With competitive football about to start (or in the case of Scotland already started) it’s time once again to make some dire football predictions and then look back in May/June and laugh at how bad I am before making the same mistakes for Euro 2012. I had written these predictions out before the last few days of recent events so have edited them slightly. Here we go…
PREMIERSHIP: Winner – Man Utd – Seems like an easy choice to make, but with other squads not strengthening as much as they’d like and Utd added some other dimension with Ashley Young and replacing an aging Ferdinand with Phil Jones they still look like the team to beat, sadly. Will that be enough to win in Europe? That’s a different matter altogether…
2nd – Chelsea – Andre Villas-Boas is an exciting appointment in my eyes. I can’t see him winning the league with this current squad, but a close run thing and then Roman opening that chequebook again to replace the oldies with young stars could see them really go for it in 2012/13.
3rd – Man City – Yes, they have unlimited spending power currently, yes they do have a decent squad but in the back of my mind, its still Manchester City. Perennial bottlers (1 FA Cup win is not that impressive). Much will depend on Aguero adapting to the Premiership straight away (and before people say, “but its Aguero!” – other top players have not cut it in English football). 3rd is the best I can see for them.
4th – Liverpool – Some ‘Pool fans are quietly suggesting they could challenge this season and I agree. Challenge for a Champions League spot, nothing else. The squad is not as good as the 3 teams above and while they did go on a good run at the end of last season, so did Everton, but nobody mentions that.
(5th – Arsenal, 6th Spurs)
Dark Horses (a team I feel that could surprise a lot and really be up there in their respective league) – Newcastle Utd – I do have to admit in the light of Joey Barton’s announcement yesterday and the subsequent outpouring of anger I read on Twitter from Newcastle fans, I was going to change this decision, but deep down I still feel they will be easily Top 10 this season and maybe even push for a cheeky Euro spot. Much will depend on Demba Ba'’s goals though.
Cart Horses (a team that on the otherhand will probably surprise people for the wrong reasons) – West Brom – If it were not for Peter Odemwingie’s goals West Brom would have probably gone down. That is how much they rely on him. Lose him to injury or a transfer and West Brom are gone.
Relegated – Blackburn Rovers – Some deluded owners, a poor side and a manager getting no support what so ever makes all the ingredients for a relegation season.
Norwich City – Don’t really understand Paul Lambert’s transfer policy this upcoming season. He signs players who are “hungry and wanting to succeed”. Fair enough, but in my eyes, Elliot Bennett, Steve Morison and Bradley Johnson are not good enough for this league. Short stay for them.
Swansea City – A hard choice, but I do remember hearing last season and the season before, Swansea’s problem (and why they never really challenged for automatic promotion) was scoring goals and killing teams off. This might not be a problem now, but for all their pretty football – some Premiership teams will smash through that and take 6 points from them this season. That means trouble.
CHAMPIONSHIP: Promoted – Leicester City – That’s right, I’m buying the hype. A lot of money is being splashed out at Leicester and now its time for Sven to deliver. With new signings Schmeichel, Matt Mills and Dave Nugent – they also have the squad to deliver too.
Burnley – If Eddie Howe does pull this off (which I believe he will) how long until a top top club come in for him? Keeping the spine of the squad that got that shock promotion a couple of seasons ago and strengthen it AND adopt his positive style of football, Burnley could be back in the big time quicker than they expected.
West Ham – Sam Allardyce knows that if West Ham don’t bounce back up in his 1st season, this could be his only season. I think they will go up, but probably through the play-offs.
Dark Horses – Hull City – New owners now at Hull which means boss Nigel Pearson will be expected to get them up the table. I haven’t heard many people say that Hull will finish higher than 10th, but I am one of them. A promotion tilt is on the cards in my eyes.
Cart Horses – Doncaster Rovers- A League 2 side punching massively above their weight in the Championship? Could be a tad unfair but after a promising start to life in the Championship, that seems to be slipping away now. A relegation battle looks a certainty.
Relegated – Watford – That’s right Watford, you replace the man who basically kept you in this division with a complete unknown. That’s a good start. Then sell your top scorer and other promising young players too. Even better! I’ll be stunned if Watford stay up this season.
Peterborough – We’ve been here before. (See my 09/10 predications) Newly promoted Peterboro’ under Darren Ferguson expected to do well. They can’t defend in League 1 so will get torn to shreds in this league. They also cannot fall back on the goals of Mackail-Smith to win games 4-3.
Derby County – Everybody knows, probably even Nigel himself, that if his surname wasn’t Clough, he’d have been sacked long ago. A team heading in one direction currently and that is down.
LEAGUE 1 – Promoted – Sheffield Wednesday – Ignoring the slightly bizarre PSF result of Alfreton Town 14 –0 Sheff Wed XI, the Wed do look good to go up. Spurred on to beat their lesser rivals David Prutton and Rob Jones look like two decent signings. It’s time to move forward now.
Leyton Orient – Many people’s tips for a dark horse but not me, I think they will be right up there this time and head into the Championship. Arguably the best front pairing in the division, the most settled side, a canny manager in Russell Slade and some FA Cup run money still to spend. I really do think it’s Orient’s year to shine.
Preston N.E – It took me 5 minutes to pick the 3rd promoted side in this league – mainly because of the lack of real quality about and the fact that I think Huddersfield are going to bottle it yet again. Preston need to rebuild, but do have a manager in Phil Brown that has gotten out of this division before, so the Deepdale based club get it.
Dark Horses – Hartlepool United – I see the raised eyebrows and the questions! Some strange, but equally excellent signings in Nobby Solano and Colin Nish have come in for this season and a side that is fairly ok anyway could have the Pool right in the play-off hunt.
Cart Horses – Notts County – Martin Allen. An enigma. A traitor. A weirdo. A top manager. Which one is the real Allen? This season we will find out. I feel though that County will be fighting a relegation battle for most of it due to their weak squad and lack of real money to add to it further.
Relegated – Rochdale – See Watford. Steve Eyre does have experience in coaching a major Premiership Academy I suppose but this season we will see how much Keith Hill really got out of his Dale squad. I think a lot more than Eyre will.
Bury – Having arguably a weaker squad than the previous season when they came up is not a recipe for success. Add to that another rookie manager and this could be a car crash of a season for the Shakers.
Yeovil Town – It always doesn’t look good for the little green men of Somerset and this season is no exception. Skiverton will have to use the loan market to the best of his ability again to stay up. I can’t see it.
Stevenage – When you watch Stevenage this season don’t expect pleasant football. Imagine a more sneaky Crawley Town per se. While they got away with that in League 2, L1 will be much harder for them. They will actually have to play some football this season, especially as the message spreads of their gamesmanship and teams and refs will wise up.
LEAGUE 2 – Promoted – Crawley Town – I won’t say much about them, but with all that money they should easily win this league this season. Wait until the money runs out though…
Bristol Rovers – Basis of a decent L1 side? Check. Good fan base for L2? Check. New manager in who can improve the side? Check. Some excellent signings to add to the squad? Check. Looks good.
Rotherham United – Keeping Le Fondre is top news for them and getting Andy Scott in who has won this league before is another inspired move.
Aldershot Town – Dean Holdsworth is starting to put together a very impressive CV for his management time. Taking Newport County up and then getting them into Top 8 of the Blue Square Premier is impressive. Pretty good squad with some added depth as well should see them up.
Dark Horses – AFC Wimbledon – Well it had to be, didn’t it!? Who knows how Terry Brown’s side will perform this season. The loss of top scorer Danny Kedwell is a blow, but teams will not get much from Kingsmeadow and if they get on a run, who knows?
Cart Horses – Bradford City – Bradford fans expecting a promotion challenge this season need to take a reality check. No money, a poor squad and stadium problems means the new ground they could be braking in the future will be away trips to Braintree and Hayes & Yeading. First ex Premiership team to be relegated to non league? They are the favourites.
Relegated – Macclesfield Town – Losing your top scorer and main attacking forces from an already small squad isn’t great. Doesn’t look good for them.
Burton Albion – The news is out about Burton – they aren’t that good. Seemingly now on a downward spiral – relegation back to the Blue Square looks a real possibility this coming season.
SCOTLAND – Top 2 – 1st – Celtic, 2nd – Rangers. Celtic will surely win the league at a canter this season. A better squad and more chances to add to it means Lennon may finally achieve what he set out to do. 2 seasons late.
The rest – 3rd – Dundee Utd, 4th – Motherwell, 5th – Hearts, 6th – Hibs, 7th – ICT, 8th – Aberdeen, 9th – St Mirren, 10th – St Johnstone, 11th – Dunfermline, 12th – Kilmarnock. I have changed this order a lot over the past couple of weeks and then rejigged it even further after last nights farcical news at Tynecastle. That’s how I see the SPL this season!
If you read this and think I’m wrong (and let’s be honest, probably all of you do) then leave a comment with your choices! Let’s have a cracking season of football.