A post in which I peer into my crystal ball and offend the fans of all Premiership clubs with my almost completely arbitrary (but blessedly brief) predictions for the 2005/6 Premiership season.
Leggy Leader lost to Old Lady. Can Gallic genius galvanise greatness for final fling before the Grove? Fortune drives a Renault Clio.
Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas – filling big boots
Young, thrusting manager WLTM generous chairman for European away days. Not likely to happen here. Where’s Peter Ridsdale when you need him? Mid-table. Mediocre. Average. Uninspired and uninspiring.
Player to Watch: Kevin Phillips – the new Darius Vassell?
They play a bit like Steve Bruce’s nose looks: ugly, crooked, damaged and yet strangely effective… Destiny wears an electronic tag.
Player to Watch: Jermaine Pennant – will he let his football do the talking?
Guaranteed to turn any game into an undignified scrap. The wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss if this lot are on. Actually, I think the wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss full-stop.
Player to Watch: Craig Bellamy – you’ll certainly hear the gobby git
Since Southampton’s relegation, Big Sam is now the undisputed king of the Used Car Salesman school of management. An often bizarre mix of the sublime (Okacha) and the ridiculous (Diouf)
Player to Watch: Stelios – goal-scoring midfield dynamo
It must be very frustrating to be a Charlton fan. On the one hand they have a really good manager who has taken them to undreamed of heights. On the other hand they appear to be stagnating fast. Outside bet for an early managerial casualty?
Player to Watch: um. Not spoilt for choice here. Franny Jeffers?
The Special One is Abramovich’s best buy, by miles. The best players gelled into the best team. Should be even easier this time. England fans will be praying Lampard & Terry stay fit for summer. I should hate them, but somehow I don't. Peter Kenyon is clearly a worm though.
Player to Watch: Shaun Wright-Phillips – better than Beckham
Only 2 words are needed to summarise the disappointing season ahead: Phil Neville. Oh, and maybe four more for good measure. "Early", "exit", "from" and "Europe". Destiny wears a mullet.
Player to Watch: Phil Neville – 52 cap England legend
Struggle ahoy! If Malbranque leaves, relegation beckons.
Player to Watch: Claus Jensen – injured for much of last year
Freakishly European Champions. Not so much luck in Europe this time, but surely a stronger showing in the league.
Player to Watch: Peter Crouch – hard to miss (good touch for a big man, etc.)
Psycho Therapy, Psycho Therapy !
Player to Watch: Joey Barton – what will he do next?
At last – a reliable goalkeeper in Methuselah. Fortune wears the #25 shirt.
Player to Watch: Alan Smith – is he really the new Roy Keane?
It’s not exactly a tourist destination, but Steve McClaren is definitely building a decent team up on Teeside. Like him though, slightly dull.
Player to Watch: Gaizka Mendieta – occasionally one of the best players in Europe
This great club is being reduced to a laughing stock by the ineptitude of its board and management. Shame. Souness won’t last the season, but Freddie Shepherd has little to be proud of here.
Player to Watch: Scott Parker – point to prove
With no Yakubu, goals will be hard to come by and Laurent Robert will storm off in a huff. Azahar Karadas has always been good for me in Championship Manager though, so you never know.
Player to Watch: Laurent Robert – says what he sees
They just popped up to say hello, and now they’ve gone back down below.
Prediction: 18th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Brian Deane? Are you serious?
More optimistic than usual with a young squad yet to taste the bitterness and disappointment that are their destiny. Expect to see dazzling 1-8-1 formations to get the best out of their squad. Look out for a tall dark stranger - it will probably be Freddie Kanoute.
Player to Watch: Michael Dawson – if he can stay clear of injury
West Bromwich Albion
The team that broke the rules – bottom at Christmas and avoided relegation. Should be easier this time around. Bryan Robson may be a decent manager after all. Who knew?
Player to Watch: Robert Earnshaw – will Robson put him in the starting lineup?
West Ham Utd
Nice to have them back, but I don’t expect an extended stay.
Prediction: 19th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Anton Ferdinand – it’s in the blood (allegedly)
Back to the Championship quicker than you can say “parachute payments”
Prediction: 20th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Nathan Ellington – goals at this level?
FA Cup: Tottenham Hotspur
European Cup: Juventus
I support a Championship club, you see... it's a much more competitive league, you know.