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      06.07.2009 12:52
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      The Premier League needs rethinking

      I think that the current Premier League setup is going nowhere for the vast majority of football clubs, with the spoils of victory going mostly to the top half a dozen or so clubs and the rest having to fight around the table for the scraps and leftovers. I have no reason to think that the 2009/10 season will be any different, with the likely top four clubs at the end of the season likely to come from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and possibly Everton and Manchester City.

      What leads me to this conclusion? The answer is simple enough. Since its conception in the 1992/93 season the Premier League has only been won by four clubs; Arsenal (3 wins), Manchester United (11 wins), Chelsea (2 wins), and Blackburn Rovers (1 win). It's my opinion that a league that is so biased towards the bigger and more financially successful clubs lifting the title year in and year out is actually bad not only for the lesser clubs but for the top clubs themselves, with the top four in the Premier League qualifying to compete in the European Champion's League. This means that the clubs competing in the Champion's League consistently have a huge fixture list to complete each season, especially if they progress from the group stages into the latter knock-out stage of the competition.

      Meanwhile the lesser clubs also have to scramble around for the scraps from the table from European competition, with the old UEFA Cup now being replaced by the newly constituted UEFA Europa League for the 2009/10 season. While this competition (in whatever format) certainly brings in much needed revenue to some of the second string clubs in the Premiership, it certainly doesn't carry the same prestige as competing at the top European level.

      It's my opinion that it would be better if the top clubs in the major European leagues broke away from their home-based national leagues and went on to form a truly European League, with say the top ten European clubs competing against each other four times in a season. (Two home and two away fixtures)

      Initially this league would probably consist of the top clubs from the Premiership, from Italy's Serie A, the Spanish League, and possibly the German Bundesliga. With European travel now commonplace it would be no great strain for any of these top clubs to travel to different countries to play fixtures. Such a league would be highly competitive and would allow UK football fans to watch a much higher level of competitive football on a weekly basis. Let's face it, would you rather watch a match between say Manchester United and Barcelona, or Manchester United and Burnley! (No disrespect intended to any Burnley fans)

      I'm sure that some system of promotion and relegation could be devised for this new European "Super League" which would allow some of the lesser clubs from the various European football leagues to aspire to some day gaining entry into football's elite.

      It could be argued that such a setup would mean that the Premier League would no longer hold any relevance in real terms, but I believe that football fans would still come to watch their team on a weekly basis and especially since the new League would be far more competitive than what exists today.

      **********

      © KenJ July 2009

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        07.09.2007 12:17
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        Promises to be as exciting as ever.

        Just incase you haven't heard, it is August and the football season has kicked off once again, and whether you are a fan or not the journey from August to May is going to be a long road, either because of the ups and downs of your teams season or because you can't find anything else to watch on the television besides Match Of The Day. With a new season comes updated coverage, new signings, and quite frankly everything is that little bit different so that it is going to take a while getting used to. What is different this season? Well read on to get my up to the minute analysis of the season thus far.

        Sky Sports have gone for a new look this year in terms of the way they display their sports coverage, and I'm sure it is no coincidence that it coincided with the beginning of the 2007/08 season. Now if you watch Sky Sports News you will see a new layout with new colours, and quite frankly thus far the channel seems to have lost its chatty comical nature and seems to be trying too hard to be like the traditional Sky News. They forget that they are reporting on things that are supposed to be fun, not the latest child kidnapping story. The new music for the channel could even be suited to that of the bongs of the Ten O'Clock news, and I will not understand why they got rid of their familiar, friendly tune. During games Sky now display the score at the bottom of the screen, and using up much less space it does look a lot nicer on the screen and the whole updated layout means you don't really miss a thing when they are trying to give you the latest stats. With that out of the way, lets get to the point most people care about - the football.

        After the opening weekend, Newcastle lead the table, but as my dad will rightfully bring up he remembers a day when they wouldn't bother even making the table until a few weeks in, because it really doesn't mean anything right now. That's not to say Newcastle aren't going to accomplish anything this season, and under the new management of Sam Allardyce they are looking to be a good side. Below is my team by team guide to how I expect them to fair this season, and considering I take my fantasy football very seriously lets hope I am right!

        ARSENAL - I do have a good feeling about this squad as it is growing up, and I don't think the goalscoring power of Henry leaving should make too much of a difference. The one thing that really does bug me about the team is Lehmann in goal, who knows who followed last season loves collecting a few yellow cards. On the opening weekend his huge error nearly led to a 1-0 loss to Fulham, although Arsenal managed to come back and win 2-1. That's the sort of victory I expect from them this season, as opposed to last season where they couldn't get the goals when they really needed them.

        ASTON VILLA - Fancied them to do a bit better against Liverpool at the weekend, and I'm sure the likes of Young will be big for them this season. Not sure how much I fancy one of their big summer signings in Reo-Coker, who I've always thought was a bit crap at England U21 level and at West Ham, let alone moving to a new club.

        BIRMINGHAM CITY - Not a follower of the Championship, so I don't know all that much about them from last season, although in their opening Premiership match they did leave a good account of themselves only losing to Chelsea 3-2. I do not expect them to stay up though, and will more than likely be getting relegated. Impressed they have Djourou on loan from Arsenal.

        BLACKBURN ROVERS - Pushing and pushing to be a big side once again, and they are a fixture not to be scoffed at. Bentley will more than likely be as huge for them as ever, and Santa Cruz from Bayern Munich is looking to leave a mark on the Premiership after pushing them to a 2-1 victory at the weekend on his debut.

        BOLTON WANDERS - This side is really going to feel the pain of losing Sam Allardyce, and whether you like him or not you can't deny the way he brought success to Bolton. The 3-1 loss to Newcastle was just the sign of things to come, and even a quality striker like Anelka is going to find it hard to keep them in the top half of the table.

        CHELSEA - Did not fancy them to win the Premiership this season until Man Utd's disappointing opening, and it is only going to be a two horse race again. They may not have spent as much as usual, but their signings such as Malouda are looking to be among some of the best they have ever made. Will be interesting to see if Drogba repeats the success of last season, and if anything impressive can come of Ballack and Shevchenko in their second season.

        DERBY COUNTY - Once again, I don't know much about this side except I believe they were one goal specialists in the Championship last season. Could be another cert to go down, but a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth at the weekend makes it look like they will put up a fight.

        EVERTON - Made one of the best defensive signings of the summer with Baines from Wigan, although sadly their defending record at home this season is already ruined from being perfect after Everton only managed a 2-1 victory. Would expect another top season from Arteta and Johnson. Really coming along, and looking like they should be a top 5 side.

        FULHAM - I think some people would laugh at the idea of bringing a Northern Ireland striker to the Premiership on the grounds of him being a top scorer in Euro 2008 qualifiers, although it worked as he scored for them on his debut Premiership game. Relegation shouldn't worry them too much this season.

        LIVERPOOL - After having a great season defensively last year, they now have to perform by scoring goals with the likes of probably the biggest Premiership signing over the summer - Torres. Gerrard proved he still is their star player though in the 2-1 victory at Villa Park.

        MANCHESTER CITY - Probably the biggest shock win of the opening weekend, as after Man City were falling apart at the end of last season they came back with new ownership and Sven as manager to beat a new look West Ham 2-0. Don't expect miracles from them this season though.

        MANCHESTER UNITED - As I mentioned earlier, it is between them and Chelsea to win the title this year, and with new signings such as Hargreaves, Nani and Tevez you would expect them to not have any problems. Then again, didn't everyone expect that of Chelsea last season? A 0-0 draw with Reading in the opening game and Rooney being sidelined for 2 months just goes to show anything can hapen.

        MIDDLESBROUGH - Gareth Southgate is driving this team into the ground, losing the quality strikers like Viduka and possibly Yakubu soon, and then just replacing them with Premiership reject strikers such as Aliadiare and Mido, if the transfer goes through according to plan. It's hard to see anything good about this side, and should get relegated if they keep up performing the way they do. Probably won't get relegated though, and that would be a good season for them in this state.

        NEWCASTLE UNITED - With Viduka, Alan Smith and Owen I think everyone was beginning to forget about Martins, but in the opening game Martins reminded everyone who he was by scoring two goals. Barton is just one of the many new exciting reasons why you should want to watch this side this season, and will finish top 10.

        PORTSMOUTH - One of the players I was most excited about seeing come to the Premiership was Nugent, and I'm glad he found a way with Portsmouth. They are a strange side, but Harry Redknapp seems to have found something that works, and don't expect to hear a bad word said about them on Sky with Jamie Redknapp as a regular pundit.

        READING - After overachieving last season I would not be at all surprised to see them go down this season, and it's a shame that they have lost the likes of Sidwell to Chelsea and possibly losing Lita soon. The 0-0 draw with Man Utd gave some hope, but I think people are giving this side too much credit at the moment.

        SUNDERLAND - Fully expected to see them get some points out of the game against Spurs, but the three points was an added bonus. Should stay up and be a side to watch, and have interesting players such as Richardson and Yorke to pay attention to.

        TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR - If Baines isn't the defensive signing of the summer, then Gareth Bale certainly is, and I hope Spurs can sort out their defenders so that Bale doesn't regret his choice of club. There should be no reason for them not to keep a lot of cleansheets, and Bent should be hitting them in at the other end of the pitch. Will not rival top 4 though.

        WEST HAM UNITED - Must be so diappointing to be a West Ham fan after coming back from last season with a 2-0 defeat in the first game. A lot of potentially great signings, and I do expect them to bounce back and finish well clear of the relegation zone.

        WIGAN ATHLETIC - Right now they don't really have anything going for them, and don't look like a Premiership side. This could make them the whipping boys of the Premiership if they don't act fast, and looking likely to have a tougher season than ever before.

        So that is my early opinion on how the season is going, and I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into some midweek fixtures with the big Spurs/Everton game tonight. Over the course of the season expect to see me update this, because it's just as likely as how you'll hear "You couldn't write a story as good as this," ten times and of course you'll also get to hear Andy Gray thinking he knows everything on colour commentary. Definitly going to be interesting though!

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        • More +
          12.08.2007 21:52
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          opening week in the premiership.

          There it was folks. The first set of weekend matches in the new premiership campaign. Imagine my review dictated by motson, and sit back, enjoy the magic of the best sport there is

          Picture it now, as we start. Sun shining, warm and dry, eleven men walk out onto the pitch, and realise they have actually gone to spain. They should have realised, when the trip in the team bus takes 47hrs, but they were drunk on the sport they love.
          Back in England, they take (the correct) field, with the 55000 capacity stadium of light the scene. This is a stadium fit for the premiership, and no mistake. Hard to believe that it was home to a championship side last year. Sunderland, steered along by the animal that is known as roy keane, are thought to be the whipping boys of the new season, and have it all to do, with a first match against spurs, hotly tipped to be pushing for champions league places at the end of the season.
          The whistle blows, and their off. The multi-million pound spurs, with their big name stars, against the minnows, who look wide eyed, and amazed that they are actually there. Spurs take the match to them, and sunderland know they are in the premiership now. But after twenty minutes, the sunderland boys stop pestering the spurs lads for autographs, and in answer to a growl from their manager start to take the game to spurs. Terriers they were, obviously keanes lessons in the crunching tackle have gone down well.
          Half time comes, and for all the huffing and puffing of the giants, the little pigs house just wont blow in. With Paul mcshane immpressive for sunderland, alongside dickson etuhu, and little wallace, they had the better chances in the second half. Spurs look rattled, and sunderland exstatic with the near certainty of a precious point in their first game of the season. Final whistle approaches, and chopra nips in at the back stick, and the old onion bag bulges! sunderland pinch it at the death. The fans blinded by the glint of niall Quinns pearly whites, as he tries to beat the cheshire cat in a smiling contest!!
          Where else could you get it? So much emotion, so much skill. And to cap it all, the supposed underdogs won!! For the neutral, this was the start of the season that was wanted. The headlines for sunday already written, with a great big picture of roy keane picked out, and a caption like ' irish eyes are smiling', or 'all i had to do was threaten to break jols legs' ready to press. All this, and only one game played.

          Time ticked slowly on, and as three o'clock approached on that dreary saturday, sunshine once again peered through in the form of the premier league. So now we go around the grounds and see what other gems there are on this opening day.

          West ham v man city

          Sven back in England, and this time its not to show some posh bit his diamond formation. £40 million was spent to reshape this fallen giant of the league. He bought all his players, having seen them on videos only, and much of england wanted to see him fall flat on his face. The opposite was the case, and his thrown together side looked a good outfit. And after eigteen minutes, and 462 off target shots by petrov, mancity went 1-0 up. Bianchi on his debut!! Man city in control, and west ham looking a shambles. Although the score stayed this way right up to 87th minute, when geovanni doubled the lead, the result was never in doubt. Svens back, and pretty soon he will be linked to the england job again - womens team of course, he might even do it for free!!

          Bolton v newcastle

          When all is said and done, this game was over in half an hour, with newcastle looking as immpressive, as bolton looked ordinary. With goals from n-zogbia, and two for the impressive martins, newcastle are stronger than i have seen them in years. Geremi held the midfield with ease, and could prove to be the buy of the season. Half time brought an improved performance by bolton, with 'le sulk' anelka bagging a neat finish, but by this stage newcastle had fashioned a half barrel bbq, and strung a few hammocks up in the goal mouth, their work done. Could this be a good year for the magpies at last? Quite possibly if the keep this up.

          derby v portsmouth

          Derby have made it. Generally the team that come up via the playoffs cannot cut it with the big boys, so the greatly improved portsmouth team rubbed their hands with glee as the whistle blew. Many of their lower mandibles were green, however, as their jaws hit the floor when derby took the lead after 5mins. Oakleys goal was cancelled out after 27 mins, when mwaruwari, or 'the big guy up front' as he has become known. order restored, surely the premiership regulars would go on and win now? Looked like it when utaka scored on 83. But try telling that to the rams, who equalised 1 minute later through todd, who was excellent throughout. 2-2 it finished, and another good result for a newby

          Everton v wigan

          Much improved over the summer, everton looked good from the off, and dominated this game from the off. Back to the good old days for the supposed lesser team in liverpool. Goals from osman, and anichebe left everton in the ascendancy, and a goal for wigan from sibeirski was little more than cosolation. A very complete team, everton looked great, though i would fear for them if they suffered an injury to the fantastic arteta, who pulled all the strings from midfield. Top six, could be on the cards.

          Middlesborough v blackburn

          Marred by a hooror injury to benni mccarthy, which halted the action by at least 5 minutes after a clash of heads, this game was not high on quality. However for sheer passion on opening day, it was not lacking. With middlesborough taking the lead via the cultured feet of downing, rovers looked unimpressive, but the injury to mccarthy sparked (sorry hughsy) them into life. Mccarthies sub santa cruz scoring having only been on the field a few minutes, and derbyshire getting the winner. Some may call blackburns win deserved, but for me the jury is still out on both these teams. Languishing in mid table may be all they can hope for.

          aston villa v liverpool

          Liverpool showing off their star buy, torres, they took the game to villa. Never stamping outright control on the game, they did have the upper hand. This pressure paid off when the took the lead with a calamitous laursen og. So it stayed, though you always worried that one goal woul not be enough. So it proved, when villa were awarded an 85th minute penalty, which barry cooly slotted home. However, the best midfielder in england, gerrard scored quite possibly the best goal of the day with a free kick on 87, to give the pool a somewhat shaky first win

          So that was it for saturday, but still we had the top two to play on sunday. Oh joy!!

          Arsenal v fulham

          Wengers young guns, take on a confident looking fulham, with all experts expecting the gooners to take this quite comfortably. but as the arsenal were still looking through their phrase books to try and communicate with eachother, healy pooped up after 50 seconds to score. Arsenal lookes the more complete team here, but did not gel all that well. I took a penalty on 84 knocked home by van persie to get them going, and alexander hleb (the welsh like saying his name) pooped up in the dying seconds to bag a winner. Not a great performance, but three points nonetheless.

          chelsea v birmingham

          An easy victory for chelsea this was not. Stunned as they were by a goal early for forsell, the need not have been too worried, when debutant pizarro grabbed and equaliser 2 minutes later. Fellow debutant malouda scored again, and they looked fairly impressive, though they showed unusual defensive frailty. Birmingham gave them a game, when kapo equalised on 36, with a stunner. Half time came and went, and essien got the blues of chelsea back in front. So it stayed, and chelsea scraped a win by the odd goal in a five goal thriller. Not the confident chelsea of last season, but still formibable in attack.

          Finnaly to old trafford

          man utd v reading

          Again, a game that was thought to be in the bag. Largely uneventful, utd looked ok, but failed to play well in the final third. The highlight was the flame haired kitson coming off the bench, only to be sent for an earlt bath for a horror tackle a minute later. However man utd were not able to capitalise. A worrying injury to rooney spoiled there day further still.

          All in all, this was a neutrals dream come true. Full of event, and upset, it gives us hope that this season may well be one of the most open seasons so far. None of the so called top teams performed well, and neither did any of the newly promoted teams embarrass themselves. Who will win? Hard to tell on this showing, but hopefully we can throw a few more teams in the mix, rather than the boring two horse race that we have become used to.

          Still coming down from the euphora felt by a nation, i am well satisfied by the opening weekend. What do you think will happen? Thanks for your time. G

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          • More +
            06.08.2007 10:56
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            Put the kettle on girls!

            Football is probably the only thing that brings the world and all its religions together, Iraq’s amazing victory in the Asia Cup an example of, the nation unified behind their astounding success. That’s why America suck at soccer.
            With no international football tournaments of our own to keep us going through this so called summer and having no young ladies to keep my mind off the boredom I’m gagging for both the Premiership and some crumpet. Footy cant come soon enough! My idea of foreplay and fantasy in July has been rearranging the defense in my fantasy football teams. By the way if you like you’re footy and play fantasy league, dooyoo run a league on premierleague.com and the yahoo fantasy football league. I’m pretty good at the first one so if you’re up for a challenge then follow the links. Its good fun and easy to enter…

            These links are free to enter games...

            http://fantasy.premierleague.com/

            Dooyoo league code: 118845-27585

            http://uk.premiership.fantasysports.yahoo.com/

            To map up my appraisal of the coming premiership season I’m going to lists the teams in order of the bookies listing to win the handicap league. I’m also going to put the handicap betting odds by the side of each team. Handicap is the best value betting on the premiership and is well worth a punt. If you haven’t done this bet before all you have to do is calculate who will win the league with their added handicap. Reading won last year with a final point’s score of 53 plus their handicap of 50 points, totaling 103 points. Man united finished second with their total score of 96 points. Its good fun and 15-1 price for every team.

            (Scratch) MANCHESTER UNITED

            With Gigg’s, Scholes and Solskjars future replacements on board in Danni, Hargreaves and Tevez you just can’t fault Uniteds attacking ability. But what you can question is the back four, Sir Alex only recalling loan players to cover. With Heinze wanting out and Silvestre a headless chicken at times you have to question that decision not to strengthen. I still think they will win the premiership though. Putting away Chelsea last week helped; although only one in ten Charity Shield winners go on to win the league.

            IN: Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich, £17m), Nani (Sporting, £14m), Anderson (Porto, £17m), Tomasz Kuszczak (West Brom, £2m) Teves (Holding company, 3m)

            (+2) CHELSEA

            Its hard to split the top two at the best of times but the growing rift between Morinhio and Abramovich is being reflected in the drift away from United in the premiership come May. With the club shifting their resources to finally win the Champions League you have to see United seeing them off again.
            I’m concerned abut Lamps playing with a broken little toe, an injury I had for ages and a very painful and untreatable injury. I don’t expect him to be effective in early season.

            IN: Tal Ben Haim (Bolton, free), Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich, free), Steve Sidwell (Reading, free), Danny Philliskirk (Oldham, und), Florent Malouda (Lyon, £13.5m)

            (+8) LIVERPOOL

            Although Benitez has bought well and big, to get within eight points of United and Chelsea is a big ask. The young Spanish striker Torres will take a year to bed in and I still feet the midfield isn’t right yet. New guys have to settle and there are lots of languages here.

            IN: Andrey Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen, free), Kristian Nemeth & Andras Simon (both MTK Hungarian), Nikolay Mihaylov (Levski Sofia), Lucas Leiva (Gremio), Sebastian Leto (Club Atletico Lanus, £1.7m), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao, £270,000), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid, £20m-£26m), Yossi Benayoun (West Ham, £4m), Ryan Babel (Ajax, 11.5m), Ryan Crowther (Stockport, free)

            (+12) ARSENAL

            Will the Gunners breakout of their slump now Henrys gone or will they dip further. I think they will dip further, the stadium costs weighing the team down like an anchor now.
            They have a great young squad and seemed to perform better without Henry towards the end but I think Wegner has fallen out of love with Arsenal and the fact he hasn’t renewed his deal means he will be off, creating more tensions.

            IN: Lukasz Fabianski (Legia Warsaw, £2m), Eduardo Da Silva (Dinamo Zagreb, £7.5m), Havard Nordveit (Haugesund), Bakary Sagna (Auxerre, £7m)

            (+18) TOTTENHAM

            So, are Spurs ready to make the top four, Berbatov and Keane a big hint that way? With Arsenal distracted by the champions League early on the Cockerels can steel a march on them.Im not sure why Bent has come in with Defoe still there but we will see. I always feel teams are unsettled with too many big name strikers. What a player Berbatov is though. But for me their defense is why they have been fifth and not fourth for the last two seasons. Although Bale is in they still need some decent wing-backs to give them width.

            IN: Gareth Bale (Southampton, £5m), Adel Taarabt (Lens), Yuri Berchiche (Athletic Bilbao), Darren Bent (Charlton £16.5m), Youness Kaboul (Auxerre, £8m), Danny Rose (Leeds, undisclosed), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Hertha Berlin, undisclosed)

            (+26) NEWCASTLE

            Its big handicap to add on paper but still not enough for me. I think the fraud investigations will weigh down on them and the fact they have bought Alladyce in from a likewise club can only mean trouble. With Dyer going and Owen likely to be sold once he is scoring goals again I can’t see it happening this year either. Viduka and Smith up front will be broken by red cards. What price Joey Barton clumping Smith!

            IN: Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough, free), Joey Barton (Man City, £5.8m), David Rozehnal (Paris St Germain, £2.9m), Geremi (Chelsea, free) Alan Smith (Manchester United, £6m), Claudio Cacapa (Lyon, free)

            (+28) ASTON VILLA

            Big money coming in, big manager in place, big ambitions-but O’Neill hasn’t really bought anyone yet? Like Newcastle, there’s no way these are going to get over 60 points this year. Harewood and Cocker will just try and take over the dressing room. These are not guys wanting to join a good tram but get away fast from another one.

            IN: Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham, £8.5m), Harry Forrester (Watford, und), Marlon Harewood (West Ham, und), Eric Lichaj [unattached] free

            (+28) EVERTON

            You juts can’t tell with Everton as they always have an iffy start to the season. Beattie was dragging the wage bill down last year so it’s all dependant on Moyes new signings. There hasn’t been many.

            IN: Tim Howard (Manchester United, £3m), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United, £4m), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Swindon Town)

            (+34) BLACKBURN

            52 points last year but still not enough here to get them up there.

            ON: Gunnar Nielsen (BK Frem Copenhagen), Maceo Rigters (NAC Breda), Roque Santa Cruz (Bayern Munich, £3.5m)

            (+34) BOLTON

            No Big Sam no progress for me. Really over valued here and with Sammy Lee in charge they may go down. Anelka could get bored outside of the top 8 and clear off. The romance is over.

            IN: Gavin McCann (Aston Villa, £1m), J Lloyd Samuel (Aston Villa, free), Gerald Cid (Bordeaux), Blerim Dzemaili (FC Zurich), Zoltan Harsanyi (FC Senec, undisclosed), Danny Guthrie (Liverpool, season-long loan), Mikel Alonso (Real Socieded, loan), Christian Wilhelmsson (Nantes, loan)

            (+34) PORTSMOUTH

            Again, the fraud has to affect them and, like Newcastle, they have been named in both the bungs and money laundering scandals. That has to affect Redknapp and the fact he’s apparently involved surprise no one in the game. I think they will struggle this year.

            IN: Sulley Muntari (Udinese, £7m), Sylvain Distin (Manchester City, free), Hermann Hreidarsson (Charlton, free), Martin Cranie (Southampton, und), Paris Cowan-Hall & Callum Reynolds (Rushden & Diamonds, comp fee), Arnold Mvuemba (Rennes, und), David Nugent (Preston, und), John Utaka (Rennes, und)

            (+34) SUNDERLAND

            A very optimistic handicap here, regardless of the Roy Keene factor after that amazing first season. He’s been unable to temp any quality players this far north and is already looking at the bottom four. Two of the three that come up usually go down.

            IN: Dickson Etuhu (Norwich, £1.5m), Kieran Richardson (Manchester United, undisclosed), Greg Halford (Reading, £2.5m), Russell Anderson (Aberdeen, £1m), Michael Chopra (Cardiff City, £5m), Paul McShane (West Brom, £2.5m) £2.5m), Stephen Elliott (Wolves, undisclosed)

            (+34) WEST HAM

            Well they are still here and lucky at that, although it was the Teves/Mascherano tension got them in stuck in the first place in January. Its sweet justice they can’t make money for the player now or they will be relegated.
            With Kieran Dyer on the way and Ashton fit they should settle mid-table. Even better is to get rid of trouble making ‘bling twins’ Harewood and Coker, the Times man describing the dressing room as ‘like a Public Enemy Video’ last season. Scotty Parker is a lovely player to get for 7 million.

            IN: Scott Parker (Newcastle, £7m), Julien Faubert (Bordeaux, £6.1m), Richard Wright (Everton, free), Craig Bellamy (Liverpool, £7.5m), Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal, £3m)

            (+38) MAN CITY

            The extraordinary decision to sell the club to a despot is where British football is these days. This guy’s war on drugs in Thailand has put anything Bush has done to shame. But the fact he was also in charge when thousands of Muslim extremist disappeared maybe why we let him in to fit Browns fit for purpose tick sheet! I think he will be gone by this time next year, money successfully laundered, City down the bottom as usual.
            Erickson, too, could be a problem. To me Sven has waited until the FA stopped paying him and then taken the first big money job that came along. The speed he’s buying those foreign players this month would suggest he had list made out already, buying the same guys regardless of the club he has ended up in. This isn’t going to work. You can judge a player by a video.

            IN: Geovanni (Cruzeiro, free), Rolando Bianchi (Regina, 8.8m), Gelson Fernandes (FC Sion) Martin Petrov (Atletico Madrid, £4.7m), Javier Garrido (Real Sociedad, £1.5m), Vedran Corluka (Dinamo Zagreb, undisclosed), Elano (Shakhtar Donetsk, £8m)

            (+42) MIDDLESBORO

            Boro will need 50 points with this 42 on offer to win the handicap money. But Vidukas left for Newcastle and no one has come in to move them up the pile. They may be worth an E/W punt.

            IN: Tuncay Sanli (Fenerbahce, free), Jeremie Aliadiere (Arsenal, £2m), Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid, £7m), Luke Young (Charlton, £2.5m)

            (+42) READING

            The second season hoodoo and the loss of Sidwell may cost them but I still feel Coppell is the best English manager in the Prem and he will replace the guys he needs to. Any boss that can get a guy he picked up from Weymouth for 20k and then have him in the England side three years later knows his footballers. A full season of Doyle will terrorize defenses, which can’t be said of Lesroy Lita! One catch will be Majeskis taking a back seat and not putting as much in the transfer kitty as he looks to sell rather than buy. I’m sure there is hidden depth here.

            IN: Kalifa Cisse (Boavista, £1m) Emerson Fae (Nantes, £2.5m)

            (+44) FULHAM

            I don’t know how they managed to stay up last year and without Coleman they may not this year. Jimmy Bullard coming in is a bonus but I believe he’s already crook. David Healey coming along with Sanchez will be the big story at the Cottage.

            IN: Aaron Hughes (Aston Villa, £1m), Steven Davis (Aston Villa), Diomansy Kamara (West Brom, £6m), Chris Baird (Southampton, £3.025m), Paul Konchesky (West Ham, £3.25m), David Healy (Leeds, £1.5m), Lee Cook (QPR)

            (+48) BIRMINGHAM

            Straight up and straight down? They could be this years Reading, or they could be last years Watford. Bruce is buying guys that have been around a bit and sometimes that just doesn’t gel.

            IN: Garry O'Connor (Lokomotiv Moscow, £2.7m), Stuart Parnaby (Middlesbrough, free), Fabrice Muamba (Arsenal, undisclosed), Olivier Kapo (Juventus, £3m), Daniel de Ridder (Celta Vigo, free), Richard Kingston (Antalyaspor, free), Rafael Schmitz (Lille, season-long loan), Hossam Ghaly (Tottenham, £3m)

            (+48) WIGAN

            It’s a safe bet that these will go down, the love affair over, Chairman Dave Whelan throwing everything into it to stop relegation, even selling off his beloved Rugby League team after being hit on the salary cap rules. Paul Jewell was right to get out when he did. When you’re buying Titus Bramble you are in trouble.

            IN: Antoine Sibierski (Newcastle, free), Titus Bramble (Newcastle, free), Mario Melchiot (Rennes, free), Andreas Granqvist (Helsingborg, free), Carlo Nash (Preston, £300,000), Jason Koumas (West Brom, £5.3m), Michael Brown (Fulham, undisclosed)

            (+50) DERBY

            Straight up and straight down…the play-off winner rarely making twenty five points in the Premiership. I have no clue who they have bought and so I don’t care.

            IN: Andy Todd (Blackburn, undisclosed), Robert Earnshaw (Norwich City, £3.5m), Tyrone Mears (West Ham, £1m), Andy Griffin (Portsmouth, free)

            MY BET!

            £2:00 Each/Way on MIDDLESBORO

            The on the nose premiership betting isn’t best generous and so the above bet is more fun. It does look good for United and I hope Chelsea finish third and Abromovich falls out with Putin and gets some plutonium Weetabix.

            Champions: Man United
            Runners Up: Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

            UEFA CUP:
            Arsenal and…who knows!

            Relegated…
            Derby
            Wigan
            Birmingham

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              02.08.2007 14:00
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              Another predictable season in my view.

              With the beginning of a new Premiership season merely weeks away it is difficult not to see it as a case of “business as usual”. Now do not get me wrong, a lot has happened close season in terms of transfer wheelings and dealings, changes of management and even ownerships of clubs but has anything really changed?

              In terms of the title race for the coming season it must surely be a two horse race of Manchester United and Chelsea again. Manchester United have not made any earth shattering signings during the summer but they really have no need to as they already have strength in depth. In fact, they are more likely to be selling at present with the departure of fringe players such as Kieran Richardson to Sunderland and the possible sale of Alan Smith. United are very much a well oiled machine and I cannot see any major dips in their form in the future. In my opinion this makes them title favourites.

              Chelsea have also been relatively dormant in the transfer market during the summer but in contrast to United, I think this may prove to hamper their title challenge this season. The same defensive shortcomings of last season will once again be apparent in this and if they end up having to use Essien, a world class midfielder as a makeshift, average defender again at any point during the season, it could be their undoing. I also feel that a lot rides on Drogba's form and whether big buys such as Schevchenko and Ballack finally perform. If this happens then they will give United a genuine run for their money otherwise the title race could be over as early as Christmas.

              So, what of last seasons also rans Arsenal and Liverpool? Arsenal are in danger of slipping away from the title race into the relative obscurity of a fringe top six team unless Arsene Wenger's young side matures quickly. Arsenal are a team severely lacking in experience and leadership and the departure of influential and longstanding players like Freddie Ljungberg and of course, Thierry Henry coupled with the slow and now total loss of Reyes gives them little strength in depth. This may well turn out to be a make or break season for Arsenal and fans will be rightly expecting the players to step up to the plate and show them what they are made of. Players such as Adebayor and Walcott may finally have a chance to step out of Henry's shadow but whether they can take that chance will determine whether they become Wenger's legacy or his undoing.

              Liverpool are perhaps, the only team of the top four to spend big and with ambition thanks to the financial clout of their American owners. This is summed up by the signing of Torres who has a World Class ability. However, as ever with Liverpool they often appear to have the players to make a genuine title bid but it is whether they all perform consistently. Too often there is an over reliance on the home grown talent of Carragher and Gerrard to lead the way and flashes of genius from the likes of Alonso and Garcia will not win a title. Furthermore, Liverpool have never really replaced Michael Owen with a genuine, natural goalscorer and it is yet to be seen whether they have one. Bellamy looks like he is on his way out and never looked like performing and Kuyt does not look like he is a natural goalscorer. This leaves Crouch and Torres which could be the oddest forward line in Liverpool's history. However, can anyone actually argue with Crouch's goalscoring record? If Benitez can settle on a side and provide a little consistency then Liverpool could challenge this season and I certainly expect them to be serious challengers in the next.

              The above mentioned teams will more than likely make the top four with perhaps only Everton and Tottenham being able to push once again for fourth spot. Both teams are very similar and will continue to push into the top six for one reason only, consistency. Neither team have spent big over the summer although it could be said Tottenham have bigger named players but both teams have a strong work ethic and some excellent young talent that can push them into European places. However, both teams also lack depth in their squads and have been fortunate to avoid a number of serious injuries. Injuries to key players for Tottenham such as Keane, Defoe or King and Everton's Arteta, Cahill or Yobo would be disastrous to their respective seasons as these players are the spine of the teams. If either team stays injury free, it is likely they will win the race to the European spots and are the most likely to push either Liverpool or Arsenal for fourth spot.

              Many may say I have been quite dismissive of several of last years good performers such as Portsmouth, Reading and Bolton. However, I honestly do not think they have done anything over the summer to give their squads sustainability. I can see Reading fighting into mid table respectability but nothing further and although Portsmouth have gone for big names, many of the players have peaked and are simply after the big pay cheque. I have no doubt they will have some big wins but likewise they will have some big losses too. There defence remains fragile and I think any team with a cutting edge will destroy them. Bolton are still reeling from the departure of Sam Allardyce and I can see them languishing towards the relegation zone next season. Big game players such as Campo, Giannopolis and Speed will likely not stand for this and will start to leave and it may only be the weakness of other teams such as a floundering, depleted Wigan and newly promoted Birmingham and Derby that saves them. Regardless I can see Sammy Lee being the first casualty of the Premiership campaign.

              A special mention has to go to the “yo-yoing” teams of the division. For me these are Aston Villa, Newcastle and Manchester City. Villa will seek top half security and in O'Neill they have a good manager who will aim for stability. Without any big signings I can see them struggling for results against the bigger teams and bouncing around the middle of the table throughout the season. Newcastle will likewise make no progress and continue to flatter to deceive. I can see them having an early good run and then fading fast. However, Manchester City will be the most entertaining of the three to watch as they struggle to understand each other, gel in any way and run around aimlessly banging heads. What City needed was consistency and a goalscorer, what they got was a whole new squad, an eccentric owner and an unreliable Manager. They will either get battered or score ten depending on each players mood and I fully expect to see Eriksson playing a 1-2-3-5 formation one game followed by a 7-3-1 the next.

              So, as you can see for me it looks like business as usual this coming season. Hopefully, Liverpool and Arsenal will come good to add some interest to the title race but I do not see much else changing. Ah well, at least I get a pie and a pint at half time!

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                29.03.2002 16:38
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                With one mighty race almost upon us at Liverpool, what about the other one for the biggest prize in domestic football. The black n white stallion has hit a few fences lately and found the ground a little hard going, looks beaten,.leaving the two red and white stayers and the horse that is very much at home on Aintrees fences alone for the run in. The favorite for me with only three defeats over the hurdles this season would have to be the ones really gunning for the line in the North London colt. The Red Devil out of the Manchester stable may have run out of puff after whacking the Chair second time around with no team ever winning the modern slicker race after 8 losses. If I was to pick between the home favorites and the horse up from London than I would have to bet on the smoke based thoroughbred out of the two French trained fillies. THE RUNNERS AND RIDERS. Arsenals run in. SUNDERLAND (H). CHARLTON (A). TOTTENHAM (H). IPSWICH (H). BOLTON (A). EVERTON (H). WEST HAM (H). To be arranged MANCHESTER UNITED (A). To be arranged. Looking at that lot, it looks good for Arsenal. But eight games and two possible FA cup matches leaves them two matches a week. And with the loss of Pires for the remainder, they may jut suffer some stuttering points loss. Their four home matches are against bottom half teams with half of them right in the thick of relegation. Three London derbys, and Sol Campbells second gauntlet against his old muckas are potential banana skins. But if they lead out until they meet United,a draw at Old Trafford will deliver the best team in the premiership in my opinion the prize. The Reds are the only top side the Gooners have to play now with Charlton being the only other threat, as Curbishleys boys top the inter London league. The cruch United match will know doubt be re- scheduled for the last week after its suspicious clash with FA Cup semis weekend. Its was fairly li
                kely in August 2001 that one of these would most likely have been involved in the domestic knock out cup the day, with these two unable to play each other. But its conveniently going to generate the biggest pay per view match yet in that very troubled digital sector. Liverpools run in. CHARLTON (H). BLACKBURN (H). SUNDERLAND (A) DERBY (H). TOTTENHAM (A). IPSWICH (H). Six games in six weeks, pretty straightforward on paper to win out. With their excellent Champions League quarterfinal added to the mix its possible that Liverpool could theoretically hold every single major domestic and European trophy at once, with two new pots this year. But a possible five more games in the more demanding premier European competition could damage their easy premier league run in. We know Liverpool?s form is as patchy as Heskeys shooting and Owens hamstring. And it could very much be up to those two to decide this years silverware. Four home games out of the six have to be victories with mid table walk overs inevitable at Sunderland and Tottenham. I think they will need the 24 points to stop Arsenal who have that extra couple of points and games in hand advantage. If Liverpool do bring the glory days well and truly back to Anfield, it wont just be Gerald Houliers heart beating proudly. Manchester Uniteds run in. LEEDS UNITED (A). LEICESTER (A). CHELSEA (A). IPSWICH (A). CHARLTON (H). ARSENAL (H). To be arranged. Now that looks a whole lot worse than everyone else run in, starting with a crunch mid day kick off against improving Champions League chasing Leeds, and Chelsea of the same predicament one week later at noon. Four away games in a row I not what you want to sandwich massive champions league knock out stage games. The squad is almost at full strength though, with Johnson looking strong along side Blanc.Diego Forlan looks like hes on work ex
                perience from an Argentinean backpacker?s pub team. I can only assume this signing was to get one over on Mclaren, who returned the favor last week with that fatal defeat in my opinion. Like I said,no team has won the top league losing more than seven games in the modern campaign. The only nailed on wins would be the relegation of Leicester and Ipswich and a nice home stroll against Charlton. The rest is big trouble and could leave United adrift in third come the big Arsenal match. I don?t think the Gunners will need that last minute Michael Thomas second goal winner for the title this time with the issue resoled by May. I think it could be curtains for United by a week on Sunday, as United will give it up if they draw the next two. The Champions League is where its at and if United want to be the worlds biggest club they need to win it every four years minimum. How they finish. ARSENAL 82 PTS. LIVERPOOL 80 PTS. MAN UNITED 77 POINTS.

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                  05.02.2002 23:57
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                  With Alex Ferguson surprisingly re-opening contract talks to stay on at The Theatre of Dreams.The season yet again takes a twist in one of the best run-ins ever. The recent up turn in form at Old Trafford surely came from that old dog getting that glint in his eye back on the training pitch in a game and legacy he just cant let go. He knows he bought badly in Bhartez and others and didn’t bite the bullet early enough to stop that alarming end of the year slump. But can the up serge in form be enough to win a record forth straight Championship. But this is how I think they will finish in May. 1) ARSENAL…….I think the distraction of the Champions league may not be so critical to their strong squad as they have never won this tournament.They have man for man players as good as Man United and have the advantage of losing only three games. This counts in the statistic mad world of the Premiership winners. I don’t think they will get away from Man United but the Reds will let them in at the death. A record 33 consecutive straight games scoring by the Gunners beginning and culminating with the one all draw against Southampton shows they have the firepower. They are flash and arrogant with the ball and like to walk it in. But United have lost seven games with the far more serious Champions League almost on us. 2) MANCHESTER UNITED…..I think they may be flying now with a run of relatively easy games with ten wins out of eleven so far. That form was only punctuated by the Liverpool home defeat that put the Scousers back into the mix. The easy fixtures will keep coming through Feb and early March until they will come really up against it with a trip to the top three teams in the last five games. These will probably be pressured up by Champions League games that are Uniteds real goal here. Will Britain’s manager make “calculated”selections like he did for the Middlesborough
                  fiasco. They basically had to sacrifice a damaging fixture pile up there by throwing that match. 3) CHELSEA………..I think the players are beginning to realize that the Chairman and Manger may not be up to the job but they are. Zolas feet are working like the great writer and philosopher culminating in that extraordinary FA cup goal. Hasslebaink is full of goals as he is class and that’s why the three top goal scorer’s teams are at the peak come April.The midfield is bedding in and the back four and squad as strong as ever. With only three defeats and the drawing out of their system. These guys will be pushing hard now, especially with no extra congestion of the Champions League. The fact that the top three have better away records than home shows how important wins like Leicester away are for Chelsea are. At cracking e/w odds of 33-1 in the bookies you can get better value than that. 4) LIVERPOOL………They are just too inconsistent for the top spot with their form flicking around like a Chernobyl dial.Heskey may be scoring again but he’s not top of the league class. Owens legs will be saved the moment Liverpool’s Champions League matches come up and England to will be worried about their little Billywhizz. The transition from cup team to Champions is very large indeed and the lack of guts to win the little games will cost them in the end. 5) NEWCASTLE UNITED……..The Dyer injury and the FA Cup run will probably be the telling factor here with Bobby’s voice giving out like Bellamys equally frantic legs. They fight like warriors against everyone and Shearer has that look in his eye without the responsibility of England. Although ironically that club country denial will line him up for an unexpected World Cup call up that even he can’t ignore. Their never say die attitude and habit of scrapping wins isn’t going to give them a ch
                  ampionship though. They will be swallowed up like a front runner at Newmarket in grade one race. 6) LEEDS UNITED……The court case and another disciplinary against Bowyer has probably skewered their miserable season for the great pretenders.The combative midfielder is out for six weeks with an FA ban for something happened ages ago and you feel some vendetta’s coming from headquarters here. The manager has the pressure of the threats on his family and an undisciplined team knocking back his critical rhythm to win the championships. The EUFA cup is really all that’s left here as this season looks more wasted and wrecked than Brixton on a Saturday night. 7) ASTON VILLA………Gregory was right to go as he knew he wasn’t going to get much more money and respect from Ellis to match both their egos. The ex manager like so many before who have been and gone are at Villa Park to balance the books. Deadly Doug would rather spend small to finish seventh than an extra 40 million to finish fifth and in the red. Graham Taylor is back for unfinished business with his reappointment today. His discipline and intelligence should secure a better relationship with the chairman of mutual respect and a EUFA place. With his football knowledge some decent signings and if Ginola is given the license to play to Angels feet then it could set up next season nicely. 8) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR…….Like their name suggests,they need the cup competitions to spur them on with league performance.The manager now as a player then was just the same as he and his team went missing mid table. But they need Europe to bump up revenues big time to get back on schedule to be one of the big six. The strike force is poor though and the goals will need to come from midfield and the oldies to maintain their Euro ambitions. 9) FULHAM ATHLETIC……Surprisingly solid form at the back has kept th
                  em out of trouble all season.The French attacking players have been excellent with no real form drop of as such.The manager knows his own countries transfer market but is a little too reliant on it I do believe. But with a 70 million redevelopment of Craven Cottages site in the offing and money in the bank, this season has been just right for bedding into The Premiership. 10) WEST HAM UNITED…….Everything has settled down at Upton Park now with Dicannio staying and their class midfield ready to sing to. Kanoute will get them a bag of goals now he’s fit and scoring with the old master Paulo getting in on that act to know he’s cool. Defensively it’s not as bad as it was and Schemmel was a wise buy with his mobility. If they score more than they concede then this nice little safety perch will do very nicely for an entertained Hammers crowd. 11) IPSWICH TOWN………They say that the team bottom at Christmas always goes down from the top league. But George Burley is a class manager and just shows that knee jerk reactions from chairman when the side is in trouble is not always the right one. The diminutive Scotsman off Ipswich lineage has proved that sticking to your guns is the way to go. They are the second best form team in the Premiership and flying right now with Perralta looking good and Finini George flying this way just as fast. 12) SUNDERLAND………..Its time for over cautious Peter Ried to move on as this has run its cause. He knows it and the fans no it with them soon to turn on mass. His media friendly cheeky chappy image keeps them of his back. But shareholders and season ticket punters wont take much more of this decaying form and the announcement will be expected. Phillips and Quinn are not going to get them in Europe or is their inconspicuous striker in Laslandes. 13) SOUTHAMPTON…….The curse has been lifted and sinc
                  e the day the witch did her thing they haven’t looked back.Well its better than having Barry Fry pissing in every corner. Home form should keep them safe, as will their returning strikers in Bettie and Pahars near the end of the campaign. Once Strachen has his new contract at the helm, they may have more integrity to work with after the Hoddlegate and Jones disgusting sacking back then. 14) EVERTON….…Gascoignes unlikely bid for a world cup place seems to be the only reason to go watch these guys.They always have enough to stay up and make money to. Be it match fixing by Wimbledon or poor managers. The lucky buggers cling on like the hero in a cliff top movie scene every year. Hopefully one year the script guys will write the perennial losers out of this story soon to save us all boring matches. 15) BOLTON WANDERERS……..Although they have fallen from the top of the pile in September to the near bottom in Feb.You just feel theres enough fight in Alladyce tam to beat the drop. The northern European players at the back are his guts and Rickets will want to bust the net to keep Svens eye busy for the run in and world cup selection. Everyone tipped them to go down from day one and they may just be right. But I think they have enough gumption to stay up. 16) BLACKBURN ROVERS……….Their excellent cup performances have detracted from the league and they are right in the thick of it now.Its going to be a fine balancing act for Souness to keep going in the knockouts whilst being full strength for the league. They have the talent in the middle and Andy Cole was a shrewd signing by the opportunist Scot.But the defense sucks in this format and I cant see them being able to plug that leek. But they ain’t going to drop,,,,,are they?. 17) CHARLTON ATHLETIC…Curbishley is used to bouncing around the leagues with his beloved team and bringing them back up again. ThatR
                  17;s what he does well and nothing will change with a satellite London club like these guys. They have just enough firepower through the front and middle to alleviate their blatant defensive problems. Hanging on by the skin of their wallets. 18) MIDDLESBROUGH……..Their lucky unearned win against United in the Cup will be the highlight of the season as another relegation battle looms. Their best player is again crying of the harsh Northeast winter with the replacement seeing sense and going Northwest. They scratch around looking for one-goal wins and seem about as likely to be a force in the premiership as Mike Tyson for a rape helpline advert. They look the most inept outside of the obvious two. 19) DERBY COUNTY……Ousted and now the new boss of his once Midlands rivals in this club, Gregory describes the teams run in as fourteen cup finals.But he’s just copped a three match touchline ban for three of the most critical ones in the top two teams and the six pointer against Bolton. For all his antics and jumping around for his new employer I don’t think he will have enough to keep this dire lot up. 20) LEICESTER CITY…Pretty awful from start to finish with a manager that specializes in taking down clubs and bringing them back. But the financial hit Coventry took shows that its not so easy in this region of the country and I can see them declining radically now.

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                    19.12.2001 00:09
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                    Well we are nearly at the half way point of the season so I may as well have a crack at how I think they will finish. Its definitely going to be close with plenty of teams in with a chance of being champions. Most of you if not all of you went for Manchester United day one, so it’s a big advantage to predict half way through. 1) LEEDS UNITED……With only one defeat so far and a solid defense and powerful attack the only ingredient they don’t have is winning.But O`Leareys capture of Britain’s second best striker from their biggest rivals and the end of the Bowyer Woodgate trial for a while has given them the all clear to show what they can do. If they are a true thoroughbred they will stride away with enough in the tank to hold on in the run in. Their midfield is strong and an abundance of strikers will give them the league. Kewell is world class and will be the star quality they need to move into the big time. 2) LIVERPOOL.The decision to sell Fowler to their biggest rivals will cost them the league in my humble opinion. Allowing Owen of to attend the player of the year awards on a sicky to bump up his price only points to a selling strategy at Anfield. How bizarre it is that Owen wins the best player in Europe award from EUFA but Figo is the best in the world with FIFA. Raul finished 4th in the EUFA category and 2nd in the FIFA one.All about marketing contracts I presume. Their four nil hiding shows just how poor they can be without the little genius and that sack of spuds Heskey up front. 3) ARSENAL…They have the squad but not the guts to win this season. The French players have been superb along with the young talent coming through. If any of the above slip up then they will hand it to the Londoners on the plate. But Leeds and Liverpool are more likely to lose it to them than these winning it. Goal hangers to the extreme as they concentrate more on marketing at Highbury than winnin
                    g the big trophies. Buying a crap Jap to sell merchandise in Asia and the World Cup are where Arsenal currently are. 4) MANCHESTER UNITED…..The sacking of the solid Stam for drugs and dissing the boss have cost United badly. Alex cant sign a suitable replacement because of Euro cup tied rules and the money men’s decisions to only allow the new incoming manger major signings. They may have had a correction recently with two good results and their next few games suggest they could top the league before the next games in the Champions league, But they have still lost the six critical games that usually signifies the cut off point for championship contenders. Beck’s to was given the weekend of for Christmas shopping and awards ceremonies to whack up his selling price like Owen. He to finished above the little scouser in the world player of the year but below in the EUFA awards. Must be the boot sponsors this time. Both clubs do recognize the future sale price of there in contract world class players. Uniteds mad goalie and back four are down to the bone now and wont be able to go unbeaten until the end of the season. The Champions League spot can be their only priority now. 5) CHELSEA…They are playing some good sporadic football at the moment and look class. But they go and lose a stupid easy home match, which shows them up to the not so great pretenders they really are. Uniteds strength has been in the amount of English and Irish players they have used in the guts of the team for back bone. Chelsea are a bunch of posers who throw the toys out of the pram when it’s not going their way. 6) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR……The prodigal son has returned and the improvement is dramatic.The aging midfield and old Tottenham faces have rolled back the years and the foundations for the glory days at the Lane once again. Lots of young talent to replace the old stagers, but an injury is b
                    ound to come for Anderton and Ferdinand, which could wreck their momentum. Need to buy some players soon. But they have the best English manager in the country so they will be scrapping for Europe. 7) NEWCASTLE UNITED…..Bobby is the second best people manager in the country and is keeping the toon army in and around Europe.He also has a miss mash of young and old talent with the seniors doing most of the work. A strong defense is the backbone of most good Premier side and Newcastle certainly have that. They are stringing results together since the Keegan era. With Alan Shearer set to take over it all looks better on Tyneside. 8) ASTON VILLA…. These guys are way too negative and the fans vote with their feet by not showing up. Deadly Dog needs to shell out more to support what is a decent nucleus for a good side. Once they have off loaded the posers like Ginola and the manager things could be grand again at Villa Park. But the chairman is quite happy to scratch around in the middle of the table living of the TV money alone. 9) SUNDERLAND…I think its time for Peter Ried to move on as he’s holding back these giants with his pessimism in the transfer market. He’s very fastidious when it comes to new players, which is showing in the table position. They need a new man impetus and some big signings to claim their rightful place in Europe.Phillips needs a better coach working on his finishing skills as he really should be free scoring by now. Ried is a loveable scouser that cant take the club any further on that alone. 10) FULHAM ATHLETIC…..Again they have a whippet of a striker and a lovely midfield of Legwinski and Malbranque.But everytime they get some momentum they seem to collapse. The chairman can spend to keep them snug here although one or two of the players might fancy a move to bigger things soon. Tigana is a superb manager and with a new ground a year or so off the
                    y could be London their best team for along time to come. 11) BOLTON WANDERERS…Very well organized side under the ex player boss and have a great pacey striker in Ricketts.But he will need to keep them together as a unit to stay in the mid table safety zone. Those chunky Scandinavians are definitely a plus doing the blocking and help to perfect those all- important set pieces. 12) WEST HAM UNITED…These guys have no excuse for being so low in the premiership. Just look at that attacking six and fluidity. If they only dipped into the transfer market and youth market so well as they do there then they would be top six. Cole, Carrick, Defoe, Kanoute……… 13) BLACKBURN ROVERS…..First season back and they are doing just enough to stay above the plimsloe line. Souness discipline and shrewdness should be enough to be safe. But Jansen is the type of player who pulls muscles a lot and very really on him for goals. Perhaps a little nip into the cheque book Graham. 14) EVERTON…. The Merseysiders defense and Gascoigne bossing the midfield should be just enough to keep this dour team yet again above the bottom three. But like Gazza, both have seen better days. It’s a sad time for the Evertonians as the moneymen have turned the great club into a selling one. Those clubs go nowhere fast in this day and age. They are even calling their black captain a Negro so and so these days when they really should be rallying round the players. 15) MIDDLESBOROUGH…..Sunderland but without the ok management and shrewd signings to be honest. I’m sure if Furies latest prodigy can keep them up this year by balling them out then the things will be a little better next year. Brian Deane may have scored the first Premiership goal of the 10,000 but I don’t think he’s scored many since. Ricard as his oppo doesn’t exactly scream goal fest. Boxic like G
                    len Miller is a great entertainer, but goes missing in the bad weather like the famous trumpeter. 16) CHARLTON ATHLETIC…. The odd result here and their keep them off the bottom three but its going to be very tight down there. Lots of teams are going to have thirty odd points this year, which is usually relegation woe. Their only real advantage is their excellent manger Curbishley who does miracles with the wage bill and limited players. But it is a yo yo club with the chairman very tolerant of that and the manager. 17) SOUTHAMPTON…..The witch may have lifted the St Mary’s hoodoo for a while but they are still lumbered with a wally of a manager. Pahars is not being used correctly and their once solid back four has been shredded. 18) LIECESTER CITY….I believe the new boss has resided over six of his eight clubs getting relegated.Not exactly the type of man to bring in for a crisis.Ok he’s put nine behind the ball against the lesser teams picking up ten points from eighteen recently. It looks like the fresh discipline and impetus from Beasent may have run out after their epic draw against the lazy Arsenal. 19) IPSWICH TOWN…Everyone’s favorite family club are doing exactly as they were supposed to do last season.they were remarkably good last year and now they are remarkably bad. The party is well and truly over now as their admirably European adventure sparked out in Italy. Marcus Stewart’s injury probably saw their last chance to stay up fade away. They have class like Bramble and Reuser and Wright they’re who will surely jump ship when the drop nears. The bad luck they have been having is as welcome as Lee Bowyer and co in a Leeds curry house. 20) DERBY COUNTY…. When the little mascots run out theres a good chance of them getting a game. They have picked up a pathetic pone point away from home and have an old fart up front who can’t score pen
                    alties. They have been unlucky in that they haven’t had enough own goals going in the opposition’s end or anyone to kick straight. Like Mr Hudson’s boyfriend, they are looking at Rock Bottom.

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                      28.10.2001 17:27
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                      Aston Villa on top of the Premiership? A good joke? No, it's not actually, but will they still be there in May? I doubt it, but heres my views on the top 5 placed teams in the Premiership: 1) ASTON VILLA - let's be honest, how long before Villa begin to slide down? They are a good team, but we have seem them have good starts to a season before, but not last. But praise is due where its due, and a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool at Anfield deserves maximum credit. Angel seems to have finally settled in, and they have some excellent young english players (Barry, Vassell, etc), but I think that selling their two centre backs, Southgate and Ehiogh to 'Boro last season was a mistake. Still, Peter Schmeical seems to be an extra defender for any team, and with the team they have they should be pushing for a UEFA cup place in May. 2) LEEDS - David O'Leary's young boys keep getting better and better. They are serious contenders for the title, and their draw away to Utd proved that they can take points off the best (something that they couldn't do a few seasons ago). They have a few world-class players (Bowyer, Kewell, Ferdinand, Martyn, Viduka), but as a whole their squad is young and may lack the experience needed to carry them through the difficult mid season period, especially if a few reults go against them. Howvever, even though I hate Leeds, they have a very bright future, and should be an unstoppable force in years to come. The UEFA Cup could be a real possibility for them this season though. 3) ARSENAL - even without the Old Guards at the back, Arsenal are a top-class team. Henry is on fire at the front, and Viera shows his class in every single game. There seems to be nothing wrong with them, and to be honest there isn't. In defence, Cole, Wright and Upson have come in and shown that they are still difficult to score against. But would they be the same team if Patrick Viera left? He holds Ar
                      senal together, and even with the other top quality midfield players they have, how would they perform if he got injured or sold? To be honest though, I really can't see where Arsenal are ging to mess up. 4) LIVERPOOL - Stand-in manager Phil Thopmson is doing a great job while Houllier recovers. While the Frenchman may be out for a few months, his team show no signs of anxiety. Above Man Utd with a game in hand is a dream come true for every Liverpool fan, and they have the possibility to go top of the league. Michael Owen's back, but what Liverpool need is another of their strikers to get into form (but really I think Fowler should be patnering Owen). Heskey and Litmanen have not been on fire but Liverpool have a midfield capable of grabbing the goals. Their only main problem seems to be in defence, where I think we need another quality centre-back as cover (although Steven Wright is doing well). The only major injury worries are Hyypia and Babbel, but even without them Liverpool have no problems at the back. 5) MAN UTD - Could their dominance of english football finally be broken? Well, they have no problem up-front but defensively, they have never been the same since Schmeical left. The champions should not have conceded the third-highest amount of goals at this stage, and the arrival of Laurent Blanc seems too little, too late. But this is Utd we are talking about. They have the best midfield in the world (even counting countries), and have top-quality players in every position. But, as I say, the centre-backs are a problem. Wes Brown is a superb prospect, but he needs more experience, and Barthez's exuberance has finally got the better of him. There's no doubt though that they are serious contenders for the title. It's Fergie's last season, and they will want to make it his best. So, out of the five, I think that there are four teams capable of winning the League. Obviously, being a Li
                      verpool fan, I'd like to say that Liverpool will be top in May. But I think that the matches between the teams will seperate them. Every team will be looking to maximise points against lower opposition, and if they do, then it will be the games between them that will seperate them. I can't honestly say who I think will win. This season, it seems, there will finally be a title race.

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                        13.10.2001 05:39
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                        It's been quite an unusual season so far in that the accustomed storming away from the pack that we're so used to see from Manchester United has simply not materialised. YET... Without really clicking into gear as yet, and struggling against less fancied opponents, the Old Trafford club have quietly and efficiently sneaked their way up into a top three spot behind Leeds And Arsenal. At the start of the season, the experts predicted that the arrival of the big money men, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron, would mark the ascent of United onto a whole new plain. Both the Argentinian and the Dutchmen have demonstrated their undoubted class and value and shown that they will be valuable and shrewd acquisitions at even the astronomical price demanded. However, there has been something amiss at the club all season. The noises that came from Roy Keane at the end of last season as their Champions League challenge simply fell apart signalled that there was unrest in the camp and the departure of the wily Teddy Sheringham undoubtedly weakened their hand, despite the arrival of the new men. When the shock sale of Jaap Stam was unveiled, many had cause to wonder whether Sir Alex Ferguson was quite with it, for in recent times the giant Dutchman had been feted as the best defender in the world. It was claimed that Stam's autobiography was not the reason for the move, and that Stam's form had been in decline, but recent poor defensive displays, against Newcastle and Tottenham have demonstrated clearly that Laurent Blanc is not a panacea. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Red Wave will not sweep all before it this season. Ferguson's experiments with new tactics and formations are focused on finding the key to unlock the European prize, but United are struggling to adjust, with Paul Scholes looking only a shadow of his former self. They may go all the way in Europe, but I believe that United will not
                        win the title this year. If not, then who will? Bolton amazed us all with their opening assault, but are starting to fade, as we knew they would. They are well organised and difficult to break down, but not championship material. They may already have enough points in the bag to guarantee survival for at least one more season, but will do well to finish top half. Chelsea have showed an irritating lack of the killer touch in front of goal and an appalling reluctance to finish off battered opposition, allowing too many winning positions to fade into draws. Hasselbaink's eye for the half chance will keep them there and thereabouts, but there is a lack of spirit and commitment at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool were the choice of many experts during the summer, following their amazing haul of cups last year, but they have been surprisingly inconsistent to date, and seem too dependent on the goals of the amazing Owen. The clash with Leeds at Anfield this Saturday could give us a few clues about the merits of both teams, but the Reds look to have fallen too far off the pace, even if it is early days. Now that probably means things will boil down to two clubs... The perennial runners up, Arsenal, look a good bet to shake off the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson and go all the way this year, although Vieira seems unsettled again and could be on his way to Juventus. The middle of the Gunners defence looks a shade weary, however, and although Henry is in good form, they do not generate enough goals regularly, to be unstoppable. As a Leeds United fan, I hesitate to tip them for the title. The days of Don Revie always left the taste of predictions and counting chickens being tantamount to tempting fate, and so putting them forward smacks of being dangerous. However, O'Leary's charges, while never really clicking so far, have proven tough nuts to crack. They have conceded just three goals in ten competitive g
                        ames so far, and the slaughter of Leicester last night gave sharp evidence of the threat of their attack. Viduka, Bowyer and Smith have had low-key starts, but Robbie Keane is lethal at the moment and Harry Kewell has shaken off the lethargy of the game in Portugal. If Leeds can steer clear of injuries and maintain their defensive clamp on sides, they might just do it... I would love to see Leeds regain the title and if my guesses about Sir Alex Ferguson's men do turn out to be correct with no Premiership swan song for the most successful manager in the British game, they could finally realise all the potential they have shown these last three years under O'Leary.

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                          01.10.2001 01:01
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                          I know the season is almost a fifth in with only the second month of the season breached, but heres my predictions anyway. MANCHESTER UNITED……….They may have conceded a record amount of goals this year but look what they can do at Tottenhmam.Champions again unless teams take on the Reds while they are vulnerable concentrating on the Champions league. United back four is weakened without the colossal Stam and Blanc in no mont, and not likely to secure many blanc sheets until Europe is a sleep for the winter. ARSENAL……With another poor Euro show brewing I think these guys will have domestic matters on their mind.Lundberg and Pires in the midfield is useful with Henry and Jeffers and co there to fill the onion bag. Way to many red and yellows that messes up any rhythm at critical times in the season. And if it isn’t that its inter squad I want to play nonsense in thirty languages that holds them back. They might push United if the Reds keep shipping goals. But United will have to come to them in the run in rather than vice versa. Will Wenger sign that contract or could Man U take that and the championship in Sir Alex’s last year. LEEDS UNITED…..The Yorkies will push these two all the way this time with their unrivalled defense in attack and water tightness. Plenty of useful strikers and gritty midfielders to keep them near the action. Viduka should be on the bench at the moment with Keene and Co in the action more. LIVERPOOL…..The champion’s league will be the thing on their mind every waking hour. The financial rewards are too big to ignore so their championship form will suffer. I really don’t fancy these guys in the run in if they are faring well in Europe. Owen does pick up injuries and Gerrald to. The squad and class is there, but the belief is questionable when it comes to he big prizes. CHELSEA…….They have started much
                          better than last year and if they can finish like last year they should make the EUFA Cup again.Long way of a championship side with Chairman Bates cashing in on his London location. Stanic, Gudjohnson and the likes should play more over the older ones. Hasslebaink was top scorer in the prem last year and is heading that way now. SUNDERLAND…..Their over cautious manger is holding them back but keeping them up if you know what I mean. He’s cagey with signings and too loyal to his players. He won’t take any risks with new players and battle on with whom he can trust and what he knows. EUFA cup is always going to be the target here as they are a longgggg way of top three and all those rewards they are investing for. ASTON VILLA….The enigmatic midlanders are unbeaten still and pretty solid at the rear.But can be quite awful as we saw on Thursday night in Europe.The plus is their nine million man from South America is up and running.Dublin to should start scoring as he finds his feet. The defense is solid and Hendrie and Merson in the middle zone is a real plus along with the bustling Boatang.EUFA Cup year again for the dour Brummies to terrible top-flight crowds. NEWCASTLE UNITED…..Everyone loves Bobby Robson and lets hope he can survive the pressure at the top. He’s started so well with what he’s got and im sure the notorious directors will give him some money to spend if he maintains it. Its arguably the biggest club in the North East and has the resources to go for the top in five years time. From what I understand, Solano can’t re-enter the country if he plays abroad in the world cup due to the fact that it’s a fake. Shearers over the hill and Speed out of favor. That’s a plus in my book as the young ones come through. Maybe they can win the Worthless Cup this year. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR…For me, Glen Hoddle is the best English born manger ar
                          ound and is the right guy for Spurs.To go three up against Man United is pretty good if you ask me. Obviously his defense is not quite right and will take time to bed. Richards is a great signing and Ziege is real class bombing the wing. If they can get Carr back their wing back strength is considerable.I like Ledley King to although he likes to go forward……..a lot. Glen will get the best out of them and will be a force in the near future like the old glorious Tottenham days. IPSWICH TOWN..Theres no way they are going to be as good as last season in the league. But who else is capable from the rest of getting this high up. They have a goal scorer in Stewart and class like George and Heriderson in the middle. They play beautifully as a team, which should secure them mid table safety. If they can win in Moscow then they can win anywhere. A parochial manger and a nice family feel are deserving of another fun premier season for the Norfolk boys. FULHAM…….They are itching to perform but they arent.The players and talent are coming in but still no real momentum.Saha is fast but doesn’t seem to be a natural finisher with the lower league but nippy Hales seemingly on his way. They need a major striker like Robbie Fowler soon and if everyone else mucks in they wont get drawn into a relegation struggle that wouldn’t suit their style in address and football. The West London guys need some momentum soon or they will be stuck in the cheap baskets in Harrods way below their status. EVERTON……Clearly the oil tanker is turning after the five nil on Saturday.But it often turns in full circles at this sleeping giant/selling club.Jeffers was a gem but has moved on along with others. There are some very poor signings showing up here every year and im sure their chairman signs guys he fancies in the flesh rather by football skills. They have a good captain in Campbell but the ever-i
                          njured Ferguson is a bind. Indecisive at the back and could lose five nil next week. Need to dump the manager and the board to move on up into the top five like the old days. BOLTON WANDERERS…. Great start with some points in the bag already. But they are already getting nosebleeds as the free fall is calling. Must win next match or it could be a nightmare. Ricketts scores goals with a very useful midfield supplying him with numerous chances. But in reality its going to be a dogfight in the lower third trying to preserve their lucrative status here. MIDDLESBOURGH…..Still no real sign of life here as the team put points together and then lose a silly home one. Aging strikers and survival based around how many games Boxsich is fit enough to play. Aging quality in the middle to with all the money spent on the back four. The quicker England get the world up qualifiers out of the way then the quicker the assistant England manager can concentrate on his day job. CHARLTON ATHLETIC…Another team that can play but not get stuck in away from home.They have good finishers in Johansson and Bartlett but can’t get it together. They have a busy midfield and some young ones in their academy. But defensively they are not good and that will be their archilles heel again.They don’t seem to be buying there either in that position when they should be. BLACKBURN ROVERS…. You hardly notice these guys as they go about their business in the top flight. With Souness discipline running the show he should just keep them up this time, next time who knows. Jansen is the only player of class here to be honest and theres little else I have heard off. But we would rather see the new guys stay up and see the back of some of the regular dead beats who mill around this end. WESTHAM UNITED…The academy boys and girls are in serious danger this year. They may have some of the best y
                          oung kids in Britain, but they don’t have any all-important team spirit away from home. DiCannios alto ego look is costing him his strength like Samson.Hes one of many who doesn’t fancy it away from home. Kanoute is their only chance as he is a seriously talented striker. I put him up there with the Cantoonas and Henrys of French footy of recent years. Defensively they are poor and that could be the dead weight that drops them into Div One for the first time in ages. SOUTHAMPTON…. These guys will be clanging swords like medieval knights all through this relegation campaign. Their best two assets have deserted them and the third to go along with Hoddle and Richards in the Dell is also effecting their form. Their strength last year was clean sheets at home led by big Dean Richards.Both have gone which will probably suck Southampton into the mire of Nationwide One. Pahars could blast them clear like an Apollo rocket although I fancy he will jump in the Lim and change clubs before it comes to that. LEICESTER CITY…Peter Taylor is a good manger but not here. I doubt if he will survive after game ten and a Worthington cup defeat next week could be the final straw. He’s had a whole pre-season to prepare and has bought very poorly. Savage is better than the way he plays and Elliot can be a brick when he’s fit. But Oniells magic has gone and the new manager boost is the only chance for the midlanders now. Theres no way the Adi Akanbayi is going to save anyone’s day. That famous MP who was found hanged with an orange in his mouth was wearing a Leicester City shirt when it occurred. But the police at the time kept it out of court so not to cause the family anymore embarrassment. DERBY COUNTY…Ravenelli is finally as old as that famous hairstyle. He’s too much of a luxury to be involved in any sort of relegation slog. Jim Smith needs to be sacked now and hope the n
                          ew guy can get some sort of rhythm going before its too late. Christie could star along with the sparky Burley.The defense is abysmal and these guys are going down like the World Trade Centers.(No offence obviously).

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                            09.09.2001 23:46

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                            by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault by Arthur Goose on 09.09.2001 at 17:43 o'clock: yes but really. hang myself? i think i wil now and u can b responsible and i will write a letter to the king of the world telling him its all your fault

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                            09.09.2001 23:43
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                            Pigs can in deed fly as we have witnessed over the last week or so. Firstly England’s outstanding demolition of the Germans and secondly that there is an asylum seeker problem and most of them are playing for Villa he he. With flags of St George littering the streets and street cafes packing away the tables for the year its time to concentrate on the bread and butter of the football season, the premiership. Lets have a quick look at the teams….. ARSENAL…Great start with goals and class all over. The Champions league looks like its going to take equal billing this year. They should go much closer this year with the French bringing on the pain. Theres definitely a domestic pot going to Highbury, but how big is it!. If they can consolidate away from home and get ten wins they will be champions. That’s clearly their bugbear. The foreign legion should be prepared to get stuck in on the road. CLASS PLAYER…..Pires. ASTON VILLA..This is obviously an alphabetical order list with Villa in second place he he .I cant see them being much more fun and entertaining than last year to be blunt. Theres no new blood coming in and they have shopped around in the midlands over the summer. Lots of one alls and scrappy away stuff should allow them mid table humdrum premiership life. CLASS PLAYER…..Hendrie BLACKBURN ROVERS…..Real struggle on here to survive in the big league. The rich chairman days are long gone and the strikers are not too hot. Souness will have them kicking chunks to stay up but its going to be close. If these guys want to win something they should enter the same league the ice cream vans do. Those guys always get a silver medal!,whos the competition?. Class player…….Grabbi BOLTON WANDERERS……Need to grab every point while they are hot in search of forty point safety.One or two guys in their that can play but once the strikers
                            are injured,going down Mr Tyler……This is the highest they will get in any list this year.Will the Trotters trott off? Lots of northern European types that will prosper in the winter gloom who could top that magic forty. CLASS PLAYER…. Frandssen. CHARLTON ATHLETIC….Good manger with a good set of players.last seasons mid table position will be hard to better as the Londoners look to stay in the top flight. The draw back for the capitols teams in the premiership is they have to share 64 Derby’s between them. They have some good Scandinavian types and a useful South African kid.But they need to hit the ground running. CLASS PLAYER…Johansson. CHELSEA……Average manager with a tactics ineptitude will costs this team Europe again if they are not careful.He said he would buy British,but goes abroad for new talent.Too many foreign faces wont get stuck in during the winter. But the talent is there and it has to be molded as a unit. And a dominant home record has to be initiated soon as they struggle away from the Bridge.Top five and a semi-final or two. CLASS PLAYER….Zendan DERBY COUNTY…….Like their abysmal cricket team its going to be goodnight Charlie.Christie is one for the future,but we all know theres no future where their going.Expect defections when the inevitable is inevitable. Ravanelli has obviously signed on the condition he can do what he likes. Penalties, free kicks,cut the grass,make the tea.Come January he will be throwing his toys out of the pram and wanting to go shopping in Rome on Saturdays only,it say it in mmmmmmy cantract signorr Smeeeth. Poor back two and poor midfield bar the pacey crucher Burley. Class player…..Christie. EVERTON…….Wally Smith has got them right and fit for the start of this do or die campaign.Manchester Uniteds jack boot has pushed them down to where they sho
                            uld be going and hopefully this is free fall. They hide in the middle of the table rolled up in a ball hoping that no one will see them so they can stay up. Xavier looks a complete Richard with that hair do and obviously wants to be caucasian like Michael Jackson. Class player…..Naysmith. FULHAM…With Saha in the side they will always threaten defenses with that Owenesque pace. If they do dip off they can buy their way up the table. Thers a nice high mid table position on offer that know one else wants to go for if they want it.Mr Fayed certainly has the balls to go for it and reputations with the big boys. They need to boost their back four though and play tight early on. Class player…..Saha. IPSWICH TOWN…..It’s going to be very hard to emulate last seasons performance and league position. Visiting teams will know how to play them which will costs the Tractor Boys about 15 points. Mid table security is their if they perform, and with buys like Fini George and the goalkeeper all is not lost. Stewart is the man to take the responsibility. They have a terrible run in with this year’s top three in my opinion. Boy will they need to be out of the mire by April. Class player…Heriderson. LEEDS UNITED…They seem to be stuck in low gear with a traffic cop on their tale looking for a nick. The welcome distraction of the champion’s league last year cost them domestically. This year they have the less erudite challenge of the Old Bailey and the EUFA Cup.They have started slowly but expect them to be roaring by January. They have the class to be top three again and have every position backed up from the bench. A domestic pot is a must and third place nailed on. Ian Harte is the best in the world in his attacking wing back position along with the amazing Harry Kewell.?Did you see that flick last year!.Hes only 3.7 million in the Telegr
                            aph fantasy league!. Class..Harry Kewell. LEICESTER CITY…. Has Peter Taylor turned that corner with his first point on Saturday.Yes but sadly it’s the entrance to the job center. The bookies had Leicester favorites for everything anti-post. Odds on to go down. Odds on to sack their manager. Odds on to be a supermarket soon….. He could be a great coach but I feel the guys played for O.Niell and his easygoing thing over Taylor’s school master stuff. They haven’t get anyone to score goals outright so its not looking good anywhere. Adios!. Class player….Guppy. LIVERPOOL…….The scosers have Leeds dilemma lasy year with the champions league top of the priority list.All resources have been geared to England and doing well in the big one this yeas.With two league defeats already and no team winning the league with more than six in thirty years its not good. Man United doesn’t lose three one at home and go on to claim the championship do they. Their defense is too foreign with no British spunk in there. They may have scored all of England’s goals lately but they went stopping them going in there or here. Class…Owen. MANCHESTER UNITED…..If you want to challenge United then go it while the mighty beasts is feasting in the European stadia and money pots. This is the only time they drop points. The panic buying off Lauren Blanc after the tyrannical Stam sacking is not that smart.Fergi obviously doesn’t think Johnson old Brown can do the right job in the champions league.Well if the 35 year old gets an injury he will have to play them. Its always useful though to have World Champion Bhartezs mobile speed dial handy when theres a panic on. They are class all over and will win by ten points as team’s cave and surrender at Old Trafford.Everton were jackbooted on half strength, Fulham came to the theatre of dreams a
                            nd took us by the horns. Class…Veron MIDDLESBROUGH…Without Tel i think they may well slip out of the lucrative premiership and dehydrate in the Nationwide.They have nothing up front and their star forward is getting bored of another year here. He’s already picking up career extending knocks. Back four is disjointed and sucks and the midfield is innocuous to say the least. Class..Boksic NEWCASTLE UNITED…Another season of milling around the middle like asylum seekers near the Eurostar station. The chairman and players really don’t care and the fans are the worst in the league for showing up, bit like their midfield. Ridiculous signings like Ginola and Angel’s show just how far off the ball they are. Dublin is ready for a move and that leaves little known Vassal to get the deflections. Class…….Merson. SOUTHAMPTON…Tottenham have raided their only hope of survival in the manager and soon to be Dean Richards.Any club will suffer who lose a great manager and club captain don’t you think. With the heart of the defense about to be ripped out you can expect relegation here pretty quick. No goals yet and an unknown manager means Nationwide One for their new stadium in August 2002. Class…..Richards. SUNDERLAND…..The one club that have the money and set up to challenge the top elite five. But their manager isn’t dynamic enough in the transfer market and play for me, perhaps holding them back a little. He has them tight and not giving much away, but the chairman’s wallet isn’t so Reidy wants to get some class in now to go top three. Phillips isn’t going to repeat his goal scoring feats with Quinny ready for the big bathtub in the sky. Class……Kilbane TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR…..Well they have poached what they want from Southampton, which should secure mid tab
                            le safety yet again. Hoddle has made some silly stop gap signings in Sheringham and Poyet, boy they must be on good money to come away from their old employers. Their best guy Carr is injured and their strikers patchy.I do like Ledley King and others at the back that bares well for later campaigns. Class….Rebrov. WEST HAM UNITED…. The academy of football has now become a business at the detriment of the fans and team. Ferdinand for 18 million was incedible business with similar to come through Cole, Carrick and Defoe. Dicannio is always fun and attacking chaos is guaranteed at Upton Park as ever. They never No talk of new multi-million pound stadiums or major signings. Just turn out stunning player’s year in year out. But they may be shooting their self in the foot doing this as they slip nearer the bottom on average every year. No one wants the Hammers to go down do they. Class……Cole. Top five will be…. 1) MANCHES.TER UNITED 2) ARSENAL. 3) LEEDS UNITED. 4) CHELSEA. 5) LIVERPOOL. Bottom five. 16) BLACKBURN ROVERS. 17) LEICISTER CITY. 18) MIDDLESBROUGH. 19) DERBY COUNTY. 20) SOUTHAMPTON.

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                              27.08.2001 06:03
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                              Im a bit of a coward so im going to give my predictions a week in. Wise and Vierra getting sent of was the easy bit, the harder comes in predicting the week that Jim Smith and Peter Taylor are canned. The third will be weather Jaap Stam brings a book out at Lazio. 1) MANCHESTER UNITED……..The party is over at Old Trafford with Alex going and his kingpin defender booted out. Uniteds defense has got worse every year and now its looking costly. The Nevilles have peaked and Silvestre is a raider over a defenceman, as the Americans would say. The attacking power is immense but the egos could clash early one. Becks and Veron are supposed to share the free kick duties but we have seen no evidence of that cooperation yet. They will just squeeze the title bye no more than five points in my opinion. Defensive frailties are going to bring them back to the pack like Earth’s gravity as their powerful jets blast them to a fourth record breaking championship. 2) LIVERPOOL…..They have got a record five trophies in those old spacious Anfield cabinets that have seen it all before. But the one that matters still lays empty and yawning. Not for long though as they are where they want to be player wise with just the big jump up almost on them. With Alex out the way next year it’s set up for the scousers to fill the void that was once their palace. They have a rock back four and a healthy front line. The midfield is one hundred percent to with the engine purring like a Ferrari. They will be close this year and could hold all four major trophies with the lessors to making a record six. 3) ARSENAL…Equally a flare team as United but insist on posing around the park. Vierra has a reputation among the Premier refs and will get tones of unfair cards. Pires is superb along with the industrious Lundberg and Parlour. Defensively the transition is almost complete from the
                              old guard. Campbell and Adam’s will take The Gunners close this year with more away wins and discipline needed. They have to drop the longhaired drip at the back though. He’s always been poor off his line and is keeping the brilliant Richard Wright on the bench. Bergkamp must play more and Kanu to given more football. If Arsenal can keep their barrage of gunners up front happy then they to will go closer this year. 4) LEEDS UNITED…. The court case is going to kill their challenge i feel from what is an excellent squad. Bowyer is such a critical part of their team out on the park and I think they will miss him. He could easily go to jail and Bakke isn’t the same if the worse comes to the worse. They have the compulsory front line power with the stunning Kewell dropping them great passes and invention. Woodgate won’t be so critically missed with Mills doing a great job so far. I prefer Radabee in there with Ferdinand anyway. It’s a cup year for Leeds as they are still two seasons behind Liverpool in their development. Maybe they can pass Arsenal on the way down later in the decade in the hunt for the big one. 5) CHELSEA…. Ranieri isn’t the right guy for the job and I don’t know why the ego maniac chairman went for an Italian.Ican only presume that the poor English speaking Latin wont interfere with Ken Bates team selection and signings. They have whacked up the middle field massively with some excellent buys. None more so than Zendan.Lampard is the best young Brit in this position along with Gerald and it has to help having guys him that in your side. I like Lesaux at left back where he should be for Ericsons England next weekend for me. Desailly and Gallas should work better. Ferrer and Babayaro are types of players that shouldn’t be rotated signor Ranieri!.
                              The back four will make or break their season with the wallet elevating them to Europe regardless. 6) 7) 8)9)10)11)ASTON VILLA, SUNDERLAND, WEST HAMTOTTENHMAM, EVERTON NEWCASTLE UNITEDMid table time wasters that just want to leech on the premiership millions. They buy poorly and anchor in the middle of the table every year playing bland defensive garbage. Selling clubs and retirement homes best describe this lot with only Tottenham with a manger to get them out of the rut. 12) FULHAM…With little Sahar whizzing around any defense better be on the ball. Man United saw what a handful he can be from day one and were stretched by his fizzing pace. These guys are the new Charlton in the Premier league and should impress above their station. Hopefully Fayeds money and bravado will keep them up and we will be entertained for many a match and season by the London new boys. 13) CHARLTON ATHLETIC…..They still have the workforce to stay up and entertain like the Fulhams and Ipswiches.But they wont have such an easy ride as last season and will feel relegation pressure like half of the league this year. I like their forward thinking manager and his clever signings over glamour. At the back though it looks poor so they need to out score the goals shipped. Bartlett and Johansson with Svenson and Stuart should cover that bar tab. 14) IPSWICH TOWN…Again another club that will struggle to better last seasons over excursions. Finini George was a smart signing by a smart manger .The back four is fluid and compact with great width and power. The midfield has Captain Holland’s presence and Heridersons raids with Claphams wing play. Their big problem is replacing their dominant
                              keeper Wright.Juries out on the new guy. 15) BLACKBURN ROVERS…..They have gone about their survival tactics well first off keeping it tight. Mat Jansen up front will nip in and get important goals along with a pacey midfield. Defense is second class though and goals will hit their net like Spanish fisherman in our waters. 16)BOLTON WANDERERS..With out hindsight of the first week of the season I would have put these guys bottom like everyone else. But they showed spirit and pace early on with a lucky first away match against hopeless Leicester City. I hope they stay up and do an Ipswich, they certainly need to harvest as many points they can in this current virginal burst of confidence. It may prove critical in their survival chances. Big battle on their hands though and may drop like the yo yo club tag they proudly posses. 17)DERBY COUNTY….I gave these guys no chance before the season and have them to go dow.But Ravanelli will be the one portent that could keep them their by a Flies wing. The talented young Christie up front with him won’t be arguing over free kicks and penalties with this guy. And that free reign may produce twenty plus for the silver fox. The first thing he wanted to do on his return to England was to play darts by all accounts. This is the one thing he enjoyed on Tyneside apparently. But the sophisticated world of Italian football doesn’t allow such blue-collar pursuits. As long as it improves his sharp shooting then who cares cry the city of Derby. 18) MIDDLESBOROUGH…. No Boxsich then no survival, it’s as simple as that in my book. Brian Dean and Hamilton Ricard are first division fare who couldn’t drag a club out of a paper bag.Iffy at the back
                              regardless of the Villa back two. Their largest problem they have is there over stretched ambition and manager. I seriously think the boss is another Brain Kidd Man United bullyboy and will tip them back into the nearly league. 19) SOUTHAMPTON…..The new ground was either the boost they needed to start the year or their catalyst for relegation away from the cosy Dell..Bad players and manager wont help either. Pahars is their salvation to hit thirty points, but he isn’t keen and should move on soon.Boyy do they need that Bobby Zamora deal to come off. 20) LEICESTER CITY…..Ten defeats out of eleven at the end of last season has carried on this time around. Nine goals shipped and none scored it looks bleak for the nearly England manager (that’s was close). The defense is s** and so is the depleted midfield. Robbie Savage is a girl and the forward line is hopeless. Prove your self Taylor or its P45 time.

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                                27.08.2001 05:08
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                                The Premiership’s started. It’s off. It’s been the 2001-2002 Barclaycard Premiership for Ooh, a week now. There have been some pretty strange opening games too. Bolton Wanderers, bookie’s favourites to lose the league started off on top, after a 5-0 win over Leicester, who’s recent buys haven’t made any difference at all (But Wise? Pahh, Give me Roy Keane any day). Anyway, you don’t want to know the current table, chances are it’s already stuck in your head. You want to know who I think is going to win, and who I think are going to lose. Yeah? Well, here you are then… **My Top seven. 1) Liverpool. I hate Liverpool. I always have done. I hate Liverpool in general, not just the football team. Maybe It’s got something to do with getting my hand trapped in the big heavy doors at the Walker gallery there, or maybe it’s just from being a Manchester United fan. You see, I hate their smugness, and their ability to show off that they have Michael Owen (Not that I’d want Michael Owen at Manchester United of course, because he’s a Liverpool player). But Liverpool are strong, however much I hate to say so, and they’re on form. They’ve just won they’re fifth trophy in a season, and even if their treble was a really measly treble compared to Manchester United’s of ’99, they have shown that they can win the big games. It’ll be a close-knit contest between Manchester United and Liverpool, even Steven’s all the way, but Manchester United, will let themselves down on a few big games, and although It’ll be a hard fought race, it’s been a long time since Manchester United have showed a weakness, Liverpool will just clinch the title. But it’ll only be a one off, I tell yers. 2) Manchester United. Manchester United have had a poor start to the season, just beating Fulham, and drawing with Blackburn and Aston
                                Villa. Poor starts usually don’t mean anything to Manchester United, it’s usually just pre-season nerves and getting back into Premiership play. But this time, I don’t think that’s the case. Their defensive play has been ghastly, and Stam’s departure to Lazio for £16 million isn’t going to help, even if the things he said in his recent autobiography were a bit ‘over the top’, I don’t think that Sir Alex should have sold him, purely because we need him as a defender. The Midfield is United’s obvious strength, with Juan Sebastian Veron being brought in for £28.1m, adding brilliance to the structure of Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs (and of course, Nicky Butt). Ruud Van Nistlerooy will be the star of the season, along with Paul “The complete player” Scholes, and even if Teddy Sheringham’s gone, I’ll still always love him (I still smile every time THAT goal is mentioned, you know J). Manchester United have said that they want to win everything, because this is Sir Alex’s last Season as the Manager at Old Trafford, and they especially want to get the European Cup, as the final will be at Hampdan Park, home of Glasgow Rangers, Ferguson’s favourite team (personally, I prefer Celtic, but never mind that). I think that Ferguson might just be able to get the Cup, but they won’t win the Premiership this year. I just have a feeling. 3) Leeds United. Leeds United over Arsenal, you say? Yes, Leeds United over Arsenal. Easily. They were forth last season, but last season’s last season, and I think they’re even more serious this year. Paul Robinson, will be challenging for Nigel Martyn’s shirt (Not literally, you realise, I’m sure Leeds can provide him with his own), and he’s already made a huge impact from when Martyn was injured last season. Alan Smith, despite his temper, is still preeettty good, and Robbie Keane too. On
                                the whole, I think the reason Leeds will get this far this season, is because of their confidence. They have bucket loads of it, and I’m certain they’ll do well. 4) Arsenal. Arsenal really need another Ian Wright type of character to partner Thierry Henry up front. Henry, will show his skill, and I’m certain will score some brilliant goals again, but someone else is needed. Like Manchester United’s, Arsenal’s defence need a bit of sharpening up. Sol Campbell, in my opinion (£100,000 a week - Oosh!), won’t really be enough to handle the top strikers in the Premiership (Ruud Van Nistlerooy, hehee!), especially now Tony Adams and Martin Keown are tiring a little. This won’t be the best season Arsenal have had. 5) Chelsea. Chelsea really didn’t do very well last season. They’ve generally been classed as one of the ‘top five’ in the Premiership (the other four, above), and last season’s sixth place wasn’t what they were hoping for. Chelsea could easily do better than fifth, too, but I don’t think they will, because Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester United’s teams really are too strong for Chelsea to put forward too much competition for the title. Claudio Ranieri has made some good buys, Frank Lampard from West Ham United, will prove to be strong, as will Emmanuel Petit, although maybe that is just me being biased towards Manu, for that oh-so-beautiful, wonderful, brilliant (though not the best I’ve ever seen – that was Cantona’s volley in the 96th minute of the 1996 FA Cup Final against Liverpool) goal in the 1998 World Cup against Brazil (Oh, I loved that match – possibly one of the best (except United Vs Bayern in ’99, of course) match I’ve ever seen, though perhaps that might have been because I was there – I WAS THERE!). Anyway, I don’t think this Season will prove to be
                                anything massive for the blues, but next season, I think, will be (not that next season counts of course – oh well…) 6) Sunderland. In sixth place, will be Sunderland. Because Sunderland, are relatively good. Ipswich proved stronger than them last season, though not this. Kevin Phillips will once again be the Star Man, and his bundles of pace will be needed this season, if Sunderland want to fulfil expectations. They have a great stadium, which is always good for a home side (The stadium obviously isn’t as good as Old Trafford, though). All they need now is a decent winger. 7) Aston Villa. I think Aston Villa will finish above Ipswich Town this year, mainly because other teams know what to expect from the Tractor boys, and will fight harder against them. Villa, anyhow, have a decent-ish squad, with of course, the very decent, Peter Schmichael. Even though I’m sure Schmikes will find it hard playing in the Premiership again, mainly from the point of view that this season he’ll be challenging Manchester United, rather than helping them, I think the Greatest Dane of them all will prove strong. Aston Villa may not get this far, because they don’t really have the confidence or ambitions to do so, but I think if they became a more consistent side, they can do. **My bottom five. 15) Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn will need a few seasons to establish themselves in the Premiership. They’re not the strongest of sides, despite having quite a few ex-Manchester United players in there (John Curtis, Henning Berg, and Keith Gillespie to mention a few), but I think they can build on that, and their manager Graeme Souness will. I think David Dunn and Matt Jansen will prove their excellence this season, but as I’ve said, I think Blackburn need a while to show their potential. 16) West Ham United. I think West Ham could have been a really good team. They had some
                                strong players, before Rio Ferdinand left for Leeds, and Frank Lampard JNR for Chelsea. They still have Joe Cole and Michael Carrick, though, who I think are both brilliant. They also have Paulo Di Canio, who even though his goal knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup last season, I can’t hate, because he’s such a skilful and imaginative player. I’m not too sure that their new manager Glenn Roeder will prove to be all that great, and I think that he may fail to hold on to their best players. However, I think West Ham may have an up-and-coming star in Jermaine Defoe. 17) Middlesborough. Maybe, just maybe, my placing of Middlesborough in 17th place is just showing my hatred of them too much. I hate them almost as much as Liverpool, you know. I despise them, sometimes even as much as I hate Liverpool. But maybe it’s not, maybe, it’s because that’s where I honestly think Middlesborough will finish, a good few places below last season. I think that what M’borough fans want to see is mainly a sign that the team is coming together, but personally, I don’t think they will. Steve McLaren, even though he was a brilliant Coach, I personally don’t think he’ll be the best manager. Alan Boksic will be Boro’s top scorer and star man again, in my reckoning, and I don’t think Paul Ince will be exactly ‘rated’. Middlesborough: Pahh. 18) Leicester City. I don’t think Leicester, despite last season’s 13th position, will stay up. They have some drastic improvements to be made, perhaps starting off with losing Peter Taylor. He’s made some poor buys, even though Dennis Wise is supposedly OK, I think he’s getting on a bit. Ade Akinibiyi, isn’t one of the best either. I think Leicester need to realise that players such as Muzzy Izzet and Robbie Savage have a lot more in them then what they’re showing so far. <
                                br><br>19) Derby County. I think the rams were lucky last season to get away with finishing 17th. They have some good players, such as Goalkeeper Matt Poom (I do love the song – “Who kept the balls out – Poom, Poom, Poom Poom” – that Derby fans sing), and of course Malcolm Christie, who perhaps only needs to improve his finishing to become one of the best strikers in the country. However, Derby are an easy team to break down, and they will be broken. Still, I think they’ll be back. 20) Bolton Wanderers. So, they started off at the top of the Premiership, and I think they’ll finish at the very bottom. They might even be last years Bradford City. (‘Big’) Sam Allardyce will have a hard season, but I think he’ll do as well as anyone can with Bolton. I sort of feel sorry for Bolton really. They sort of deserve to be in the Premiership, because they’re just one of those sides. Henrik Pederson is one to look out for, but I think Dean Holdsworth, the centre forward, will prove their best player. So that’s it. Who I think will be the best, and be the worst. You may or may not agree with me, but this is what I think the Premiership table will look like at the end of the season, whether you do or not. Ahh well, thanks for reading anyway. noodle.gorillaz2001© - Who’s always been useless at ending opinions.

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                                Who will win the Premier League next season? Will Manchester United triumph again? Can Arsenal go one better? Leave your view here.