After an up and down summer of sport and jubilation and Euro penalty heartbreak (again), the honeymoon is now over and it’s back to the hard graft of the football season. I’m doing it in the usual predicted back to front styly. Van Persie followed in the usual Arsenal tradition and jumped ship to Man U but will he hit it off with Rooney, I’m not so sure. Will the newcomers to the league spring a surprise like the magnificent Swansea did under Brendan or will it be a case of one season wonders for the likes of Southampton and my beloved Irons. I outline my predictions and even chuck in a Diamond for you to keep an eye on. Remember to listen out for us on Dexysden podcast too, you can get it on itunes, just look for ‘The My Left Foot Podcast” from the end of next week. Here’s to another great season, it’s gonna be hard to liveup to it’s magnificent predecessor and the wonderful month of sport we have just witnessed but you never know. Anyway, here’s the relegation fodder.
First up we have the Saints & I can’t see them hanging about for longer than a season. With back to back promotions, the frescoing south coast outfit are in for a big shock and I reckon we will see plenty of high scoring thrillers down at St Marys. As well as main target-man Lambert, Nigel Adkins has recruited Jay Rodriguez from Burnley & he will provide plenty of competition up front with Billy Sharp who has impressed in pre-season. The midfield ticks over nicely as well with the excellent Lallana & Guly Da Prado being joined by Steven Davies. All good so far but things look a bit trickier up the back. With such a good attacking threat, Southampton have been used to controlling games with teams sitting back in the Championship, with a start that includes the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal to contend with, it could be a baptism of fire and I fear for them for the whole season.
Dexys Diamond: Rickie Lambert:
The Saints miraculous rise over the past few seasons is partly down to the goalscoring prowess of Lambert. The big man weighed in with 27 goals last term and a handful of assists. When he went missing last year with injury mind, Southampton wobbled, he is that important to the team, maybe too important.
19 West Ham.
Being an season ticket holder down at Upton Park, I could be really biased and bang on about West Hams chances all day long…but I won’t I’m gonna keep it short and sweet, a bit like our chances of mid table survival, no chance, unless we invest in a couple of first teamers pronto, the play-off winners are in trouble. Sam has been sniffing around Carroll and Holt and been unsuccessful. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that he is thinking route 1, the thing is, that route looks like a dead end in the east end even with big Carlton Cole who’s gamy legs only give him an hours runout every game. We’ve been linked with Matt Jarvis to supply the aerial ammo but that is still up in the air too. With the current crop, we will really struggle and if that is the case, I think a possible takeover from Westfield and the Olympic Stadium dream could all go up in smoke, a bit like Big Sam’s boast that he has never been relegated.
Dexys Diamond: Vaz Te:
The former Allardarce old boy re-united with his boss when he made the switch from Barnsley last January. One of the few players that will cut it at this level, his skill and awareness made him my favourite player down at The Boleyn last season, i’m praying for a big haul in the goal stakes.
Just like I predicted for the past couple of seasons, stubborn Wigan just refuse to go down, yet again rallying in the final months with a frightening 7 wins in 9 outings. Being stubborn myself when it comes to Whelan’s mob, I’m gonna go for them as relegation candidates again (cos half of me thinks Martinez will be snapped up). He is a fine young manager & despite another iffy start to last years campaign, he again rallied and motivated. It will be harder this year, I think the relegated 3 of last May were very poor and the threat of the 3 newcomers along with the other lower end survivors will provide a fascinating dog fight next spring. New arrivals include Arsenal loanee Ryo Miyachi who looked mustard in the couple of times i’ve seen him for Bolton and when on loan in Holland. Others include Scotsman Fraser Fyvie and Spainard Ivan Ramis who will be ordered to marshall the suspect defence. If they can keep some clean sheets, and Martinez, they will be in with a chance of scraping by again, then again a lot depends on my diamond, young Victor.
Dexys Diamond: Victor Moses:
My said Moses is easily the best player at Wigan’s disposal but rumours persist that he is on his way, Chelsea seem to be the favourites but will Moses be a starter there in it’s packed new look midfield? maybe not so that gives Martinez hope. If he stays at Wigan, he will ship in with plenty of goals and assists that could be the deciding factor for survival.
Brian Mcdermott slowly but surely transformed Reading into the finest the Championship had to offer last term. I saw them a few times in action and they were definitely the best team I saw all year. Very organised, very hardworking and unstoppable as the season run into the final vinegar strokes. The club was taken over in May by Anton Zingarevich who apparently is loaded, not that you would know it, he has hardly given the Royals an open cheque book and they may find it a bit to crowded at this level with bigger and better quality squads. The bookies have them as 2nd faves to go down, not me, I reckon they will be 17th if they can stay injury free and get that defence firing on all cylinders. It was one of the best in the league last year but it does include 35 year old Ian Harte who’s ageing limbs may be targeted. Nicky Shorey is in now to shore it up too in his 2nd spell at the club but he is not the player of 5 years ago and the midfield is a bit lightweight as well.
Dexys Diamond: Pogrekwhatisname:
The ex Fulham powerhouse was a revelation at Craven Cottage when he came in the January window. His sheer presence in the box is enough to put the frighteners on anybody and the new Russian obviously sweet-talked him into making the surprising switch, one of Anton’s bigger purchases. I expect double figures from the big figure up front.
I had Norwich down as 15th last year but they surprised with a few Norwich notches higher. I fear that they may be caught up in a relegation battle this time around, it’s hard to predict the future of the Canaries after Lambert flew the nest & a few players are in limbo over signing contracts and hanging around. One player that has finally agreed to stay on for Delia’s cakes is man mountain Grant Holt who took the Prem by storm and had given Fabio food for thought with some of his barn storming displays. That will be a good for Chris Hughton who is one of the bookies favourites to bite the bullet early doors. I don’t agree with that, Hughton has done well in his short career on limited budgets and knows how to get the best from teams. I know they won’t be knocking on the doors of Europe anytime soon but I can’t see them in trouble either. Hughton will be on the case with Norwich’s main weakness – the back line and he has already recruited in that department with Micheal Turner and ex-rangers man Steve Whaittaker, this should help out the overworked ruddy between the sticks, the rest of the team looks ok to me though. Robert Snodgrass was probably the best player I saw in The Championship last season and his influence in an already clever midfield will mean more chances for the aforementioned Holt alongside fellow bruiser Morrison and fit again Vaughn with Pilkington and Hoolahan serving up some strikes as well.
Dexys Diamond: John Ruddy:
The Norwich stopper was as sweet as nut in the Norwich goalmouth last season, making save after save time after time. The new England back-up is crucial to Norwich’s and Hughton’s bank balance.
15 Aston Villa.
Villa have been disappointing over the last 2 years & it is time for a major overhaul, something Lambert has been brought in to do. He’s work with Norwich was excellent and the Villa faithful will have to give him time, something McCleish never got (he didn’t stand a chance). A handful of players have come & gone & I expect plenty of changes before transfer window shuts. The one thing Villa do have is a good young academy, this should provide some squad bulk while Lambert gets his signings and game-play in order. It may take a while for it all to come together but given time, I believe Villa & Lambert could be looking at the top half of The Prem 20 months time. He has to address the goal drought that almost cost Villa their Prem place last spring. Bent when fit is one of our finest marksmen but it shouldn’t be one man, the whole team need to start shipping in with goals, Ireland & Aggy B should be reaching double figures as well because they have the talent. Rumours around the Midlands is Defoe is being lined up and a pairing of him and Bent would strike the fear into any defence.
Dexys Diamond: Stilan Petrov:
I’m not sure about the Bulgarians current scenario but if he can get back onto the training ground and eventually back onto the team sheet, it will give the whole place a lift. The fans love him and the players respect him. Villa have been lost for while, I forsee a change with Lambert at the Helm.
I’ll Be back tomorrow with part 2, the middle ground.