29 Jul 2018

2018/19 Premier League football predictions

A new football season beckons, rising in a vista of hope, only to be crushed by the jackboot of despondency. Well, if you're an Everton fan at any rate. Actually, the hope is a little less ecstatic than this time last year, so at least the onset of despondency will be easier to take. Pass the happy pills, nurse, I'm going in...

2018/19 will see more insane transfer prices and obscene wages for the top players, while my local team Northampton Town teeters on the verge of collapse, stymied by allegedly corrupt former owners and and a brazenly incompetent local council, the latest owner is thiscloseto walking away in frustration. Ho-hum.

Anyway, this time of year Phil and I make fools of ourselves with our annual predictions. His bollocks can be found after my bollocks. Last season I was spectacularly wide of the mark, reckoning that Chelsea would retain their title! So, settle in for more hilariously myopic crystal ball gazing...

Arsenal: Unai Emery sounds abrasive and vaguely anal. I know or care little about what the Arse have been up to this close season. They have become the West Brom of the top half of the table, consistent, occasionally entertaining, but completely predictable. OK, West Brom aren't in the PL any more, but yer know worramean?! Expect a cup win, and little change in their league position.

AFC Bournemouth: Eddie Howe - a lot of Evertonians wanted him as Martinez' and then Koeman's replacement, and he had to be a better bet than Fat Sam, eh? The question is how long can he and his team keep it up? I reckon this time round they will need the football equivalent of a packet of blue pills to stay up. If Howe has been poached by Xmas, then expect a relegation battle which they might lose. Otherwise, a relegation battle they might win.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Quite near Bournemouth, but not as good. Straight back down again.

Burnley: Sean Dyche looks like a low achieving pugilist. His bunch of scrappers will be in a battle for 7th/8th with my lot. We're quite flaky, so I expect to lose, but the dreaded burden of hope makes me predict otherwise.

Cardiff City: Hail the return of Colin Wanker! What were his parents Dan Bhoj and Rosi Ticl thinking? At least they're back to playing in blue. Another club with a barking and seemingly clueless foreign owner. The bottom half of the PL is full of relegation candidates with nowt between them, and this lot are one of them.

Chelsea: By the time you read this they might have sold Courtois to Real Madrid and bought Pickford from us. Even though Man City epitomise the unlevel playing field of modern football, somehow, it's still Chelsea everyone hates. If they buy Pickford I hope they implode under a huge tax fraud case involving the Russian mafia, and sex trafficking, the utter utter bastards. If not...meh...6th

Crystal Palace: Woy did quite well with them last time. If they sell Zaha to Spurs or anyone else, as is likely, they could be in big trouble, otherwise solid upper mid-table.

Fulham: This flaky bunch of west Lahndan chancers have an owner even madder than Vincent Tan, and even more unlikable than Ambramovich. Buy Wembley?! Wtf?! For that alone they deserve to fail, badly.

Huddersfield Town: I know absolutely nowt about this lot. Oh yeah...David Wagner, a sort of saner version of Klopp. Will probably win the title. Or finish bottom. In that case, 17th.

Liverpool: It's their year! Unfortunately this time a lot of pundits and journos agree with the fans' annual deluded nonsense, and sadly they might just be right. Added to that this may be Klopp's last chance before he gets poached by Bayern Munich. On the other hand, Citeh could win it in their sleep at the moment, so 2nd, probably...hopefully.

Leicester City: Their fans still haven't stopped smiling, and who can blame them? Can't see anything vastly different from last season to be honest. Then again, Vardy isn't getting any younger and they've lost Mahrez, so this could be the start of a slow slide back down the table. That prediction probably means they'll win it again.

Manchester City: Money, money, money, it's a rich man's world. 1st, obviously.

Manchester Utd: By some distance, the dullest team in the top six. Even when he was winning stuff with Chelsea, Maureen had the demeanour of a bloke who hates his job, now he just looks like someone who can't wait to retire. I know the feeling. Wake me up before you go go, Maureen.

Newcastle Utd: There is a sizeable minority of Everton fans who, every time we change mangers recently want the FSW as our boss. They can fuck right off, have they no memory? Anyway, like Phil said, how is he still at Newcastle? Come to that how is that cockney sportswear spiv still their owner? More mid-table fodder, unless Benitez finally does get poached, in which case, yet another relegation prospect.

Southampton: Meh...wherever they finish, it will be next to Newcastle in the table.

Tottenham Hotspur: They've just played in virtually every game in the World Cup so they'll be asleep for a few weeks, and then disorientated by their move 50 yards down the road. Expect Harry Hotspur to get lost, looking for the new way in, not being the sharpest pin in the box. Like Phil I thought Wemberlee would be their undoing last season, but I was wrong, as per normal. For the first time I can remember, Spuds have a resilience about them, and actually don't look flaky. Except when they play Chelsea, obviously. Will lose to Chelsea twice, but slug it out with Liverpool for 2nd, and hopefully win, but I doubt it somehow. Third.

Watford: My dad's team, so I've always had a soft spot for them. Right now they are an advert for how not to run a football club. Will struggle, badly.

West Ham Utd: A horrible team, led by a likeable wily old fox. Unlike Spurs, the wide open spaces of their new ground is causing them big problems, and probably still will this time. Mid table fodder.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: I used to like the 70s Wolves starring Derek Dougan, and their weirdly designed main stand. I know nothing about them now, nor does anyone else it seems. Therefore, they will do best of all the promoted teams. Mid table.

Everton: Like all clubs we have a sizeable number of idiots in our fanbase. This time, they wanted Marco Silva sacked for losing a couple of pre-season friendlies with our team of misfiring misfits, plus Richarlison. These people are so short sighted they probably hold each other's dicks in the loos at Goodison and don't notice.

Silva wasn't my first choice, but he's got my support as he has of any fan with two braincells to spark off. A bit of an unknown quantity he's not been at any club long enough to really judge, so we'll see. The best signing we've made as I write this on 29th July, is Marcel Brands as director of football from PSV, a bloke who so far has said all the right things, and in Richarlison bought someone who may be able to change a game. However what we really need is a centre back to partner Keane, who will be a great footballing defender, given the same partner for more than one game in a row, and a left back. Jags and Baines are both getting well past their sell bys, and Williams is just fucking awful. I suspect we can't give him away, so perhaps it's best to have him shot and turned into glue to hold Woodison Park together for another year while we wait for the mythical new ground to start appearing, mirage-like at Bramley Dock. I won't be holding my breath.

It will take three or four transfer windows to sort our mess out, so yet another forgettable season beckons. Frankly, all I want this year is to avoid relegation and win a cup, as it will be 24 long years since we last won a pot at the end of this coming season!

Final table:
Man City
Man Utd
Crystal Palace 
West Ham

FA Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Everton (sigh...)
Chumps League: Boris Johnson
Cobblers: Last day survival, both in a footballing and fiscal sense 
First managerial casualty: Whoever's in charge at Watford

...and here's me good mate Phil's take on this strange game of no chance:

Football, eh? Fuck me we could all do with a break from it...

For well over 10 years, Roger and I have done our annual Premier League forecast. I spent an hour looking at previous predictions and have to declare that we've always been better than 60% correct, with one or two notable embarrassments. Leicester to narrowly escape relegation the year they won it. QPR to be mid-table every time they got back in the top flight. Both were far more crazy than the seemingly mad forecast that Spurs would win the league (they finished 2nd) or that Everton would win the League Cup almost every year (they never have).

This year we are blessed with a Premier League without either West Brom or Stoke City who both of us have wished to be relegated for yonks (yet I don't recall either of us forecasting their demise the year they went down). There are more obvious candidates for the bottom five than the top five, but as last season proved, promoted teams are no longer the most vulnerable.

There is also the simple fact that with the exception of a few clubs, there's barely been any transfer business of note, which means a lot could change in the next 10 days, although quite how much immediate impact any new signing is going to have is negligible now.

Here are my predictions for the coming season; Roger's will either follow mine or be before mine, depending on which blog this is posted on.

Arsenal: Like Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery sounds like some vaguely bottom related ailment. The former PSG manager inherits a stagnant team needing something new to focus on. Another season in Thursday night hell will do them no favours and it's whether they have enough quality players to sustain a challenge for the top 4 that is of the biggest concern. Emery won't make many friends but he won't do bad enough to get sacked. They will take all cup competitions seriously as their only real silverware chances.

Bournemouth: Is Eddie Howe the new Messiah? Well, he has more technical nous than Gareth Waistcoatgate. The problem is Bournemouth are punching above their weight and all they can realistically hope for is a campaign where they're never too close to the drop. Tough season where they need some of their 'investments' to stand up to their potential.

Brighton: In an alternative reality Chris Hughton eventually becomes the manager of Tottenham. In our reality this is unlikely to happen despite him being an excellent and under rated manager. This season he's going to need a lot of grit and determination from his players because, quite simply 18 other teams have more quality.

Burnley: It's the Europa League wot did it for them. How Sean Dyche hasn't been coaxed by a 'bigger' club is a mystery, apart from the fact he just doesn't fit the modern manager role. He's a modern-day Sam Allardyce and the chances are he'd fail at another club and his stock as a tactician would fall. Burnley will be happy with group stages of Europa, mid table and a cup semi - they might get them all.

Cardiff: Does the anagram of Colin Wanker have it in him, at his age, to be a proper Premier league manager or will the Welshmen crash and burn, again? I can't see them putting up a fight. The Spaniard who was at Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday will be in by Christmas.

Chelsea: The last time they had a new Italian manager I said they'd finish 6th and they won it. Like Arsenal, they are a club in a decline cycle, the new manager will be good for moral and form, but ultimately they won't be a team like others and will struggle again to break the top 4.

Crystal Palace: Here's a weird one. Based on form and other irrelevant statistics, some computer came up with a prediction that Palace were capable of a top three finish. I'm not agreeing with that computer, but I get the feeling this team under a rejuvenated Woy Hodgson won't be struggling this season.

Everton: Will the new manager turn this usually guaranteed top 7 team into a top 7 team? Will they win the League Cup? One of the season's mysteries because a) is the manager actually any good? b) do they have the players and have they bought anyone in that can change games? And c) Even if they can are they better than at least three of the six sides above them? Sorry Rog, but no.

Fulham: Puzzle time. This season's QPR? I've always had a soft spot for Fulham; nice ground, mad owners, some great players and with a manager who oversees a game as madly as he played, you can expect the unexpected from this team. Watch Ryan Sessignan; he'll be worth a lot of money soon.

Huddersfield: Seriously doomed without better quality. I can't see them having the resilience of Bournemouth and even though their manager is a really capable future star, this will likely be their EPL exit.

Liverpool: Say it with hilarity in your voice - this lot are the proper pundits' tip to beat Man City to the title. On paper they've filled in most of the cracks by doing a lot of their transfer work while others were pondering the world cup. Even more so than when the FSW or Brenda were in charge, there is an expectation this could be the year Klopp beats Pep, but I feel Liverpool, like Spurs, have forgotten how to win the most important matches and most fans of most other clubs would simply be excited at the prospect of a great season. However, the weight of Liverpool fans' is often too much for the players to burden themselves with.

Leicester: Obviously, they'll never hit the heights they did, but now they are also no longer regarded as relegation fodder. This is a big season for the former Champions and they will want a top 7 finish to maybe give them some more Europe the season after next. This is a club with some money and you can't fault their ambition, but losing Mahrez, their most creative player, will need to be addressed.

Man City: Honestly? You can't really see anyone else really challenging. If Citeh play to 75% of what they did last season they'd still win the league, despite whatever improvements there have been elsewhere. I'd love to see Pep throw all of the money and grandeur away and take on the job of managing Northampton Town for 3 years on £100k a year transfer budget. Then I'd acknowledge he's a brilliant manager, but while he has bottomless resources to essentially buy whomever he wants wherever it is difficult to see anyone else really giving this team a run for their money for the next three years.

Man Utd: I seriously expect this team to have moments of extreme embarrassment this season. I have a feeling that Jose won't last the course, essentially because I don't think he has the passion for it any more and he would have preferred to have managed Man U when they were very good. It is no longer a pre-requisite to play for Man U if you're a world class footballer and only this team's quality will ensure they get anything from what could be Mourinho's last season in football management.

Newcastle: Why is the FSW still there? With no money and an owner who actually is a Spurs fan, I can't see Newcastle being anything other than the new Stoke. They have two or three good players who will want a better season or they'll be at bigger clubs in January.

Southampton:  The new West Brom? Mark Hughes is competent at best and is one of that list of managers who always get offered jobs when they get sacked for being shit at their last job. I wish I could be a football manager for a few weeks... As for the south coast side? I expect a long tough season, slightly less fraught than last year.

Watford: Who is their manager this week? Won't finish in the top 10, this year, next year or in 2050. Have less chance of success than Elton John has of having a #1 hit while singing naked up to his groin in a sheep.

West Ham: The wife and brother-in-law's team and one I have always had a soft spot for despite Whammers' hating Spurs like we were the paedo that stole their children. I never like seeing them get relegated, but I hate playing them and they're often more up for beating Spurs than the Arse. Pellegrino is a remarkably astute signing, but this is going to be a year of general rebuilding.

Wolves: This season's proper mystery. They have a manager reasonably unknown but sounding like a fancy Spanish dish in a Michelin-starred restaurant who appears to love the Portuguese (cos he is one) and have turned Wolves into a real dark horse for complete survival. Many people of my age and older will look at Wolves in the top flight and think that an order has been restored, but I've always disliked the team, so I want to change my mind.

Tottenham: I was so wrong about playing at Wembley and I was so glad I was wrong. I really thought Spurs would struggle to finish in the top 6 with Wembley as a millstone and another tough Champions League campaign. In September, Spurs move into New White Hart Lane (and play Liverpool, so a nice easy start) before that they have three away matches and a 'home' game at Wembley against Fulham. It's a bitty start, just the kind of thing a team that notoriously screws up any chance they have of genuinely challenging for a title by having crap starts to the season. Plus, you have to factor in the unbelievably massive work that Daniel Levy has done in the transfer market. So far, with August 1st just round the corner (and a deadline that closes on the 9th), Spurs have signed exactly 0 players.They have at least 13 players still on holiday after world cup exertions and while it gives the B team a chance to shine, Spurs could have a bench that resembles the local nursery school for August.
The 'Spurs' fan in me, looks at all the inactivity, all the lack of real depth, at the new shiny stadium that needs to be a fortress and all the seemingly hollow bullshit from the manager about concluding business early and getting the squad right and I really worry about this season. However, the optimist in me is weighing up the factors against the team last season and how well they did considering and I have to think that Spurs are no longer a team that buckles at adversity. For the fringe players there has never been a better opportunity (even if these include Sissoko, Llorente and a few others who you'd be hard pressed to get excited about) to establish themselves over the 1st team. I expect a high finish more because of others failure to be consistent rather than us ever really challenging.

Final Table:
Man City
Man U
Crystal Palace
West Ham

FA Cup winners: Man City
League Cup winners: Liverpool
European Champions League winners: Sligo Rovers
Cobblers?: Play-offs
1st Manager sacked: Claude Puel

22 May 2017

Gobble, gobble...

I wonder how many more times Treeza can get away with attacking the Tories' natural constituency before they actually open their dim rheumy eyes and finally realise they're being taking for a ride?

First we had the Gideon's Dividend Tax, the biggest single tax hike on small business owners in my lifetime, and now....introducing...the Dementia Tax, the most socialist piece of tax planning since the days of Harold Wilson.

Think about it - where are houses priced at the most ridiculous levels in this country? That's right London and the South. The residents of those homes are also the most likely to vote Tory anywhere in the UK. The Tories are saying that should those residents be unfortunate enough to need care, either in a home or at home, then all but £100K of the value of their home will be taken into account when paying for it.

Finchley semi-detached house owner Mr Smith, whose wife sadly passed on three years ago finds he needs care, and Finchley council take £650K of the utterly stupid £750K his house is "worth" into account. Mr Jones in a similar situation in an ex-mining village outside Doncaster has all of £50K of his identical house, worth £150K taken into account by Doncaster council. Ergo the "rich" (on paper at least) houseowner loses 86% of his house value, while the "poor" home owner loses a mere 33%. Socialism in action, in the distorted view of your average blinkered Tory, at any rate.

As ever, the party who reckon they're the ones to be trusted with the economy, you know, the same party who have accrued more debt since 2010 than all previous Labour governments combined, have not thought this through. One hopes that the fine print of this draconian and avoidable pernicious tax takes into account that in my little scenario above, Doncaster council are getting £600K less than Finchley council for the same provision of care. Either a future Tory government takes social care back into government hands, which is unlikely, or it distributes the funds fairly, in this case moves £300K from Finchley to Doncaster council. More likely, those living in the affluent South will get a far better standard of care in their dotage, and sod the rest of us.

If Corbyn's Labour Manifesto had included a policy along these lines, the media would have ripped him apart like rabid vultures for its blatant inequity and for not explaining it properly. Is too much to ask for similar scrutiny from journos in this case? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

Sadly, there will still be more than enough turkeys voting for Xmas from the older generation to ensure a thumping Tory majority. We are all going to die...and our offspring are going to pay for it by having their inheritance taken away.

Update 12:50pm 22/5/17: In the inevitable first sign of backtracking from Weak & Wobbly Treeza, she is now hinting at an as yet unspecified cap on costs taken from house values towards care. This may mean that our friend from Finchley will "only" have his estate fork out £500K instead of £650K...possibly. So that's OK then...

17 May 2017

A little more to the right, if you please...

Message to BBC Points of View, Wednesday 17th May 2017:

I am writing to complain at the ongoing and plainly obvious political bias of the BBC's political news reporting team. From James Harding, the Director of News and Current Affairs down, a distinct bias towards the Tories is seen on all the main news bulletins. To be fair, whoever they appoint at the top is going to have a political sympathy, but the BBC's much vaunted impartiality brief surely dictates that the reporters and editors Mr Harding employs have views across the political spectrum? This certainly does not seem to be the case at the moment. We all know about Laura Kuenssberg, who has been called "David Cameron's Attack Dog", among far less kind epithets, but it does not end there, oh no.

The Photoshopped words, etc, are not mine by the way, but sum it up neatly!

The biscuit was taken on the day of Labour's manifesto launch, when on the main early evening news bulletin Business Editor Kamal Ahmed presented a frankly ludicrous graphic that appeared to suggest that someone earning £123000 a year would suffer an additional tax burden of £23000 under Labour's planned tax hike for higher earners. Even the most mathematically challenged among the audience must have suspected something didn't add up!

For your viewers' information, the actual figure of extra tax raised in this scenario under Labour's plan, assuming the basic rate of tax and the bands and allowances remain unchanged is £2150. A bit of a difference! Walking to work today I calculated in my head (and confirmed it on a spreadsheet later), that in order to suffer extra tax of £23000 under Labour's plan, one would have to earn a whopping £513000. I never thought the BBC would stoop to fake news, but these are strange times indeed.

If I very grudgingly accept that this graphic was a simple mistake, which will no doubt be your explanation, then a retraction including the correct figures should be made at the same time on the main late evening news bulletin. I won't be holding my breath.

Finally, I would point out that I am not and never have been a member of the Labour Party.

Yours, Dismayed...see wot I did there? :)


An edited version of this is on its way to BBC Points of View, not that it will do any good. Those of you inclined to send a similar missive, follow this link:


27 Jul 2016

Exploding Tumescent Inevitable!

There, that got your attention...now read this, reposted from somewhere a mere two hundred yards as the buzzard flies from my front door:

Every year my good, dear friend Roger and I become pundits and forecast the forthcoming football season and we put it up on our joint sports blog called Sports Discuss - which, in Internet terms, was as popular as someone's soiled underpants. Abandoning that idea, we're going to publish this jointly through our own blogs, for exposure more than anything else.

We were once known as The Wippo Brothers & Clive.


As is now well known, my predictions come from Missed It Meg, the most unreliable wizard in the universe, and a seer whose stygmatism inflicted second sight peers myopically through bottle-bottom thick glasses. Meg's predictions are to reliability what the Labour Party is to credible opposition politics, or, if I have to spell it out, a fucking shambles...so, here goes:

AFC Bournemouth
Will veer between 11th and 17th and could finish anywhere in that range. Already there have been seven unspectacular additions to the squad, replacing six leavers and this will mean they will remain the Premier League's yo-yo team, up and down like the Assyrian Empire. I predict they will beat Spurs at home.

As a Toffee it is always galling listening to the interminable moaning of Gooners, but I can grudgingly understand their grouching given the unspent zillions under Arsene's mattress. About time the craggy old Frenchy retired methinks, or is it Wenger's plan to peg it in the dug out? They'll do enough to scrape 4th as ever, having at some point been top and looking unbeatable. Plus ca change...

I know as much about Burnley than I do about lathe maintenance. Bottom, I reckon...which probably means Europa League qualification beckons. Will draw with Spurs at WHL.

Blimey, that Kunte Kante fella makes Jose look reserved, does he not? Have already spent over £60m of loose change on two new players, expect more to come, who with the gesticulating bloke should probably take a while to bed in. 2nd or 3rd.

Crystal Palace
A sort of classier version of Stoke, occasionally a bit mad, just like their manager. Will hover round the Useless League places.

I was going to hold off writing this prediction thing until we had actually bought someone, but given our track record that would mean the season would be a week old already. Even with Moshiri's wallet on board it seems we have been a bit slow off the mark, the only purchase so far being Leicester's director of football. An offer has been made for Alex Witsel who is mulling over a £100K a week contract. Ho-hum.
Koeman was the guy I wanted, but then so was Martinez, so who knows what will happen.
The obvious key to any improvement is keeping hold of Lukaku, and to a lesser extent, Barkley and Stones. Never a dull moment at The Old Lady since Moyes left, for sure. We can't do any worse than last season, so I'll go for 6th and a cup!

With no Barcodes to keep us entertained this season, 'Ull are making an early bid for the title of the Premier League Comedy Club. What an omnishables! Down, down deeper and down...

My prediction for the Foxes last season, like most, was waaay off, but at least I didn't predict them to go down. Surely there's no way they can repeat last season's miracle? I reckon upper mid-table. Right, I'm off to put a tenner on them being Champions again...

Klippety is the first likeable manager the Shite have had since Houlier, and he's now forging them into his own team, with 13 (!) departures and 6 additions so far. With no Euro distractions, I'm rather scared they'll do a bit too well for my liking. Only thing stopping them is the new team bedding in. Top four likely. :(

Man City
The team who on paper should win it every year. The key word is "team", which they seldom resemble. Is "The World's Best Manager" the man who can get them playing like they recognise each other? Hands off Lukaku or Stones, ye over-monied entitled fuckers...

Man Utd
There was an early and strong rumour that The Special One would actually take up a proper challenge (my lot), but unsurprisingly he plumped for the bottomless loaned wealth of the red half of Manchester. Like their neighbours they have been very quiet in the transfer market so far, so...hands off Lukaku or Stones, ye over-monied entitled fuckers...

A similar amount of transfer activity to Bournemouth, but unlike The Cherries they do not have a year's experience behind them. Will hover around the drop zone all year, but may survive.

They can't keep rebuilding and thriving each season, surely? Summat has to give. Another hard one to call. Mid table anonymity along with...


You can tell I've had enough of this, can't you?

Just been bought by a Yank, apparently. Good track record, Yanks owning football clubs, eh? Will scrap it out with the other three teams beginning with S for 12th.

Tottenham Hotspur
A great name that sounds like it came out of a boys comic, and a team who veer between brilliant and scared of their own shadows. The loss to Bournemouth and the home draw against Burnley will be what ultimately costs them the title. At least they'll finish above Arsenal at last.

Goodbye, Vicarage Road... ;)

West Ham
An almost brand spanking new and virtually free new ground (the bastards), a good manager and a good squad. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, probably, knowing The Hammers.

West Brom
I thought I'd finished this thing then realised I hadn't mentioned The Baggies...in the mix with the "Esses".

The Table:
1. Citeh
2. Spurs
3. Liverpool
4. Arsenal
5. Man Utd
6. Chelsea
7. Everton
8. Leicester
9. Crystal Palace
10. West Ham
11. Southampton
12. Sunderland
13. Stoke
14. West Brom
15. Swansea
16. Bournemouth
17. Middlesbrough
18. Burnley
19. Watford
20. Hull

League Cup: Everton
FA Cup: Everton
Champions League: Not Everton
Useless League: Paraguay


And I, for once, am rather more measured (with a surreal caveat)...

I can't remember an impending football season with so much uncertainty about it, yet if you read the columns and listen to the early shots from the pundits you'd think it was already shaping up to be the same old same old. I don't think it will be as predictable as the experts think. For a start two new teams in the Champions League; Man Utd in the Europa Cup and a host of new managers, new players and new grounds.
Oh and for the first time since I've been doing this (must be 10 years now), you'll have to wait until the end to find out my positional predictions.

AFC Bournemouth: The problem for Eddie Howe's men is the other big problem that hounds the unexpected survivor of an almost certain relegation - Second Season Syndrome. The Cherries appear to have spent interestingly without really raising any eyebrows. The key to a second consecutive survival battle is not just who is worse but also how they improve on some excellent results last season. It's going to be tough.Animal Most Like - Possum

Arsenal: One thing you'd be silly to do is write off Arsenal as a serious top 4 contender, but if you hear some of the pre-season banter from Arsenal fans on the radio you'd think their season was over already. It would appear the lack of investment and new players has again mightily pissed off the fans, who argue, quite rightly at times, that if their team could only scrape into 2nd in a supposedly woefully inferior last season, surely some investment is needed to ensure they don't go backwards. I think they might start to go backwards, especially if injuries hit them hard early on. Animal Most Like - Wildebeest

Burnley: I really can't see this being a season with any real high points. They are not going to do a Leicester and might find themselves way off the pace from almost the word go. Will win friends and play some good football, but it just won't ever be enough. Animal Most Like - rabbit

Chelsea: With no European participation, a slew of new recruits (and more on the way) and a little more than just their pride at stake, I expect a faltering season from the former champions, but only because it will take Conte - the new man - a few months to get it right. The success of teams around them in Europe could dictate the final standings at the end of the season. Animal Most Like - Pike

Crystal Palace: Have been nothing but ambitious in transfers and targets and will fancy their chances if they hit a rich vein of form - which they are capable of, especially at home. Will be tough to beat this year and Pardew will have learnt from the second half of last season. Animal Most Like - Bald eagle

Everton: One of the real puzzles in this year's league battle. Ronald Koeman didn't so much transform Southampton as do what you'd expect a manager to do when he follows someone who has shown the team's vast improvement, he took it to the next level and Southampton sans some of arguably their best players were better without them and with the Dutchman. He also hasn't got big shows to fill as Roberto Martinez's reign spluttered to a resounding end and a team with so much potential, in a season when they should have done so much better, was a flop. They don't appear to have signed anyone yet and despite having lots of money, this is a worry, especially if you're a Toffee's fan. Animal Most Like - Panda

Hull: A club in turmoil. Only 13 fit players in the squad. The manager has just quit and the club is essentially for sale. I'd have a fiver on them to win the league. I expect them to go down and badly but I said that about Leicester last season. Animal Most Like - Your crap dog

Leicester: And here they are, the Champions. Will they be champions in May. No. I'm positive of this. They will however begin the season like they finished last season and will remain tough to beat and difficult to play against unless you know how to close them down. A decent replacement for Kante is needed, but who was Kante last August? This is going to be as tough as old boots for them. Animal Most Like - Lupus Lupus

Liverpool: No Europe and we all remember what happened last time that happened? This time they have Jurgen Klopp, a lot of his style of players and definite signs at times towards the end of last season that a new ethos was taking shape at Anfield. This team, for the first time in years, worries me. Animal Most Like - Giraffe

Man City: The Premier League really is the Champions League of managers this season and few come bigger than Pep Guardiola. Had the other Special One not moved into Old Trafford you might have pretty much given the title to Citeh given the foregone conclusion-ness attached to them. For Guardiola, read Antonio Conte above, this won't be an easy ride, it will get better and all the signs will start to show that the future is scary, but maybe not this year. Animal Most Like - Gorilla

Man Utd: Determining factors - is Mourinho washed up? Will the Europa League hinder? Will they even bother with it? Will the weight of expectation become too high again? There's no denying the quality that's been brought in and that of those still being negotiated for. I just have a gut feeling that this could go horribly wrong and it's a real cheat to say it probably won't but I want to put it out there. Animal Most Like -Hyena

Middlesbrough: A dark horse for certain survival? There's something about them that suggests a resilience and staying in the Premier League isn't as difficult as it once seemed for newly promoted clubs. Have spent wisely and on some good players. Animal Most Like - Geordies

Southampton: my underdogs for the relegation zone. The new manager might yet be another brilliant pick and the academy still continues to churn out future stars; but it must be hard playing for a club with both a Europa League campaign and with the knowledge you play for a selling club. Unlikely to repeat last season and could struggle if things get tough. Animal Most Like - Seal

Stoke: I'm fed up with writing about Stoke and most years I write bugger all about them. Will frustrate and flatter to deceive. Mid-table as per. Animal Most Like -Shrew

Sunderland: David Moyes can turn Jermaine Defoe into a defensive midfielder. Surely a season of mediocrity but no real flirtation with relegation? Either this team will improve or no one will change their fortunes for a while. I think they'll bother neither end of the table. Animal Most Like - a very defensive minded sloth

Swansea: possibly the bottom has dropped out of Swansea a little and if Siggurdsson is prised away from them before the window slams shut then I fear for their future. Animal Most Like - lungfish

Watford: Who knows? What's the new manager like? How will the 30 new recruits slot into the team? Bizarre club. Animal Most Like - Cuckoo

West Ham: We all know Bilic is a top quality manager. How the Hammers settle into their new home is a huge uncertainty. Fortress or target? West Ham were the first team to win at the Emirates, I believe, expect Arsenal to return the favour. Europa League could hinder league progress a little, depending on how serious they treat it this year. Animal Most Like -  Peacock

West Brom: God, I so hope they go down. Animal Most Like - skunk

Tottenham: Optimism has never been in plentiful supply with me and my team and after a brilliant season, the team imploded to remind us all just how good they are at fucking up when Arsenal are sniffing at their arses. I expect nothing less than finishing above the Gooners and maybe we have the makings of doing more than that. The one key factor in Spurs failure to finish higher than 3rd was their failure to convert matches against obdurate opponents intent on a draw or nicking the win. The football they played, by and large, against the so-called big boys was irresistible at times and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue even with Champions League commitments. Sensible purchases, early on, and more brilliant raw talent being promoted from the youth coupled with something Spurs haven't had for a long time, continuity, means that I'm actually more than optimistic for them in a season with so many unknown factors at work. Animal Most Like - Vorlon

The Table:
1.  Tottenham
2.  Liverpool
3.  Man City
4.  Chelsea
5.  Man Utd
6.  Everton
7.  Arsenal
8.  West Ham
9.  Leicester
10. Stoke
11. Crystal Palace
12. Southampton
13. Watford
14. Middlesbrough
15. Sunderland
16. Bournemouth
17. WBA
18. Swansea
19. Burnley
20. Hull City

League Cup: Man City
FA Cup: Chelsea
Champions League: Bayern Munich
Europa League: Kazakhstan Korinthians

29 Jun 2016

Au revoir to The Quiet Man

All of you who know me, in the real world or on Farcebook will probably know or surmise that my X has always been for Labour, and you'd be mostly right. Currently my natural party of choice is doing what it does best, tearing itself apart. Regardless of the recriminations and regret over how they got to this place, much like that stupid referendum result, we have to grit our teeth and get on with it. I say "our", but in truth that's a bit wide of the mark, as I have never been a Labour member. I joined the Greens briefly after their relative success in the European Parliament elections in the mid 1980s, but the constant factional infighting that became instantly apparent put me off party membership for life. That said, as a natural Labour voter, I have every right to express my opinion, so here it is:

Jeremy Corbyn will never win a General Election - cue foaming at the mouth by the idealist faction.

He is a quiet and dignified man whose principles guide him, a rare thing in modern politics. Corbyn is a lifelong Eurosceptic, and the fact he had to compromise his principles in the recent referendum debacle, and therefore only reluctantly entered the fray at the last minute, saying too little far too late to make a difference is at least part of the reason why thousands of natural Labour voters, especially in the north of England were not swayed from their misguided intentions to vote Leave. With such a small majority for Leave, Corbyn only had to persuade a few hundred thousand to vote the other way and the result would have been different. The fact that today we see a previously reluctant Corbyn on the news saying that Article 50 should be invoked now, not after we have a new Tory PM at the helm tells you all you need to know. He probably voted Leave himself, and is suddenly becoming forceful over the outcome.

His heart was not in the Remain campaign, that much was obvious from his demeanour, when he was visible that is. A grudging comment along the lines of "I give the EU 7 out of 10" is hardly helpful, and the first time I heard him say Labour had to look at their immigration policy, the major factor for those northern ex-Labour voters, was the day before the vote. Way, way too late. I heard one of those same voters being asked on the news what they thought Corbyn's stance was on the referendum, and his answer was he had "no idea". Much as Corbyn obviously loathes the media, and he has good reason to, if he is to stand any chance in the next General Election, which now could be a lot earlier than expected, he needs his own Alistair Campbell making damn sure he appears every five minutes calling the Tories to account. In fact, forget the GE, that should be happening right now, and it should be like shooting fish in a barrel, but Corbyn prefers to remain near invisible. It frustrates the hell out me, and no doubt countless other Labour supporters away from the membership bubble.

Leaving the appallingly stupid EU vote aside, Corbyn's biggest problem is also the reason he was voted in as leader in the first place. Part of his calm and reasoned manner involves travelling up and down the country meeting real people and explaining his vision, in his consensual manner. Marvellous, I agree, and a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately idealism has not won an election since 1979, and in the modern TV age it is unlikely to ever again. Stump politics may have worked in the 1960s, and arguably a faux version worked as late as 1992, but convincing hundreds of people at a time of your case will not win a GE in the 21st century. Corbyn has failed miserably at communicating his message to the greater mass of the public. You cannot win an election by ignoring the media, especially TV.

Labour will never get back the Scottish vote, assuming they are even part of the UK by the next GE, and so to win enough seats not to get a majority necessarily, but to be able to form a workable coalition, Labour needs to win back its disaffected northern vote, most of whom now don't bother as they feel disenfranchised, and worryingly some vote UKIP. Even more difficult, they also need to get a fair proportion of middle England floating voters to switch sides from the Tories. It will be a very tough call for any leader, and with his current outlook, completely impossible for Corbyn.

Another factor is his seeming lack of gravitas, although to be fair my assumption is yet to be truly tested, but if I'm right, it never will be! All prominent world leaders need a statesman within, and in our recent history, Wilson had it, Callaghan didn't, Thatcher had it, Major didn't - although he seems to have grown into it years too late. Blair had it, Brown didn't. The common factor with all those who didn't is they all failed in the job. Being PM is not a bout being "nice" and "reasonable", it is about making hard choices and dealing with the consequences. Speaking of which, courage and gravitas is astonishingly lacking in that cowardly idiot Cameron, without whom we would not be in this dreadful fucking mess in the first place. Thanks, Dave, you absolute waste of space.

A modern party leader and hopeful Prime Minister has to make compromises every day, and both jobs are a triumph of pragmatism over idealism, that's the real world. Corbyn is no doubt an excellent constituency MP and is a great guy to have on your side if you want a new road crossing outside your local primary school, but PM material? Hardly, he's a back room man, an ideas man, and would make a good Secretary for Work and Pensions, but he is not and never will be PM material.

Unfortunately, the membership will no doubt re-elect Corbyn, the MPs who voted "no confidence" will defect and join up with the few Tories with a human face and a social conscience, and the Liberals...and lo...a New SDP to fill the missing centre, as nature and politics abhor a vacuum. It's 1981 all over again. Consequently the anti-Tory vote is split, Johnson gets in with the most right wing government we've ever seen in this country.

Do the Labour Party want a leader who will lead a marginal socialist rump in the House of Commons, satisfied to sit smugly on the sidelines occupying the moral high ground forever without a sniff of power, or do they want a leader who will be Prime Minister? I am a Labour voter, and to me, that is no choice at all...I might even join to give pragmatism one more vote.

...just thought you needed cheering up...and I haven't even mentioned Trump! Yep, 2016 is most certainly the Year of Stupid. Fangyewandgudnite....

21 Jun 2016

The Referendum Blues...Very Blue

On Thursday we here in the UK will be making the biggest decision of our voting lives, and for some of you who were over 18 on 6th June 1975 it is your second chance at determining the future of our country. 41 years ago that generation were young and hopeful of the future, as indeed they should be, and they and most of the rest of the country voted to stay in what was then the Common Market.

You are mostly all now in receipt of pensionable income of some form or other, and barring an absolute economic catastrophe your future income is safe, and more importantly, known. A large percentage of you have worked at some point or another for a Government department and therefore are probably well enough off to withstand the inevitable price rises that will follow a Brexit, an outcome most of you seem in favour of. Unfortunately those economic guarantees do not apply to your children and grandchildren, which is why I now ask you to think again.

I have read countless blogs, posts, articles on the Leave side of the fence, so I would like to think any Leavers reading this would do me the same courtesy, so, consider this if you will:

Whatever your reasons to vote Leave, do you really want to see a country where the opportunities to live and work anywhere within the EU without restriction is denied to your children and grandchildren? These are opportunities that some of you may have taken advantage of. Aside from the employment scenario, if any of you have married an EU citizen from another country, and brought them here to live - or vice-versa - after Brexit there is a good chance that will no longer be possible for your descendants, or at the very least only possible after waiting years for the correct paperwork. Do you really want to restrict their life chances that much, given that they are far more likely to want to travel abroad to find work than you were, and for a lot, finding a partner will follow.

Even the majority of your descendants who will always live and work in the UK will be directly affected as initially at least - and there's no guarantee we will ever recover fully - there will be an increase in unemployment as multi-nationals relocate or scale down their operations in favour of locations within the EU.

Additionally in a probably vain appeal to loftier ideals, the reason there has been no war in western Europe in over 70 years is down to the EU, and NATO. In fact the quest for lasting peace was one of the reasons the EU was formed. Breaking it up plays into the hands of nationalists and warmongers. Incidentally, I do not hear any Leavers wanting to leave NATO, where if any one of its members is attacked it is taken as an act of war on all of them. Isn't that "undemocratic", and even a close call to the dreaded and mythical European Army?

After that plea to your emotions, here are some pertinent hard facts that I would like you to think about:

The labour protection laws and benefits and H&S rules that gradually came into being since 1975 that you have benefitted from while employed all came about largely as a result of us being in the EU. Outside the EU there are no checks on what an increasingly right wing libertarian Government might want to repeal.

The mythical benefit to the NHS promised by the Leave campaign simply will not happen as the net monies we pay to the EU will not be there as the economy will undoubtedly shrink after a Brexit. Take a look at the financial pages of your paper - it's already happening as stock prices plummet in a nervous pre-vote market expecting the worst. This may affect your investments directly, investments that you rely on to maintain your standard of living, not to mention your children's investments for their retirement, one that whatever the outcome will never be as cushioned as that of the Baby Boomers, the most well-off generation of retirees this country has seen and will see for a long, long time.

A lot of you are being led by the Leave campaign and the media into fixating on immigration, and while the vast majority of you are not racists, we all know where those fears ultimately lead as recent events horrifically showed. In any event, leaving the EU will have little effect on immigration, otherwise why is it that over half of current net immigration is from outside the EU? And there is no way that Turkey will be joining the EU in either your or my lifetime. It only takes one member to object!

The more idealistic of you are voting Leave in some laudable but naive hope of better democracy. We had our chance at better democracy when we rejected PR a few years ago. Remember, we currently have a Government that was elected by less than a quarter of the electorate, who can force their legislation through an unelected second chamber flooded with unelected members for that purpose. It is ironic that the unelected chamber has 200 or so more members that the elected one. A Brexit will certainly lead to an unelected (that word again!) Government led by Boris Johnson, of a more right wing nature than we have ever seen in this country, as Cameron's position will be untenable following a Brexit. Rather puts complaints about the EU being undemocratic into perspective don't you think?

I could go on, but I doubt there is any point. If any Leavers are still reading, I congratulate you on keeping an open mind, but I fear that most have entrenched opinions and will not have read past the first paragraph, so I won't waste any more of your or my time. The EU is far from perfect, and yesterday I heard a German Eurocrat saying that whatever the outcome of the UK referendum it will cause the EU to take "a serious look at itself". Surely it is better to be part of that process than declining in isolation on the fringes? Vote Remain on Thursday 23rd June for a better future!

2 May 2016

Phenomenally Below Par

Well, what a strange old season this has been. Here we are with two weekends to go and Leicester are currently standing one point shy of almost certainly claiming the most unlikely of league titles, and their nearest challengers are Spurs, yes, Spurs, who could have predicted that? With my best mate being a Spud I almost feel sorry for them as undoubtedly from a pure footballing perspective the perennially underachieving north London team have played the most attractive football, and Phil, being now comfortably the wrong side of 50 has never witnessed his team lift the top domestic honour. Still, there's always next season, eh? I can't see Spuds anywhere but challenging next time, while only the the daftest fox would assume anything more than a decent top half finish for Leicester next time out, what with their Champions League commitments, and the possibility of losing Mahrez and/or Vardy, and Kante.

Talking of perennial underachievers, my lot missed a big opportunity this time out, what with two of the usual top 4 suspects misfiring badly, and a third coasting along like a comatose Oasis album. This was the season that Roberto Martinez, who is A Nice Bloke, had to improve on the lacklustre 2014/15 campaign, when at least he had the justified excuse of a Europa League charabanc to explain our poor league showing. This time, with no such distractions we have gone backwards. It seems as a coach, Martinez is incapable of getting the best out of players. To do that you need a bit of steel, the ability to switch on the "hairdryer" when needed. Putting your arm around the shoulder of your young centre back and telling him to play his way out of trouble because he has the obvious talent is the limited and failed tactic of A Nice Bloke, I'm afraid.

John Stones, more than any other player reflects Martinez' backwards progression since taking the job. In his first season the team were still possessed of a solid spine built on years of no-nonsense Scottish Presbyterian work ethic, and that, combined with Martinez' natural flair made for a winning combination and our highest ever Premier League points tally. For some reason thereafter Martinez decided to coach out of the team any sort of defensive shape when without possession, or maybe it just happened because Roberto, who is A Nice Bloke, just doesn't know any better? Fine if you are Barca or Real, but we simply do not have the talent in depth to rely on continually scoring more goals than the opposition. It seems Martinez' defensive coaching team consisted of a couple of hairdressers and a Sunday pub team manager. I can't even tell you who they are, such is their anonymity, assuming they even exist.

Going back to Stones, here is a lad that immediately after all the transfer speculation linking him with Chelsea played a blinder in the home game against that very team, and we thought, yep, all is well. Unfortunately that was a peak from which he swiftly tumbled, as Martinez' baffling tactics drained every last bit of confidence out of him to such an extent you could almost see it in his face sometimes. Endless mistakes and goals given away, aided by Martinez relying on Howard for far too long - Martinez is A Nice Bloke, you see - meant we gave away leads like Tories giving away different bits of the NHS every week.

The other player who suffered more than most at this strange lack of direction from Martinez was Ross Barkley, who seemed to have been given the responsibility of launching every attack, a fact opposing teams quickly spotted by putting three players on him at every opportunity. Luckily our one top class player Romelu Lukaku still managed to get the ball often enough to bang in his now customary shedload of goals, without which we would be keeping the north easteners and Norwich company down the bottom of the league.

Many fans keep banging on about how this current squad is the best we've had since the 80s, but is it, really? We have one player who would get the centre forward spot in most PL teams, a couple of very promising kids who hopefully one day not so far away will be the best in their positions in league, whether or not with us, who knows? The rest are mostly competent PL players, no more. Jags is a great captain and CB but he won't go on forever, Baines is no spring chicken. Barry shows how much we rely on him when he's missing, and for me he is our player of the season. Doofyloofy blows hot and cold, there's no danger of Barca wanting him back. Robles is OK, no more, if we are to challenge for top 4 we need a better keeper. Funes Mori is unpredictable and has poor judgement. The guy can go from brilliant to calamity in the space of one move. In other words, a typical South American - Tim Vickery was right. So, best squad since the 80s? Is it any better than Moyes' best squads, given the standard of competition then and now? I don't think so. Wholesale changes need making.

No single game summed up our appalling total lack of defensive nous than the Man City League Cup semi final, a game that at one point we were 3-1 up on aggregate, enough to see most other teams through - imagine Moyes being 3-1 up and losing a game like that? Of course, a two goal lead was nowhere near enough for us that time, nor has it been on many other occassions this woeful season. Many fans have suggested employing a defensive coach, but this simply will not happen under Martinez, as to defend as a team without the ball dictates a complete change of tactical philosophy, something the increasingly stubborn Martinez is unlikely to ever contemplate.

The fan base was split at the end of last season between those who wanted Martinez out, and the rest of us who were willing to give him one more season. Those of us in the second camp have now lost our patience, with one exception on the Facebook group at least...you know who you are! With the influx of Moshiri's loot and the new TV deal, does our new money man trust a bumper transfer kitty to A Nice Bloke, or does he get a proper manager in? The answer might be obvious, but it all depends how much he listens to Bill Kenwright, that most loyal of chairmen. Even Bill must now realise that A Nice Bloke is not necessarily what you need running a football club with ambitions of European football.

Finally, a word of congrats for my home town club, whose story is every bit as emotional as Leicester's. From being two days away from being wound up to ending up League Two champions a few months on, it doesn't get much better than that. They cheered me up at times when Everton continually heaped disappointment upon let down, something the club have become expert at since 1878, so I suppose I should be used to it.