Fixture release day is almost upon us, with Ipswich Town set to discover what their schedule for the 2024/25 campaign will look like at 9am tomorrow.

Fans will immediately look for the games against the big six, but would the Blues prefer to be eased into top-flight football? Alex Jones reveals his preferences.

Town haven't played at Goodison Park since February 2002Town haven't played at Goodison Park since February 2002 (Image: PA)

First away game: Everton

Have I chosen this with chief football writer Stuart Watson in mind? Yes, partially. As a boyhood Everton fan, I know how much it’ll mean to him to cover a game at Goodison Park in the final season before they switch stadiums.

This would be my choice for the first game of the season, delaying the emotions of a return to Portman Road. Goodison Park is a staple of the Premier League and a tough environment to play in. Those making the step up from the Championship will certainly feel it, but it’s not quite as daunting as going to one of the top six teams.

This pick has also been influenced by the Toffees’ situation, which isn’t ideal. They were deducted eight points for breaching profitability and sustainability rules last season and their planned takeover by 777 Partners fell through late on. It’s clear that they’ll have to sell big names over the summer and won’t have a huge transfer budget, piling pressure onto manager Sean Dyche.

Fans have been frustrated for a while, and the mood could worsen if Ipswich were to show up and take a positive result on the opening day. It wouldn’t be an easy game by any means, but it wouldn’t be dropping them into the deep end of top-flight football either.

Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna will face former club Manchester United next seasonIpswich boss Kieran McKenna will face former club Manchester United next season (Image: PA)

First home game: Manchester United

Caught your attention here, didn’t I?

Following on from what would hopefully be a positive result at Goodison Park, a home game against Manchester United would be perfect for so many reasons.

Aside from the obvious narrative, the buzz around the town would be immense in the build-up to the game. This is arguably the biggest club in England coming to Portman Road, at least in terms of reputation and trophies. Even those who don’t follow football closely will have an eye on this one.

On top of that, there’s a definite argument that it’d be better to play the Red Devils early on. There’s no denying that Erik ten Hag will need time to sort out his significant summer recruitment and that many of their new signings will need time to settle in at Old Trafford. Will everything be in place and ready to go before transfer deadline day?

Of course, there’s all the talk around Kieran McKenna too - the man who was odds-on favourite to return to his former club at one stage this summer before signing a new four-year contract in Suffolk. All the talk in the build-up would be about that, and there would undoubtedly be global attention on the game.

Imagine that noise at Portman Road when the teams first come out of the tunnel. It’ll be deafening regardless, but with Man United in town, there’ll be a real edge. A big-match feel unlike any other.

AFC Bournemouth finished 12th in the Premier League last seasonAFC Bournemouth finished 12th in the Premier League last season (Image: PA)

Final day: AFC Bournemouth (away)

There are two criteria when it comes to the final day. Firstly, you want to face a team who are likely to be stuck in mid-table with nothing to play for. Bournemouth feel like the kind of team who could secure their safety early on without ever really threatening to qualify for Europe.

It means that, if Ipswich are in situation where they need a result to survive, they’ll stand a good chance of doing so against a team already on the beach. That Huddersfield Town game on the final day of last season is a perfect, albeit slightly different example.

‘Beach’ is an important word when it comes to my second point, which is the location. Some fans are unlikely to be strolling down the pier, riding the observation wheel or playing mini golf, but Bournemouth is the kind of place you want to visit in the sun rather than a chilly afternoon in mid-January.

Many supporters might be tempted to make a weekend of it if it’s the final day of the campaign, which is set to be May 25th. It would have the potential to be a real ‘fun in the sun’ match, even if it’s a dead rubber, which might be ideal for Ipswich.

The Premier League season is set to kick off over the weekend of August 17thThe Premier League season is set to kick off over the weekend of August 17th (Image: PA)

Final thoughts

I was going to do a section on Boxing Day, but remembered that the Premier League often don’t set fixtures on December 26th, which is a bit of a shame. 

The festive period will undoubtedly be chaotic, but the main thing that Ipswich will want to avoid either side of Christmas is long trips up north. Stick to London in December and January, please - the last thing we want then is Newcastle United away.

Aside from that, it’s a case of the obvious. Town will want their toughest games spread out. The last thing you want is to travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City a week before hosting Arsenal at Portman Road. 

Obviously, the fixture list rarely works that way. You’ll have to take what you’re given, and there’ll almost certainly be at least one month where you wonder where the points are going to come from.

Avoiding a difficult start is key, however. Who remembers when Norwich City started the 2021/22 campaign with games against Liverpool, Man City, Leicester City and Arsenal? They lost all four by an aggregate score of 11-1 and it destroyed their confidence. It took until November 6th for them to get their first win.

There’s not much else to hope for other than that, but the reality of the situation will sink in for many at 9am tomorrow when the fixtures are released. Everything will be there in black and white and it’ll feel more real than ever before. Ipswich are a Premier League football team.