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?


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:
Manchester Utd
Manchester Utd
Aston Villa
Aston Villa
Manchester City
Manchester City
West Ham
West Ham
West Brom
West Brom

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?"


"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


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.


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"."


"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."


"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:
Manchester Utd
Manchester Utd
Aston Villa
Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers
Aston Villa
Manchester City
West Ham
Bolton Wanderers
Newcastle Utd
West Ham
Manchester City
Bolton Wanderers
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.


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?