With the football season two weeks away, I’ve decided to make some predictions.
The first match I’m attending (11th August) is a League Cup Round One tie between Cheltenham Town and MK Dons. Both teams missed out on promotion via the play-offs, so it should be a good contest.
Last time: Cheltenham 1-4 MK Dons (August 9th 2011)
This time: Cheltenham 1-2 MK Dons
The second one (18th August) is a match I went to watch in March; Fulham vs Norwich City. It’s the first round of the new English Premier League season. Norwich have a new boss now, with Paul Lambert leaving for Aston Villa to be replaced by Chris Hughton.
Last time Fulham raced into a 2-0 lead after just 15 minutes against a Norwich side that was clearly missing the suspended Grant Holt. Aaron Wilbraham replied for the visitors; he has since moved to Championship side Crystal Palace.
Last time: Fulham 2-1 Norwich
This time: Fulham 3-1 Norwich
Of course, I could be wrong about both of those…
Honestly? I would have gone with West Brom myself. Too late now, though…
Almunia’s leaving. Wait, he was still there?
McLeish out. Solskjaer in?
Nope, not Solskjaer in. Lambert in? Not without a fight, lads.
Yeah, you guys are in trouble.
The Yak to leave? Money to be raised? Anyone to know what’s happening? Doubt it.
Mass exodus! Except for Kevin Davies.
Next friendly match is against Crewe. They’re not bad y’know, only one division separates those two now.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
I mean, er yes, splendid stuff. Well done Drogba (who’s left). Not so well done to Terry (who’s an idiot, and has been banned for two games). Commiserations to Lampard (who’s crocked).
On such a quick rise that Pienaar gets fined for speeding. That FA Cup semi-final defeat is still REALLY annoying. Moyes wisely sticking put.
Interestingly quiet. Mainly because the players they have going to the Euros might spring a surprise. The Pog is ready to roar for Russia, Duff and Kelly wait for Ireland.
Dempsey staying put. For now…
King Kenny Dalglish? Worst manager ever!
Aside from the trophy, but come on, you’re not supposed to win trophies in football, you’re supposed to finish above Everton!
Sort it, Rodgers. And turn them into Barca whilst you’re at it.
They get knocked down (by Barton), they get back up again. But they (Mario Balotelli) may walk off if you’re rude at the Euros.
Expect fireworks, but Not In My Bathroom.
Second best team in PL. Now need to treat this like it isn’t a crisis.
However, finishing behind City probably is a crisis.
One Alan Pardew! There’s only one Alan Pardew!
Though playing in Europe and trying to finish in top five again might be tricky.
Best team in North East though? You betcha.
For pity’s sake. Worst end to a season ever.
Beat Villa, help get McLeish sacked.
Then let Holt throw a strop and Ruddy injure himself.
And then let Villa try to bag Lambert.
WHO RUNS THIS CLUB?!?
Joey Barton banned for twelve matches for callously kicking someone from behind in broad daylight? And PL survival? That’ll do nicely.
And Jamie Mackie’s staying. If the boy can score against Man City, he’s worth his weight in gold.
Tony Pulis carried the Olympic Torch. No other news needed.
They tried to get the ball past Bramble, he said “Hang on, I’ve got a court case here owing to excessive amounts of alcohol”.
Bramble is then derided as a terrible songwriter and a slightly better defender.
Why did you leave, Rodgers?!? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?
We won! Which means we lost.
But we still have Harry! Who’s annoyed with the FA.
But we still have our players! Until someone buys them.
But we still have Levy!
You’re Rangnicked, boys. Hopefully. Says here the Tinkerman looked at you and thought, “It’s not Monaco, is it?”
McLeish will stay away if he knows what’s good for him.
Watch them every season since 2006 as they make the likelihood of relegation… DISAPPEAR.
Martinez is staying put. Hurrah!
Are you still here, lads?
Or are you just being betrayed, Kevin Foley? Might have been an idea to have helped keep your side up, m’boy. Instead of being thumped 5-0 by Fulham.
I was there. Had the impression you could play.
WHO’S BETRAYED NOW, KEVIN?
That’ll be all.
Dear Joey Barton,
It is tempting for an amateur journalist like myself to write about City and United. About the drama, the goals, the handing over of power. It has been a brilliant season. But allow me to dig deeper than that.
Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers are similar clubs. Both have been in the shadow of a local rival (in QPR’s case, more than one local rival) for a number of years. Both have had significant amounts of cash pumped into them. Both have them have had managerial turbulence, and have handled dismissals in a way that has attracted criticism.
Ultimately, however, there is a difference. Rich clubs often struggle to deal with the egos that come with the players they buy. The players are paid staggering amounts, think of themselves as stars, and expect to be the star. When one gets more attention than the others, they understandably sulk. But City have worked out how to handle such egos. Carlos Tevez had his strop (and what a strop it was), but was invited back and made a difference. Likewise Balotelli. Both players have egos the size of ocean liners, but Mancini (and Kompany) have prevented them from rocking the boat to the point of capsizing.
QPR, alas, are still working out how best to manage the baffling case of one ego too many. With their nautical home strip of blue and white stripes, they could be mistaken for pirates, such is the way they have marauded around the choppy waters of the relegation zone. And if QPR are pirates, then Joey, you are Long John Silver. Intelligent, manipulative, witty and a violent criminal who gives no quarter. Regardless of whether or not Tevez provoked you, the modern game does not stand for retaliation. Until you understand that, you shouldn’t be playing.
Granted, you’re not the only man who has considered himself to be above the law at QPR. Adel Taraabt stormed out of Craven Cottage at half-time after being substituted during a 6-0 thrashing by Fulham. Djibril Cisse, in a match I attended, grabbed Roger Johnson by the throat and then was surprised to see himself given a straight red. One could point to the other red cards picked up this season by Rangers, but in fairness, some (Derry’s for example) were harsher than others.
However, I sense that Taraabt (who scored two vital goals against Arsenal and Spurs in the run-in) and Cisse (who scores much more often than he loses his rag) are now playing for the team and are starting to learn from their mistakes. You, on the other hand, are a coward who has offended before and, left to your own devices, will offend again. You were sent off against Norwich in January in controversial circumstances and you are clearly unable of letting that go. The fact that you admitted to kneeing Aguero with a clear head simply makes it worse.
This isn’t boxing, Joey (and I fear I may be twisting the knife into boxing’s reputation there: the last thing it needs is Barton trying to take on Haye and Chisora at Upton Park). You may log on to Twitter and speak your mind, but you will have to answer for those acts of needless violence. One wins at football by putting the ball in the net, not by leaving several City players on the deck. And quite frankly, on the basis of this game and comeback against Liverpool, your team wins at football after you and and your ego are thrown off the pitch, not when they’re having to carry you.
Don’t believe me, Joey? Look at City. Look at Newcastle. Have they done better since you left, or worse? Newcastle’s transformation is nothing short of astounding, and I’ll bet having one ego less in the dressing room helped. Pardew looks a thousand times happier even when his team’s lost 2-0 to City. I wonder why.
A ten-match ban? Make it a season. We’re all better off without you. You’ve only scored two goals for Rangers, neither of which were vital, and even when you’re not being violent, you’re not much of a captain. Clint Hill and Anton Ferdinand would be much better candidates: the latter has handled the John Terry incident remarkably well. If Terry had even looked at you in the wrong way, I imagine he would have suffered more than cracked ribs.
Never mind the fact that you could have got QPR relegated. Never mind the fact that your sense of self-worth has a complete stranglehold on what you say and do. Stay off that football pitch for at least six months, and watch as QPR’s talented individuals become a team to contend with, free of their so-called captain. I recommend selling the Big Issue outside Loftus Road in the meantime. It’s not football, but neither is kicking someone from behind.
(As I was writing this, Barton has since apologised to “everyone offended by it”. So, that’s everyone then, Joey. Still, it’s a start.)
Edit: Now I think about it, Barton scored three goals for QPR. Apologies, I was forgetting the one against Wolves. But three is not an impressive return for a midfielder and none of them turned out to be vital goals. Taraabt only scored two, but those strikes secured four precious points. There’s the difference.
Finally Watched The Crouch Goal. Not bad...
29th October 2011
Traditionally, West Ham United are known by one of two nicknames: the Irons, and the Hammers. On arrival at Upton Park therefore, you do have to wonder why they have castles outside. Was there a castle where West Ham used to be, perhaps? Help me out here, Hammers fans…
In any case, this was a ground I had never been to before, and whilst it looks a touch wacky outside, it is utterly fantastic inside. As the players came out of the tunnel, the combination of the bubble machine and the rousing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” makes you want to watch West Ham at home every week. Well, almost.
For West Ham are a Jekyll and Hyde of a team, and they showed that in spades against Leicester, a side full of individuals but not much of a team. In the first half, make no mistake, West Ham were rampant. Two goals in two minutes from the recently acquired Sam Baldock and the frequently-derided Julian Faubert (“I still say he’s rubbish” commented one fan) meant that the Foxes, who had just tossed Sven aside, were going to be up against it. Baldock almost killed the game before half time with a delicious shot that looked for all the world to be going in, but the crossbar came to Leicester’s rescue.
So, half-time, and Leicester out of it. Right?
Oh, so very wrong. For this is the issue that West Ham had last season, have had this season, and will probably have next season: they don’t kill teams off at home. Leicester had no right to make it interesting, but Andy King wasn’t reading the script, and neither was former Hammer Paul Konchesky. A good cross and an easy header made it 2-1. It was hardly vintage defending, even for the Championship.
A nervy ten minutes followed, but then a masterstroke. As you might expect of a Sam Allardyce side, West Ham decided to give Route One a go, and it paid dividends. Robert Green launched the ball upfield, Frederic Piquionne knocked it down to Sam Baldock, and the former MK Dons player had his second of the game. Hammers fans relaxed, thinking that such a simple goal would knock the stuffing out of the Foxes.
Back came Andy King. Anything Baldock could do, he could do better, and a 20-yard thunderbolt left Green utterly helpless. After that it was all Leicester, with Steve Howard unlucky to see his effort deflect off Tomkins and onto the crossbar, and David Nugent missing a late chance, but ultimately West Ham held on for a decent win.
So, would I visit Upton Park again as a neutral? If every game was like that, perhaps. But West Ham do seem to be one of those teams that find it difficult to kill a game (though a first-half injury to John Carew understandably disrupted their flow). With the all-important match against Blackpool looming, it really does depend on which West Ham turns up: the one that dismantled Leicester in the first half, or the one that almost let Leicester snatch a point in the second? The Irons will just have to hope that their dreams don’t fade and die, but at least they’ll always have one of the best songs in town.
And welcome to Whose Throw Is It Anyway?, the neutral’s guide to the Premier League. It follows my visits to various Premier League grounds this season in order to see the beautiful game through the eyes of a neutral, and not as someone likely to scream in frustration at the umpteenth offside flag.
Over the next few weeks, it will feature reports from as early as September 2011, when Aston Villa entertained Newcastle United, to as late as last month, when West Brom played QPR, whose future is uncertain, but is most definitely orange. I’ve left you a report below from Fulham vs Wolves as a taster :-P
Written by a Tottenham Hotspur fan (alas, at present), it will continue next season, but with a twist. The 2012-2013 season will see me don the guise of a Fulham FC Season Ticket Holder, so as to get a feel for all the different Premier League teams as a neutral: from the newly promoted Reading, to the frighteningly good City and United. Who will bring the most away fans? Who will have fourteen shots on target but still lose 1-0? Whose throw is it anyway?
Tune in to find out!