Fernando Torres of Chelsea moves away from Nigel de Jong (L) and Sergio Aguero during the FA Community Shield match …
The Olympic party has only just ended, so it's hard to believe that the British professional football (soccer to us) season is upon us again. But it is, and this season marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the world's richest and most exciting league: the Premiership.
The Premiership, or English Premier League (EPL) as it is often called, was a much-needed turn of events for football in the UK. It began in August 1992 against a backdrop of building sites and cranes as clubs implemented new stadium requirements, based on the then-recent Taylor Report, to increase fan safety.
With a huge television deal in place, the EPL marked a new era for professional football, one in which the powerhouse teams would become more dominant and the players would grow rich beyond their wildest dreams. Those players also had to adjust to a new FIFA rule designed to speed up the game: no more boring back passes to goalkeepers. The fans loved it (goalkeepers, not so much).
As the 2012-13 season kicks off, many story lines will dominate blogs and social media over the next nine months or so. Can Manchester City retain their title? Will Robin Van Persie deliver the goods for Manchester United? Will Roman Abramovich get bored and fire Roberto Di Matteo? Will Wayne Rooney get another hair transplant? Yeah, yeah, yeah — you can read about them elsewhere on this site.
Let's mark the 21st season of the Premiership with a comparative look back to 20 years ago.
— Just 13 non-British players started for their teams when the Premier League kicked off in August 1992. Nowadays, the Premiership is extremely cosmopolitan, with most teams fielding players from all over the world.
— In 1992, two Canadians — Craig Forrest and Frank Yallup — suited up for Ipswich Town. Since then, only another seven Canadians have plied their trade for the EPL. This includes Simeon Jackson, who will play for Norwich City this year. Forrest, a goalkeeper, was one of 13 "foreign" players to play on Aug. 15, 1992. He also holds an unenviable Premiership record: most goals conceded (nine) in one game. Ooops.
— In contrast, 34 U.S.-born players have played in the EPL, including the first, John Harkes (for Sheffield Wednesday) and current US internationals Landon Donovan (Everton) and Tim Howard (Manchester United & Everton).
— In 1992, the top transfer fee paid by a British club before the start of the inaugural EPL season was £3.3 million (when Blackburn Rovers poached Alan Shearer from Southampton). In 2012, the top fee paid was by Chelsea for Eden Hazard (from Lille) for a whopping £32 million.
— In 1992, Manchester United's Alex Ferguson paid Cambridge United (who were in the second tier of the English Football league) £1 million for striker Dion Dublin. Two days ago, "Fergie" forked out £22.5 million for Robin Van Persie, to the global horror of Arsenal fans. Cambridge now plays in the fifth tier of the league, by the way. Fergie is hoping RVP can do better than Dion — who only played 12 times for United, scoring just twice (that's £500,000 a goal).
— After the 1992-93 season, speedy winger Ryan Giggs was named the Professional Footballers Association "Young Player of the Year." Now, 20 years on, Giggs is still playing for Manchester United — the only team he has ever played for. He's still not half bad! And he is English football's most decorated player, with 12 league titles, 4 FA Cup medals, 3 League Cup medals and 2 Champions League titles.
— Alex Ferguson is the only remaining manager from the 1992-1993 season. Andre Villa-Boas, the current manager for Tottenham, was just 14 years old when Fergie lifted the EPL trophy for the first time. Dean Hammond, current Captain of new boys Southampton, was just 9 years old, bless him.
— Arsenal can fit more than 60,000 screaming fans into their stadium this season, compared to just 24,000 in 1992. That is 36,000 more balti pies that can be eaten in 90 minutes.
— Brian Deane of Sheffield United scored the first-ever EPL goal at approximately 3:05 p.m. on August 15, 1992, against Manchester United. He is now a lawyer.
— A glance at some members of the first-ever EPL season makes for interesting reading now: Nottingham Forest (currently playing in the Championship), Oldham (now third-tier football), Swindon Town (which played fourth-tier football last year) and Wimbledon, which became the MK Dons before being reborn into AFC Wimbledon, playing in League Two (fourth tier).
— "We are never ever getting back together" — Taylor Swift's words, not mine. She is the queen of the iTunes charts right now. When the EPL kicked off in 1992, the masses were still buying vinyl and probably listening to Take That — at least in the UK — who recently performed at the closing ceremonies for the Olympics. They sound better now than they did then.
— "Aladdin" was the flick of choice when the EPL was born, grossing more than $500 million on a $2 million budget. So far this year, "The Dark Knight Rises" has pulled in more than $800 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $250 million, roughly the cost of 5 Eden Hazards.
Follow all of Yahoo!'s Football coverage here during the course of the season and feel free to comment and share your thoughts about the coming season.
by Matt Goff
Top: Fernando Torres of Chelsea moves away from Nigel de Jong (L) and Sergio Aguero during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester City and Chelsea on August 12 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
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