Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nathan Ellington for Derby (vs Charlton), 15th December 2008

Predictions time again.

Blackburn 1-1 Stoke (bub-bye to the guvnor)
Bolton 2-1 Portsmouth
Fulham 1-0 Middlesbrough
Hull 2-1 Sunderland
West Ham 2-2 Aston Villa
Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Newcastle 1-1 Tottenham
West Brom 0-2 Man City
Everton 0-2 Chelsea

wildcards from the championship

Birmingham 1-1 Reading
Derby 2-0 Watford
Doncaster 0-2 Wolverhampton
Southampton 1-0 Nottingham Forest

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nemanja Vidic for Manchester United (v Sunderland), 6 December 2008

Hey. I have updated the league table and *everything*. Heh heh heh.

The Champions League group stage is a waste of time. Time for straight knockout again, methinks (snowballs chance in hell, of course). Anyway.

Aston Villa 2-0 Bolton
Liverpool 2-0 Hull
Man City 2-1 Everton
Middlesbrough 1-2 Arsenal
Stoke 1-1 Fulham
Sunderland 2-1 West Brom
Tottenham 0-1 Man Utd
Wigan 2-1 Blackburn
Chelsea 2-0 West Ham
Portsmouth 2-1 Newcastle

and it's that brilliant well-conceived FIFA World Club Championship thing again... (three teams from Asia, one from Europe and one from South America. Hmmmm.)

Adelaide United 0-2 Gamba Osaka (an interesting repeat of the Asian Champions League final, this)
Al Ahly Cairo 2-1 Pachuca Club de Futbol

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cassio for Adelaide United (v Wellington Phoenix), 5 December 2008

The Australian A-League was only created as recently as the 2005/6 season and so remains in its relative infancy. Set up along extremely American "franchise" guidelines, an initial eight team league was created around the main population centres of the country (plus a team from New Zealand).

Now in its fourth season, the A-League appears to have been a qualified success. Expansion for next season has already been confirmed (with the elaborately named North Queensland Fury (based in Townsville) and Gold Coast United set to join in 2009. 2010 is likely to see the addition of more teams including one from Canberra, a second Melbourne and/or a West Sydney side.

Whilst the profile of football in the country has been raised in recent years (the Socceroos qualification for the 2006 World Cup and the successes of some Aussie players in major European leagues have certainly helped) the quality remains questionable. Whilst it has certainly improved - Adelaide Utd reached the final of this season's Asian Champions League - what I have seen of the competition is broadly akin to the lower leagues of the UK. Queensland Roar's captain (for example) is ex Rangers and Crystal Palace clogger Craig Moore and their vice-captain is ex Manchester City lunatic Danny Tiatto. I note Kevin Muscat and John Aloisi amongst a list of more prominent players.....

Displacing the main national sports of the country was always a tall order - rugby league, cricket and AFL remain more popular - attendances remain reasonable. Just under 9,000 saw the Central Coast Mariners 1-1 draw with the Roar last weekend, whilst 6,621 were at Perth's Members Equity Stadium to see ex-Tranmere striker Eugene Dadi's brace help see off Melbourne Victory.

The attraction of the A-League as a retirement destination for has-been stars seemed initially to grab some publicity - Dwight Yorke was Sydney FC's initial "marquee" signing - but I think the rise of the American Major League might have put paid to this also. Several prominent Australian stars have expressed an interest in returning to their homeland to end their career and therein is the league in a nutshell - a collection of aged, over-the-hill ex-stars and an abundance of players that wouldn't cut it in League Two. Most Australian football fans passionately follow a European team - based on their ancestry, relatives or other reasons - and might look out for their "local" (ha, ha) teams A-League results also.

Still, the league continues to grow in size and the addition of further teams in areas of population concentration will only help attendances, I guess. That two of the current Australian international squad ply their trade in their home league, however (and both for the Newcastle Jets - the reigning Grand Final champions) tells you most of what you need to know.....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Carlos Tevez for Manchester United (v Blackburn Rovers), 3 December 2008

g'day all. I am going to write about the A-League, in due course. Ooh. I bet you can't wait.

Arriving in Brisbane at midnight on Tuesday, I slipped into a borderline coma before jetlag awoke me at 6am the following morning. I made a cup of tea and flicked the telly on to watch the local programing, and was faced with the spectre of Arsenal v Wigan in the Carling Cup. Live. At 6 in the morning.

Time differences are *weird*.

Arsenal 2-0 Wigan
Blackburn 0-1 Liverpool
Bolton 0-2 Chelsea
Fulham 2-1 Man City
Hull 2-0 Middlesbrough
Man Utd 3-0 Sunderland
Newcastle 1-0 Stoke
Everton 1-1 Aston Villa
West Brom 2-1 Portsmouth
West Ham 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

and some wildcards from the Hyundai A-League:

Central Coast Mariners 1-1 Queensland Roar
Perth Glory 1-2 Melbourne Victory
Newcastle Jets 0-1 Sydney FC

Thursday, November 27, 2008

James Ogoo for Curzon Ashton (vs Exeter), 8 November 2008

Predictions time again..... I'm sure I'll think of something else to put up here at some point. Maybe. I would write about Wolves, but I'm not sure I want to jinx them......

Aston Villa 2-0 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Newcastle
Stoke 1-0 Hull
Sunderland 1-0 Bolton
Wigan 2-1 West Brom
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Man City 1-2 Man Utd
Portsmouth 1-0 Blackburn
Tottenham 1-0 Everton

Wildcards from the 2nd round of the FA Cup

Bournemouth 2-0 Blyth Spartans
Fleetwood Town 0-2 Hartlepool
Kidderminster 2-0 Curzon Ashton
Scunthorpe 3-1 Alfreton Town

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diego Maradona for Argentina (vs England), 22 June 1986

Predictions time again then....

Not only have I actually remembered to put the predictions up, but I have also managed to put them up on a Wednesday too. How's that for organisation?

Average at best? I'll settle for that.

Aston Villa 0-1 Man Utd
Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-0 Fulham
Man City 1-2 Arsenal
Middlesbrough 1-0 Bolton
Portsmouth 1-1 Hull
Stoke 2-1 West Brom
Sunderland 1-0 West Ham
Tottenham 2-0 Blackburn

Wildcards from Serie A this week, I think.

Inter 1-0 Juventus
Lecce 0-1 Roma
Torino 0-1 Milan

catenaccio and "thrilling" one-nil wins all round!

(which Maradona goal? I leave that up to you....)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ade Akinbiyi for Burnley (vs Chelsea), 12 November 2008

Better had do some predictions then, eh?

Arsenal 2-0 Aston Villa
Blackburn 1-1 Sunderland
Bolton 0-1 Liverpool
Fulham 0-1 Tottenham
Man Utd 2-0 Stoke
Newcastle 1-1 Wigan
West Brom 0-3 Chelsea
West Ham 1-0 Portsmouth
Everton 2-1 Middlesbrough
Hull 1-0 Man City

wildcards from Spain

Getafe 1-1 Sevilla
Atl├ętico 2-1 Deportivo
Betis 1-0 Racing

Someone remind me to do it early next week, eh? I'm off to NY on Thursday afternoon.... hard life and all that.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Roman Pavlyuchenko for Tottenham Hotspur (v Liverpool), 1 November 2008

Hello all. Sorry it's a bit late - I was in Oceana at 1am with the boss last night and a heady cocktail of nasty overpriced drinks....

Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd
Hull 2-1 Bolton
Liverpool 2-0 West Brom
Sunderland 1-0 Portsmouth
West Ham 1-1 Everton
Wigan 2-0 Stoke
Aston Villa 3-1 Middlesbrough
Blackburn 0-2 Chelsea
Fulham 2-1 Newcastle
Man City 1-1 Tottenham

and some wildcards from the first round of the FA Cup:

Blyth Spartans 1-2 Shrewsbury
Sutton United 1-1 Notts County
Havant and Waterlooville 0-2 Brentford

I'm off to Australia for three weeks (I do get to see the Rugby League World Cup semi final - hopefully it'll be England v New Zealand barring freak results) and so I will leave you in ST's capable hands until I get back. Innit.

Friday, October 31, 2008

David Bentley for Tottenham Hotspur (v Arsenal), 29 October 2008

Anyone want to come to Notts County with me tomorrow? You'd have to sit in the away end as they are playing my beloved Bury in a game of vital mid table mediocrity. Anyone? No?

Chelsea 3-0 Sunderland
Everton 2-1 Fulham
Man Utd 3-0 Hull
Middlesbrough 1-0 West Ham
Portsmouth 2-1 Wigan
Stoke 1-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool
West Brom 1-1 Blackburn
Bolton 0-1 Manchester City
Newcastle Utd 1-2 Aston Villa

and some Derby wildcards, including of course the big Derby derby this weekend...)

Derby County 1-1 Nottingham Forest
Southend 2-1 Colchester
Chelsea Ladies 3-0 Fulham Ladies

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rory Delap for Stoke City (v Tottenham Hotspur), 19 October 2008

There's not much going on, football-wise, is there? A takeover of Charlton Athletic has fallen through? *yawns*

Anyway, I have updated the predictions table. Stewards enquiry for ST's score, I think....

Blackburn 2-1 Middlesbrough
Everton 1-2 Man Utd
Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle
West Brom 2-0 Hull
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Man City 2-0 Stoke
Portsmouth 2-1 Fulham
Tottenham 2-0 Bolton
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal
Wigan 1-1 Aston Villa

and some wildcards from the Homecoming Scottish Cup (whatever the f*** that is!)

Brora 1-3 Forfar
Clachnacuddin 1-1 Crichton
Forres Mechanics 2-1 Keith (I always think he does a really good job, Keith. Someone should sign him, I reckon. And Barry Town, as well.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wayne Rooney for England (v Belarus), 15 October 2008

Hello - I promise I will update the table in due course. Credit crunch, innit.

Arsenal 2-0 Everton
Aston Villa 2-1 Portsmouth
Bolton 1-1 Blackburn
Fulham 2-1 Sunderland
Liverpool 2-0 Wigan
Man Utd 1-0 West Brom
Middlesbrough 1-2 Chelsea
Hull 1-1 West Ham United
Stoke 0-1 Tottenham
Newcastle Utd 1-2 Manchester City

and some wildcards from the Irn-Bru League

Dunfermline 2-1 Partick Thistle
Raith Rovers 1-1 Ayr United
East Stirling 1-1 Berwick Rangers

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wayne Rooney for England (v Kazakhstan), 11 October 2008

A propos nothing in particular, I received this comment on an old CUAS post the other week. It's so beautifully random and non-football, I couldn't help but share it.

Thanks for my rolex.x ps you were terrible in bed and have a white sized willy.

Sigh. I can't believe the ingratitude of today's women. They'll take your Rolex and then criticize the size of your member, on tinternet where all can see.

What's a "white sized willy" anyway.....?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gerald Sibon for Heerenveen (v Ajax), 5 October 2008

I was going to wrote about Joe Kinnear's hilarious rant but then he galvanised a dishevelled Newcastle into coming back from 2-0 down to steal a draw with (thus far incredibly disappointing) Everton.  I also heard a grest story that when he was appointed as Nottingham Forest manager, he was late for the press conference as he "couldn't find the City Ground" (despite having been there on countless occasions as an away manager).  In the end, the club had to turn the floodlights on in order that he could find the place....

International Weekend again.  Anyone care?  No?  Thought not.

Bulgaria 1-1 Italy
England 3-0 Kazakhstan (My name-a Borat. Is nice!)
Estonia 0-1 Spain
Germany 1-1 Russia
Holland 2-0 Iceland (or the New Russian State of Iceland, should you prefer)
Poland 2-1 Czech Republic
Romania 1-1 France
Scotland 0-0 Norway
Sweden 2-1 Portugal
Ukraine 2-1 Croatia

and wildcards featuring clubs off of "not their original name, like"

MK Dons 1-2 Carlisle
Macclesfield Town 1-2 Aldershot
Kidderminster 2-0 Ebbsfleet United

[Not sure what's happened to the formatting here. Blame Blogger!]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Richard Butcher for Notts County (v Aldershot), 27 September 2008

As we drove past a misty Meadow Lane at 10.45am on Saturday morning, the small child person looked at it and suggested that we might perhaps go to a football match later that day.

A quick check of the fixture list later, we spent the afternoon in the Family Stand at Notts County v Aldershot. We had quite a good time - County won 2-1, we had some crisps and a hot chocolate, got a sticker to promote a new Football League drive and sat in the sunshine paying tribute to Jimmy Sirrel and watching County fluke a narrow win.


And you can't beat a huge hug from a Magpie, can you? (unless it's Mark Viduka of course. Ha ha ha.)


Anyway. Predictions:

Blackburn 1-2 Man Utd
Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal
West Brom 1-1 Fulham
Wigan 2-1 Middlesbrough
Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa
Everton 2-0 Newcastle
Man City 0-1 Liverpool
Portsmouth 2-0 Stoke
Tottenham 2-0 Hull
West Ham 2-1 Bolton

and some Rangers wildcards:

Birmingham 2-0 QPR
Stafford Rangers 2-1 Harrogate Town
St Mirren 1-3 Rangers

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roque Santa Cruz for Blackburn Rovers (v Newcastle United), 27 September 2008

It Could Only Happen At Newcastle Utd: Part 854,219

They hire a temporary manager to look after the team until the end of October - someone serving a touchline ban from their last football mangement job and who therefore cannot actually sit on the bench until 20 October.

Genius.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jo for Manchester City (vs Portsmouth), 21 September 2008

Predictions time again, already......

Arsenal 2-0 Hull
Aston Villa 2-1 Sunderland
Everton 1-1 Liverpool
Fulham 1-1 West Ham
Man Utd 2-0 Bolton
Middlesbrough 1-0 West Brom
Newcastle 0-1 Blackburn
Stoke 0-2 Chelsea
Portsmouth 2-1 Tottenham
Wigan 1-1 Man City

And wildcards from the FA Cup Qualifying, 2nd Round:

Belper Town 1-0 Redditch
Hinckley Utd 0-2 Solihull Moors
Kingstonian 2-1 Braintree Town
Winterton Rangers 1-1 Newcastle Benfield (are they better run, do you suppose?)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ji-Sung Park for Manchester United (v Chelsea), 21 September 2008

You might have seen this already, but it makes me giggle every time I watch it. I think it's taken a couple of years off Sir Alex's life.....



Brilliant.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Marlon King for Hull City (v Newcastle United), 13 September 2008

[Scroll down for predictions - they are in this post!]

At the risk of upsetting the few lovely and loyal Newcastle supporters that frequent this site, I did find myself nodding at this article written by Matthew Syed in this weeks Times.

"The only way that Newcastle fans are ever going to be truly happy is when they have formed a collective to buy the club and have made a pig's ear, as they inevitably would, of a kind that would make Freddy Shepherd's last remaining strands stand on end. When they have rehired Keegan to manage the team, Shearer to be his assistant and the ghost of Jackie Milburn to do the scouting. When they have got control of the club and discovered that their own volatility makes it practically ungovernable."

Also, whilst I strongly believe that the outcome of foul play in football should not in itself influence the punishment (Martin Taylor and Danny Guthrie should not simply be banned for longer just becuase the recipients of their red card tackle were seriously injured), I do think the FA needs to look at some sort of sliding scale for penalties. A straight red for a clumsy professional foul having the same ban as for Guthrie's terrible tackle (borne of frustration, not malice, I suspect) seems unbalanced. By all means ban players for cheating, but on-field thuggery and violence is different, and should be treated differently.

Anyway. Predictions time (I hate the UEFA Cup. It means there are hardly any games on Saturday's Match Of The Day....)

Blackburn 1-1 Fulham
Bolton 0-2 Arsenal
Liverpool 3-0 Stoke
Sunderland 2-1 Middlesbrough
West Ham 2-0 Newcastle
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
Hull 0-2 Everton
Man City 2-1 Portsmouth
Tottenham 2-0 Wigan
West Brom 1-1 Aston Villa

and let's make our first trip of the season to the Eredivisie, shall we?

AZ 1-3 PSV
Feyenoord 1-1 Ajax
Heerenveen 2-1 NEC

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chris Brunt for West Bromwich Albion (v West Ham United), 13 September 2008



Watching the West Brom v West Ham game at the weekend, I wondered when the last time was that two top flight clubs played each other with neither of them sporting a shirt sponsor. Other than a freak scenario like this one, it must have been the Seventies, mustn't it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Theo Walcott for England (v Croatia), 10 September 2008

Well, who saw that coming? Do you think that Sven is sitting there stroking his metaphorical moustache having seen something two years ago that no-one else had.....?

Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal
Fulham 2-0 Bolton
Liverpool 1-1 Man Utd
Man City 0-1 Chelsea
Newcastle 2-0 Hull
Portsmouth 2-1 Middlesbrough
West Brom 1-2 West Ham
Wigan 1-0 Sunderland
Stoke 0-1 Everton
Tottenham 2-2 Aston Villa

and some wildcards from the seemingly forgotten league of European football:

Palermo 0-1 Roma
Genoa 1-2 AC Milan
Napoli 1-1 Fiorentina

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Diego Buonanotte for Argentina (v Serbia), 13 August 2008

Hmmm. Here's a question for you. Who would you less like to see on a football pitch?

(a) Chelsea and Serbia defender Slobodan Rajkovic, banned for one year for spitting at a referee during the Olympic Games

(b) Newcastle and England midfielder Joey Barton, banned for six matches for violently assualting a team-mate, leaving him with a suspected detached retina, cuts and bruises "looking like the Elephant Man"

Someone at FIFA probably needs to sit down, have a look at these two cases and have a sensible think about their sentencing process for football offences.

[thanks very much to Ian for the links]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Shaun Wright-Phillips for Manchester City (v Sunderland), 31 August 2008

For anyone that hates Barry Davies as much as ST and I do, there's an interesting piece on the Guardian website (you may notice both ST and I amongst the angry commentators arguing that the original piece was poppycock.)

Heh heh heh.

International Predictions Time! Woot!

Andorra 0-3 England
Austria 0-2 France
Belgium 2-1 Estonia
FYR Macedonia 1-1 Scotland
Georgia 1-0 Rep of Ireland
Montenegro 1-1 Bulgaria
Norway 2-0 Iceland
Poland 2-0 Slovenia
Slovakia 3-0 Northern Ireland
Wales 1-1 Azerbaijan

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Brighton 2-1 Scunthorpe
Morecambe 1-2 Shrewsbury
Weymouth 2-0 Histon

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Robin van Persie for Arsenal (v Newcastle United), 30 August 2008

So, as a surprise to basically no-one outside the North East, Kevin Keegan has today parted company with Newcastle United.

I actually feel a bit sorry for King Kev. With a wafer thin squad, the club's decision to flog James Milner to Aston Viller and bring in an untried Uruguayan and a striker who, the season before last, was on loan in the Spanish second division hardly smacks of a brilliant transfer policy.

To be fair, the appointment of Dennis Wise as Chief Transfer Person was utter lunacy in the first place - a bit like giving me the job of presenting Top Gear as I drove a Volkswagen Polo once. Wise was a tenacious but ultimately limited talent (and, let us remember, an idiot) and so what qualified him to be put in charge of a multi million transfer policy? Plucked as he was from the job of managing a third division club on limited resources, it hardly smacked of having an address book full of international contacts, did it?

And then there are the people who run the club. Fresh from the embarrassment of Freddie Shepherd and his cronies the club got a clueless beer-swilling idiot who appears to want Newcastle to be challenging for the Champions League without having to open his chequebook.

I'm sorry, Newcastle fans, but your club has yet again been made to look ridiculous in front of everyone. Parting company with your manager the day after transfer deadline day is not really that attractive a proposition to a potential new coach, is it? Having to work with a tiny (and frankly not terribly talented) squad will be a completely thankless task. I suspect Wise himself will get the job, and if he's the sort of calibre manager your club is looking to attract then it is going to be a very, very long ten months indeed.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Michael Kightly for Wolverhampton Wanderers (vs Nottingham Forest), 30th August 2008

They play in different leagues, so perhaps the comparison isn't valid, but two different results and contrasting styles of play caught my eye this weekend:

Wolverhampton Wanderers stormed to the top of the Championship table with an utterly convincing 5-1 defeat of Nottingham Forest at Molineux on Saturday. It was a game notable for the impact made by two genuinely flying wingers: Michael Kightly and Matt Jarvis. England U21 International Kightly, picked up for a nominal fee from Gray's Athletic late in 2006, scored two goals and Jarvis, signed from Gillingham in June 2007 for an undisclosed fee, was named man of the match. Both players are 22 years old, both are two-footed, both are English and both are out-and-out wingers. Last season, due to injuries, the two players did not manage to play in the same lineup. This year, they're both fit and have been a crucial part of Wolves' early season form. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Molineux pitch has been lengthened by five meters this year to better accommodate the flying wingers and to give them room to work behind opposition full backs.

A rather different tactic was deployed by Rafael Benitez at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon, where his Liverpool team took to the field with a stifling 5 man midfield featuring two strikers signed for a combined £30m playing on the flank. Redoubtable players they may be, but for all their manifold other talents, Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane are patently not wingers. I saw an advert for the new season's Liverpool shirt in the window of a sports shop over the weekend. "This isn't a badge," it trumpeted, "it's a family crest". Liverpool fans are rightly proud of their history, but this heritage also seems to have convinced them that they have some sort of divine right to the title and that this year.... every year... will be their year. With a spine of players that includes Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres, they certainly ought to be competitive.... and far be it from me to criticise a manager as succesful as Benitez, but even I can see that they lack the genuine width that surely would make them harder to defend against. Yesterday's formation seemed to stifle Aston Villa's creativity, it's true, but it's not as though Liverpool came up with much either, Keane scuffing their best chance, and the result was a fairly dull 0-0 draw.

As Paul Doyle pointed out in the Guardian this morning, the Anfield pitch is 101 meters long and 68m wide. The minimum required pitch dimensions in the Premier League are 90mx45m, so in theory Liverpool could afford to shorten their pitch by 11m and reduce the flanks by a further 11m on either side. If they persist in playing in the narrow way that they do, perhaps they should consider it.... unless, that is, they're happy to remain the fourth best side in the top four.

As for Wolves....well, it might not be fashionable for clubs in the top flight to buy English talent from the lower divisions, but if they both maintain their form and fitness, surely it won't be long before Kightly and Jarvis are turning full-backs inside out in the top division. Ideally that would be with Wolves next year, but if they somehow manage to finish in their customary 7th position, then I'm sure someone else will give them their chance.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Frank Lampard for Chelsea (vs Liverpool), 30 April 2008

Predictions are here.

I tell you what, never mind how good he is as a footballer (and rather weirdly, he's just been named by UEFA as Europe's Best Midfielder...), check out Frank Lampard's thoughts on the XXIX Olympic Games in Beijing, as published on the Chelsea official website:

"In general I liked the American Michael Phelps, who was a standout for dominating the swimming, and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was amazing to watch with his world records"

With incisive, penetrating analysis like that, it's clear that Fat Frank is going to be a shoe-in for the sofa on Match of the Day. Just you mark my words.....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kieron Richardson for Sunderland (v Tottenham Hotspur), 23 August 2008

Ah, it's that time again. I will update the scores so far soon, honest, guv. I have been too busy guiding my Fantasy Premier League team up to near the top of the leagues, innit (Liam Lawrence is your man, mark my words.)

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle
Bolton 1-0 West Brom
Everton 2-1 Portsmouth
Hull 1-1 Wigan
Middlesbrough 2-0 Stoke
West Ham 1-1 Blackburn
Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham
Sunderland 2-0 Man City

and wildcards from League Two's "minus" brigade:

Brentford 2-1 Rotherham
Exeter 2-0 Luton
Port Vale 2-1 Bournemouth

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Angel di Maria for Argentina (v Nigeria), 23 August 2008

So, the Argentinians retain their Olympic football title.

Anyone interested? No, me neither. If it's not the biggest prize in your sport, it shouldn't be in the Olympics. Save us a parochial debate about a GB football team for 2012 and just take the damn sport out of the Olympics altogether. It shouldn't be there as it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geovanni for Hull City (v Fulham), 16 August 2008

So much for posting the predictions earlier this year. Ahem. I have been in London with the child, in my defence....

Blackburn 2-0 Hull
Fulham 0-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 2-0 Middlesbrough
Newcastle 2-1 Bolton
Stoke 0-2 Aston Villa
Tottenham 2-1 Sunderland
West Brom 1-1 Everton
Man City 2-1 West Ham
Wigan Athletic 0-1 Chelsea
Portsmouth 1-1 Man Utd

wildcards from the second week of the Bundesliga:

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich
TSG Hoffenheim 2-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Stuttgart 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, August 16, 2008

William Gallas for Arsenal (v FC Twente), 13 August 2008

I have now watched this film about half a dozen times and I have to say, I have no f*cking idea whatsoever what Steve McLaren is doing. He appears to be conducting an interview for a Netherlands television station in the alter ego of a Dutchman who has just learnt to speak English.

I really don't get it.



"We are not just, what you call "underdogs"...."

No, Steve, you are "we are not just what WE call underdogs...", surely?

Weird.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lewis Guy for Doncaster Rovers (vs Derby County), 9 August 2008

Don't miss out on the first set of predictions for this season. You can find them here. Join now before Shane takes an unassailable lead.....

-----

I suppose we'd better get this out of the way before the season actually kicks off, eh?

ST's CUAS Predictions for the 2008/9 Premier League Season

1. Manchester Utd

It's a tough call this. I think Chelsea are likely to improve under Big Phil and they were close enough to Utd last year as it was.... but in the end I think that SAF is well set for another crack this year. What with all the speculation over the summer, it seems unlikely that Ronaldo can possibly be as good (or perhaps as committed) as he was last time out, but if Ferguson manages to sign the striker he's been looking for, then I can't see past them for the title. They've already got the tightest defence and the best attack, but can you imagine Dimitar Berbatov up front for United with Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo running off him? It might be close, but I expect Utd to take their number of titles level with Liverpool's record this year.

One to Watch: Ben Foster. He's back to full fitness and has been tipped by many as England's long term future in goal. The big question is, will he manage to displace 134 year old Edwin van de Sar from the starting line-up? He'll certainly be better protected by this defence than he was by the Watford defence of two years ago, and he excelled then.

Fantasy signing: It's got to be one of the defenders. Take your pick from Ferdinand, Vidic or Evra. Expensive but worth every penny. Ronaldo surely isn't value for money this year and with all the ups and downs of the summer, surely won't be as good either?

If they were a band they'd be....: U2. Ubiquitous, successful and extremely irritating.

2. Chelsea

You can't help but feel sorry for poor old Uncle Avram Grant, but the plain fact is that Phil Scolari looks better equipped to take Chelsea forward from the mire they seem to find themselves in with vastly overpriced, overpaid and underperforming superstars wallowing about as the owner and the chief executive work to undermine their own management. It remains to be seen how Big Phil can blend a midfield containing the likes of Deco, Essien, Lampard, Joe Cole, Ballack in midfield... especially if he manages to sign Robinho or Kaka.... but they're surely going to be too good for everyone but Manchester United this year.

One to Watch: Big Phil is the most interesting thing about Chelsea by a country mile. He looks like he won't stand any nonsense from player or owner or idiot chief executive. There may be trouble ahead. He's also got a great 'tache, and these things should be saluted. Of the players, it's worth watching Deco to see if he will ever stop looking like he's about to cry.

Fantasy signing: You could take a punt on Anelka scoring a hatful if he's used properly, or fork out for Fat Frank filling his boots from midfield, but you probably won't go far wrong with one of the defenders. Bosingwa is practically a winger, so should be bonus assist points there. I've not picked any of the miserable, sulky gits.

If they were a band they'd be....: P-Diddy. Rich, and successful but without an ounce of class or taste.

3. Liverpool

Great manager though he is in Europe, if I was a Liverpool fan, I'd be wondering how much Rafa Benitez really wants to win the league. It's not as though they've been showing any kind of improvement and finish miles off the pace. It's all well and good resting the likes of Torres at the start of the season, but when it costs you points you should be winning. I'm not sure that the signing of Gareth Barry (if he ever comes) will take them a great deal further forward, but at least in him and Robbie Keane, there's a decent amount of league experience. Gerrard and Torres aside though, they may ultimately be lacking quality at the very highest level. I wonder how long Liverpool or Rafa will put up with this. A bit of stability in the boardroom would probably help though.

One to Watch: Robbie Keane. Is he really £20m good? Crouchinho's got big boots to fill...

Fantasy signing: Torres is the obvious choice, but it depends on how much Benitez rotates his squad at the start of the season and he may well not play every game. I think a much better bet is the defence: Reina, Skrtel and Carragher will likely be ever-presents if they are fit.

If they were a band they'd be....: The Eagles. Strangely succesful in the 1970s but bloated has-beens living in the past and dining out on former glories.

4. Arsenal

Arsene Wenger could really do with winning something this year. Anything. He apparently has about £70m to spend on new players, but seems oddly / admirably / stubbornly resistant to spending it, preferring instead to scour Europe for gems in need of a bit of polishing. As a result, this Arsenal side looks a bit callow and lacking in a certain je ne sais quoi. Fabregas is one of the world's best midfielders, for sure, but there are loads of unanswered questions: How fired up will Adebayor be? How will players like Walcott and Denilson step up to the challenge this year? Is Almunia really a top class goalkeeper? Can Gallas show the leadership the side desperately needs? They have a really easy looking start to the season, so I expect a strong start, but surely they're going to fade as we get into the long slog of Winter. They'll probably over-perform, but I think they need some players of stature or they may even be overtaken by Spurs and drop out of the top 4 entirely.

One to Watch: Theo Walcott. If he really is the next big thing in English football, it looks like this is his chance to shine... there are openings in the Arsenal team this year and Wenger could really do with someone opening up the defences and weighing in with some goals. As he showed in fits and starts last year, little Theo could be that man.

Fantasy signing: Adebayor was a shoe-in last year and has been scoring in pre-season, but who knows how motivated he will be after his move to Milan fell through. The defence should be ok, with Sagna a decent choice if he's fit.... but I've gone for Denilson. There are gaps in the midfield at the moment following the departure of Flamini and Hleb and the injury to Diaby, so he'll probably start alongside Fabregas and could be a bargain.

If they were a band they'd be....: Radiohead. Capable of genius but awkward and determined to do things their own way, even if that means detonating their chances of success.

5. Spurs

I'm wary of predicting a top 4 finish for Spurs this year. I did the same thing last year, and they had an appalling season. Still, one good thing to come out of that was the arrival of the Special Juan: Juande Ramos looks like he is on the way to shaping a half-decent side. They may be a touch short on strikers though, especially if Berbatov follows Keane out of the door and leaves them reliant upon Darren Bent... but in Modric, Bentley, Lennon and the like, they should have the guile to open up Premier League defences. In Woodgate, Bale and King they have an injury-prone defence and must be hoping that they all stay fit for the season. If they don't break in to the top 4, they should at least be capable of beating the sides above them.

One to Watch: Luca Modric. Good enough to rip England to pieces and to shine in Euro 2008. Could be a great replacement for Robbie Keane, but will need to be more robust than he looks if he's going to survive the hurly-burly of the English game.

Fantasy signing: David Bentley - a reliable source of points last year and playing with a much better team this year. If Berbatov stays, the pair of them should be a great combination.

If they were a band they'd be....: Amy Winehouse. Talented, but fragile, prone to self-destruction and unlikely to last the course.

6. Aston Villa

Martin O'Neill is a good manager and Villa have been making real progress since he arrived. For me, this was confirmed with his stance to Liverpool over Gareth Barry - a player Villa must surely want to keep if they seriously want to break into the top 4. He didn't make a huge fuss, he just highlighted to Liverpool that if they wanted the player, they would have to pay what he thought that player was worth. If Hargreaves and Carrick, players behind Barry in the England midfield pecking order, are worth £18m, then Barry is worth £18m. Sounds reasonable enough to me. The whole saga higlights Villa's problem though: they are improving but are ultimately struggling to hold onto their best player. I think this could be a season of consilidation rather than real development, but for now, I expect that's enough.

One to Watch: Gareth Barry. One of the most tedious transfer sagas of the summer and may well yet move on. If he stays though, how will he knuckle down to the task?

Fantasy signing: Ashley Young. If he builds on last year, then he should be a steady source of goals and assists. The defence might have lost Olaf Mellberg to Juventus, and it's a bit short of cover, but the addition of Brad Friedel and Luke Young to the squad should see them keep a few clean sheets this year.

If they were a band they'd be....: The Magic Numbers. Chippy mid-table triers. The odd burst of melody hidden by unattractive and unfashionable exterior.

7. Everton

David Moyes is clearly doing a great job at Everton. Compared to some, he doesn't have a great deal of money and is forced to pick up admirable players like Phil Jagielka and Joelan Lescott as well as the odd overlooked gem like Arteta rather than being able to compete at the top end of the market. He also has to contend with all the boardroom disruptions and the ongoing saga over their proposed move to the Tesco Stadium (or whatever). The club may have had a relatively successful season last year, but I think all the strain of producing results in this environment is perhaps starting to tell on David Moyes, and I wonder how much more of this he has the patience to take. The side themselves look solid enough, if a bit lacking in invention. They need Cahill to be fit and scoring goals, but Arteta and Yakubu are both good players at this level and they should be as mean at the back as ever. It's a bit hard to get excited about them though, isn't it?

One to Watch: David Moyes. I have a feeling that he may let his frustrations get the better of him if things go as badly on the pitch as they appear to be going in the boardroom. A bad start and you never know.... he might just walk.

Fantasy signing: Yakubu will be good for goals and for local pie shops. Jolean Lescott should also be a good source of points, even if he surely can't score as many goals as he managed last time out.

If they were a band they'd be....: The Proclaimers. Tryers with one or two decent tunes and a tendency to wear checked lumberjack shirts.

8. Portsmouth

Last season's FA cup winners will do well if they can have half as productive a season as they managed last year. It's rare indeed that one of the major trophies goes to a side like this, and although they only faced Cardiff in the final, they did have to beat some decent sides on the way through. Their success was largely founded on a tough defence and some incredibly strong and muscular players throughout the side. Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch are both quite a long way from being muscular, but they should be capable of scoring more goals this time around. They're going to need to though: that defence isn't getting any younger.

One to Watch: Glenn Johnson's hair. Absurd and getting absurder.

Fantasy signing: Defoe or Crouch. Their defence has always been good value, but they getting a bit long in the tooth and better value may be available elsewhere. This side should score goals though.

If they were a band they'd be....: Danzig. Muscular but not really big league even if they get the odd track onto Guitar Hero.

9. Manchester City

Mark Hughes looks like a good manager, but this looks increasingly like a thankless task. By almost anyone's standards, and certainly by City's, Sven looked like he had done a pretty decent job last year and had finally built some foundations for the club to move forwards for once. It wasn't enough and he was sacked in pretty poor circumstances. Hughes doesn't look to me like he has a high tolerance threshold for boardroom interference, but if he can ignore all of that nonsense, in players like Elano, Petrov, Micah Richards and Jo, he may well have the playing staff to make some progress in the league. They started well last time out, but faded badly. A little bit of consistency this year will go a long way.

One to Watch: Thaksin Shinawatra. In what world is Trashcan Sinatra considered a fit and proper person to run a football club? Ah yes, the crazy world of the Premier League. He's rich and that's all that matters, right?

Fantasy signing: I'm sure the likes of Elano, Petrov and Jo will catch the eye, but I wonder if Mark Hughes might make the defence a bit meaner this time around. I'd be tempted to go for Richards or Dunne or someone like that. I'm recommending a lot of defenders this year, I notice.

If they were a band they'd be....: the KLF. Money to burn, might have the odd success but it's all destined to end badly

10. West Ham

I used to quite like West Ham, but for some reason I have lost a lot of the affection that I once had for them. Having players like Dyer, Bellamy, Neill, Carlton Cole and Lee Bowyer probably doesn't help, but they also seem to have stopped being those plucky underdogs with the nice style of play and became a bunch of big-time charlies with nothing much to talk about in the way of achievements. That's pretty much what I expect to happen this year too. If they are a bit luckier with injuries than they were last year, then they may do okay in the league without really bothering anyone much. Mid-table. Any worse than that and I fear for the manager.

One to Watch: Curbishley. Surely he's out if they falter this time around? Of the players, Bellamy is always worth a look, and not just for how he plays on the pitch. He's a spiteful little bugger, isn't he?

Fantasy signing: Valon Behrami. The swiss David Beckham, you know.

If they were a band they'd be....: Towers of London (the one with Donny Tourette). Annoying and stupidly bolshy. Lacking almost any substance... Unbelievably crass frontman.

11. Blackburn

What does it say about Blackburn that they have lost the likes of Friedel, David Bentley and Mark Hughes? They probably over-achieved under Hughes, and I think that they may revert to the norm

One to Watch: Ince. He's genuinely the "guvnor" now and has built up a track-record of success in the lower leagues.... but all eyes will be on him now. Money is tighter here than it used to be and Mark Hughes is a tough act to follow. Worth keeping an eye on Paul Robinson too to see if he can resurrect his career filling Friedel's big boots.

Fantasy signing: Roque Santa Cruz is the only real choice here really, isn't he? Even then, it's partly because he might have caught the eye of a bigger club....

If they were a band they'd be....: Hear'Say - pretty big and very successful for a bit after extensive record company investment, but after a period of mediocrity and a general lack of public interest, in serious danger of disappearing back into the obscurity from whence they came. At least they're not One True Voice though, eh?

12. Newcastle

Surely to goodness this season can't be as eventful as last year, can it? No offence to any fans reading this, but this is a real car crash of a club. For some reason, I find myself wishing Newcastle nothing but good things, but time and time again I see them ripping themselves apart and generally being their own worst enemies. Of all things, I was even driven to feel a bit sorry for Big Sam Allardyce last year, and that takes some doing. It's an old cliche that the fans deserve better here, but after watching them shouting at Allardyce that he was a disgrace barely ten games into last season instead of trying to get behind the team, I'm not so sure that I believe that generalisation at all. Keegan is always good value though and seems like a pretty nice bloke, so I hope that this is the season that things really start going well. Where are the big signings though? How much more solid is the defence going to be this year? They can't always rely on the magnificent Shay Given to bale them out of trouble.... I'd also love to see Joey Barton being given a chance too. His repeated violent outburst are bad enough for anyone, nevermind a multi-millionaire footballer, but the scrambling for his blood has also left an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Should Newcastle have sacked him? Do you really think there isn't another Premier League club that would have snapped him up if they did? Keegan did the right thing by him, I think, and I hope Barton rewards him with performances on the pitch. They finished surprisingly high last year, and if they get off to a better start (and it could hardly be worse), then they may do okay this year too.

One to Watch: Keegan. He must be due an explosion soon if Mike Ashley keeps angling for a sale and if things don't go well on the pitch. Michael Owen still has a lot to prove up here as well. Of course, Joey Barton is the one you really want to keep your eyes on... just to know where he is, if nothing else.

Fantasy signing: Jonas Gutierrez. Apparently his spider-man goal celebration has been banned... but we'll see..... if he scores any goals.

If they were a band they'd be....: Kiss. Ridiculous. Lot of fans.

13. Sunderland

Always the pick of the promoted clubs last season, but it will be a real test of Roy Keane's management skills how they cope this season. Signing big name players seems to have been something of a struggle this year, but Keane has picked up one or two reasonable looking players (mostly from Tottenham) and will be hopeful that they can build on last year's performances. Again, not the most thrilling of sides to watch, but if they stay up again, how many Sunderland fans would moan about that? I get a nagging feeling that 13th looks way too high a prediction for them, but I'm not sure the quality down below them in the table is up to all that much, to be honest, and a team fired up by Keane himself may give them more of an edge than some of their rivals.

One to Watch: Juande Ramos. How many more players will he sell to Roy Keane? Of the players, England international Keiron Richardson owes Roy Keane a few performances.

Fantasy signing: Steed Malbranque. Looked pretty good at spurs last year and at his best is a magician. Will surely get more of a look-in at deadball situations at the Stadium of Light.

If they were a band they'd be....: Dogged, determined, ugly and refusing to go away..... it must be Supergrass

14. Bolton Wanderers

Say what you like about Megson, and plenty of people in Nottingham would be more than happy to do so, but he did an undeniably good job in keeping Bolton in the division last year. Sure, devaluing the UEFA cup in the way that he did was hardly edifying, but even the most romantic Bolton fan would surely understand where he was coming from. He also managed to cope well with the loss of his top scorer in January and still survive. No mean feat. If his track record is anything to go by, Megson will hit a brick wall before long and alienate both fans and board alike, but given the lack of quality in the division this year, I think they could do an awful lot better than some people are predicting. It won't be pretty, that's for sure.

One to Watch: Johan Elmander. Quick, highly rated and signed for a club-record £10m. Quite what he makes of playing alongside Kevin Davies remains to be seen....

Fantasy signing: Matty Taylor. I'm not sure Bolton will score many goals, but Taylor's got an eye from distance, and they may never get that close to the penalty area... TYou certainly don't want their defenders, anyway.

If they were a band they'd be....: The Hold Steady. A direct, straight-forward pub outfit got lucky.

15. Middlesbrough

Gareth Southgate may well be the most promising young manager in the league... but he's dull, dull, dull and the team has been built in his image. They've got a few decent players, and they may well be able to cope with the loss of players like Boateng, Schwartzer and Cattermole, but.... well, they're a bit nothing much really, aren't they? I expect them to stay up, but that's about all I've got to say about them.

One to Watch: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Fantasy signing: Stewart Downing is the only choice.

If they were a band they'd be....: Eric Clapton. Plodding, earnest MOR. Seen better days.

16. Fulham

Roy Hodgson did an amazing job last season cleaning up the mess that Lawrie Sancez left behind him in his doomed attempt to recreate the Crazy Gang / Norn Iron down by the River Thames. A lot of the crap from last season has been flushed away, and with a proper manager at the helm, I think they should be a bit better this season. They'll miss Brian McBride though, even if I never could understand David Pleat's obsession with him, and I'm not sure that Bobby Zamora is exactly the striker of your dreams. Nothing fancy this year, but progress would be good enough for now... unless Al Fayed is as much of a prat as I think he is, he'll leave well alone for the time being and let Hodgson get on with the job in hand.

One to Watch: Mortiz Volz. A footballer who takes the bus, coaches youngsters in the area and who genuinely seems like a nice man. Fan of the Hoff, you know.

Fantasy signing: Jimmy Bullard. Prize angler and dynamic midfield genius, now recovered from injury and presumably raring to go. Zoltan Gera is worth a look too as he's a genius with the dead ball.

If they were a band they'd be....: Neil Diamond - always glitzy and showy, but it took a steady old hand to come in and polish their work to give them hope of a career renaissance.

17. Wigan

Steve Bruce is another manager who came to a club late in the day and quietly went about his business saving them from the drop. In his case, he was also clearly delighted to have escaped the boardroom nonsense at Birmingham and go to a club that actually seemed to want him as a manager. In footballing terms, they're yet another one of those clubs in the division who probably aren't going to set the world alight and who would be happy finishing 17th. There are a lot of them in the Premier League this year, and I don't think it would be an exagerration to say that many of them would struggle to challenge in the Championship.... Wigan are definitely one of those clubs. Was I the only one who was agog at seeing dear old Mario Melchiot turning out for the Dutch in Euro 2008?

One to Watch: Emile Heskey. Coco the clown is always great value. He managed to break a bone tripping over his own feet last year.

Fantasy signing: Um. I usually plump for Jason Koumas on the grounds that he has talent to burn... but he's a frustating player and probably not worth the effort.

If they were a band they'd be....: Nizlopi. Made it to the big time but have absolutely no idea what they're doing there...

18. West Brom

Hailed as the "Manchester Utd" of the Championship, West Brom come back into the top division having (in the end) dominated last year on their way to promotion. It's not a great comparison though: they scored a lot of goals last year and played some free flowing football, but their defence was often appallingly slack and I imagine that unless that has been substantially improved this year, they are going to get some heavy beatings. Kevin Phillips probably had the right idea by electing to stay in the Championship where the goals are easier to come by. They may well be a better footballing side than Wigan, Bolton, Sunderland and the likes, but I very much doubt that they've got as much ability to hang on in games and to drag out unlikely results. I think they'll have a short stay, do well again in the championship and then yo-yo back. In spite of the fact that I'm a Wolves fan, I wish them nothing but the best and hope they prove me wrong.

One to Watch: Paul Robinson. The full back was named in the Championship team of the year last season, but is somewhat fiery and is liable to pick up more than his fair share of red cards as all the soft, foreign cheats roll around at his feet after his "robust" challenges.

Fantasy signing: Scott Carson is a decent keeper, but he's likely to be kept quite busy by a defence somewhat prone to lapses in concentration.

If they were a band they'd be....: Darius Danesh. Superficially smooth and with some small talent, but basically a small town charmer: more comfortable in provincial theatres and liable to crumble under pressure.

19. Hull

It's a fairy story, but although they undoubtedly deserved promotion in the end, I still can't quite believe how they got out of the Championship last year. I can't bring myself to believe that they're going to be able to step up another level, and it's hard to see how they're going to do anything but go straight back down again. I think their fans probably know this, so I expect they will be looking to make the absolute most of their season in the sun. Good luck to them. Shame they ditched that tiger skin away stip though - that was brilliant!

One to Watch: Dean Windass. Hard to miss him, anyway. I think he's even available on Google Earth.

Fantasy signing: Dean Windass again. He may be fat and forty, but he's an absolute legend.

If they were a band they'd be....: Shed 7. Lower division chancers who got a surprising shot at glory before disappearing without a trace.

20. Stoke

To be fair to them, the absolutely deserved automatic promotion last season.... but I think the best they can hope for is to beat Derby's points tally from last year. Enjoy your season in the sun boys, and I sincerely hope I'm wrong. In fact, if Hull, West Brom and Stoke were to finish above Boro, Sunderland and Bolton, I'd be one of the first to celebrate... but it seems unlikely. Sorry.

One to Watch: Tony Pulis. He took the team to the unbelievable heights of the Premier League and yet the fans still don't like him.... what more do they want?

Fantasy signing: Dave Kitson scored goals and points for Reading, so if Stoke are going to get any goals....

If they were a band they'd be....: Status Quo - it's all quite basic and a bit old fashioned and whilst they might have a core following, no-one likes them much

---

So, in summary.... and with LB's predictions for the season added on:

#
ST's Predictions:
LB's predictions:
1
Manchester Utd
Chelsea
2
Chelsea
Manchester Utd
3
Liverpool
Liverpool
4
Arsenal
Arsenal
5
Tottenham
Aston Villa
6
Aston Villa
Tottenham
7
Everton
Manchester City
8
Portsmouth
Everton
9
Manchester City
Newcastle
10
West Ham
West Ham
11
Blackburn
Portsmouth
12
Newcastle
Blackburn
13
Sunderland
Sunderland
14
BoltonFulham
15
Middlesbrough
Wigan
16
Fulham
West Brom
17
Wigan
Hull
18
West Brom
Middlesbrough
19
Hull
Stoke
20
Stoke
Bolton

It's anyone's guess really, right?

Enjoy the season, y'all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Candace Chapman for Canada (v Argentina), 6 August 2008


The Cheer Up Alan Shearer Predictions League : Season 4

It doesn't seem like two minutes since the last trophy was awarded to Shane but it's time for the return of the mighty CUAS Predictions League.

As ever, three points for the correct result, one for the right outcome and none for getting it completely wrong. The "grand prix" scoring system remains and so the person with most points every week gets a score of 10, second place gets 8 then 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.

All clear?

Right. Here we go, then.....

Arsenal 2-0 West Brom
Bolton 1-0 Stoke
Everton 1-0 Blackburn
Hull 1-1 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham
Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool
West Ham 2-1 Wigan
Aston Villa 2-1 Man City
Chelsea 2-0 Portsmouth
Man Utd 2-0 Newcastle

and wildcards this week are from the Olympic Games Womens Tournament (woot! there's a new one!)

Sweden 1-2 Germany
China 2-1 Japan

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Matthew Taylor for Bolton Wanderers (v Chelsea), 11 May 2008

Well being as the season is almost upon us already, I suppose it's long since time that we had a look at my rather sorry looking predictions for last year's Premier League Season and salute my mystic Meg-like genius have a bit of a giggle at what an idiot I make myself look every year, eh?

Come on then. Let's get it out of the way.

1. Man Utd **Champions**

They actually finished..... 1st.

Yay! one to me!

I said: "....Hargreaves in particular should be crucial in adding a bit of ballast to a very attack-heavy team. The signing of Tevez could also be a masterstroke (match fitness permitting). How the hell do you go about marking a front three of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo?"

Well, they did look unplayable at times....

"One to watch: Michael Carrick. Two-footed, great passer of the ball and with something of an eye for goal...It should be interesting to see how he blossoms now he will be free of anchorman duties. Giggs and Scholes are also crucial."

"Fantasy Football signing: blimey, take your pick. The defence will be tight and the forwards will be free scoring. I've gone for Patrice Evra myself."

Hmm. That's not bad, I guess, albeit a bit obvious. Hargreaves ended up playing a bit at right back though, which I hadn't quite foreseen. Carrick had a steady season, I suppose, and Evra did alright for my FF team as well (although Vidic or Ferdinand would have been better).... but how can you possibly look past Ronaldo?

2. Chelsea

They actually finished.... 2nd

Back of the net!

I said: "One to watch: Jose Mourinho. The special one looked on the edge of walking out a few times last season. He's apparently patched up his relationship with Abramovitch, but will he make the end of the season?"

Nope!

"Fantasy Football signing
: Plenty of people will opt for Terry, Lampard or Drogba, but I always go for Petr Cech. His injury last season cost Chelsea the title."

Well, if you'd picked Terry, Lampard or Drogba for your team, then you might not have got as many points as you expected, but then again the same was true of Cech too, who looked shaky for the first time in his career (and sadly for the Czech's, not the last). That bit about Mourinho? You can quote me on that.

3. Liverpool

They actually finished.... 4th

Crap.

I said: "The new owners are certainly splashing the cash in an attempt to bridge the 21 points difference between them and Manchester Utd. Will Torres, Babel, Benayoun et al make any difference? Nah, they'll still finish 3rd. Expect a lot of bleating about history and tradition – as if this should somehow actually count for something in a title race."

Balls. All true, but I thought too much of them

"One to watch: The real question is not where Liverpool will finish in the league, but how long will Rafa's beard last before he realises it is a catastrophic mistake...

FF signing: One of the defenders. Torres will be pricey and won't score enough goals."

Well, the beard's still there and Torres scored a hatful. Hey ho.

4. Tottenham

They actually finished..... 11th.

Ooops.

I said: "This is a big season for Martin Jol. Spurs have made steady progress in the last few years, but with Arsenal's apparent slump, this looks like being their big chance to break into the top 4. Jol has been given time and money. If he doesn't do it this year, what odds on the Tony Soprano-a-like wearing a concrete overcoat and sleeping with the fishes?"

Well, Jol didn't last long, but long enough to bury their season.

"One to Watch:
Jermaine Defoe. If he doesn't get the hint and do one soon, he'll be getting a lot of splinters."

True enough.

"FF signing
: Berbatov or Bent are worth a look, although both will be expensive. Should be some value in the defenders though. I've gone for Michael Dawson."

Well, I think I ended up with both Bent and Berbatov... and kept Bent too long and ditched Berbatov too early. Oh well.

5. Arsenal

They actually finished..... 4th.

I should have know better than to underestimate Wenger, eh?

I said: "Interesting times at the Emirates. Thierry Henry limped and sulked his way to 11 goals last season and on the face of it will be very hard to replace. In practice though, the team might actually thrive now they have to look elsewhere for their inspiration. Fabregas is developing into one of the best midfielders in the world and players like Hleb, Gallas, Rosicky, Eboue, Adebayor and the like have a lot of quality."

Right on Fabregas, and hit lucky with Adebayor, but were the others anything much?

"FF signing: Eboue has been playing on the wing in some pre-season friendlies. Could be worth a look as the defence is likely to be solid."

Well, he played on the wing, but I dropped him pretty quickly.

6. Everton

They actually finished...... 5th

I said: "Everton under Moyes have seemed to lurch from good season to bad season and then back again. They did well last year, but I reckon they'll break the jinx this time around and push for Europe again this year. They've not signed much, but what they've signed looks like it could "do a job"."

Yup.

"One to watch: Phil Jagielka. Where will he play? Full back? Centre Back? Midfield? Goal? Truly the MacGyver of footballers."

The MacGyver of footballers? That's good, I might steal that. Oh... I said it?

7. Blackburn

They actually finished..... 7th

Back on track!

I said: "....I imagine they’ll be effective again this season, although quite how useful Roque Santa Cruz will be in the Premiership remains to be seen."

Not bad, it turns out....

"FF signing: David Bentley. The new Beckham?"

Yeah.... he does a reasonable job, even if the old one simply refuses to go away.

8. Aston Villa


They actually finished..... 6th

I said: "Martin O’Neill’s arrival last time seemed to be the most important thing to happen at Villa Park in years, and although his first season was one of steady rather than spectacular progress, perhaps we should expect more this year. "

True enough, although I underestimated quite how much.

"FF signing: Gareth Barry. Solid points scorer with steady assists and the odd penalty. I’ve also got a soft spot for Olof Mellberg, for some reason."

Both legends, although it looks pretty likely now that Barry will follow Mellberg out of the door.

9. Portsmouth

They actually finished..... 8th

Not bad.

I said: "Surely they can’t do as well as they did last season? They’ve got a nightmare start with games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool in their first 6 games. Mind you, with David James, Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus anchoring their defence again this year, who knows?"

Well, they didn't do badly in the end...picking up the FA Cup along the way.

"One to watch: David Nugent. He was by far and away the best striker in the Championship last season and scored on his full England debut… he’s clearly brave because he snubbed Roy Keane and a possible move to Sunderland, but is he going to cut it in the Premier League?"

Er, no.

"FF signing
: Matty Taylor. He did brilliantly last year, partly because he was still being classified as a defender and thus benefited from all those clean sheet points…. But he also scored some absolutely cracking goals."

Sidelined by Portsmouth but when he moved to Bolton, he was soon scoring points again and looks like he might be worth a shout this year too.

10. Newcastle

They actually finished..... 12th

I said: "Surely the biggest news for Newcastle is that they have finally got rid of Fat Freddie Shepherd and in Big Sam Allardyce, they might finally have a manager with the drive and ambition to take them somewhere"

Well, Big Sam didn't last long, eh?

"....if Michael Owen stays fit then who knows where they could go? What’s going on between the chairman and Big Sam though? Where are the really big signings? Why is Dyer still there?"

Was Michael Owen fit? Not really? Did Dyer stay? Not for long. Where are the really big signings? Still waiting....

"One to watch: Shay Given. Always the key for Newcastle when they had such a shaky defence… perhaps he’ll have a bit of protection now?"

Hahahaha. No.

11. Reading


They actually finished..... 18th.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Maybe should have seen this coming.

I said: "Steve Coppell is a genius. They were almost everyone’s favourites for relegation last year and they nearly got into Europe. They’ve lost Steven Sidwell to Chelsea, and not signed much, so will they be able to pull off the same trick this year?"

In a word? No.

12. Bolton

They actually finished...... 16th

I said: "Little Sam has a tough act to follow in Big Sam, that much is for sure. We’re told that the rather robust Bolton style is going to be replaced by a shorter passing game, but frankly I’ll believe that when I see it. Kevin Davies and a fast, fluid passing game does not compute. Surely the only way is down?"

Yes, but much further down than I imagined, and Little Sam didn't last long either, before he was replaced by the awful lot more pragmatic Megson. My pick of Gary Speed didn't last too long either. Anelka would have been okay as a fantasy pick, as I suggested, I suppose... but only up to a point. Rubbish.

13. West Ham

They actually finished...... 10th

That high? Really?

I said: "I’m sure Alan Curbishley will just be delighted to put last season behind him, but surely things won’t be as bad this year? The signings of Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy and Freddie Ljunberg will surely help, but perhaps the biggest bonus of all is the return of Dean Ashton from injury. No Tevez this time though…. But surely they won’t need a miracle this term?"

Not a vintage season, and far too many injuries to really assess them properly.

"One to watch: Craig Bellamy. He’s quick and talented and sure to score goals. Mind you, he’ll be worth watching just to see how quickly he blows up and goes after one of his team mates with a golf club. If Kieron Dyer ever signs, it might be worth watching Lee Bowyer too… ding ding… round 2."

Bellamy? Get out of town.

14. Middlesbrough

They actually finished......13th

I said: "This is a big season for Gareth Southgate. He’s lost Viduka and is under pressure to sell Yakubu. How will he cope without the heaviest striking partnership in the league? I predict a difficult season."

Well, Yakubu soon followed Vuduka out of the door, as did Woodgate, but somehow Southgate muddled his way through the season. Lucky or genius in the making?

"One to watch: Gaizka Mendieta. Wasn’t this guy one of the best players in Europe? What the hell happened? Where is he? Why can’t he keep people like Lee Cattermole out of the side?"

Heavens above. If you find him, let me know.

"FF signing
: Stewart Downing. Does he really want to be at Boro? Will he be an even better pick if he moves to somewhere like Spurs?"

Still there.....

15. Sunderland

They actually finished..... 15th

Yes! Back on track!

I said: "Of the promoted sides, they are comfortably the favourites to avoid the drop. Whether they can or not probably depends as much on the manager as it does on the players."

Yup.

"One to watch
: Roy Keane. He’s confounded almost everyone with how he has carried himself as a manager, but how will he cope if his team struggles? He’s tried to sign a number of players and failed in pre-season and is the £9m signing of a Scottish goalkeeper an act of genius or of desperation? Time will tell. If he loses it, I imagine he will lose it big time."

Keane seems stable enough, as it goes, but very much the same is true this year. Will he build or will they fall back? Seems to like ex-Spurs players.

16. Man City

They actually finished.....9th

I said: "Eriksson has splashed the cash, but it seems likely that most of the players haven’t even met the manager yet, never mind any of their colleagues. It could be a long season."

Well, they started better than they finished, but for Sven it was a triumph really.. even if it ludicrously ended with him being sacked. He actually looked like he knew what he was doing.

"FF signing
. Perhaps worth taking a punt on Bianchi. Italian strikers have a dreadful record in English football, but this guy got 18 in Serie A last year… so you never know, right?"

No. Just don't.

17. Fulham

They actually finished......17th

I rule.

I said: "This is Laurie Sanchez’s big chance in the Premier League, and he gave up the Northern Ireland job to make the most of it. Still, his signings should make him feel right at home: Baird, Davies, Hughes and Healey were all members of the Norn Iron side that beat Spain. They only avoided relegation by a single point last season, and I imagine it could be more of the same again this time around."

Fulham stayed up in spite of Sanchez's best efforts and because of the talent of Roy Hodgson.

"One to watch: David Healy. Phenomenally successful for Northern Ireland but often starting off the bench with struggling Leeds. How will he take to the Premiership? The answer will be critical to Fulham’s chances."

Well, they stayed up and he hardly played, so what do I know?

"FF signing: Jimmy Bullard. Not quite back from injury yet, but is capable of scoring a lot of goals from midfield. As he was out for most of last season, he should also be relatively cheap."

Well, he looked good for the last few games of the season, but they're the only ones that he played.......

18. Birmingham


They actually finished......19th

I said: "Steve Bruce did really well to get Birmingham out of the maelstrom of the Championship last year, and rumour has it he was inches from getting the boot at Christmas… but he hung on and his side came back strongly to clinch automatic promotion. What are their chances this year? Where are the signings? Where will the goals come from? A struggle ahead, I think."

Yup. And Bruce escaped with enough time to rescue Wigan too.

"FF signing. Hmm. Maik Taylor and Franck Quedrue are probably the best of a bad bunch, but you wouldn’t want to be relying on any clean sheet points. Forssell has done well in the past, I suppose."

You'd've been better with no one, frankly.

19. Wigan

They actually finished......14th

I said: "Wigan narrowly avoided relegation last year and the signing of Titus Bramble hardly fills me with any confidence that they’ll be able to avoid the drop again this year. Paul Jewell is another tough act to follow… and is Chris Hutchings really the man to do it?"

Well, no.... but it turns out that Steve Bruce was.

"One to watch: Titus Bramble. Once touted as an England defender in waiting, now just openly laughed at for his physique and his tendency to drop at least one bollock every single game. Perhaps the politest thing to say is that he has a lot to prove."

Still very much a clown with lots to prove.

20. Derby


They actually finished.... 20th.

Not a difficult pick, I'm sad to say.

I said: "Hmm. I think this is going to be a long hard slog."

Yup. Turns out it was. Even Paul Jewell could do nothing with this lot.

"One to Watch: Billy Davies. Seems a bit combustible and threatened to walk out immediately after the play-off victory last season. Who knows what he’ll do when his side start losing?"

Well, as it turns out, Davies was combustible, but with results like that he was never going to last long with a gob that big.

"FF signing: Robert Earnshaw is unpredictable, but has scored goals at this level before."

Good luck with that one, Nottingham Forest.....

----

So, the usual rubbish mixed in with a few lucky guesses.

More of the same in the next few days?

Well, I'll do my best to get to it before the season actually begins, but I'm making no promises.... you hear? This kind of half-arsed punditry takes flippin' ages.

So. In summary.

#
My League table:
Actual League table:
1
Manchester Utd
Manchester Utd
2
Chelsea
Chelsea
3
Liverpool
Arsenal
4
Tottenham
Liverpool
5
Arsenal
Everton
6
Everton
Aston Villa
7
Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers
8
Aston Villa
Portsmouth
9
Portsmouth
Manchester City
10
Newcastle
West Ham
11
Reading
Tottenham
12
Bolton Wanderers
Newcastle Utd
13
West Ham
Middlesbrough
14
Middlesbrough
Wigan
15
Sunderland
Sunderland
16
Manchester City
Bolton Wanderers
17
Fulham
Fulham
18
Birmingham
Reading
19
Wigan
Birmingham
20
Derby County
Derby County

Not as easy as it looks, this punditry thing.

Matty Taylor's goal above? That's the one that cost me the title in my Fantasy Football League. The last goal scored in the whole damn season and it costs me the title. By one measley point.

Pah!

Phil Taylor for England (v James Wade), 26 July 2008













Do you think that if Phil Taylor approaches a fairground sideshow (like the one here) that the owner just hands him a giant plush Scooby-Doo, or do you think they make him go through the rigmarole?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kaka for Brazil (v Croatia), 13 June 2006

Remember when Peter Kenyon asserted that "it is in the best interests of Chelsea to be self-sufficient" and that "it is not prudent to run a football club on the basis of a benefactor building up a big debt-stream"? That's right, they were going to be self-sufficient from 2010.

Apparently, this is best served by them spunking £79.3 million on Brazilian midfielder Kaka (on top of the £8m they have spent on Deco and £17m on Jose Boswinga).

Chelsea made just over £190m in revenue in 2008.

I'm no mathematician, but when you've paid everyone's wages etc, there can't be nearly £100m for new signings, surely?

Self-sufficient my arse. Good job the Russian retains deep pockets....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

David Mitchell for Australia (v Israel), 8 October 1985

There's a nice article on the Guardian website right now written by excellent and talented British comic David Mitchell about how he doesn't care for football all that much.

The reason I mention it is not for the content of the piece (as lighthearted and amusing as it is) but for the comments that the Guardian's fine readership have left.

I wonder why you'd bother writing an 875 word piece when amongst your comments you get:

"I like peepshow but seriously grow some nuts."

I laughed out loud when I read that, and I still can't wipe the smile off my face. It's possibly the least perceptive bit of commentary I have ever seen...

(a propos nothing the spectacularly surreal and genius Mitchell and Webb "Cheesoid" sketch is here)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jo for CSKA Moscow (v Inter Milan), 23 October 2007

So, Manchester City have confirmed the club record £18m signing of Jo.

Rumours that Mark Hughes is planning to add £5m signing Bradley, £3m rated Hannah and £10m stunner Rachel to his Eastlands line-up have today been denied by the club. In a statement, a club official confirmed that City were assembling a squad to "reach for the stars" and they were hoping that Hughes would "bring it [their previous success] all back". Jo himself said that he had "never had a dream come true" before, that was was a "natural" goalscorer and that there "ain't no party like an Eastlands party".

More to follow.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Junior Lewis for Hull City (v Chesterfield), 1 February 2005

We may have commented on this before (here and here) but, hilariously, it has happened again and so deserves (yet) another mention.

Peter Taylor has once again signed Junior Lewis.

Lewis has now worked with Taylor at 8 clubs and the ex-England manager's regular signing of the (frankly rubbish) midfielder has gone beyond a joke. I like Ian's theory that Taylor's actually his dad (allegedly, clearly this is a theory/joke, don't anyone get upset) as I can't think of any other reason for this preposterous decade long faith....

[thanks to Ian for the link]

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Fernando Torres for Spain (v Germany), 29 June 2008

OK,OK.

So I maybe once or twice stated quite categorically that Spain didn't have the mental strength or team ethic to win the European Championships.

Hmmm. It sppears they were much better than I expected. Well done to them - I don't begrudge them a win as there has rarely been a country whose international trophy haul belies the talent they have been able to draw on (except for Holland and to a lesser extent England, I suppose). Clearly they have some good players, and the introduction of (Brazilian) Marcos Senna seems to have been the glue that held the side together this time.

Was it a good tournament? I'm not sure it was any better or worse than previous Championships to be honest. There were some nice moments - the Turks "never say die" attitude was a delight, as was the Dutch's early promise but ultimately it petered out when the knockout stages began.

One thing I am in entire agreement with Martin Samuel about, though, is the format for the tournament. Sometime in 2002 (to accommodate teams based either in South Korea or in Japan) the format was tweaked so teams in the same half of the draw were able to meet each other twice before the Final.

For example, Turkey had to play Brazil in the group stages in 2002 and also in the semi-final. This time around Russia faced the Spanish twice in both group stage and semi-final.

There should be no way that a time has to face another more than once unless the trophy itself is at stake. Clearly it is possible two teams might face each other twice in any given tournament but this should never be allowed to happen until the final itself. Changing the format again to ensure this is the case shouldn't take much, and considering the tournament is about to be expanded to 24 teams anyway (a ridiculous idea which will dilute further the quality of the competition - when UEFA has 53 members it means that almost half will end up at the Finals) it should be near the top opf the agenda when the tournament schedule is designed.

In the meantime, congratulations to Spain - worthy winners.