The Official English Premier League Thread

Hello. :lick:

The 2009/2010 English Premier League starts this weekend. :notworthy: I couldnt see an English football thread anywhere so I thought id start one. While my posts will mostly be focusing on the Premier League all sorts and kinds of football discussion are, of couse, warmly welcomed.

Here’s a club by club preview of the upcoming season ive nicked from the Times’ website. :whistle:


2008-2009 record

Premier League 4, FA Cup SF, Carling Cup QF, Champions League SF


Arsène Wenger Last season saw the first loudly expressed discontent at the arch-tactician’s refusal to embrace wholesale change and spend some money, as well as his never-ending promises of jam tomorrow when a little sweet stuff right now would soothe furrowed Emirates brows.

Artists or artisans?

That Wenger won’t compromise on his principles doesn’t mean those principles aren’t mixed, but it was ever thus, hence the serial red cards in the glory years and Wenger’s current yen for the less than stellar Emmanuel Eboue or Johan Djourou. But they can still perform the beautiful game.

Crowd puller

Andrey Arshavin While few would regard Arshavin as the reincarnation of Peter Storey (best not mention Patrick Vieira), the surprisingly hard-running Russian fashion-design graduate brings more genius to Arsenal than anybody since Dennis Bergkamp.

Feuding with

Bordeaux So how much is Marouane Chamakh really worth? According to Arsenal, £6m plus defender Mikael Silvestre. According to Bordeaux, a snip at £15.3m. According to both, nothing this summer.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Manuel Almunia, 21 Lukasz Fabianski, 24 Vito Mannone, 33 Wojciech Szczesny

Defenders 3 Bacary Sagna, 5 Thomas Vermaelen, 6 Philippe Senderos, 10 William Gallas, 17 Alex Song, 18 Mikael Silvestre, 20 Johan Djourou, 22 Gael Clichy, 30 Armand Traore, 40 Kieran Gibbs

Midfielders 2 Abou Diaby, 4 Cesc Fabregas, 7 Tomas Rosicky, 8 Samir Nasri, 15 Denilson, 16 Aaron Ramsey, 19 Jack Wilshere, 23 Andrey Arshavin, 27 Emmanuel Eboue, 32 Fran Merida

Forwards 9 Eduardo, 11 Robin van Persie, 12 Carlos Vela, 14 Theo Walcott, 24 Nicklas Bendtner

Players in Thomas Vermaelen (Ajax) £10m

Players out Emmanuel Adebayor (Man City) £25m, Kolo Toure (Man City) £14m, Havard Nordtveit (FC Nuremberg) loan, Abu Ogogo (Dagenham & Redbridge) free, Rene Steer (Oldham) free, Amaury Bischoff (Released), Rui Fonte (released), Paul Rodgers (released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Jack Nicholson Not what they once were, perhaps, but blissfully unaware of the fact.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 4th

Arsenal’s squad looks thin and it will be a battle to stay in the top four if Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott don’t shine

Title odds: 10-1


2008-09 Record

Premier League 6, FA Cup rnd5, Carling Cup rnd3, Uefa Cup Last 32


Martin O’Neill A season that began in mid-July petered out in mid-February this year, but O’Neill emerged with his reputation just about intact. Alas, he’s done little vis-a-vis increasing his squad’s depth this summer and Villa (and therefore O’Neill) might fall short again.


O’Neill’s ever-settled side play to a rigid but often exhilarating formation, ideally with two wingers backed by marauding full-backs feeding a big centre-forward. At its best it’s unstoppable. If they’re found out, they struggle for new answers.

Crowd puller

Ashley Young Lightning fast, although not the quickest at a school where Lewis Hamilton was a pupil, or in a Villa squad that includes Gabriel Agbonlahor. Young is blessed with a smorgasbord of gifts — and the street-fighting instinct to scrap for his supper.

Feuding with

Gareth Barry ‘I’m desperate to play Champions League football and that’s why I have to leave,’ said Gareth Barry last year. ‘Oh no you’re not!’ howled betrayed fans as this summer’s pantomime Villan made his way to Middle Eastlands.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Brad Friedel, Bradley Guzan

Defenders Nathan Baker, Habib Beye, Wilfred Bouma, Ciaran Clark, Carlos Cuellar, Curtis Davies, Eric Lichaj, Stephen O’Halloran, Nicky Shorey, Luke Young

Midfielders Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, Courtney Cameron, Fabian Delph, Stewart Downing, Craig Gardner, Chris Herd, Shane Lowry, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Moustapha Salifou, Steven Sidwell, Ashley Young

Forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew, Nathan Delfouneso, Marlon Harewood, Emile Heskey (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) £12m, Fabian Delph (Leeds) £6m, Courtney Cameron (Northampton) undisclosed, Habib Beye (Newcastle) £2m

Players out Gareth Barry (Man City) £12m, Zat Knight (Bolton) £4m, Stuart Taylor (Man City) free, Sam Williams (Yeovil) free, Martin Laursen (retired)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Marilyn Monroe Perceived as shallow but actually quite gifted

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 6th

Fabian Delph and Stewart Downing are clever buys but Villa might not have quite enough to threaten the top four.

Title odds: 250-1


2008-09 Record

Championship 2, FA Cup rnd 3, Carling Cup rnd 2


Alex McLeish Last season’s promotion was strangely joyless, highlighted by gritty play, poor attendances and all-enveloping apathy. If Birmingham struggle, the admired but unloved McLeish won’t have a reservoir of affection to save him.

Artists or artisans?

They finished second but scored fewer home goals than bottom-of-the-table Charlton Athletic. The perplexing arrivals of Barry Ferguson and last season’s not wholly successful loanee Lee Bowyer (what splendid nights out they’ll have) suggest those seeking frills and thrills may still wish to look elsewhere.

Crowd puller

Christian Benitez At almost £9m, the speedy Ecuadorian striker ought to beguile but he arrived with a shoulder injury and his move from Mexico’s Santos Laguna was delayed and renegotiated over a rickety knee. Still, he was a star in Mexico.

Feuding with

The City of London Police Sixteen months after their arrests on charges of unspecified PAYE irregularities over two unspecified footballers, president David Sullivan and managing director Karren Brady were told they wouldn’t face charges. Estimated questions begged: countless.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Colin Doyle, Joe Hart, Artur Krysiak, Dean Lyness, Maik Taylor

Defenders Stephen Carr, Scott Dann, Giovanny Espinoza, Roger Johnson, David Murphy, Stuart Parnaby, Franck Queudrue, Liam Ridgewell, Martin Taylor

Midfielders Lee Bowyer, Lee Carsley, Keith Fahey, Barry Ferguson, Damien Johnson, Sebastian Larsson, Mitchell McPike, Gary McSheffrey, Jordan Mutch, Ashley Sammons

Forwards Christian Benitez, Marcus Bent, Cameron Jerome, James McFadden, Garry O’Connor, Kevin Phillips (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Christian Benitez (Santos Laguna, £9.2m), Roger Johnson (Cardiff) £5m, Scott Dann (Coventry) £3.5m, Barry Ferguson (Rangers) £1.3m, Giovanny Espinoza (Barcelona Sporting Club) undisclosed, Lee Bowyer (West Ham) free, Joe Hart (Man City) loan

Players out Stephen Kelly (Fulham) undisclosed, Krystian Pearce (Peterborough) loan, Robin Shroot (Burton) loan

If they were a movie star they would be…

Rhys Ifans Difficult to watch and in serious need of a makeover

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 17th

Unless Kevin Phillips can turn back the clock, scoring will be a problem but the Blues should have just enough to survive

Title odds: 10,000-1


2008-09 Record

Premier League 15, FA Cup rnd5, Carling Cup QF


Sam Allardyce As he promised, Big Sam kept Blackburn in the Premier League and therefore above their natural status, although many still think Paul Ince would have done the same, given the time.

Artists or artisans?

Just as Allardyce has never been the one-dimensional figure of popular myth, neither have his teams. Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba offer steel, but any side who find room for El Hadji Diouf will rarely be predictable.

Crowd puller

Elrio Van Heerdename Although frequently injured at Club Brugge, the South African is a typical Allardyce midfielder: fast, able to play anywhere across the line and full of energy. If he adapts to the physical stresses of the English game and of living in Blackburn, he’ll thrive.

Feuding with

Roque Santa Cruz The Paraguay international was accused by Allardyce of ‘underhand’ tactics (the irony police might choose to make an arrest at this point) when he demanded a move to Manchester City’s bench. ‘He should really concentrate on getting himself fit, never mind talking about where his future may lie,’ thundered, ahem, Big Sam. He did. Then moved anyway.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Paul Robinson, 32 Jason Brown, 34 Frank Fielding

Defenders 2 Lars Jacobsen, 3 Stephen Warnock, 4 Christopher Samba, 5 Gael Givet, 6 Ryan Nelsen, 13 Zurab Khizanishvili, 21 Martin Olsson

Midfielders 7 Brett Emerton, 8 David Dunn, 11 Vincenzo Grella, 12 Morten Gamst Pedersen, 15 Steven N’Zonzi, 16 Steven Reid, 17 Keith Andrews, 20 Elrio Van Heerden

Forwards 9 Jason Roberts, 10 Benni McCarthy, 14 Paul Gallagher, 18 El-Hadji Diouf, 19 Aaron Doran, 23 Junior Hoilett, 26 Franco Di Santo

Players in Gael Givet (Marseilles) £3.5m, Steven N’Zonzi (Amiens SC) £500,000, Lars Jacobsen (Everton) free, Elrio Van Heerden (FC Bruges) free, Franco Di Santo (Chelsea) loan

Players out Roque Santa Cruz (Man City) £18m, Matt Derbyshire (Olympiakos) £3m, Mark Bunn (Sheff Utd) Alan Judge (Plymouth) Keith Treacy (Sheff Utd) all loans, Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth) free, Tugay (retired)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Kathy Burke Not always everyone’s first aesthetic choice but full of hidden depths.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 11th

Like scaffolding on a building, Sam Allardyce hardly improves aesthetics but does bring stability.

Title odds:


2008-09 Record

Premier League 13, FA Cup rnd 3, Carling Cup rnd 2


Gary Megson Not universally loved in BL6 and he’ll never be forgiven for not being Sam Allardyce. Megson steered Wanderers to unlikely safety in 2007-08 and built on that last season. Alas, rather than Allardyce’s us-against-the-world spirit, it was him against the fans. ‘They’re pathetic,’ he ranted after yet another ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ chant.

Artists or artisans?

Led by sharp-elbowed captain, Kevin Davies, Bolton are undeniably effective and for all the fans/manager discord, the team sing from the same gutsy hymn sheet.

Crowd puller

Jussi Jasskelainen Yesterday’s testimonial (proceeds to charity) followed 12 years and 400 games and at 34 he was ever-present last season. Indeed, his superlative performance at Hull was perhaps his finest yet.

Feuding with

Virgin Trains For reasons still unclear, for £4,000 Bolton attempted to let the train take the strain for their friendly with Hearts. Alas, said first-class carriages were already occupied (and double booked) by pensioners, who, bless, refused to yield. Bolton took a coach instead. ‘Disgraceful,’ whined Megson.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Adam Bogdan, 22 Jussi Jaaskelainen, 26 Ali Al Habsi

Defenders 2 Nicky Hunt, 3 Jlloyd Samuel, 4 Paul Robinson, 5 Gary Cahill, 8 Joey O’Brien, 12 Zat Knight, 15 Gretar Rafn Steinsson, 18 Sam Ricketts, 24 Danny Shittu, 30 Chris Basham, 31 Andy O’Brien

Midfielders 6 Fabrice Muamba, 7 Matthew Taylor, 11 Ricardo Gardner, 16 Mark Davies, 19 Gavin McCann, 21 Tamir Cohen, 23 Sean Davis

Forwards 9 Johan Elmander, 14 Kevin Davies, 17 Mustapha Riga, 29 Ricardo Vaz Te, 35 Temitope Obadeyi

Players in Zat Knight (Aston Villa) £4m, Sam Ricketts (Hull) £2m, Sean Davis (Portsmouth) free, Paul Robinson (West Brom) loan

Players out Blerim Dzemaili (Torino) £1.6m, Ariza Makukula (Benfica) loan ended, James Sinclair, Robert Sissons and Nathan Woolfe (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Mischa Barton At war with themselves.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 14th

A solid squad and an uncomplicated game plan should again ensure survival plus a little more for Megson’s team.

Title odds: 2,500-1


2008-09 Record

Championship 5 (Promoted via playoffs), FA Cup rnd5, Carling Cup SF


Owen Coyle Highly regarded teetotaller who led his unfashionable team to the promised land after they took three matches to sneak a point and four to score a goal. And all this with a squad too small to rotate from the least populous town to spawn a Premier League club. Extraordinary.

Artists or artisans?

A bit of both since Coyle is part-dreamer, part-pragmatist. They’re solid in defence, clever and calorie-burning in midfield, and while they won’t score enough goals, all areas contribute. Martin Paterson adds crafty unpredictability and goalkeeper Brian Jensen isn’t nicknamed The Beast in irony.

Crowd puller

Graham Alexander The 37-year-old started all last season’s 61 games and he scurries around like a teenager (that’s energetic rather than stroppy). He even scored nine league goals.

Feuding with

Sheffield Wednesday After being accused of being ‘underhand and disrespectful’ when Burnley bid a laughable £1.5m for the striker Marcus Tudgay, Coyle sharpened his catty claws: ‘If they want to say anything to besmirch the good name of Burnley that is entirely up to them.’ Ooh, look at her, etc, etc.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Diego Penny, 12 Brian Jensen

Defenders 2 Graham Alexander, 3 Christian Kalvenes, 4 Michael Duff, 5 Clarke Carlisle, 6 Steven Caldwell, 14 Tyrone Mears, 15 David Edgar, 17 Richard Eckersley, 23 Stephen Jordan, 24 Brian Easton, 35 Chris Lynch, 36 Nik Kudiersky, 40 Ben Hoskin

Midfielders 7 Kevin McDonald, 8 Joey Gudjonsson, 11 Wade Elliott, 16 Chris McCann, 25 Adam Kay, 26 Remco Van der Schaaf, 27 Alex MacDonald 32 Fernando Guerrero, 33 Chris Eagles, 37 Chris Anderson, 38 Alex-Ray Harvey

Forwards 9 Steven Fletcher, 10 Martin Paterson, 19 Jay Rodriguez, 20 Robbie Blake, 22 Besart Berisha, 30 Steven Thompson, 39 Wes Fletcher

Players in Steven Fletcher (Hibernian) £3m, Tyrone Mears (Derby) £500,000, Brian Easton (Hamilton) £350,000, Richard Eckersley (Man Utd) tribunal, David Edgar (Newcastle) tribunal, Fernando Guerrero (Independiente del Valle) loan

If they were a movie star they wold be…

Angelina Jolie Nobody’s quite sure how they got here, but it’s nice they’re around.

Jonathan Northcroft’s opinion:

Home form can be the basis of staying up for this season’s most unlikely member of the Premier League elite.

Title odds: 10,000-1



2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League 3, FA Cup Winners, Carling Cup rnd4, Champions League SF


Carlo Ancelotti As Felipe Scolari discovered, with a mercurial owner and entrenched player power, Chelsea are not as others. Yet anyone who lasted eight years at Milan and leaves on his own terms warrants stone-faced genuflection. No wonder Chelsea pursued him like smitten schoolgirls.

Artists or artisans?

Owner Roman Abramovich insists on bringing artists into the Chelsea side to give some personality — probably because he’s not got one of his own. However, artists from Andriy Shevchenko to Deco have failed to set the pulses racing, a bit like Abramovich himself, while artisans from Claude Makelele to Michael Essien have thrived. There’s irony.

Crowd Puller

Frank Lampard Part of the furniture, but he still makes Chelsea tick and not since 2002-03 has this midfielder’s tally of league goals in a season remained in single figures.

Feuding with

Jose Mourinho Still upset about being dumped, isn’t he? This time, a whine about Chelsea, not unreasonably, wanting to keep Ricardo Carvalho (and Deco, but we must move on). ‘It’s difficult for a Chelsea player to come to me,’ he wailed. Not that ‘special’, then.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Petr Cech, 22 Ross Turnbull, 40 Henrique Hilario

Defenders 2 Branislav Ivanovic, 3 Ashley Cole, 6 Ricardo Carvalho, 17 Jose Bosingwa, 18 Yuri Zhirkov, 19 Paulo Ferreira, 26 John Terry, 33 Alex, 35 Juliano Belletti, 41 Sam Hutchinson, 42 Michael Mancienne

Midfielders 5 Michael Essien, 8 Frank Lampard, 10 Joe Cole, 12 Mikel, 13 Michael Ballack, 15 Florent Malouda, 20 Deco

Forwards 7 Andriy Shevchenko, 11 Didier Drogba, 14 Claudio Pizzaro, 21 Salomon Kalou, 23 Daniel Sturridge, 39 Nicolas Anelka

Players in Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow) £18m, Daniel Sturridge (Man City) tribunal, Ross Turnbull (Middlesbrough) free

Players out Ben Sahar (Espanyol) £1m, Frank Nouble (West Ham) undisclosed, Jimmy Smith (Leyton Orient) free, Franco Di Santo (Blackburn) loan, Slobodan Rajkovic (FC Twente) loan, Lee Sawyer (Southend) loan, Scott Sinclair (Wigan) loan, Tom Taiwo (Carlisle) loan

If they were a movie star they would be…

Tom Cruise Undeniably gifted but you wouldn’t want to look too far under the surface.

Jonathan Northcroft’s opinion: 1st

Experienced, powerful, classy and balanced, Chelsea will regain the title if Manchester United and Liverpool falter.

Title odds: 9-4


2008-09 Record

Premier League 5, FA Cup Runners-up, Carling Cup rnd 3, Uefa Cup rnd 1


David Moyes That he never tires of letting it be known doesn’t make it less true: Moyes’ deft juggling of an undernourished squad is one of the Premier League’s great accomplishments, though it’s hard to see him matching, never mind eclipsing, last season’s fifth. His eyes might rove.

Artists or artisans?

It’s a question of doing what they can with what they’ve got, but doing it rather well. Horribly hard to beat (except in Europe) and possessed of the confidence born of understanding that Moyes’ rules (firm defence and a midfield so flexible the team can flourish even if Jo is your only striker) tend to work.

Crowd puller

Tim Cahill Being joint top scorer with just eight goals should hardly set pulses racing, yet Cahill missed a chunk of the season and magnificently filled the gaps when playmaker Mikel Arteta and most of Everton’s forwards were indisposed.

Feuding with

Manchester City After their daft £18m bid for Joleon Lescott, Moyes talked of lack of respect and the normally sensible Phil Neville weighed in: ‘Will City get the message? The way they are going, I don’t think they will.’ Gift horse. Mouth. Being looked at.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Carlo Nash, 12 Iain Turner, 24 Tim Howard

Defenders 2 Tony Hibbert, 3 Leighton Baines, 4 Joseph Yobo, 5 Joleon Lescott, 6 Phil Jagielka, 31 Seamus Coleman, Shkodran Mustafi

Midfielders 10 Mikel Arteta, 17 Tim Cahill, 18 Phil Neville, 19 Dan Gosling, 20 Steven Pienaar, 21 Leon Osman, 25 Marouane Fellaini, 26 Jack Rodwell, 38 James Wallace, Anton Peterlin

Forwards 8 Louis Saha, 11 Jo, 14 James Vaughan, 22 Yakubu Ayegbeni, 28 Victor Anichebe, 35 Kieran Agard, 37 Jose Baxter, Cody Arnoux

Players in Shkodran Mustafi (Hamburg) undisclosed, Anton Peterlin (Ventura County Fusion) undisclosed, Jo (Man City) loan, Luke Garbutt (Leeds) tribunal

Players out Lars Jacobsen (Blackburn) free, John Ruddy (Motherwell) loan, John Paul Kissock, Thomas McCready, Nuno Valente and Andy Van der Meyde (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be….

Meryl Streep Often written off, but they still keep coming good.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 7th

Yet again, finances have stopped Moyes from developing his squad but he is a consistent top-seven finisher.

Title odds 250-1


2008-09 Record

Premier League 7, FA Cup QF, Carling Cup rnd3


Roy Hodgson Taking Fulham to their best finish of seventh was an outstanding feat. In an era of less than gentle men, Hodgson has the aura of a gentleman, but not one who is likely to be tactically outfoxed.

Artists or artisans?

Depends where you see them. At home, as Manchester United, Arsenal and nine others discovered, they’re a swift-passing force to be feared. Alas, they travel as well as Albanian wine and didn’t manage three away points until March. Even as keen an intellect as Hodgson can’t fathom out why.

Crowd puller

Andy Johnson Not the most universally popular of opposition players but he’s a natural born killer inside the penalty area and Fulham could have a potent strikeforce if Hodgson can bring himself to trust Erik Nevland.

Feuding with

The fixture calendar Ooh look, it’s July and Fulham are heading to Lithuania to play a competitive game with a squad so shallow any travel invariably turns it to mush. They’ll pay for this in February when they’re out of Europe, in domestic freefall and with some 16-year-old filling in for the injured Andy ‘Andrew’ Johnson.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Mark Schwarzer, David Stockdale, Pascal Zuberbühler

Defenders Chris Baird, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, Toni Kallio, Stephen Kelly, Paul Konchesky, John Pantsil, Chris Smalling, Fredrik Stoor

Midfielders Andranik, Hameur Bouazza, Simon Davies, Clint Dempsey, Dickson Etuhu, Zoltan Gera, Seol Ki-Hyeon, Danny Murphy, Bjorn Helge Riise

Forwards Andy Johnson, Eddie Johnson, Diomansy Kamara, Erik Nevland, Bobby Zamora (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom) £1.5m, Stephen Kelly (Birmingham) free

Players out Leon Andreasen (Hannover 96) undisclosed, Troy Brown (Ipswich) free, Julian Gray, Collins John and Moritz Volz (all released)

If thy were a movie star they would be…

Jessica Alba Nobody’s sure how they got this far, but they look nice doing it.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction:

Roy Hodgson’s side will remain formidable at Craven Cottage and play enough good, simple football to win their share of games.

Title odds 1,000-1


2008-09 Record

Premier League 17, FA Cup QF, Carling Cup rnd2


Phil Brown Fell for his own hype when a dream start turned into a nightmare. Brazenly leading a communal karaoke session after a most fortuitous last-day escape hardly promised perspective for what will be a most difficult season for an increasingly bizarre figure.

Artists or artisans?

Hull appear to aspire to higher things, but Daniel Cousin, Richard Garcia and that ramshackle defence mean needs must. Come the depths of Hull’s winter, there will, you suspect, be little room for flair anyway.

Crowd puller

Jimmy Bullard Arrived for a whopping £5m and a luxurious four-and-a-half-year contract. Played 40 minutes at West Ham. Injured the knee that had kept him out for ages at Fulham. Wasn’t seen again. So far, so disastrous. If he recovers, City may have a glimmer of hope.

Feuding with

Reluctant travellers

What do Darren Bent (so certain was he that he had to capitalise his answer: ‘NO!’), Daryl Murphy, Ross McCormack, Habib Beye and even Bobby Zamora have in common? Here is a clue: it wasn’t that they wanted to play for Hull City.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Matt Duke, Boaz Myhill, Mark Oxley, Tony Warner

Defenders Liam Cooper, Andy Dawson, Nathan Doyle, Anthony Gardner, Steve Gardner, Nathan Hanley, Bernard Mendy, Steven Mouyokolo, Michael Turner, Kamil Zayatte

Midfielders Ian Ashbee, Will Atkinson, Nick Barmby, George Boateng, Jimmy Bullard, Tom Cairney, Jamie Devitt, Nicky Featherstone, Richard Garcia, Deiberson Geovanni, Peter Halmosi, Bryan Hughes, Kevin Kilbane, John Leonard, Dean Marney, Seyi Olofinjana

Forwards Jozy Altidore, Daniel Cousin, Yann Ekra, Craig Fagan, Caleb Folan, Ryan Kendall (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Seyi Olofinjana (Stoke City) £3m, Steven Mouyokolo (Boulogne) £2m, Jozy Altidore (Villarreal) loan

Players out Sam Ricketts (Bolton) £2m, Wayne Brown (Leicester City) undisclosed, Ryan France (Sheffield United) free, Matt Plummer (Darlington) free, James Bennett, Michael Bridges, John Welsh and Dean Windass (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Lindsay Lohan Not quite sure who they are, why they’re here or what they’re going to do about it.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 19th

Their chances of survival would have been much improved if they had managed to recruit Fraizer Campbell.

Title Odds: 2500-1


2008-09 Record

Premier League 2, FA Cup rnd4, Carling Cup rnd4, Champions League QF


Rafael Benitez His eccentric behaviour — silly spats with Sir Alex Ferguson he could never win; his inexhaustible internal politicking and some rum selections — distracted from what was Liverpool’s best season of the century. Still, what he’s building may yet be special.

Artists or artisans?

There is no more thrilling Premier League combination than OJ Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Doubts remain over Liverpool’s defensive prowess but since Dirk Kuyt turned provider they look more balanced and more potent than ever.

Crowd puller

Fernando Torres Had Torres not suffered two hamstring injuries last season, Liverpool might have overhauled Manchester United. In the end he had to settle for 14 goals from 20 starts to confirm he is one of the most fearsome strikers in Premier League history.

Feuding with

Sir Alex Ferguson Silly old grudges die hard. For reasons still unclear, Benitez chose to play mind games with the man with a degree in mind games (University of Ochaye, 1986). ‘Do I think he is nervous?’ asked Benitez in January. ‘Clearly.’ Yes, clearly.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Diego Cavalieri, 25 Pepe Reina

Defenders 2 Glen Johnson, 5 Daniel Agger, 12 Fabio Aurelio, 22 Emiliano Insua, 23 Jamie Carragher, 27 Philipp Degen, 32 Stephen Darby, 34 Martin Kelly, 36 Steven Irwin, 37 Martin Skrtel, 38 Andrea Dossena

Midfielders 8 Steven Gerrard, 11 Albert Riera, 15 Yossi Benayoun, 19 Ryan Babel, 20 Javier Mascherano, 21 Lucas Leiva, 26 Jay Spearing, 28 Damien Plessis, 31 Nabil El Zhar, Alberto Aquilani

Forwards 9 Fernando Torres, 10 Andriy Voronin, 18 Dirk Kuyt, 24 David Ngog, 29 Krisztian Nemeth

Players in Alberto Aquilani (AS Roma) £20m, Glen Johnson (Portsmouth) £17m, Chris Mavinga (PSG) undisclosed, Stephen Sama (Borussia Dortmund) free

Players out Xabi Alonso (R Madrid) £30m, Alvaro Arbeloa (R Madrid) £3.5m, Sebastian Leto (Panathinaikos) £3m, Jack Hobbs (Leicester) undisclosed, Sami Hyypia (B Leverkusen) free, Jermaine Pennant (R Zaragoza) free

If they were a movie star they would be…

John Travolta Doing quite well and everything, but still trading on past glories

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction:

My tip for the title until they sold Xabi Alonso. And what happens if Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres gets injured?

Title odds 7-2


2008-09 Record

Premier League 10, FA Cup rnd3, Carling Cup rnd2, Uefa Cup QF


Mark Hughes Supping from a poisoned chalice as we speak. If City succeed, he’s bought it. If they don’t, he’s blown it. And managing Robinho must be a bundle of joy. No wonder he’s so downbeat.

Artists or artisans?

Artists, even when Richard Dunne is playing. However, marshalling these disparate talents beyond dressing-room politics and comfort-zone salaries into a formidable fighting machine is, one suspects, a task that would be beyond Bismarck, let alone Hughes.

Crowd puller

Robinho Yes he’s petulant, yes the prospect of a game outside the M60 fills his soul with horror and his boots with concrete (unless it’s in Brazil) but he can do things that are beyond mere mortals. For that, he’s forgiven the nonsense.

Feuding with

John Terry You offer a guy a salary of £200,000 a week to move to sunny Manchester. Then he tarries and teases. Then he tells the press that ‘leaving Chelsea wasn’t a priority’ before settling for the chickenfeed that is £151,000 a week and spurns you. What can you do? Nothing, actually.

Squad Analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Shay Given, 12 Stuart Taylor, 16 Kasper Schmeichel

Defenders 2 Micah Richards, 3 Wayne Bridge, 4 Nedum Onuoha, 5 Pablo Zabaleta, 15 Javier Garrido, 22 Richard Dunne, 26 Tal Ben-Haim, 28 Kolo Toure

Midfielders 6 Michael Johnson, 7 Stephen Ireland, 8 Shaun Wright-Phillips, 17 Martin Petrov, 18 Gareth Barry, 29 Kelvin Etuhu, 33 Vincent Kompany, 34 Nigel de Jong

Forwards 10 Robinho, 14 Roque Santa Cruz, 25 Emmanuel Adebayor, 27 Benjani Mwaruwari, 32 Carlos Tevez, 39 Craig Bellamy

Players in Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) £25m, Carlos Tevez (Man Utd) £25m, Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn) £18m, Kolo Toure (Arsenal) £14m, Gareth Barry (Villa) £12m, Stuart Taylor (Villa) free

Players out Elano (Galatasaray) £8m, Ched Evans (Sheff Utd) £3m, Gelson (St Etienne) £2m, Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) tribunal, Valeri Bojinov (Parma) Felipe Caicedo (Sporting) Joe Hart (Birmingham) Jo (Everton) all loans

If they were a movie star they would be…

Sienna Miller Without doing very much, they get an awful lot of attention.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 5th

How many of Mark Hughes’ team would make the first XIs of the ‘Big Four’? With so many signings, inconsistency is likely

Title odds 14-1


2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League Champions, FA Cup SF, Carling Cup Winners, Champions League Runners-up


Sir Alex Ferguson The don, the doyen, the tactical master. But that’s enough about Pep Guardiola. Sir Alex had a good year, too, winning the title at jogging pace. He’s also had a rip-roaring summer, selling Cristiano Ronaldo for £80m and irking the Liverpool faithful by signing Michael Owen. Still the one to emulate.

Artists or artisans?

United can batten down the hatches, as they showed in Porto and Milan, but for the most part they’re a joy. They are merciless against the minnows and winning in style is ingrained in their very DNA. Unless they’re playing Barcelona.

Crowd puller

Wayne Rooney Torres is a better finisher, Arshavin a superior midfield genius and Robinho more supernatural, but Rooney is the more complete player. A high-energy scrapping and whining bulldog, but one blessed with the most sublime touches and uncanny vision. The greatest English player of his generation.

Feudiong with

Le Havre The French can cry ‘minor slave trade’ and claim financial inducement of parents, but free movement of labour in the EU means teenager Paul Pogba is at United.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Edwin Van der Sar, 12 Ben Foster, 29 Tomasz Kuszczak

Defenders 2 Gary Neville, 3 Patrice Evra, 5 Rio Ferdinand, 6 Wes Brown, 15 Nemanja Vidic, 20 Fabio, 21 Rafael, 22 John O’Shea, 23 Jonny Evans, 36 David Gray, 37 Craig Cathcart, 39 James Chester

Midfielders 4 Owen Hargreaves, 8 Anderson, 11 Ryan Giggs, 13 Ji-Sung Park, 14 Zoran Tosic, 16 Michael Carrick, 17 Nani, 18 Paul Scholes, 24 Darren Fletcher, 25 Antonio Valencia, 28 Darron Gibson, 33 Sam Hewson, 35 Tom Cleverley, 43 Davide Petrucci, 45 Corry Evans, 46 Daniel Drinkwater, 47 Matthew James, Gabriel Obertan, Paul Pogba

Forwards 7 Michael Owen, 9 Dimitar Berbatov, 10 Wayne Rooney, 19 Danny Welbeck, 41 Federico Macheda

Players in Antonio Valencia (Wigan) £16m, Gabriel Obertan (Bordeaux) £3m, Michael Owen (Newcastle) free

Players out Cristiano Ronaldo (R Madrid) £80m, Carlos Tevez (Man City) £25m, Fraizer Campbell (Sunderland) £3.5m, Possebon (Braga) loan

If they were a movie star they would be…

Marlon Brando Continued to outshine the rest, even in his later years.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 3rd

Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen are unlikely to offer as much as Ronaldo did. Too much may rest on Wayne Rooney.

Title odds 9-4


2008-09 Record

Premier League 14, FA Cup rnd4, Carling Cup rnd3, Uefa Cup Group stage


Paul Hart Brilliant with kids, as he showed at the academies of Leeds and Nottingham Forest. Less adept with adults, as he showed at Chesterfield, Forest and Barnsley. Steadied Portsmouth’s ship after Tony Adams, but the jury is more out than Graham Norton.

Artists or artisans?

As if Hart had spent January studying the works of Malcolm X, when he took over in February it was survival by any means necessary. Inevitably this meant more Hayden Mullins and less Niko Kranjcar. It’s going to be many things at Fratton Park this season, but it’s not going to be pretty.

Crowd puller

David James He will never shake off the Calamity James tag but without him Portsmouth would have been relegated. Moreover, the Pompey goalkeeper seems to have an intellectual hinterland and he plays with a smile, not something anybody has ever suggested of Manchester United’s Edwin Van der Sar.

Feuding with

Themselves Players (the best ones, not, say, Hayden Mullins) moving on; players (not the best, since they’ve gone) brawling in Portuguese hotels; Fratton Park still being their ground; and that takeover that may or may not happen.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 David James, 13 Antti Niemi, 21 Jamie Ashdown, 31 Asmir Begovic

Defenders 2 Linvoy Primus, 3 Younes Kaboul, 6 Steve Finnan, 7 Hermann Hreidarsson, 15 Sylvain Distin, 20 Martin Cranie, 35 Marc Wilson, 39 Nadir Belhadj

Midfielders 4 Aaron Mokoena, 6 Hayden Mullins, 8 Pape Bouba Diop, 19 Niko Kranjcar, 22 Richard Hughes, 33 Angelos Basinas

Forwards 9 Frederic Piquionne, 10 David Nugent, 17 John Utaka, 27 Nwankwo Kanu

Players in Steve Finnan (Espanyol) free, Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn) free, Antti Niemi (unattached) free, Frederic Piquionne (Lyon) loan

Players out Glen Johnson (Liverpool) £17m, Peter Crouch (Tottenham) £9m, Djimi Traore (Monaco) undisclosed, Andre Blackman (Bristol City) free, Sean Davis (Bolton) free, Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo (Standard Liège) free, Callum Reynolds (Luton) loan, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Glen Little, Noe Pamarot and Jerome Thomas (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Jude Law All over the place, for all the wrong reasons.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction:

Asset stripping has left Paul Hart to preside over a slender squad, with nobody left likely to score enough goals.

Title odds 2,500-1


2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League 12, FA Cup rnd3, Carling Cup QF


Tony Pulis The nation assumed Stoke were doomed and one bookmaker paid up after a calamitous opening-day hiding at Bolton, but Pulis argued otherwise, utilised a fanatical crowd and finished with a nine-point cushion. People have had streets named after them for lesser achievements.

Artists or artisans?

Unarguably, they rely heavily on long throws, mostly from Rory Delap, and they struggled away from the Britannia bearpit. Yet Stoke were more than hustle and bustle. Evolving the playing style is the next trick for Pulis.

Crowd puller

Liam Lawrence Were he elsewhere, the nippy winger might have received more plaudits (and more of the ball), but Lawrence was always Stoke’s alternative option when the long ball and long throw were not enough. Fewer injuries and he’ll blossom this season.

Feuding with

The vultures Second-season syndrome defeated Reading, but Stoke are unafraid of anybody or anything. Even so, you can never have a second debut and the Britannia may be less of a bearpit if Tony Pulis can’t maintain the siege mentality that served them so well last season.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Steve Simonsen, Thomas Sorensen

Defenders Leon Cort, Andrew Davies, Carl Dickinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Andy Griffin, Danny Higginbotham, Ryan Shawcross, Ryan Shotton, Ibrahima Sonko, Andy Wilkinson

Midfielders Rory Delap, Salif Diao, Matthew Etherington, Amdy Faye, Liam Lawrence, Matthew Lund, Ben Marshall, Danny Pugh, Tom Soares, Michael Tonge, Nathaniel Wedderburn, Glenn Whelan, Dean Whitehead

Forwards Richard Cresswell, James Beattie, Ricardo Fuller, Dave Kitson, Mamady Sidibe (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Dean Whitehead (Sunderland) £3m, Matthew Lund (Crewe) nominal, Ben Marshall (Crewe) nominal

Players out Seyi Olofinjana (Hull City) £3m, Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton (Vauxhall Motors) loan, Ben Marshall (Northampton) loan, Marc Grocott, Vincent Péricard, Jimmy Phillips and Tom Thorley (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Gene Hackman Grizzled, unorthodox, but strangely watchable

Jonathan Northcroft’s opinion: 16th

Tony Pulis can find enough points for survival through direct attacks, scrambled goals, physical power and home form.

Title odds 2,500-1


2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League 16, FA Cup rnd 4, Carling Cup rnd4


Steve Bruce A Newcastle fan may not be every Wearsider’s first choice as Sunderland manager but we’re all adults here and the man never afraid to move on to a better job should ensure less anxiety this time around. Although some dead wood has been shed, there is much work to be done.

Artists or artisans?

Hard to say, since Bruce’s teams have always veered wildly between both. The signing of tough-tackling Albanian hardman Lorik Cana suggests Sunderland will not easily yield, but Steed Malbranque and Kenwyne Jones are hardly journeymen.

Crowd puller

Kenwyne Jones Although he never seemed entirely at one with Djbril Cisse (who does?) last season, his 10 goals maintained Sunderland’s status. Fraizer Campbell looks a more natural partner for Jones, who at 24 is approaching his peak.

Feuding with

Newcastle United The sneaking suspicion that for all Newcastle’s troubles, in his heart of hearts Bruce would rather have moved 12 miles up the road is hardly a Tyne bridge over troubled Wear waters. Still, they just love Mike Ashley …

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Trevor Carson, Martin Fulop, Craig Gordon Defenders Russell Anderson, Phil Bardsley, Paulo da Silva, Danny Collins, Anton Ferdinand, George McCartney, Paul McShane, Nyron Nosworthy

Midfielders Lorik Cana, Jordan Cook, Carlos Edwards, Jordan Henderson, Grant Leadbitter, Steed Malbranque, David Meyler, Andy Reid, Kieran Richardson, Teemu Tainio

Forwards Darren Bent, Fraizer Campbell, David Healy, Kenwyne Jones, Daryl Murphy, Roy O’Donovan, Anthony Stokes (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Lorik Cana (Marseilles) £5m, Fraizer Campbell (Man Utd) £3.5m, Paulo da Silva (Toluca) free

Players out Michael Chopra (Cardiff) £4m, Dean Whitehead (Sunderland) £3m, Greg Halford (Wolves) £2m, Nick Colgan (Grimsby) free, Peter Hartley (Hartlepool) free, Jack Colback (Ipswich) loan, Jean-Yves M’voto (Southend) loan, Martyn Waghorn (Leicester) loan, David Connolly and Dwight Yorke (released)

It they were a movie star they would be…

Denzel Washington They’ve probably done good things, but you can’t recall any of them right now.

Jonathan Northcoat’s prediction: 9th

With Darren Bent hitting the goals, a season of progress beckons for a squad that contains other good elements.

Title odds 1500-1


2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League 8, FA Cup rnd4, Carling Cup Runners-up, Uefa Cup Last 32


Harry Redknapp Spurs were never serious relegation candidates but Redknapp invested heavily, hauled the team into mid-table and exhibited a typical lack of reluctance to take the credit. This summer, he’s neither wheeled nor dealed, which either means he’s content or under restraint.

Artists or artisans?

There is an official Tottenham way (think Glenn Hoddle and Martin Peters rather than Mauricio Taricco and Neil Ruddock), hence Aaron Lennon and the re-signings of Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, but somehow they still lack savoir faire. To quote the local vernacular, it’s all gone a little bit Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Crowd puller

Luka Modric Like his teammates, the £16.6m Croat started last season poorly but by its end he was running the midfield with a gifted but hard-edged insouciance not seen in N17 since the pomp of Osvaldo Ardiles. The very man to build a team around.

Feuding with

Darren Bent His Twitter-assisted rant meant his move to Sunderland was the first transfer negotiated in cyberspace. He didn’t want to go to Hull or Stoke, settling for the bright lights of Sunderland. All, however, were better options than Tottenham.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Carlo Cudicini, Heurelho Gomes, Oscar Jansson Defenders Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Gareth Bale, Sebastien Bassong, Pascal Chimbonda, Vedran Corluka, Michael Dawson, Dorian Dervite, Alan Hutton, Ledley King, Kyle Naughton, Kyle Walker, Jonathan Woodgate

Midfielders Kevin-Prince Boateng, John Bostock, David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric, Jamie O’Hara, Wilson Palacios, Adel Taarabt

Forwards Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Jonathan Obika, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Danny Rose (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Peter Crouch (Portsmouth) £9m, Sebastien Bassong (Newcastle) £8m, Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker (Sheff Utd) undisclosed

Players out Didier Zokora (Seville) £8.5m, Chris Gunter (Nottm Forest) £1.75m, Ben Alnwick (Norwich), Adel Taarabt (QPR) and Kyle Walker (Sheff Utd) all loans, Gilberto, Ricardo Rocha (released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Klaus Kinski Self-indulgent, marvellously unpredictable, but not as great as they assume.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction:

Redknapp produces top half of the table finishes. The days when Spurs had Big Four ambitions seem distant, however.

Title odds: 150-1



Record Premier League 9, FA Cup rnd 5, Carling Cup rnd3


Gianfranco Zola So universally beloved that the West Ham fans forgave him his Chelsea history and the Chelsea fans forgave him taking over at West Ham. Zola started as shakily as the club’s finances have become, but by the new year he’d impressively turned the corner despite slender resources.

Artists or artisans?

The combination of the artist himself, Zola, and the club of artists, West Ham, should mean only one thing. The permanent signing of cultured loanee Herita Ilunga bodes well, as does the fleet-footed Chilean Luis Jimenez’s year-long loan.

Crowd puller

Kieron Dyer A wretched injury record that makes Dean Ashton look like Ryan Giggs means that Dyer has started just three league games in two seasons. However, if he’s truly fit at last, he’ll be the all-action marquee signing West Ham can no longer afford.

Feuding with

Icelandic banks Owned by one (Lansbanki) that went bust. Acquired by the holding company of another (Straumur) which is about to be liquidated. Not to mention the still unfiled accounts that even the chief executive describes as ‘a disaster … absolute hell’.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Robert Green, 28 Peter Kurucz

Defenders 4 Daniel Gabbidon, 15 Matthew Upson, 18 Jonathan Spector, 19 James Collins, 23 Herita Ilunga, 27 Calum Davenport, 30 James Tomkins, 33 Fabio Daprela, 44 Bondz N’Gala, 45 Jordan Spence Midfielders 7 Kieron Dyer, 8 Scott Parker, 13 Luis Boa Morte, 16 Mark Noble, 17 Luis Jimenez, 20 Julien Faubert, 21 Valon Behrami, 26 Nigel Quashie, 31 Jack Collison, 35 Josh Payne, 46 Junior Stanislas

Forwards 9 Dean Ashton, 10 Savio Nsereko, 12 Carlton Cole, 24 Frank Nouble, 41 Zavon Hines

Players in Fabio Daprela (Grasshopper) undisclosed, Herita Ilunga (Toulouse) undisclosed, Frank Nouble (Chelsea) undisclosed, Peter Kurucz (Ujpest) free, Luis Jimenez (Inter) loan

Players out Lee Bowyer (Birmingham) free, Kyel Reid (Sheff Utd) free, Freddie Sears (Crystal Palace) loan, Lucas Neill and Diego Tristan (released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Keanu Reeves Nice to look at but worryingly short on depth.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction: 10th

Firepower is a worry but West Ham are full of skill elsewhere with Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Jack Collison

Title odds 1500-1


2008-09 Record[/b]

Premier League 11, FA Cup rnd 3, Carling Cup rnd 4


Roberto Martinez Appointing a successful lower-league manager unproven at the highest level doesn’t always end happily (eg Paul Ince), but Martinez is only 36 and full of ideas. He has everything to prove and everything to lose.

Artists or artisans?

Under Steve Bruce, Wigan and wizardry were strangers. Martinez has decided Wigan will play like his summery Swansea (ideally without falling to Swansea’s level) but early tears will mean medium-term compromises.

Crowd Puller

Jason Scotland The one Swansea player Martinez really wanted averages over a goal every other start. He was wholly unfazed by stepping up to the Championship last year and there seems no reason to suspect the Premier League will be a step too far.

Feuding with

Swansea City Not content with raiding Swansea for their manager, assistant manager and chief scout in a manner the Welsh described as ‘unfair and disrespectful’, they returned for Scotland, Swansea’s best player. Bullies.

Squad Analysis

Goalkeepers 1 Chris Kirkland, 12 Mike Pollitt, 22 Richard Kingson

Defenders 3 Erik Edman, 7 Paul Scharner, 17 Emmerson Boyce, 19 Titus Bramble, 25 Mario Melchiot, 31 Maynor Figueroa Midfielders 4 Lee Cattermole, 5 Won Hee Cho, 6 Hendry Thomas, 8 Ben Watson, 10 Jason Koumas, 11 Michael Brown, 14 Charles N’Zogbia, 15 Jordi Gomez, 18 Daniel de Ridder, 21 Tomasz Cywka, 23 Olivier Kapo, 24 James McCarthy, 28 Tomasz Kupisz, 38 Jon Routledge, 40 Joe Holt

Forwards 9 Jason Scotland, 16 Scott Sinclair, 20 Hugo Rodallega, 26 Rachid Bouaouzan, 30 Marlon King, 43 Callum McManaman

Players in James McCarthy (Hamilton) £2m, Jason Scotland (Swansea) £2m, Jordi Gomez (Espanyol) £1.7m, Hendry Thomas (Deportivo Olimpia) undisclosed, Scott Sinclair (Chelsea) loan

Players out Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) £16m, Lewis Montrose (Wycombe) free, Henri Camara, Craig Mahon and Antoine Sibierski (all Released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Warren Beatty More to them than just being eye candy. Hopefully.

Jonathan Northcroft’s prediction:

Roberto Martinez is one of Europe’s most exciting young managers and has inherited a decent squad

Title odds: 3,500-1


2008-09 Record

Championship 1, FA Cup rnd4, Carling Cup rnd2


Mick McCarthy The bluff exterior helps mask a keen football mind and his guiding of Wolves to the Championship title by nine points shows his similar achievement at Sunderland in 2004-05 was no fluke. Unlike at Sunderland, this professional lowerer of expectations has been allowed to buy for survival.

Artists or artisans?

McCarthy’s teams always have a spine of steel, usually with a flair player or two, hence the irrepressible Michael Kightly and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, but at this level McCarthy’s natural caution may dampen his more artistic inclinations.

Crowd puller

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake Scoring 25 league goals in a season where he was not always fully fit spoke eloquently of the former Manchester United trainee’s prowess. Ask not if he is ready for the Premier League, but whether the Premier League is ready for him.

Feuding with

Their critics This battle has been fought and lost since Stan Cullis. Mick ‘finishing 17th would be like promotion’ McCarthy is the man to pour cold custard over old gold. Injuries to Kevin Doyle and Kightly help ensure that nobody is getting too excited.

Squad analysis

Goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann, Wayne Hennessey, Carl Ikeme, Matt Murray

Defenders Christophe Berra, Neill Collins, Jody Craddock, George Elokobi, Kevin Foley, Matthew Hill, Jason Shackell, Mark Little, Richard Stearman, Darren Ward, Stephen Ward, Ronald Zubar

Midfielders David Edwards, George Friend, Greg Halford, Karl Henry, Matthew Jarvis, Daniel Jones, David Jones, Michael Kightly, Nenad Milijas, Andrew Surman

Forwards Kevin Doyle, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Ashley Hemmings, Chris Iwelumo, Andrew Keogh, Sam Vokes (Numbers to be confirmed)

Players in Kevin Doyle (Reading) £6.5m, Ronald Zubar (Marseilles) £2.5m, Greg Halford (Sunderland) £2m, Andrew Surman (Southampton) £1.2m, Nenad Milijas (Red Star Belgrade) undisclosed, Marcus Hahnemann (Reading) free

Players out Stephen Gleeson (MK Dons) undisclosed, Darren Potter (Sheff Wed) undisclosed, Matt Bailey, Lewis Gobern and Alex Melbourne (all released)

If they were a movie star they would be…

Joan Collins Aspiring to greater things but always second division, talent-wise.

Janathan Northcroft’s prediction: 18th

Much depends on whether new signing Kevin Doyle can recapture the form of his first Premier League season.

Title odds: 7,500-1

um, why not just link to the article? we’ve all read it already.

come on ye fulham!

So the thread looks all nice and pretty. :discodance:

Fulham; 1,000 to 1 . . .

There was a recent thread about a Brit that couldn’t get into American sports.

I like soccer, but I wonder about how hard it is for the fans of all the teams that never win (and have no chance to win) the Premier League Championship.

If you’re a fan of Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, maybe this doesn’t bother you. But when I look at odds of 2,500 to 1 for so many teams, I wonder if the fans have a way of coping. I guess fans say, “Well, at least we weren’t relegated this year. / At least we have the honor of playing and getting trounced by Man U /Chelsea.” Is that it?

In Major League Baseball, they have 30 teams, and 8 teams make the playoffs each year. This gives teams that don’t have as much money to spend some hope that they might be good enough to get into the playoffs, and get hot at the end of the year.

So, in the last 9 years, there have been 8 different MLB champions. It helps if your owner has (and is willing to spend) money, but even without those conditions, there’s hope for most teams at the start of a year.

Not sayin’ baseball’s better . . . just wondering about the lack of parity in the Premier League.

Go Birmingham City! :discodance: (10,000 to 1)

yeah I take your point…as a Fulham fan we can but have faith in the things that remain. Hope for a good run in one of the cups. Pray to beat Chelsea at the Cottage. Hope to get a coupla big scalps. And then avoid relegation. Last season we were outstanding and out-performed everyone’s expectations.

In Roy we trust.

Go Fulham!

I think you could see it as a larger span of available achievements. For instance the top four go into an elite European competition, then the three teams that come in behind them go into a different European competition…then theres two domestic cups to compete for…theres the fight against relegation…theres promotion from the lower leagues…and so on…

Theres always something to play for for most of the teams from the start of the season to the end. There isnt pointless games and a cut off period like there is in the playoff system.

What I never understand about American sports is the seperate leagues they have that never mix, so theres no chance of promotion or relegation. Like in the MLS…if youre nowhere near the playoffs half way through the season youve basically got nothing to play for for the rest of the season. Thatd be the worst for a fan surely? Id rather have the, admittedly harrowing…but exciting, experience of a narrow escape from relegation than an absolutely pointless end period of the season where nothing at all is going to happen.

Go Fulham!

:astonished: :no-no:

Go Sparkplug?

Thanks for the clear explanation.

The separate leagues (of MLB) do now mix.

The chance of relegation is at the player level. If they are crap, they go to the minor leagues.

Ive got 200-1 on me winning the league so you could do worse.

Another question.

When was the last time that a team that was promoted to the premier league either won it all, or finished in the top four?

I mean, say a team was promoted, and then ten years later, came in first (or top four)?

Some Football know it all will be able to say exactly… but I remember around 1996 Ipswich got into the Champions League after being promoted the previous season.

Yeah, Ipswich would be the answer to your question.

It takes years off solid management to build a competitive side, but it can all fall apart in a couple of months, thats part of the excitement I guess.

Who do we all support then?

Come on you Spuds!

But unfortunately, they’ve been given their usual unwinnable opening fixture, the inevitable defeat by Liverpool on Sunday will destroy their fragile confidence, they’ll lose away to Hull a few days later, and then they’ll be in crisis again for the third September in a row.

There’s a lot to like about their squad, their best eleven (and subs) have tremendous potential to beat the best of them on their day, and I’m pleased by all three of their major summer signings, but I wish they could have got their hands on Ashley Young or another good left winger. If they could’ve sold Bentley and used the money to beat Villa to the cut-price signing of Downing, it would have been good business, even with Downing injured until Christmas. And I wish Levy had been willing to pay the extra few million to bring Arshavin to the Lane instead of Pav, when Arshavin was available and eager to make the signing.

So, I’m looking forward to the new season, but am well prepared for the all-but-certain disappointments, and don’t expect Spurs to be in the hunt for anything higher than 7th and the last place in Europe. The Big Four plus City will certainly finish many points above them, and they’ll be left to tussle with Everton and Villa for for the minor placings.

[quote=“Omniloquacious”]Come on you Spuds!

But unfortunately, they’ve been given their usual unwinnable opening fixture, the inevitable defeat by Liverpool on Sunday will destroy their fragile confidence, they’ll lose away to Hull a few days later, and then they’ll be in crisis again for the third September in a row.

There’s a lot to like about their squad, their best eleven (and subs) have tremendous potential to beat the best of them on their day, and I’m pleased by all three of their major summer signings, but I wish they could have got their hands on Ashley Young or another good left winger. If they could’ve sold Bentley and used the money to beat Villa to the cut-price signing of Downing, it would have been good business, even with Downing injured until Christmas. And I wish Levy had been willing to pay the extra few million to bring Arshavin to the Lane instead of Pav, when Arshavin was available and eager to make the signing.

So, I’m looking forward to the new season, but am well prepared for the all-but-certain disappointments, and don’t expect Spurs to be in the hunt for anything higher than 7th and the last place in Europe. The Big Four plus City will certainly finish many points above them, and they’ll be left to tussle with Everton and Villa for for the minor placings.[/quote]

Bentley’s such a disappointment…arrested for DID yesterday as well into the bargain. You did pick up Crouchy overnight tho’. Maybe this will be the season…

[quote=“the bear”]as a Fulham fan we can but have faith in the things that remain. Hope for a good run in one of the cups. Pray to beat Chelsea at the Cottage. Hope to get a coupla big scalps. And then avoid relegation. Last season we were outstanding and out-performed everyone’s expectations.

In Roy we trust.[/quote]
At last! Another Fulham fan around here! I’ve supported them all my life because my uncle played a season for them in the '60s. Go The Cottagers! (Urm, never really been 100% on that name. Isn’t a cottager someone who engages in anal sex with strangers in toilets?)

[quote=“jimipresley”][quote=“the bear”]as a Fulham fan we can but have faith in the things that remain. Hope for a good run in one of the cups. Pray to beat Chelsea at the Cottage. Hope to get a coupla big scalps. And then avoid relegation. Last season we were outstanding and out-performed everyone’s expectations.

In Roy we trust.[/quote]
At last! Another Fulham fan around here! I’ve supported them all my life because my uncle played a season for them in the '60s. Go The Cottagers! (Urm, never really been 100% on that name. Isn’t a cottager someone who engages in anal sex with strangers in toilets?)[/quote]

not specifically anal…any old sex act will do…

we’re looking good so far…hangeland hasn’t been sold yet so its the same squad plus a few new signings who look interesting…

What as that you were saying? :whistle:

Gunners did well for me on opening day, jsut we hope tp keep that effor up for the rest of the season and go undefeated again. Not likey but there’s always hope.

[quote=“zender”]Another question.

When was the last time that a team that was promoted to the premier league either won it all, or finished in the top four?

I mean, say a team was promoted, and then ten years later, came in first (or top four)?[/quote]

[quote=“Sparkplug”]Yeah, Ipswich would be the answer to your question.

It takes years off solid management to build a competitive side, but it can all fall apart in a couple of months, thats part of the excitement I guess.

Who do we all support then?[/quote]

Ipswich didn’t qualify for the champions league at all, they nearly did but only made the uefa cup which happened to be their downfall as they didn’t have a big enough squad for all competitions and that Scottish twat George burley got them relegated. I hate George Bastard Burley, and he hates Newcastle.

The answer to your question has to be Newcastle, pretty sure when we come up we challenged Man U for the title. The year we supposedly blew our 12 point lead was the year after. Then the year after that was when Keegan spat his dummy out and left.