect on a few of them.
The first is that Fulham are set to announce Mark Hughes as their new manager and this would appear, at first glance, to be a well suited partnership. As Roy Hodgson packed his bags to leave for Liverpool many at Craven Cottage may have been fearing the worse. Would the manager's exit signal an exodus? How would the squad cope without his guidance?
The Cottagers will probably be pleased with the choice. Hughes, who has been out of work 222 days since his less than amicable departure from the City of Manchester Stadium, will be see Fulham as the ideal club with which to make his return to managerial life.
Fulham is a club far removed from big spenders Manchester City and this should Hughes always seemed more comfortable in the dug out at Ewood Park in comparison to his time at Eastlands. He, like Hodgson, is not a flashy manager but can help elevate an average squad into a very competitive one.
The club has the sense of a tight-nit family. The players are honest and hard-working, the stadium is modest and the fans are realistic. With a reported budget of around £15 million, Hughes will have enough to bring in a few new players to strengthen the squad but will have to spend intelligently.
Hughes has immediately been linked with fellow Welshmen Craig Bellamy. Fulham will have to fight it out with Tottenham for Bellamy it seems but Hughes will be hopeful that his strong personal relations with the well-documented trouble maker will help clinch the deal.
The squad at Craven Cottage is without any glaring weaknesses. If Hughes can show some nous in the transfer market and add an extra bit of quality to the solid foundations his predecessor left behind then I would expect to see Fulham achieve a top-half finish this season.
Elsewhere, the legend of the Bernabéu, Raul, has joined the German side Schalke. The Spaniard had hinted at a move to the Premiership that never seemed to materialise, which is a shame. He is only 33 and would have had plenty to offer any club he went to. He is a superb technician and great play-maker with a fantastic goal-scoring record and it would certainly have been very interesting to see how he would have fared in England.
Away from the world of football, there is one piece of news that simply could not be ignored. Last night France's Christophe Lemaitre took the gold medal in the 100m final of the European Championships in Barcelona. This is remarkable for one simple fact - he is white.
I never thought I would see the day that a white sprinter took a gold medal at any major athletics competition but the 20-year-old, after a slow start, cut through the field. Brit Mark Lewis-Francis took an impressive and unlikely second place while Dwain Chambers finished fifth but this has been overshadowed, even here in the UK, by this alien result.
Lemaitre had already been the first white man to dip under the 10 second barrier but is touted as an uncut diamond. He may have raw speed but can still improve technically and physically. Surely it is premature, however, to claim the Frenchman is a direct challenger to Bolt, Powell and Gay's dominance of athletics' blue ribboned event.
His achievement may be remarkable simply because of the colour of his skin, his time, however, is not remarkable by modern standards. Let's not get carried away, running under 10 seconds is not rare any more and so the Frenchman will still have to improve by great strides to become more than simply a sporting anomaly.
Meanwhile, Mo Farah secured a gold medal of his own in the 10,000m on Tuesday night with fellow Brit Chris Thompson taking the silver. Maradona and the Argentinian national team parted company. And finally, in the match between Sri Lanka and India, Sachin Tendulkarhas reaffirmed his quality with a stunning innings of 203.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...