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Month: August 2011

Monday Morning Football Opinion

I’m sitting at my PC late on Sunday night (by the time I post this it should be Monday – hence the title) with little to do as I wait for the clock to tick round to midnight for work purposes so I thought I’d post a few random football thoughts after the weekends games.

Kanu? Up top on his own? Are you freaking kidding me Steve Cotterill?

I actually watched the JPT draw with intent hoping Southend would get a home draw so I’d get an extra game to commentate on a fortnight on Tuesday. They did. Southend United v Crawley Town will be played on Tuesday 30 August with a 19:45 k/o (in all likelihood – not confirmed yet) so that should be my next game behind a microphone. Result!

Premier League wise I was really disappointed by Arsenal at Newcastle. I thought they showed nothing against Newcastle. They just seemed a bit toothless like they still haven’t got over the Carling Cup hangover and it has been half a year. Deeply concerned for them unless they really go out and spend the money on a top drawer creative midfielder.

Liverpool too were disappointing only drawing with the Mackems at home but I wasn’t too shocked by Chelsea only getting a draw at Stoke. Stoke will be a decent team this year again and if they can keep Jonathan Woodgate fit (big if I know) them that might be the best bit of business in this transfer window.

Speaking of keeping fit all of us at The Rambles of Neil Monnery wish Kieron Dyer another speedy recovery. This man makes Darren Anderton looks like a fitness freak.

Manchester United looked good and I love the Ashley Young signing for them but at times they were being overrun in the midfield by West Brom. A team like Arsenal (at their pomp) would roll straight through the heart of that midfield.

QPR. Yeah it was nice of you guys to come up.

Lastly Real Madrid are going to give Barcelona everything they can handle this season. I know the first leg of the Kings Cup ended 2-2 but Real were terrific and looked like they are ready to really challenge Pep’s side this year. That race might be genuinely thrilling.

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Why didn’t Peter Walton give a Penalty for Joey Barton’s foul on Gervinho?

Now I’m not a referee so I need a helping hand with this one. As many of you will have seen either live on ESPN or on Match of the Day this evening there was an incident involving Gervinho and Joey Barton in the Newcastle United v Arsenal game.

Gervinho went down in the box mid-way through the first half. Most people thought it was a dive but referee Peter Walton decided that it wasn’t and allowed play to continue with no advantage signaled. This seems pretty crucial. Next Joey Barton grabs Gervinho by the scruff of the neck and drags up him to his feet. At this point there is a meleé and Gervinho slaps Joey Barton and he goes down as though Mike Tyson had right hooked him. It was blatant play acting by Joey Barton but what would you expect?

Gervinho though raised his arms and was rightly sent off and Joey Barton was booked for his role in the incident. However Joey Barton couldn’t have been booked for simulation as if the referee thought that then he wouldn’t have shown Gervinho the red card. So Joey Barton was booked for instigating the incident and dragging Gervinho up to his feet by the scruff of the neck.

Now that incident happened before Gervinho slapped Barton and with the referee not signalling advantage after the alleged dive of Gervinho then surely the first incident that he has blown for is Joey Barton’s yellow card offence on Gervinho then shouldn’t it have been a penalty to Arsenal and not a free kick to Newcastle? Surely the first incident is deemed the foul.

I may be totally wrong but that is how I read the laws of the game and with Peter Walton never indicating that he saw the tackle on Gervinho/dive by Gervinho as not worthy of a foul by never showing that he was playing advantage, then surely Barton’s yellow card offence on Gervinho was during open play and happened in his own penalty area and therefore he should have pointed to the spot?

To be fair to the referee he had a shocker all day long by not sending off Alex Song for a pathetic stamp on Joey Barton but two wrongs does not make a right my friends.

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The #ukriots have shown me that some of us do not even possess moral compass

The riots we have seen in the UK this past week have next to naff all to do with the socio-political climate and all to do with a lack of judgement at best and a lack of moral compass at worse.

I have just sat and watched a film called The Experiment where 26 men are offered $1000 a day to take part in a psychological experiment to be prisoners for two weeks. A handful are picked out to be the prison guards and the rest are the inmates. They are told that no harm can come to them and that they will be watched constantly. The guards are told that if they do not act in a right or just manner then a red light will go on. They are also told that this will happen if they employ any violence. This red light in effect becomes their judge and jury and the guards in the main leave their own moral compasses at the door.

The film shows rape and murder, which are probably at the top of the tree of what the guards did because they didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong. The red light never comes on and they descent further and further down the route of believing that they are invincible. It is only when the prisoners themselves manage to take over and are involved in a right royal rumble that the light goes on and the gates are unlocked and everyone can walk out – well everyone except the dead prisoner anyway.

The main guard takes a knife to the main prisoner but the prisoners grabs it before he is killed but instead of turning the knife on his captor he throws the knife away and goes for an old fashioned punch to the face (times about 358). This shows that despite all he had been through he still had that essence of a moral compass and knew right from wrong. Something the the guards (or those who had been put in power) had lost.

As I was watching it I saw a clear resemblance to what we have seen in the past few days. People not finding their moral compass when high on the adrenaline and rush of power. It is one of the main reasons why I can’t blame this on any one section of society. Sadly a lot of people when high on the rush and power and feeling of invincibility will make decisions that they wouldn’t when in a normal state or is it?

I like to think that no matter how pushed I was from whatever direction that I would know right from wrong. It is part of who I am that I know when push comes to shove what is good and what is bad. I do not believe that there is any circumstance when I would look and think ‘well he/she is getting away with it so why shouldn’t I?’ There is no way that I’d see 100s of other people lighting fires and torching shops and think that it was ok because other people were doing it.

Therefore I find it hard to put it down to sheer mob mentality. Yes it is easy to get swept up by what everyone else around you is doing but you should also have moral fibre that would make you know that it was wrong. If you do it anyway then your moral compass is either broken or you didn’t have one anyway. I don’t buy that you just lost it for a few minutes and made a bad decision.

We all make bad decisions in life but they are rarely ones that are on a pure ethical or criminal basis. A few people died but also 100s of people lost their homes and businesses. This isn’t a case of a few people rampaging through the streets on a whim it is a sign that many people just do not know right from wrong and that is the saddest thing of all.

I always thought that we were the king of the species on this planet but watching the goings on over the past week it seems as though the one thing that gave us the edge over the rest of the species living on this robust and quite wondrous planet – that being our ability to make the right decisions based not just on instinct but on doing the right thing when it comes down to it – is not as big an advantage as I previous thought and that my friends is the saddest thing of all.

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Jail for refusing to fill in a Census form in English?

Principles are an important thing. We should all have them. Some of us don’t but heck those people are losers and will always be losers. That is just the way it is. However it should also be noted that some people have such unhinged principles that they are willing to go to jail for and on this step forward 63 year-old Iain Turnbull

For those too lazy to click on the link Mr Turnbull is a 63 year-oid Englishman who is living on a remote Scottish island and is willing to go to jail for not filling in the Census form because he wants to fill it in using the Welsh language. Seems reasonable enough but it should be pointed out that he speaks perfectly fluent English and can therefore fill in the form fine. However he now sees this as a matter of principle and is making it out like he is doing some good against the evil government and not what he is really doing and that is being a stubborn fool.

Look I can see his point – to a degree – but is it really that important of an issue? Is being allowed to fill in a form in what isn’t his native language really the same as fighting for the vote or for equality or is it just someone being a tit?

I know what I think. I’m all for being as liberal as possible and in a perfect world he should be able to fill the form in using whatever language he chooses but when it comes down to it is isn’t a matter of principle it is just someone being stubborn for no apparent reason other that to inflate his own feeling of self-importance.

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Last night at the age of 28 I achieved my #1 lifelong ambition – here’s the story

For those of you who read this who have known me for many years you’ll know what my lifelong ambition was. Those who haven’t known me for that long probably won’t know. Some might think it’s to become an MP and maybe in time Prime Minister. That isn’t it. Some might think it’s to find a partner and live happily ever after. No it’s not that. Some might think it was to become a professional sportsman. Nah I’m afraid from a young age my minor disability pretty much put pay to that. Some might think that that it is to become a published fiction author. Whilst that is an ambition it has never been the most important goal of mine.

My number one ambition from a very young age was to become a sports commentator – not for TV – but for radio. I had no ambitions to call an England World Cup game for the BBC (although heck if happened I wouldn’t exactly be complaining) but it was to call a football game live on radio. It didn’t matter if it was a small community station or a large national network. The act of calling a live game was what I wanted to do.

Well last night – Tuesday 9 August 2011 – I achieved my main life ambition. I co-commentated on Southend United v Leyton Orient live for Southend Hospital Radio and the blind inside in Roots Hall. I had been asked before but turned it down as I wanted to wait until it was right and I could get into a rhythm. This off season I was asked if I’d like to takeover the position on a semi-permanent basis and I agreed and that semi will be withdrawn once the incumbent finally moves away which is what he is looking to do. So for this season it looks as though I’ll be doing the majority of evening games with a few Saturday’s thrown in as and when.

I must admit that I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I was. This was my main life goal I was about to achieve and I just got on with it. I met my co-commentator briefly last Wednesday and last night was the first time we had a real conversation. Yet we gelled extremely quickly and we had a very simple system. David was the play-by-play guy and I was the analyst. I didn’t want to talk over him so I used the technique I know Murray Walker and Martin Brundle used when they first worked together – if I had something I wanted to say I’d just touch his arm and he’d finish up what he was saying and allow me to speak. He’d also come to me at various moments during play to summerise what that attack had gone etc…

The broadcast box at the back of the Directors Box had BBC Essex, another station, Sky Sports News and us. Therefore we were sat next to Tony Colliver who was doing the game for the Gillette Soccer Special. That was pretty cool. The most bizarre thing is you had three channels doing live commentary and you can hear them all very clearly so you have to zone out of everything around you and just tune into your broadcast partners voice. BBC Essex were extremely lively (and was David) so it was probably good that were at opposite ends of the commentary box!

As for the game itself well it went to Extra Time & Penalties. I just had a feeling that it would. First game and we were made to work overtime. We threw back to the studio at half-time but from the start of the second half until the penalty shoot-out was over it was all us. So the best part of two hours non-stop. I also did play-by-play briefly a couple of times whilst David was helping Tony out with a couple of things. I remember once finishing my sentence and realising David was busy talking to Tony so had to carry on. The call of the penalty shoot-out was terrific as I was talking most of the time between each spot kick so I could get into a flow and a half.

I know some of say ‘pfft it’s only hospital radio and for the blind so who cares’ but I’d reply that the people listening in the hospital and the blind at the ground care. I’m 28 now and my aspirations in the media industry are pretty much in the rear view mirror. I do radio for fun and not for a career. In my time I’ve been the editor of the most popular two sections of one of the top ten football sites out there at the time, been a Sports Editor of a network of 47 websites, been featured in The Times and the Wall Street Journal and for a couple of years provided snapshot match reports for The Observer. I’ve been interviewed live in the Sky News studio (although I still have never watched it back – but it is on YouTube if you fancy watching it – just search for my name and it will come up) and read the news on Local Radio and been interviewed for many national radio stations. So I have done a fair bit but that is mostly in my past I think. If something comes up that changes that then so be it but I’m happy enough just to do it for fun and my career isn’t exactly doing awfully in another profession and I’m not sitting on the breadline.

I must admit that I do think that doing this (and other Hospital Radio stuff) makes me feel like I’m doing something for the community and giving something back. I’m a relatively selfish person. I live alone and work from home but I am happy to give my time and energies to causes that I feel are worthwhile. As someone else said last week at the radio whilst I was doing my Wednesday show ‘if only one person every few weeks rings up and says that you’ve really made their stay in hospital more bearable then we are doing ok’. You don’t want to get patted on the back every day or every week but just so you know that people are helped by what you do every so often then that is all that matters and it makes the whole process more than worthwhile.

I don’t know when my next game is but it won’t be far away. David who has been doing it for yonks said he felt it came across really well and I’ll speak with the Programme Controller tonight to see what he thought about how it came across (he was presenting from the studio end). I’m my own worst critic as anyone who knows me well will attest but even I thought it sounded very good and it just worked extremely well. If I didn’t think I was doing it justice then I’d say so and not do it any more but that was good. I’m sure of it.

One thing I need to write as I’m a name-dropper. Just before I left last night I got a good luck message from pop star Gabriella Cilmi. I’m sorry but that is totally awesome. Thank you to her and to all the other good luck messages I got on Twitter, Facebook, E-mail and via text. They were all very much appreciated.

So that is my main life ambition done. Let’s look at the opening paragraph again and see what I can work on next. Let me see…

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James Berry on Football: Premier League Predictions

The Rambles of Neil Monnery is delighted to welcome a new writer to the team which kind of makes a mockery of the title but still. James Berry has been known to the management for over twenty years and was one of the reasons that kept the management sane when dragged to Hart Plain Church every Sunday morning for year after year. James will be blogging on football whenever he feels like it so if you are into football then read his pieces. I’ve always found them detailed and worthwhile hence why I’ve offered him the chance to blog here. I hope you enjoy.

The 2011-2012 Premier League season is nearly upon us so its time again for my pre-season predictions. I really think the title race will be close this season and could go down to the last day with a number of teams involved:

Manchester United

A strange season last year for United, no one thought this was anywhere near their best team in the premier league era but they still won the league by 9 points so they can’t be that bad. United’s title was definitely won at home, picking up an astounding 54 out of 57 points at Old Trafford but only 26 away. Hernandez was a star performer up front and the defence was the second best in the league. This summer, Fergie has lost stalwarts and undoubted United legends in Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Saar. However, he has finally managed to prize some cash out of the Glazers, spending c£18million on David De Gea to replace Van Der Saar, c£18million on Phil Jones and another c£18million on Ashley Young. Only one of these is a direct replacement for the 3 legends and although they are excellent signings, its still feels as though they are one short. Last year I talked of Gibson, Carrick, Nani and Valencia needing to step up to provide more goals, a call which Nani answered (and Valencia was only denied due to injury) but it is surely midfield where United are at their weakest. They desperately need a world class central midfielder to replace Scholes and have been linked with Sneider and Modric but neither deal looks likely.

Having said all that, United are still the team to beat, they have the experience, the squad and most importantly of all Sir Alex Ferguson, the best manager of all time. It will be interesting to see how De Gea goes about his business and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is given time to ease into the team (he’s only 20!) but with Rooney back to his 2009/10 best, I can see United winning this again.

Champions

Chelsea

Started like a house on fire but then fell away. They suffered from loosing Lampard and Drogba for long periods and Ancelotti wasn’t able to dig them out of a mid-season blip quick enough to save their title hopes. The signings of David Luiz and Fernando Torres were real statements of intent from Abramovich and although Luiz started well, Torres looked like he was turning into Chris Sutton and Andre Schevchenko to name but 2 expensive Chelsea flops from the past.

Ancelotti paid with his job for last seasons failure and was amazingly replaced by the inexperienced Andre Villas Boas, a former Chelsea scout, for a fee believed to be around £13 million from Porto (although not the most expensive transfer for a manager – that record goes to Mourinho when he went to Madrid last year). Its a very brave move by Abramovich, the sheer size of the compensation paid for him suggests that he will be given time to rebuild the Chelsea squad. Its a quirk of Chelsea that although they have had so many managers in the Abramovich years, they have had a relatively stable squad, something that will not be possible to maintain for too much longer with the likes of Terry, Lampard, Cole, Drogba and Anelka being closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.

The signings this summer haven’t set the world on fire with only Oriol Romeu from Barcelona and Thibaut Courtois from Genk arriving. From the read ups, Romeu sounds like an excellent prospect and with Essien missing could go straight into the first team. However it looks as though, as with United, its central midfield where Chelsea wish to strengthen having bid twice (and been turned down twice) for Luka Modric. I can’t see Tottenham selling for anything less than £40million but I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea pay that (the only question mark over the deal being Chelsea’s concerns with complying with the new UEFA financial rules). Lukaku from Anderlect looks like he might be on the way, a player I am really looking forward to seeing play, and the rest of the team looks good as long as the spine of Cech, Terry, Cole, Lampard and Drogba stays fit. It will be interesting to see what happens with Torres but they have enough still to be there or thereabouts. However I think that ageing legs may catch up with them and the inexperience in the dugout may also be a problem. Torres has not been scoring and it maybe that again they fall just short again.

Third

Manchester City

Last season I summarised their squad as follows:

“Two of the best keepers in the league, numerous options across the back 4, a ridiculous number of central midfielder’s, Milner, Wright-Phillips, Johnson and Silva to do the creative and strikers of the caliber of Santa Cruz, Adebayor,Balotelli, Tevez and Jo to call on. But despite that, I think they lack a real quality creative force from the centre of the pitch inthe mould of Lampard, Scholes, Fabregas, Xavi, Kaka, Gerrard or evena Modric or Arteta. Hopefully Silva will be that man but it is a lot asking him to do that straight away in the hurly burly of the Premier league.”

Since then, Given has left and the goalkeeping department is definitely weaker but they have added a proven premier league performer in Gael Clichy from Arsenal to strengthen the joint best defence in the league and have replaced Jo with Kun Aguero, a truly world class player on the level of Carlos Tevez. Silva did step up to become the creative force in the centre of the pitch and it is very difficult to see where City could improve their squad, never mind the first team. Despite this, Mancini still apparently want Sami Nasri from Arsenal, a central midfielder to replace the retired Patrick Viera and a winger.

To improve, and to win the title, they need more goals from players not called Carlos. Aguero will do that and I’m sure Silva and Toure (Yaya) will get more too. They also need to be more ruthless and aggressive but maybe that approach is more down to the manager than the players.

City will be very difficult to stop and I can see them winning the title this year. However, due to Uniteds superior know how in this area and especially that man Feguson, I think they will just pip City to it, but it will be close. Damn close

Second

Arsenal

Its deja vu all over again:

“it is hard not to question why Wenger has not bought a top class goalkeeper, at least another centre half and possibly a central midfield enforcer. The argument apparently is that he doesn’t want to create a bottleneck for the youth players coming through but surely he has to win a trophy this year after 5 years without one”

Szczwsny looks like he could be the answer in goal (although he’s a year older than Dea Gea at United and has only played 15 games in the premiership) but he is liable to make mistakes (like the howler in the League Cup final). Central midfield doesn’t look like such a problem with the emergence of Wilshire but once again centre half is a real concern. Wenger has been heavily linked with Phil Jakiela and Gary Cahill but does not seem willing to stump up for either one of them. Whether this is the board playing hardball or a real unwillingness on Wengers behalf, failure to sign one or both of them would be folly. Either would make Arsenal better than they are now. United spent £18million on a 19 year old with 1 years premier league experience behind him. Why will Arsenal not pay a similar amount for one of Jakiela or Cahill?

As for the squad, Kieron Gibbs will presumably step in at left back to replace Clichy (good news for England) and Vermaelan will be like a new signing after missing most of last season. Gervinho has been added and has looked good in pre-season and as usual a lot will hang on what happens to Cesc Fabregas. Why Barcelona want him this year is beyond me but I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on the 31st August (although not if he plays in Europe this month). Van Persie staying fit is vital, he was superb from January.

This season could be very difficult for Wenger and the Arsenal boys. The Emirates crowd is clearly growing impatient at the now 6 year trophy drought and a bad start or a poor patch of form in the season could really turn into a slump.

Arsenal still have enough to win the title but life would be a lot easier if Wenger brought in some experience. There’s still time, but I make my prediction on the squad as it is now.

Fourth

Tottenham

Spurs had a great time in Europe but were 6 points off the champions league come the end of the season. If Harry had managed to buy the striker he wanted in January its entirely possible they could have made up those points but as it was they had to rely on Defoe, Crouch and Pavelechenko who did not deliver. They now have Robbie Keane back from West Ham. Goals scored were the difference.

There still seems to be a lot of deadwood in the squad that Harry will surely want to get rid of; Hutton, Bentley, Jenas, Palacios, the three strikers names above, dos Santos, Bassong, Kranjcar all look like players he might want to ship on and all that have decent sell on value.

I still have reservations about Spurs defence. Ledley King is superb but you can’t rely on him to play all the time and I don’t rate Assou-Akotto, he’s too inconsistent. If I was Harry I would sort those two problems out first. The midfield is fantastic, reading Bale, Modric, Huddlestone and Lennon but there needs to be some decent cover beyond those 4 and I don’t think Harry likes the backup he currently has. I would also like to see an upgrade on Huddlestone, a terrific player but I think they can do better. Diarra from Madrid would be my choice. Perhaps the most concerning area is up front. They can all deliver on their day but it rarely seems to be a Saturday. I’m surprised Harry hasn’t resurrected his interest in Rossi of Villareal (he’s clearly not going to Barcelona anytime soon) although I would suspect its more down to wages than anything else.

Spurs now have the Europa league to concern themselves with but I don’t think Harry likes that competition so I expect to see the squad used for those games. He will be more focused than ever on doing well in the league and I expect them to push for the champions league spot to the end. They could do it, but I think they will miss out on the last day.

Fifth

Liverpool

A season of hope and optimism awaits the Kop faithful. Cash has been well and truly splashed since January with £35million on Andy Carroll, £20million on Luis Suarez, £16million on Jordan Henderson, £20 million on Stuart Downing and £8million on Charlie Adam. None of these signing can be faulted but it is the size of bill that surprises, especially for Jordan Henderson. Liverpool has also given the squad a british uplift which is refreshing to see and this knowledge of the premiership will surely help. Kuyt has been a revelation since King Kenny took over and they now look to have plenty of attacking intent.

The squad is still a bit short in some areas however. A left back is needed, Enrique of Newcastle has been strongly linked, and a right winger would also give them more balance unless Kuyt plays there. They may also want a back up striker although they could us Ngog or Kuyt. Maybe an extra centre back is needed too.

However I do slightly agree with Danny Murphy, Liverpool were under no pressure from January and now they are. It will be interesting to see how they do. Whatever happens, the club will be together and the fans will not turn on Dalglish like they did on Hodgson. Patient will be the watchword at Anfield this year, and although they may not win anything they will surely improve. The Champions League could be achieved this year but like Spurs I think they will just miss out towards the end despite pushing close.

Sixth

Everton

I find it incredible that no multi-billionaire has pitched up at Goodison and got this club moving again. A lack of investment is the only thing stopping Everton challenging for the Champions League spots. Moyes is doing a fantastic job with little money although the squad has thinned out a bit with the loss of James Vaughn. I think in an ideal world Moyes would like to be rid of Joseph Yobo and Yakubu and maybe get his money back from a Russian club on Bilyaletdinov and get in a striker but I think with little interest in those three he may have to resort to selling Rodwell for £15-20 million and reinvesting the proceeds or getting in some loans. (Incidentally I would like to see Rodwell go to Arsenal or United as I think he’s standing still at Everton)

Moyes hasn’t signed anyone of note yet this summer but perhaps more importantly hasn’t lost anyone either, so I would say more of the same from a small but talented squad.

Seventh

Fulham

Is Mark Hughes the stupidest man in football? He had a great job at Fulham with a great squad and a chairman who always backs his managers yet quit for a job that doesn’t exist. Martin Jol comes in and it has to be said that Fulham again look in good hands. Since his huge mistake in appointing Laurie Sanchez, Al Fayed seems to make excellent choices in his managerial appointment.

As for the Fulham squad, as with Everton they are a small and talented team. The back 5 are very good (with an excellent addition in John Arne Riise) and the midfield is hard working and contributes the odd goal. Up front, Johnson, Dembele and Zamora will always cause trouble for whoever they play against. Jol’s remit from Al Fayed seems to be to reduce the age of one of the older premier league squads and surely a long term replacement for Danny Murphy would be one of the priorities.

However as they are Fulham have plenty going for them and will again be a handful for anyone they play. I can’t see them regressing.

Eight

Aston Villa

The hardest thing for Randy Lerner this summer was what to do with the manager and eventually Houllier left to be replaced by Alex McLeish. Villa fans had already had a say on the managerial appointment, effectively vetoing Steve McLaren but Randy had his way with McLeish (nice sentence!) Villa fans are not happy at the appointment of a man who took their local rivals down twice in 3 years.

But looked at from another angle he is an excellent appointment. He has managed successfully one of the biggest clubs in the world (Glasgow Rangers) and at Birmingham did a great job, winning their first major trophy in years, only sullied by a dreadful end of season which sent them down.

As for the squad, they have lost 3 of their best players in Freidel, Downing and Young and these three will be missed. However they have done well in replacing 2 of them with the proven talent of Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given. Nevertheless there are a few things that need addressing.

Central defenders Richard Dunne and James Collins went AWOL on and off the pitch last year and some competition is needed in that area. Pires and Reo-Coker have been released but neither will be missed much. However more is needed in midfield. Stephen Ireland will hopefully wake up after a 2 year slumber and Marc Albrighton is an exciting talent who could replace Ashley Young. Up front, Bent and Agbonglahor will always get goals but maybe some backup is needed.

A bit like Arsenal, I think their season will depend on the start. If they are poor, the fans will have little patient with McLeish and will turn on him quickly and a season of upheaval could ensue. Make no mistake, McLeish can do a good job but will the fans let him? I anticipate a slight regression on last year.

Tenth

Sunderland

“Another summer of frenetic transfer activity at Sunderland, Steve Bruce must surely be getting close to the team he wants “

Clearly not. I wrote that last summer and this summer he’s bought in 9 players who will be in 1st team contention and sold or released 4. They lost Bent at Christmas but Asamoah Gyan is a terrific player who can more than adequately replace him. Of the players Bruce has bought this summer, highlights are O’Shea and Brown from United who will surely help to install a winning mentality at the Stadium of Light and it will be interesting to see how Conor Wickham develops. Craig Gardener, Seb Larsson and David Vaughn are also very good additions to the team and will surely add goals to the team.

However I still think Gyan needs more support up front and the midfield is very workman like but perhaps lacks a little quality. They don’t possess a Charlie Adam, a Danny Murphy or Mikel Arteta like the clubs they are fighting for league places with and this lack of creativity could hinder them. I would also anticipate another mid season slump again, just like the last two years.

Bruce needs to settle the squad down and develop some consistency. The clubs above them in the league have that and this is what Sunderland need.

Fourteenth

West Bromwich Albion

Last year I couldn’t be bothered to write about them but they surprised everyone and survived comfortably. The goals of Peter Odemwingie were crucial to this and they look like they will be able to hold onto him. The defence must improve next year, they let in far too many and had hardly any clean sheets but Roy Hodgson will improve things in that department. Ben Foster is an upgrade on Scott Carson and thats a good bit of business. The midfield looks good, I really rate Chris Brunt and Tchoyi looks good as well. With further support from Thomas and Morrison, the middle of the park could do with a bit more bite. If Owen Hargreaves can stay fit then he would be a good signing for them. Need to score more and concede less but they’ll be alright.

Twelfth

Newcastle

Newcastle had a good season last year. With Kevin Nolan leading and the likes of Andy Carroll, Joey Barton, Cheike Tiote and Jonas Guitierez following, Newcastle survived comfortably and provided the most memorable game of the season, the amazing 4-4 against Arsenal.

But since then, Newcastle have lost the spine of that team in Nolan and Carroll and seem to be trying to rid themselves of Barton too. Not only are these good players, they were the leaders in the dressing room that really united the club and got them promoted in 09/10. They still have some decent players but the players they have added to to the squad are largley unproven in the english leagues, even Demba Ba has only had 6 months (although he did look useful). There seems to be no hint that Mike Ashley will release the £35 million banked for Carroll but I don’t blame him for that, he’s spend millions on the club and is entitled to take some back.

They still have a decent team though but I think they could do with a bit more experience, especially of English football, in their team. They should also do all they can to hold onto Joey Barton. There maybe periods that they struggle but I think they will stay up.

Fifteenth

Stoke City

Cracking season in the Potteries with an FA Cup final appearance to boot. They play a very simple game, 2 great wingers in Pennant and Etherington feed crosses for the head of Jones, Fuller and Walters. In Huth and Shawcross they have two very good stoppers and have added real quality in Jonathan Woodgate, who but for injuries would surely still be at Spurs or even a bigger club. There’s still a lack of quality at Stoke and they are a bit agricultural in their approach. I would really like to see Pulis improve his central midfield so they can play a bit more football. Having said that they are very good at what they do and no-one likes going to Stoke on a cold Tuesday in November (not even Barcelona). It will be interesting to see how they get on with European football and whether the squad will be able to cope with it but I think they will step up and do well again.

Ninth

Bolton Wanderers

They did ok last season and Daniel Sturridge was surely one of the (temporary) buys of the season last year. This summer they have lost him and Johan Elmander together with the one-man goal of the season machine Matty Taylor but have added Nigel Reo-Coker, Darren Pratley, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears. Whilst those 4 are decent, none of them would appear to be significant improvements on the players already at the club.

I think the most pressing part of the team for Owen Coyle is up front. Currently he is left with 2 senior strikers in Kevin Davis and Ivan Klasnic (and er Robbie Blake). Someone like Robbie Keane would be perfect for the Trotters. The return of Stuart Holden will be a welcome sight as he was one of the stars of the season with his all action style until his untimely injury.

Coyle clearly then will be making further moves in the market before September and don’t be surprised to see another young player from one of the big clubs following in the footsteps of Jack Wilshire and Daniel Sturridge and rocking up at the Reebok. Their season could depend on who arrives between now and then but I base my prediction on the squad today.

Eleventh

Blackburn Rovers

Last year I thought they would comfortably stay up but this year I am not so sure. To me, Blackburn have all the signs of a club going backwards. New owners purchase the club promising riches and world class players galore but then fail to splash a bean (see any of Pompey’s owners 2009/10, Birmingham 2010/11) and sack an experienced manager and replace him with an inexperienced one (Pompey, nearly, with Tony Adams 2008/09, Bolton with Sammy Lee, Southampton with Stuart Gray, Charlton when they went down)

Blackburn do however have a solid spine. Robinson, Samba, Nelson, N’Zonzi, Emerton, Pedersen, Jason Roberts will fight for every ball and also possess a bit of quality. But they lack goals and desperately need someone to score at least 10 goals, if not more, in a season. If they could find their own Odemwingie they would be in business but I fear that if they fail to take advantage of a relatively easy start they will struggle. The inexperience of Steve Keane will require the full patience of the Venkys board and I worry that they don’t know enough about football to know when to stick or twist.

Chicken feed.

Nineteenth

Wigan Athletic

I believe that Wigan were in the bottom 3 the whole of last season until the final day. They escaped the inevitable. A dire start against Blackpool who spanked them off the park set the scene for a year of struggle. But N’Zogbia and Rodellega’s 9 goals apeice saw them good .

This year, N’Zogbia hais gone to Villa and so far only Dave Jones and the permanent signing of Al Al Habsi have come in. Maruro Bosselli has come back from a decent spell on loan at Genoa and he must show why Martinez spent £6 million on him last year. Other than that, it looks as though Martinez will have to hope that the likes of James McCarthy and Victor Moses improve further and that Steve Ghouri, Alcaraz and Figeouroa can do enough to stop the flood of goals they always concede at the other end. I would anticipate some late transfer window arrivals which may help them on their way.

I think it will be a close run thing again for them but that they will stay up. Just.

Seventeenth

Wolverhampton Wanderers

I like Mick McCarthy’s no bullshit interviews after a match. He’s a bit like Gordon Strachan in that respect except not so much of a dick. And make no mistake, Mick deserves to be where he is. He’s put together a good team that for some reason struggled last season. Stephen Hunt, Stephen Fletcher, Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle are good premiership players and he’s added more of the same with Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara on a permanent basis.

They are probably a little lacking in qualify in central midfield and full back but I think they will do a lot better than last season with their high speed attacking football.

Thirteenth

QPR

The Billionaires are back in town. The second richest club in Britain reached the promised land after more than a decade away in style with the league championship. Neil Warnock purchased astutely a number of players with good experience of the championship, the icing on the cake being the incredible talents of Adel Taarabt, the championship player of the season.

This summer, the purse strings have again remained tight and Warnock has signed up a few decent looking free agents, current England international Jay Boothroyd and former England international Kieron Dyer. £1.5 million went on DJ Campbell who did great at Blackpool last year.

In truth, as with the other promoted teams, I don’t really know enough about the players to make a proper judgment. I’m glad they have held onto Taarabt and I hope he can show his talent at the top level. They have some very solid citizens and they could stay up. But think they will fall just short.

Eighteenth

Norwich

Two promotions in two seasons is pretty good for any team but to get into the Premiership at the first attempt is a terrific achievement. Norwich had a great season and from the odd time I saw them play they were an exciting, attacking team.

The Premiership however is a different kettle of fish. Their squad doesn’t have much top level experience which could be good but could also be bad. I fear bad. Goals are hard to come by but keeping them out can be even harder and I’m not sure whether Norwich will be able to do it well enough at either end to stay up. A rapid rise and a rapid fall I think

Twentieth

Swansea City

The Barcelona of the Championship got themselves promoted and in doing so will become the first non-English team to play in the Premier league (well except the French Arsenal!) Swansea sparkled last year scoring bucketloads and have a reasonably tight defence. Again another team with little premiership experience and as with Norwich this could work either way.

However I am going to gamble on this prediction and state that I think Swansea will swagger like Blackpool did last year but stay up (it could just as easily be Norwich)

Sixteenth

FA Cup

Unlike the league the cups are a complete lottery, it could be anyone. There has been a lot of fairytail stories in recent years with smaller clubs reaching the final (Southampton, Millwall, Portsmouth x2, Stoke, Manchester City(!)) but I think it will go back to normal this year with 2 top 6 clubs fighting it out. I have a sneaky feeling for…

Tottenham

League Cup

Another lottery so another one out of the hat. I fancy a lower team to achieve in this competition which means someone like Fulham, Sunderland, Everton, West Brom, Wolves. Out of those I’ll pick…

Fulham

Champions League

I think we all pretty much know who will win but I don’t want to pick them as its too easy. Mourinho was close last year and could be again this year with a squad he’s had time to mould more in his image. I think the best chance for English clubs will come from Arsenal and Manchester United but I think both will fall short. I can’t see any other nation really having a club coming to the fore although Borrussia Dortmund are pretty exciting with a very young squad. So beyond the obvious, I’m going to plump for…

Real Madrid

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my predictions.

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London Riots Round Table with the PM, Red Ken, Twitter, Rioters and the Police

Speaker: Ladies and Gentlemen we are gathered here today to discuss what to do about these riots. We have spokespeople from several sectors of society including a rioter, a police officer, the PM, twitter and Ken Livingstone. Let’s keep this above belts folks, first of all we’ll go to the PM…

PM: Thank you Mr Speaker. I didn’t leave a tip for that waitress because she didn’t bloody deserve one. I carried the teas to the table. She did naff all.

Red Ken: That’s because she didn’t have an EMA so couldn’t afford to stay on at walking with teas to the table school.

Speaker: (yelling) David! Ken! Keep it on topic. The rioting…

PM: Sorry Mr Speaker. On the riots we all agree that something drastic needs to be done. This lawlessness has gone on far too long. I’m going to send Boris down there to flummox them with his gobbledygook.

Rioter: Noooooooooooooooooooooo, not Boris!

PM: Yes Boris. What will you do then?

Rioter: We’ll beat him up and use his big head to ram raid all the charity shops we need to get into to steal the £30 they leave in the till overnight at the float.

PM: Oh…

Twitter: (interrupting) We’ve just heard that all the Lions have been let out of London Zoo and are roaming the streets breathing fire on building…

PM: That is very scary.

Red Ken: Can I just say that I have always – since this morning – advocated water cannons.

Speaker: Yes Ken, you can and well…have.

Rioter: Look no-one is listening to us. This Matthew Digger bloke. The Police shot him when he was walking through the park on his way to delivering Meals on Wheels for the elderly and this is just not on. For this reason we need to destroy our own community and make our own lives better as a way of making us feel more important. These 42″ plasmas are expensive like and I promise you if we all had 42″ plasmas and free stuff from JD Sports then the likelihood of us rioting is slightly reduced.

Police: Well that is a point but plasma TVs cost money and shouldn’t you like everyone else have to pay for them?

Rioter: Look you *threatening and pointing his finger* I’ve told you no-one is listening to us. We want free stuff and the ability to do whatever we like. That is only fair as otherwise we’d be like everyone else and we are more important than everyone else.

PM: I understand what you are saying but we can’t put anyone above anyone else unless they are News International…

Twitter: We hate Rupert Murdoch. I heard he is behind these riots because he wanted to take #HackGate off the front pages.

Red Ken: There were no riots when I was Mayor of London…

Boris Johnson: Yes but what about when you were head of the GLC?

Red Ken: Where did you come from Boris?

Boris Johnson: I am personally going round counting all the Boris Bike’s in the city and I can confirm they are all still in working order and I’ve added a new secret ejector seat to them. If any rioter sits on a Boris Bike with a plasma TV then they’ll be jettisoned into the stratosphere. Tally Ho…

Red Ken: B B B…

Speaker: Order, Order. No-one said Boris could speak. PM you need to tell him about how these things work.

Twitter: We love Boris. He’s a bumbling buffoon but was funny on HIGNFY once.

PM: Mr Speaker don’t you worry. We are in total control of both Boris and the situation.

*Boris Johnson flies through the room holding a plasma TV yelling ‘It works’*

Rioter: This is grossly unfair. How are we going to move our stolen loot now? Yet another way in which the government and authorities don’t listen to us.

Speaker: We haven’t heard a lot from the police spokesperson yet…

Police: Sorry. We’ve been trying to buy water cannons but all we can get are water pistols. The Super Soaker 500 seems great value but we don’t have the money and they won’t do us a bulk deal.

PM: Don’t worry. I shall divert funds from what we are saving on EMA to your water cannon fund.

*Red Ken huffs*

Police: Right ok. We’ll get the water cannons. Can we use them yet?

PM: No. We’ll just have them and use them as a deterrent for now.

Twitter: If we were in charge then we’d sort everything straight away. We know what’s best. We always know what’s best.

Rioter: Yeah. I use tweeter too. We use it to tell everyone where to meet and what to smash in. Twitter is amazing.

Twitter: If you touch anyone we know then they’ll be hell to pay and we’ll personally come and find you and kill you. We are that powerful.

*Rioter flips twitter the bird*

Twitter: Just when I thought you couldn’t be more evil…

PM: Ok folks we need to get a cohesive strategy to deal with this situation. So what do you want us to do about Mark Duggan rioters?

Rioter: Who?

PM: You know the person who the police shot?

Rioter: The police shot someone? Right that’s it we are taking to the streets!

PM: Haven’t you done that already?

Rioter: Yes but now we have a reason. The police hate us. The only way to hit them where it hurts is to loot and then burn out Carpet Right. We’ll leave Pizza Go-Go as we still want cheap pizzas but we know the police and government likes carpets and we don’t care so…

Police: That doesn’t really too much sense…

Rioter: See yet another person that doesn’t listen to us. Just because we ain’t like edumacated it don’t mean nuffin’ – no-one listens to us.

Twitter: Bring back the Death Penalty.

Speaker: Let’s not go there…

PM: Ok here is my plan. An extra 10,000 rozzers on the streets of London tonight. Sorted.

Red Ken: But you have been cutting police numbers since you took control. There aren’t enough police to police the streets even in peace time let alone a time of open warfare on the streets between the have’s and have not’s thanks to the cutting of EMA.

PM: Ken. This has nothing to do with the cutting of EMA. People just see a chance to loot and get free stuff without any consequences.

Red Ken: Did these riots happen when EMA was at it’s highest ebb? No they didn’t. Ipso Facto.

PM: Ken that isn’t how it works.

Red Ken: I disagree. It’s a fact.

PM: Ken are you really linking this wanton criminality to EMA?

Red Ken: Yes I am.

PM: But aren’t many of these rioters under the age of 16 anyway?

Red Ken: They know they can’t afford to stay on at school in a few years so don’t see the point of trying now. They know that by the age of seven that under a Tory led government they have no future and their only hope is to take control of their communities to scare all those who are better off and more hard working than them.

PM: Ken I used to like you and respect you.

Twitter: We used to like and respect Ken Livingstone.

Police: We used to like and respect Ken Livingstone.

Rioter: We didn’t. Dickhead.

Speaker: Order, Order! Rioter there will be no name calling here.

Rioter: Yeah like that’s the worst thing we’ve done recently…

Twitter: Just heard that Nick Griffin is a dickhead.

*everyone looks at the speaker*

Speaker: Carry on…

Rioter: If our demands aren’t met that we get better benefits and don’t have to lift a finger then we’ll carry on and take the levels of criminality to a whole new level. There are a few hundred of us and we can rule the world.

PM: We’ll see but we do care about you and your problems *leans in to speak to his advisor about re-booking his holiday*

Police: We might not be getting the backing of the PM who seems like he couldn’t really give a damn but I’ll tell you this rioters. We’ll win. You might win many battles but we shall win the war. At some point we’ll have the numbers that will outnumber you and whilst we won’t have any extra weaponry so it seems we do have experience and training to deal with the likes of you.

Speaker: (interjecting) Yes talk is cheap. Here is what I have to say to you all. Ken just shut up. PM you should give a damn. As you you lot on twitter stop spreading rumour as fact and stop playing billy big balls. You lot *points at the police* do your job and as for the rioters stop being selfish pricks and hurting those around you. They aren’t to blame for your despair and if you want to be heard then do it in a way that will make your case sympathetic to the public at large. By doing this all you are doing is secluded yourself more from the rest of society and that in the long-term will not do you any good whatsoever. Basically stop being selfish little shits and start thinking about other people and with that this round table is over.

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‘I pay my taxes, I’m just taking back what’s mine’

Those are the words of a young woman who was part of a wanton criminality in London last night when asked by Mark Stone the Sky News reporter on the scene. First of all it was a terrific piece of journalism with Mr Stone putting himself very much in harms way to get a story but secondly it was quite chilling what the response was.

First of all the young lady in question didn’t seem old enough to pay taxes so her point seems a bit off but most importantly if people really think (and this wasn’t an isolated sound byte) that they can reclaim what is there’s by breaking into premises of private individuals and businesses and stealing whatever they like and then torching the place then you have top worry about the level of education that these people are getting.

I find it difficult to put into words exactly what I’m thinking on this issue as I mostly feel despair. I’m lucky that I don’t live in an area that has a major fear of violence in the near future *touches wood* and I was not in fear of going to sleep last night. However this isn’t about me and like all of us I have friends who were in genuine fear last night not only for their property but for their lives. When masked criminals in their 100s are roaming the streets looking for trouble and believing they have the power to do whatever they want are in control then the rest of the community suffers.

The video that many will have seen on BBC News this morning of an injured person with blood pouring out of him being mugged by these people and having his back pack emptied by these people. They feel like they have the ultimate power and nothing can stop them and when people have that sense of invincibility then they are very dangerous people. Mob mentality rules. We’ve all been in uncomfortable situations where we are outnumbered and fear for our own safety but these usually pass within a few minutes but imagine that fear lasting for days.

Today is Day four of this event and tonight is probably the key night. Tonight is either escalates or the police finally get the upper hand. The rioters will be at home sleeping off a night of adrenaline-fuelled rampage ready to rise and shine this afternoon to see what is the next step. Do they have enough stolen gear? Do they feel that they have pushed their luck? Or do they feel like they can’t lose and will be waiting to find out what area they’ll target next?

It is all rather sad and depressing that in a civilised country law-abiding folk can lose everything and fear for their lives thanks to a handful of mindless morons who care about having a good time and are high on a sense of power.

One last note though. If you work in Curry’s and decide to loot your own store whilst still in uniform then you are one of the biggest idiots on the face of this planet. If this is the type of intellect that is involved then we need to sort out education in this country and this makes the rioters a tricky customer to face. How can you face an opponent who knows so little and won’t act with any logic? That is something that the Met will face tonight.

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The north London rioters are they for real?

So I’ve kept pretty quiet on these north London riots mainly due to the fact that I have been a bit out of the loop over the weekend. However can I just say that I really don’t understand some people. Some people are truly nuts and/or they just don’t think about what they are doing. Ok so you have a problem with the police and think they pick on you and are a bunch of arseholes. What do you do? Well you burn out Carpet Right – yea that’s what you do – that’ll learn them.

What utter bullshit.

I know people are unhappy. People are usually unhappy. Creating fear amongst your own community though is no way to deal with that. What is pretty clear is that rioters in this situation (and in other similar riots across London both this weekend and last year) are just people out and about spoiling for some fun. They aren’t anarchists they are just bored and think that a bit of fire and a brawl with the cops will be a jolly good night out. Every generation goes through it and sadly for us our generation is going through it without much justification.

Yes there was an incident on Thursday which seems to have been the spark that lit the torch paper but we still don’t know what happened there. Reports are sketchy at best and there is a very real possibility that the police did something very wrong – or very right – we just don’t know. Instead of trying to get to the bottom of it though in a mature mentality this was the chance for those disaffected with life to take it out on their own community. Talk about community spirit being worth naff all these days. People would have been setting fire to premises of businesses that are owned by and are worked at by their neighbours and friends. By starting this violence they are scaring good people and implanting a fear into their own community?

Do these people give a rats arse?

Of course they don’t. They only care about themselves and having a good time (and being able to nick some stuff to make their own lives that wee bit better).

All these riots have shown is just how selfish many people are today (and sadly if I’m being honest the majority of these rioters are younger people). They only care about one thing and that isn’t justice for Mark Duggan or his family – it is about what is in it for them and them alone. If they cared about Mark Duggan or the community at large they would face the problem head on and in a mature way. Instead they light fires and attack the police physically and the community at large mentally.

These rioters are just selfish scum bags. If they cared about anyone else then they would not be doing what they are doing.

I hope we get the truth about what happened to Mark Duggan for his family and for the community at large but what is going on now is only slowing the process down. This is not a situation where rioting does any good whatsoever it is just a situation which gives disaffected people the opportunity to act like immature brats – a role they seemingly need little practice to pull off.

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This ‘Keep F1 on the BBC’ e-petition rubbish…

I saw yesterday that there was an e-petition to keep F1 free to air in this country and lots of F1 fans are getting rather excited by this. However when you take a step back and think about this clearly and rationally you see that it is complete and utter codswallop (seriously love that word) and people should think about what the government would really do.

If the e-petition gets the 100,000 signatures it needs to get debated in parliament are MPs really going to put the F1 calendar on the protected events list? Is the F1 season of national importance that brings the country together? Does it have the history of the Grand National? Does the sport pack out pubs like the World Cup or European Championships? Does an F1 race transfix a nation for a fortnight like Wimbledon does?

No it doesn’t – and I’m saying this as a huge F1 nut. I’d love the sport to stat right where it is for all the races. I think the BBC’s coverage has been second to none and it enables people who don’t have Sky to watch it. Now I do have Sky so I won’t be effected really but my sister and husband do not and they will not pay for Sky so they’ll lose several races live from next year and that is not right. However is this something that the government should be taking seriously at the moment?

Er…let me think about that…no.

The Eurozone is in such a fragile state that the economy could go down the tubes and we might get caught up in it despite being outside that bubble. The United States of America’s economy is nearly as bad and we have people thinking that parliament need to talk about what channel Formula 1 is on. Sometimes I just don’t know what planet some people live on and where their priorities lie.

I would love F1 to stay on the Beeb. That would be the ideal solution to this but does F1 have more national significance than say The Ashes? It really doesn’t. There is no way that any bill would pass the House of Commons to put the whole F1 calendar on the protected events list. There is more chance of me marrying Sophie Ellis-Bextor (yes the same metaphor again but hey it’s Sophie Ellis-Bextor) than there is of that e-petition ever being debated and resulting in a bill that ensures the whole season of F1 will be available to anyone who has a television and an aerial.

The world is looking at ruin and some people think time needs to be found for F1.

Give me bleedin’ strength.

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