Thursday, 15 August 2013

Premier Predictions Part II

Yes, it's the same photo.
(Pic : moneysupermarket.com)
Following on from yesterday's predictions, it's time to look at the other half, and what I think the final table will look like next May.

Man United – Despite having a team full of champions, I think Fergie's shoes will be a bit uncomfortable for David Moyes to fill this season. Their pre-season form hasn't been great, while the Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas transfer sagas have glossed over the fact that Man Utd have been quiet this summer. There'll be successes – they'll win a trophy and get big results – but I think there'll be big wobbles too. They'll be up there, but Man Utd supporters are going to have to be patient, something they might not be used to. Prediction : 3rd

Newcastle – They barely stayed up last season – perhaps because the Europa League distracted them - and are another club who've been quiet in the transfer market, apart from the loan signing of Loic Remy from QPR. With a core of French players, Newcastle have proven in past seasons that they have some flair, and they have threats, but they've never quite been able to hold a consistency with regard results. They have a mixed, perhaps tough, start to the season, so I think for Alan Pardew's sake they have to hit the ground running. I think they can though. Prediction : 8th

Norwich – Chris Hughton has brought it quite a few new players over the summer, and was rather fortunate that one of their big signings Gary Hooper avoided a lengthy injury following an incident during pre-season. I think they'll stay up quite comfortably, and if the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel can adapt to the pace of the Premier League and replace Grant Holt then maybe my prediction underestimates Norwich a little bit. Prediction :14th

Southampton – An impressive end to 2012-13, and they've recruited well in the summer, adding Dejan Lovren and talented Kenyan and Cardiff City target, Victor Wanyama, to their squad. England's man of the moment, Rickie Lambert, is likely to be the focus following his international debut last night. I think Southampton will need to be careful not to be too reliant on him for goals. I think the relegation battle is going to be very tight this year. There's usually one "shock" relegation candidate. I don't necessarily think it'll be Southampton, but I'll stick my neck out anyway. Prediction :18th (relegated)

Stoke – Arsenal fans dislike Stoke City, full stop – they're the "anti-Arsenal". We're not fans of Mark Hughes either. I think that cuts both ways. There were a surprising number of players released early in the summer, the biggest surprise perhaps being Dean Whitehead. They have a fairly tough start to the season, having to play Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal in the first 6 games. They hardly set the world alight last season, and their one-dimensional football was found out on several occasions. I loath the cavemen, but I suspect they'll keep their heads above water. Prediction :17th

Sunderland – They've made loads of signings over the summer from clubs across Europe, and outlayed quite a bit of funds too – a sign of faith in manager and certified nutter, Paulo di Canio. They're perhaps trying to copy Newcastle in creating a French core. They did well to stay up towards the end of 2012-13, but di Canio's so unpredictable, you could see Sunderland either challenging the top half or getting sucked into another relegation fight. It's hard to say what will happen. Prediction : 15th

Swansea – The League Cup holders. If they go far in Europe – group stages and beyond - then that could complicate matters and distract them from the league itself, as has happened to other clubs. There are question marks as to whether Michu can repeat his blistering form last season, or suffer from "second season syndrome". Buying Wilfried Bony was shrewd, and they have a large Spanish contingent forming there. Ashley Williams has been linked to Arsenal, but I doubt the move is likely as Arsene Wenger seems determined not to spend anything. Another big question remains as to whether relations between Michael Laudrup and the board are strained to the point that this could be his final season. He's not exactly known for sticking around. Prediction :13th

Gareth Bale – The Premier League's premier one man team. Ha ha ha. But if I'm completely honest, I'm concerned. Although Spurs usually finish the season the jokey clown club also-rans that we're all familiar with, you can't say the same of their squad and manager – which has been strengthened wisely over the summer. They have plenty of quality, and Bale has served as lynch pin over the last few seasons. I'm actually worried that this might be "the year". Should Bale leave for Real Madrid for silly money, then I suspect most of the funds will go towards a redeveloped White Hart Lane rather than squad development. Prediction : 5th (fingers crossed)

West Brom – Last season's surprise package. They've also made some surprise signings too, including Nicolas "Le Sulk" Anelka, whilst managing to keep hold of Peter Odemwingie (so far). Will they miss Romelu Lukaku's impact, however? It's all well and good Steve Clarke having one good season. If he can do it again though, then he'll show signs of being a manager to watch. Prediction : 11th

West Ham – Sam Allardyce has the ability to get something out of his players, usually a nice big hoof and chase and a strong challenge. West Ham have appeared to have had a very good pre-season all in all. Having added Liverpool rejects Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing to a fairly reasonable squad, I think the experienced Romanian captain Razvan Rat will be the one to watch. You do wonder whether stuff off the pitch involving the stadium move and chuntering of the owners will be a distraction. West Ham will never set the world alight, but I think they have a better chance of doing something compared to clubs around them. Prediction : 9th

Predicted Premier League 2013-14 final standings
  1. Chelsea
  2. Man City
  3. Man Utd
  4. Arsenal
    --------------
  5. Gareth Bale
    --------------
  6. Everton
  7. Liverpool
  8. Newcastle
  9. West Ham
  10. Aston Villa
  11. West Brom
  12. Fulham
  13. Swansea
  14. Norwich
  15. Sunderland
  16. Cardiff
  17. Stoke
    ---------------
  18. Southampton
  19. Hull
  20. Crystal Palace

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Premier Predictions Part I

Where's it going this season?
Who will go down?
Will Wenger get his fucking chequebook out?
(Pic : moneysupermarket.com)
The English Premier League returns on Saturday, bringing with it 9 months or so of hypertension, shouting and calling referees wankers. So, it's prediction time, and over two parts (today and tomorrow) I'm going to try and predict what 2013-14 has in store for the 20 clubs.

The Arsenal – In terms of transfers-out, it's been a great summer with plenty of deadwood cast adrift. However, it's been a disastrous summer in terms of transfers-in. One player – the unproven, injury-prone Yaya Sanogo – and being embroiled in a controversy with Luis Suarez that could've been avoided. The pre-season as a whole has been promising. Olivier Giroud has shown real quality, Aaron Ramsey has stood out in particular too. However, the squad looks threadbare – down to an Everton-style 18 players - and unless something spectacular happens transfer-wise in the next few weeks, Arsenal can forget a serious trophy challenge yet again. Based off experience at end of season run-ins, I'll predict : 4th place trophy

Aston Villa – A perennial "sleeping giant", Aston Villa flirted with relegation last season. They successfully managed to keep hold of one of the Premier League's breakthrough talents – Christian Benteke – and they've added a few youthful players from continental Europe over the summer. People might've been asking questions of Paul Lambert after last season, but I think there'll be a bit more stability this time around without setting the world alight. Prediction :10th

Cardiff  - I consider Cardiff City my "second team" - mainly because I never expected them to reach the Premier League - and watched them several times in the old Second Division. Things are a bit awkward now. They've spent a lot this summer, and I think they've spent it wisely. Steven Caulker was considered one of Tottenham's brightest prospects (and will be one of a rare breed who've played for both Cardiff & Swansea), while record signing Gary Medel is built like a tank. I'm sceptical about Danish strikers bought directly from the Danish league, like Andreas Cornelius, as goals scored tends to betray the weakness of the league. I suppose I've got to be patriotic and say the Bluebirds will stay up, but it'll be hard going to adapt, and I don't think they have enough depth to "do a Swansea". Prediction : 16th

Chelsea – Return of the twat. Managing Real Madrid has seemed to have been a humbling experience for Jose Mourinho, perhaps making him realise he isn't as great as he thinks he is. Many of Chelsea's big names are starting to get on a bit – Terry, Lampard, Cashley – and I'm not sure if he can rely on them as he did in his first spell at the club. It's not as if there aren't plenty of other players waiting in the wings either. Unless there's some Rooney-sized last minute business, he's been subdued in the transfer market by his usual standards, but bought wisely. As much as it pains me, Jose Mourinho will be worth 20 points by himself, and will likely win at least one major trophy. Prediction : Champions

Crystal Palace – Ian Holloway's a nice enough bloke, and clearly not bad as a manager, but the Palace squad just doesn't look up to the task on the whole. They have a few Welsh internationals in the squad like Danny Gabbidon and Darcy Blake, and Kevin Phillips has defied his age to perhaps end his career with one last shot in the top flight. Arsenal have stuck the boot in by giving the poor sods Marouane Chamakh. I don't think they'll be humiliated, but I'd expect them to end up in a tough relegation dog fight. Prediction : 20th (relegated)

Everton – Roberto Martinez is clearly a talented manager, but he's never had the squads at his disposal to really push on and truly make a name for himself. Of course, last season he was in the awkward position of winning the FA Cup with Wigan, but being subsequently relegated. They'll fall some way short of challenging for the Top 4, but they have plenty of quality there, adding to it with the likes of Arouna Kone. There's a definite cosmopolitan feel to the Toffees. Depending mainly on keeping players like Baines and Fellaini, I'll predict : 6th

Fulham – It's a season of change. Fulham changed owner over the summer, but it's unlikely to cause too much upheaval. They're replaced the ever present Mark Schwarzer with sought-after Dutch international Maarten Stekelenburg. Ghanaian international Derek Boateng is an astute signing, and they've also managed to get Adel Taarabt from QPR on loan. Martin Jol will probably steady the ship as usual, but it'll probably be another bog standard mid-table outcome come May. Prediction : 12th

Hull – I don't see any quality in their squad, but they must be good enough to have managed to get out of the Championship in the first place. Hull are one of those non-descript clubs that usually make up the numbers and are just happy to be in the top flight. I don't rate Steve Bruce as a manager, perhaps unfairly. He's very good at stabilising "weak" clubs, but in the end it all goes pear shaped. At least one newly-promoted clubs usually sacks their manager, and he's my favourite. It'll be tough. Prediction : 19th (relegated)

Liverpool – One of the biggest clubs in the world (in 1984). Their pre-season (and Arsenal's) has been overshadowed by the Suarez business. I'm bound to say this, but I think Brendan Rodgers has come across as a bit of a numpty, albeit a pig-headed numpty, for his handling of it. This "will he, won't he" stuff of trying to hang on to a player who clearly doesn't want to play for the club borders on idiotic. Coutinho could well end up being one of the players of the season, but even with all these "world class" players, they've consistently struggled to return to the top 4, and have a weaker squad than teams above them. Another season "in transition". Prediction : 7th

Man City
– This season's big spenders in the transfer market – again. They also have a new manager in the cultured Manuel Pellegrini. The new faces are world-class players. I wouldn't bet against a Golden Boot contest from Alvaro Negrado, and that's before mentioning Stevan Jovetic. They have firepower in abundance. However....I know you can't judge a side on pre-season friendlies, but they looked defensively naive against Arsenal last week and have been all over the place in other games. There's also the question of trying to give players like Nasri, Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko playing time. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Nasri's fat, cash-chasing arse warming a bench will result in some toys hurled from prams. Prediction : Runners-up.

Part II tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A visit from the Birthday Skeleton

Many will have expected me to be in my grave by now, but as the great General Martok once said, "My deterioration is proceeding apace" and "I shall endeavour to die. This year, if possible."

I didn't receive much material wealth because "material wealth" dried up as soon as my balls dropped.

I suppose time's running out for me to join Plaid's jelly and ice cream wing, while it also appears I share a birthday with Leighton Andrews - if you're desperate for another political link.


Being born during the tail end of summer is the worst for a whole host of reasons and I don't recommend it to anyone.

Supposedly, I'm a "Leo" or some other astrological horseshit, but because of the timing of my appearence, all my birthday tells me is what my parents were doing in the run up to Christmas '83. And I must scream.

Monday, 5 August 2013

"You're in a room." - Knightmare returns (sort of)

"It's only a game....Isn't it?
(Pic : TV Cream)
Cult classic of the 80s - early 90s, CITV's Knightmare, returned for a one off special today via Youtube as part of some week of events.

I have fond memories of it. Considering children's programmes are usually written off as side projects, and loaded with hyperactive hosts and bright colours to provide a distraction for an hour or two, Knightmare was "special". It stood out. A big pair of swinging Anglian bollocks, saying in a booming voice, "We're really going out on a limb here. This is serious business."

At the time it was revolutionary and rather advanced. It was one of those choose-your-own adventure books, or text role playing games, except it was REAL! It was always mentioned alongside Fun House as the show you would most like to go on as a kid.

  • The superimposed snakes and spiders.
  • The somewhat scary "life force" animation with the skull falling apart and the rolling eyes.
  • The, at the time mysterious, but impractical and rather stupid-looking helmet.
  • A talking face in a wall called Granitas (pronounced Granite Arse).
  • NHS glasses and dungarees.
  • The actors and actresses who probably wished they were playing Hamlet or Ophelia, instead reduced to prancing about like a knob, and chewing the scenery with their ham acting in front of a green screen.
  • The unforgiving learning curve. Only one life, with no real hints of where to go or what you need. Then they walk into a room containing a bomb with a 3 second fuse. It's probably harder than The Cube, anyway.

It was glorious, and a genuine classic.

I can see why the guys on Youtube would've wanted to bring it back as a slice of nostalgia. It almost worked too. I'm glad they played it straight, rather than attempting to be some sort of parody – like this one.

Having watched it though, you can understand why it went, and why it should never ever come back full-time. The original show - currently being repeated of Challenge TV - has dated quite a lot.

A grown man telling a child he's going to put his helmet of justice on their head would lead to regular visits to the local police station. It's a bit of a relic of a by-gone era, superseded by other distractions like games consoles and internet porn.

However depressing that sounds, it was nice to see it make a brief, understated return - and to know that the bloke who played Treguard is still alive. It's even got it's own stage show!

The hardest thing of all for contestants though, seemed to be trying to remember the difference between left and right. Time for a classic moment :


                              


Spellcasting : D-I-S....M-I-S-S

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