Category Archives: Football

It’s the hope that kills you

Villa Park provided the backdrop for Newcastle United’s Premier League relegation in May, 2009, as an own goal from Toon misfit Damien Duff, one of a slew of under achievers on the books at the time, consigned the team to a 1-0 defeat that meant they beat Hull to the drop by a single point.

Disaster on the face of it, but ultimately the demotion proved a blessing, with declining veterans and mercenaries released into the wilderness, and a squad of courageous warriors forged under the astute leadership of the club’s underrated coach Chris Hughton.

Fast forward seven years and Villa Park once more played host to the Magpies’ struggle to survive the drop, the nails in the coffin this time provided by a 0-0 draw against the already relegated hosts, coupled with arch-rivals Sunderland’s 3-2 win against Chelsea. Commence doom and gloom.

Andros Townsend
Andros Townsend: likely to leave in the Summer

This time it feels different. In appointing Rafa Benitez, Newcastle have finally placed the club under the supervision of an elite leader, this disappointing stalemate making it five matches without defeat for the first time in around 18 months.

That survival is even possible at this stage is courtesy of the Spaniard organising a hitherto malfunctioning back four into something resembling a half-decent defence; dispensing with previous stalwarts Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor in favour of young, teachable central defenders, led brilliantly by the supremely gifted Jamaal Lascelles, a 22 year-old left out in the cold for the majority of previous Manager Steve McLaren’s soul sapping tenure.

There is so much more to lose now. The club’s most natural outlet, Andros Townsend, is said to have an £8m relegation release clause in the deal he signed during the Winter window and a queue of admirers, whilst the likes of Benitez and his staff are unlikely to stick around to oversee things in the lower leagues.

There are no battle hardened spearheads in the mould of Kevin Nolan, no talismanic Andy Carroll’s coming through the youth team. The remnants of this latest disaster conceivably a team sheet smothered with names luminaries as Riviere, Ameobi, Gouffran, Haidara and Saivet.

AA: Adam Armstrong has shone on loan at Coventry.
AA: Adam Armstrong has shone on loan at Coventry.

Players recruited at the say so of Chief Scout Graham Carr, a man formerly held in high esteem. As the results of his approved acquisitions have diminished, so has the reputation of the 71 year-old, who despite working within the constraints of a blinkered blueprint could surely not have been expected to get it so spectacularly wrong so often.

Adam Armstrong offers hope, although his flame has dimmed in the latter months of a loan spell at Coventry City. Other gifted youth prospects such as Rolando Aarons and Kevin Mbabu are beset by regular injuries and have contracts that expire imminently. Will they be keen to stay put at a club seemingly in perpetual transition? Nobody could blame them, or the likes of Freddie Woodman for wanting to escape the Titanic.

Of course, in an ideal world the parachute payments of around £45m, as well as a reduction of wage bill with the release of high earners such as Taylor, Papiss Cisse, Marveaux et al, would allow the club to somehow talk some of the better players, and more importantly the management team, into staying put.

In reality any scenario where clubs actually want to purchase and pay wages to the likes of Riviere, Gouffran, Haidara, Coloccini (Palace apparently willing to pay £4m last Summer!) and others is wishful thinking indeed; the equivalent of sticking your best of Steps album on eBay with a £20 reserve.

Wijnaldum may be easier to shift, and for such a talented player he has probably been our biggest flop in the second half of the season. He’s a quality player in full flow, with bags of pace and technical skill, but as the seasons have changed so seemingly has his attitude.

A team with a spine of Elliot/Darlow/Krul, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Mbabu, Tiote, Aarons, Armstrong, Mitrovic and Perez could probably bounce back from the second tier, but make no mistake; this will not be a glorified 102 point cake walk as in 2009-10. If we scrape promotion by our cuticles it will be an excellent achievement. If we don’t then a prolonged drift around the bowels of English League football is likely to commence.

Our football club has become the sweaty man hiding a secret, in Rafa we are punching several weights too high already, we might be able to get Nigel Pearson or Tim Sherwood to shout us back up though.

For Aston Villa relegation provides a broom to sweep away the rubble, for Newcastle United it channels the gust of wind that blows away a short lived promise of better times. This one really hurts because this time we were given hope.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

What’s going on?! The Leicester City Story

If you don’t know the answer to that question then I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no.

Apoplectic with rambling rage, Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City looked destined for the drop when champions elect Chelsea brought their unexpectedly pleasant run of form to an end, turning the Foxes over 3-1 at the King Power stadium.

Leicester City badge

With just 31 points on the table and four games left to play, Leicester had seemingly turned a corner too late, with their four successive victories before the Chelsea match not enough to escape the drop zone.

10 points in the final four fixtures ensured that not only did they survive, but did so with room to spare, finishing in 14th position, a full four places and six points clear of the dreaded divide.

An amazing escape indeed, but when Pearson was relieved of his duties that Summer, and replaced by an Italian manager widely considered to be a decade and change beyond his prime, the chances of a repeat dose of survival rapidly took a tumble.

How could it feasibly transpire that journeyman manager Claudio Ranieri, with his squad made up of other teams’ cast-offs and a sprinkling of lesser known imports, would be able to retain their top-flight status?

 

Turn the clock forward 12 months; Leicester City are seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League, one win away from what was an inconceivable title win. Players previously considered second rate no-marks have been lighting up the division with their dynamic, incisive play; Leicester are on the brink of becoming champions.

Too unrealistic for a comic strip or movie script, this is a story of 5,000-1 underdogs repeatedly overcoming the odds to besmirch the notion of rational analysis.

Those players who were once decried as mediocre non-entities have found themselves transformed into international stars, recently voted among the elite of Premier League footballing talent by their peers.

 

The Players

Leicester City FC

Kasper Schmeichel
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 29
2015-16 league games/clean sheets: 35/15

Has marshalled the Foxes’ defence superbly this season in the vein of his father, Peter, during his Manchester United pomp. One of the most gifted ‘keepers in European football, has played every minute of league action for his club side this season.

 

Danny Simpson
Position: Right back
Age: 29
2015-16 league games/goals: 25/0

Simpson has belied his lack of technical prowess with an unwavering spirit and some superb last ditch tackling this term. A reliable, solid full-back who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and take one for the team.

 

Jeff Schlupp
Position: Left back/winger
Age: 23
2015-16: 17/1

Jet-heeled fullback-cum-winger who rejected Germany to play for Ghana. Shlupp’s attacking strength has always been evident, but this season he has cut a much improved defensive figure as part of a rock solid back four.

 

Wes Morgan (Captain)
Position: Centre back
Age: 32
2015-16: 35/1

Club captain and ever present rock at the heart of his side’s defence. Morgan was deservedly selected in the PFA team of the season. At 32 is thriving in the top division after years of shining in the lower leagues.

 

Robert Huth
Position: Centre back
Age: 31
2015-16: 30/3

A German international, Huth has rebuilt his reputation as a tough tackling defender with an eye for goal this season, having forged an excellent partnership with Morgan. £3m Summer signing now looks a snip at that price.

 

Riyad Mahrez
Position: Winger
Age: 25
2015-16: 34/17

The PFA Player of the Year has been scintillating throughout the season, with 17 goals and 11 assists to his name thus far. Linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, it will be a challenge for the Foxes to keep hold of their crown jewel next season.

 

Marc Albrighton
Position: Winger
Age: 26
2015-16: 35/2

An unsung hero, Albrighton has finally showed the creative consistency to begin fulfilling his undoubted potential. Protects his full-backs well, whilst possessing enough offensive prowess to whip in some delightful crosses from the byline.

 

N’Golo Kante
Position: Central Midfield
Age: 25
2015-16: 34/1

The new Claude Makelele? Kante arrived in the Summer as a virtual unknown for the bargain sum of £5.6m. Recently broke the Premier League seasonal record for most successful tackles. Leicester say they won’t stand in the way of him leaving for big money if they can find a replacement – That won’t be as easy as it sounds though.

 

Danny Drinkwater
Position: Central Midfield
Age: 26
2015-16: 29/1

Like so many others in the squad, this has been Drinkwater’s breakout season. Now a full England international, the tenacious midfield man will be hoping to feature for his country at Euro 2016, and is certainly deserving of a spot in the final 23 man squad.

 

Jamie Vardy
Position: Forward
Age: 29
2015-16: 34/22

Having struck just 5 goals in the whole of last season, not a lot was expected of Vardy this term. 22 goals and 6 assists later and he is one of the hottest commodities in the Premier League. A fairytale among fairytales; the talismanic forward was playing non-league football until the age of 25!

 

Shinji Okazaki
Position: Forward
Age: 30
2015-16: 32/5

Japanese forward has added spark to the Foxes’ frontline since arriving from the Bundesliga in the Summer. His insatiable work-rate and selfless movement has allowed space for the likes of Vardy and Mahrez to operate. Has also chipped in with a handful of key goals.

 

Leonardo Ulloa
Position: Forward
Age: 29
2015-16: 27/6

Powerful striker has been used predominantly as a super-sub this term, although he filled in adroitly during Vardy’s recent suspension against Swansea City. Has become a very useful squad alternative to a clutch of diminutive attackers, with his excellent hold up play and aerial ability coming to the fore.

 

Christian Fuchs
Position: Left back
Age: 30
2015-16: 27/0

The experienced Austrian international has proved another transfer market master stroke for the club. Goes about his business without too many frills and spills, fitting in ideally with the high pressing mantra of the rest of his team.

 

Andy King
Position: Midfield
Age: 27
2015-16: 22/1

Youth Academy product continues to flourish as a valuable squad player. Unlikely to start many games with Kante and Drinkwater in such fine form, but the Welshman is a safe pair of boots to cover for his more talented team mates.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier League: 5 Things

Remi Garde

The past few days have witnessed a marked shift in the DNA of the Premier League; Aston Villa added to their French legion by appointing Remi Garde as manager, Wayne Rooney’s dwindling physical prowess became more obvious than ever, and Arsenal continued their rampant surge towards the summit – here’s five things that defined the top-flight this weekend.

1. Wayne Rooney is no longer a central striker

It’s been obvious for the last couple of years, to anyone with eyes at least, that while Sir Wayne of Roon-shire remains an excellent technical footballer, his physical traits are on the slide.

Despite this, Manchester United insist on using him as a lone striker, with the more dynamic Anthony Martial shunted onto the wing to accommodate the shop-worn  30 year-old, who would be better served as a number ten playing just behind the French starlet.

2. Jamie Vardy could be an ideal foil for Harry Kane

Jamie Vardy nipped in with yet another eleventh hour winner this weekend, scoring for the eighth league match in succession to secure Leicester City’s latest thrilling victory, the Foxes edging a five goal thriller against West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Vardy’s pace, work-rate and close control, aligned with cultured end product, places him among the front-runners for an England forward berth; he’d be a perfect partner for Tottenham’s Harry Kane, with Rooney’s aforementioned transition into midfield allowing this thrilling front two to blossom.

3. Sunderland’s fluky Derby win papered over some large cracks

The Mackems and their fans rejoiced just over a week ago, as they defeated North-East neighbours Newcastle United with assistance from one of the shoddiest refereeing displays in years (courtesy of the incompetent Robert Madley).

Karma was well and truly dished out the following weekend, as Everton destroyed Sam Allardyce’s terrible troupe 6-2, a scoreline that flattered Sunderland who were abysmal for 85 of the 90 minutes. They can’t rely entirely upon inept officials to save them it seems.

4. Chelsea should have strengthened in the summer

John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are a few of the many Chelsea players whose stars have dimmed strikingly this season. Meanwhile Eden Hazard, the 2014-15 PFA Player of The Year, has become a liability in amongst the chaos.

Controversial events behind the Stamford Bridge scenes, woeful results and a trigger happy owner could combine to spell the end of Jose Mourinho’s second spell with the club any time soon; a 3-1 home capitulation against Liverpool the latest in a string of dysfunctional defeats for the Blues.

5. Remi Garde will need to hit the ground running

The 3-1 scoreline of Aston Villa’s latest defeat, this time at the hands of Spurs, failed to tell the whole story; the league’s bottom side were completely outclassed, looking every inch a second-tier team in the process.

New managers usually enjoy a honeymoon period, and former Lyon boss Garde will hope to witness something better when he officially takes charge of his first match for the club at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon. The opposition? League leaders Manchester City!

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Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier League: 5 Things

A pivotal weekend of Premier League action saw pressure heaped on one of the world’s most successful coaches, while a couple of other situations became vacant. Meanwhile, the shackles were torn off the top-flight’s top striker. Kureen looks at five things we learned from the past couple of days.

1. Aguero is back to his brilliant best

For 44 minutes Newcastle United more than matched Manchester City at the Etihad, leading 1-0 and spurning a trio of gaping opportunities to extend that lead.

Enter Aguero to bag a record equalling 5 goals in the 16 subsequent minutes of play, joining Messrs Shearer, Cole, Berbatov and Defoe in achieving the quintet. Disappointingly for home fans, the diminutive Argentinian forward was subbed off in the 62nd minute with the outright record seemingly within his grasp.

2. Aston Villa are now a club in crisis

The summer signings looked excellent on paper, and an opening day win at Bournemouth built up expectation. One point in seven games since then have provided a reality check for the Midland club, with only Rudy Gestede shining among the off-season acquisitions.

Villa are backed for a narrow away win

Manager Tim Sherwood faces the chop just eight games into a new campaign, with the next eight fixtures unlikely to ease that burden – trips to Chelsea, Southampton, Spurs and Everton, as well as home matches against Arsenal, Manchester City and Swansea are on the horizon.

3. The title race is wide open

The manner in which Arsenal dispatched Manchester United 3-0, coupled with three point hauls for a host of teams near the summit, once again highlighted the lack of consistency in the English top tier this term.

No team looks untouchable, with the returns to form of talismanic South Americans Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero probably sufficient to ensure some sleepless nights for opposing defenders.

4. The manager merry-go-round begins

Liverpool ditched Brendan Rodgers after a 1-1 derby day draw at Everton, with Dick Advocaat stepping away from his role at Sunderland after they let a two goal lead slip in their 2-2 draw with West Ham.

Plenty of other managers are under the cosh; Jose Mourinho, Steve McClaren and Tim Sherwood will all be crossing fingers, toes and tracksuit bottoms that their owners have more patience than the fat cats at Anfield.

5. Leicester and Palace could challenge for Europe

Two clubs that continued their wonderful starts to the season are Crystal Palace and Leicester City, both of whom find themselves in the top five as we head towards another international break.

The Eagles look the more complete group, with Yohan Cabaye pulling strings for the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie to prosper. The Foxes are full of confidence as well, but are less likely to remain as prosperous when they inevitably suffer a couple of injuries and/or suspensions.

Let us know your thoughts on the weekend’s action – should Brendan Rodgers have been given more time? Comment below, and if you’re feeling good natured like our Facebook page.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier League Preview: 5 Things

With another weekend of bombastic fixtures, the Premier League season is well and truly taking shape already.  

Number 5

Just over a month in, there have already been a handful of shocks and surprises. We take a look at five things we should know a little more about by the beginning of next week.

City Spurred back to winning ways?

Manchester City were a mite unfortunate not to take at least a point against West Ham last weekend, but coupled with a disappointing display against Juventus in Europe it placed some pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini – you’re only ever two bad results from a crisis when fickle oil tycoons control your destiny!

An emphatic 4-1 League Cup spanking of whipping boys Sunderland was a timely reminder of how dangerous the Citizens can be when wounded. This weekend they face a Spurs team who crashed out of the same cup competition at home to fierce rivals Arsenal.

Tottenham have looked a shadow of their former selves so far this term, but with home advantage and their own burden to bear after the mid-week shambles, I expect them to respond with a decent home display.

Conclusion: Harry Kane to score early, as Spurs dig deep for a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea defeat = McClaren chop?

Wally with Brolly McClaren

Steve McClaren is a man under pressure only 8 matches into his reign as Newcastle manager. Of those only one has resulted in a win (against lowly Northampton Town in the League Cup), two draws and five defeats, the most recent of which was a humbling home reverse against Championship team Sheffield Wednesday.

Chelsea have been hit and miss (as has Diego Costa with his fists), but their 2-0 win against title rivals Arsenal last weekend provided evidence of a return to form. Despite the dough-faced Spanish striker’s rough house tactics, Jose Mourinho’s men were good value for the result.

A Newcastle defeat might be expected, but Mourinho has never won a match at St James’ Park, so it would be another unwelcome feather in McClaren’s already overloaded cap.

Conclusion: Newcastle have stepped up against the better sides they’ve faced, but their toothless team will have no joy today – Chelsea to win 3-1.

Brendan’s last bow?

Another manager under intense scrutiny is Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. The affable Northern Irishman has never really recovered from losing star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona just over a year ago.

On paper Aston Villa provide ideal opposition, having collected only one point from their past five league outings, but the Villains have previous at Anfield, collecting eight points from their last four visits to Merseyside.

Both teams will be desperate to pick up the win, and although on paper The Reds have a far superior group of players, they have yet to gel.

Conclusion: With Benteke seemingly unfit to take on his former club and Daniel Sturridge not match ready, Danny Ings will step up as his side sneak a priceless 2-1 win.

Foxes to finally lose against Arsenal?

Arsene Wenger Statue

Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes have been one of the surprise packages of the season, winning three and drawing three of their opening half a dozen fixtures.

In Jamie Vardy they have a forward brimming with confidence as they continually defy the odds to comeback late in games, their philosophy to outscore the opposition and hit them on the break.

Arsenal haven’t quite reached their apex, with the spotlight firmly placed on a lack of signings. Delectable approach play is too often undermined by profligate finishing… Why didn’t they go for Charlie Austin or Alexandre Lacazette?

Conclusion: Arsenal will click, and as long as their strikers are on song they’ll take three points back to North London: 2-1 away win.

Rooney to end goal drought?

He might be banging the cup goals in, and striking penalties home for England, but Wayne Rooney’s Premier League form has been lacklustre thus far, outshone by the dazzling potential of £40m+ teenage acquisition Anthony Martial.

True, Rooney is playing a number ten role, but he looks bereft of confidence when it comes to burying chances; Alan Shearer’s 260 goal EPL record appears ever more distant with each blank display.

Step up Sunderland, a team conceding goals by the bucket load. Although the Mackems have pigeon-brained Younes Kaboul suspended, the rest of their back-line isn’t much better, so if Rooney is going to break his duck he couldn’t have chosen a more fitting opponent.

Conclusion: United will ram home three goals, two from Rooney, as they complete a routine 3-0 rout.

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Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Transfer Window 2015: How did your club do?

With the Summer transfer window now slammed shut for Premier League sides, it’s time to reflect on the increasing, surely unsustainable spending that’s occurred during two crazy months.

Arsenal

Total spent: £11m
Notable addition: Petr Cech (Chelsea, £11m)
Notable departure: Abou Diaby (Released)

Arsenal addressed the need for a top quality custodian by acquiring Chelsea’s second choice stopper, Petr Cech, who promises to add stability to the set-up. Unfortunately they still look a striker and midfield destroyer short of challenging for the title, and an additional central defender wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Aston Villa

Total spent: £52.5m
Notable addition: Jordan Amavi (Nice, £10m)
Notable departure: Christian Benteke (Liverpool, £32.5m)

Christian Benteke’s departure was inevitable, but Fabian Delph’s transfer to Manchester City was a little more contentious, with the England midfielder, having rejected City’s initial advances, pledging his allegiance the Villains, only to perform an about turn and join the Eastlands club less than a week later. Villa have raided France, bringing in some promising talent; most notably Jordan Amavi from Nice.

Bournemouth

Total spent: £23.8m
Notable addition: Max Gradel (£6.8m, Saint-Etienne)
Notable departure: Brett Pitman (£1.2m, Ipswich Town)

The Cherries have picked up from where they left off last season, playing aesthetically appealing football and getting decent results along the way. On paper their squad looks short of quality, although the likes of Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings are astute additions. With Eddie Howe at the helm anything seems possible, and perhaps their best piece of business was retaining the talented Callum Wilson.

Chelsea

Total spent: £69m
Notable addition: Pedro (Barcelona, £21.4m)
Notable departure: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £11m)

A quiet, by Chelsea standards, transfer window, coupled with some disappointing results, has emphasised the need to reinvigorate a declining squad. John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic in particular have looked as if they’re on the slide. The ultimately fruitless pursuit of Everton’s John Stones will have left Jose Mourinho bitterly frustrated.

Crystal Palace


Total spent: £25.3m
Notable addition: Yohan Cabaye (PSG, £12.8m)
Notable departure: None.

Palace have quietly assembled one of the most thrilling squads in the Premier League, having enjoyed an excellent transfer window, whilst remaining under the radar. Their capture of Yohan Cabaye could be one of the deals of the summer; the diminutive playmaker already having made an impact for the Eagles.

Everton

Total spent: £21.75m
Notable addition: Ramiro Funes Mori (River Plate, £9.5m)
Notable departure: None.

Everton have decided to keep their powder dry for the most part this summer, adding five new faces without spending (relative) big bucks. Keeping John Stones away from Chelsea may prove a short-term victory; that said, a reported £40m offer for the defender was exorbitant, and unlikely to be matched in future, less frenzied times.

Leicester City


Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz, £7.2m)
Notable departure: Esteban Cambiasso (Released)

The unexpected departure of manager Nigel Pearson left a gaping hole in the Foxes’ recruitment drive in the early weeks of the window, but that soon picked up when former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri took the reigns. The ‘Tinkerman’ has made half a dozen useful signings, the best of which looks to be talented Japanese marksman Okazaki.

Liverpool

Total spent: £80.5m
Notable addition: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5m)
Notable departure: Raheem Sterling (Man City, £49m)

The Reds started the summer as if they planned to purchase an entirely new squad, perhaps with one eye on the impending departure of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City. Benteke has the ability to become a club legend, and the signings of Danny Ings, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne provide value for money, although none are exactly marquee purchases.

Manchester City

Total spent: £154m
Notable addition: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg, £55m)
Notable departure: James Milner (Liverpool, free)

The Citizens have resumed the spendthrift stance that was temporarily foiled as a result of the club besmirching FIFA’s “Financial Fair Play” regulations. Stockpiling players once again, they appear to have all bases covered, and anything less than European glory will probably result in Manuel Pellegrini receiving his marching orders.

Manchester United

Total spent: £115.8m
Notable addition: Memphis Depay (PSV, £24.4m)
Notable departure: Angel Di Maria (PSG, £44.8m)

A whirlwind deadline day saw United secure the services of prodigiously talented teenage attacker Anthony Martial from Monaco for an initial £36m and a deal to trade David De Gea to Real Madrid thwarted by tardy paperwork. Despite all of that, their best business was agreed before the window opened, with exciting winger Depay swapping Holland for England.

Newcastle United

Total spent: £48m
Notable addition: Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV, £13m)
Notable departure: Jonas Gutierrez (released)

The Toon Army have (finally) been treated to a host of exciting additions, as well as a much needed revamp in coaching set-up and management. Wijnaldum is, literally and figuratively, the biggest name addition to the group, although both Chancel Mbemba and Floran Thauvin have impressed thus far. Aleksandar Mitrovic should become the number nine supporters have long craved… If he can stay on the pitch for long enough.

Norwich City

Total spent: £12m
Notable addition: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7m)
Notable departure: Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, free)

Norwich haven’t managed to attract anyone particularly exciting to Norfolk, but what they have done is embellish their midfield with stable top-flight performers. Irish full-back/winger Robbie Brady is a gifted player who deserves the chance to fulfil his undoubted ability, but there is a feeling that the Canaries will end up relying heavily upon the jet-heeled Nathan Redmond.

Southampton

Total spent: £42.5m
Notable addition: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord, £10.5m)
Notable departure: Morgan Schneiderlin (Man United, £27m)

Saints have had a wonderful knack in recent seasons of getting top dollar for outgoing players and replacing them with better, cheaper alternatives. Jordy Clasie may prove to be another coup, although he’s not in the Schneiderlin mould just yet. Nataniel Clyne is a loss, but hanging on to Spurs target Victor Wanyama on deadline day was vital, while the late addition of Virgil Van Dijk is savvy.

Stoke City


Total spent:
£29.8m
Notable addition: Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan, £12m)
Notable departure: Asmir Begovic (Chelsea, £8m)

The evolution of Stoke City continues apace, with the addition of skilful innovators such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Marco van Ginkel to the ranks. Mark Hughes has assembled a quality squad at the Britannia Stadium. The departure of the brilliant Asmir Begovic has afforded the promising Jack Butland an overdue opportunity.

Sunderland

Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Fabio Borini (Liverpool, £10m)
Notable departure: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9m)

The Mackems don’t appear to have sufficiently addressed their leaky defence, conceding 13 goals in their five league and cup matches so far this season. The additions of Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila have at least given Dick Advocaat’s men a previously absent cutting edge.

Swansea City


Total spent:
£15m
Notable signing: Andre Ayew (Marseille, free)
Notable departure: Nathan Dyer (Leicester City, loan)

The Welsh side have been among the shrewdest Premier League operators this summer, picking up high calibre signings with minimal or zero transfer fee attached. Andre Ayew has immediately settled, while Eder provides important backup for on song target man Bafe Gomis.

Tottenham Hotspur

Total spent: £51.3m
Notable addition: Son Heung-Min (Leverkusen, £22m)
Notable departure: Aaron Lennon (Everton, £5.2m)

With Spurs fans crying out for additional fire power, Daniel Levy was only able to conclude deals for support acts and defenders. The club have done well to trim much of the fat from an inflated squad, but may rue the as of yet fruitless pursuit of West Brom’s Saido Berahino.

Watford


Total spent:
£31m
Notable addition: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham, £6m)
Notable departure: None

The most active top-flight team in this transfer window, the Hornets made no less than 15 signings during the summer. On the surface it appears to be a case of quantity over quality, although the likes of Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami at least have the capacity to supply sufficient ammunition for Troy Deeney and co. to trouble the scorers.

West Bromwich Albion


Total spent:
£33m
Notable signing: Salomon Rondon (Zenit, £12m)
Notable departure: Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa, £1m)

The Baggies have had a successful window, retaining the services of star striker Saido Berahino against his will, while adding real quality in the shape of Salomon Rondon, Johnny Evans and James Chester. Tony Pulis has steered clear of panic deals, upgrading key areas. With Rickie Lambert now on the books, Albion have a mouthwatering three-pronged front-line available if they can get Berahino to stop sulking.

West Ham United


Total spent: £35.6m
Notable addition: Dimitri Payet (Marseille, £10.7m)
Notable departure: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough, £5m)

A new manager and a dozen additions to the playing staff may seem excessive, but the Hammers needed revolution rather than evolution this term. Multiple deadline day deals so often spells impending disaster, but the quality of players such as Alex Song and Victor Moses can’t be questioned. Dimitri Payet holds the key to unlock any defence in Europe.

Did we nail it? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Mourinho Meltdown?

For approaching two decades he’s been among the ego upper echelon of football managers, but Jose Mourinho has always backed up fanciful boasts with a steady haul of trophies, championships and personal accolades.

Nevertheless, some observers have questioned his recent judgement, and with good reason, as a clutch of seemingly petty incidents have snowballed into something potential unsettling.

In isolation an underwhelming summer transfer window, patchy pre-season and disappointing start to the 2015-16 Premier League campaign are not anything to get too steamy under the collar about. It is the Portuguese coach’s reaction to these that hasn’t gone down well in certain quarters.

 
The enemy within

Most concerning for many Chelsea supporters is the manner in which the self anointed “Special One” chastised his hitherto heralded medical chief Eva Carneiro, unfairly in the eyes of most onlookers, for tending to a stricken Eden Hazard during an opening day contest with Swansea City.

Her immediate intervention meant that The Blues, already a man down thanks to Thibaut Courtois’ dismissal early in the second half, were temporarily reduced to nine until the Belgian winger was allowed to return to the pitch.


Stamford Bridge Scapegoat

Jose had steam gushing from his lug-holes at the conclusion of the 2-2 draw with the Welsh side and, as he has so often in the past, he sought out a scapegoat.

Only this time it wasn’t the referee, opposing manager or shape of the balls; Mourinho, the manager emphatic in expressing public loyalty throughout his career, decided to throw his main medic under the bus (possibly the same one he’s accused opponents of parking in previous seasons.)

Carneiro was banished from the bench for the clash of the oil-funded juggernauts with Manchester City, but this failed to improve fortunes as the South London club were humiliated 3-0 by the team now favourites to dethrone them as England’s champions.


Terry out, (Stones in?)

During the match Captain John Terry was substituted for the first time in 177 league matches under Mourinho, cutting a gloomy figure on the visitors’ bench for the remainder of the contest.

Two competitive matches is evidently not enough to make an assessment on a manager whose battalion so recently cruised to their first league title in five years with the efficiency demanded from the top.

What is clear in this era of milk, honey, oil and embarrassing riches, is that those who stand still are soon surpassed by proactive peers. Gone are the days of bedding in skittish youth players until Christmas, certainly when it applies to those at the top of the pyramid.

Jose Mourinho

The modern game is a fickle one; yesterday’s apple of the eye is destined to become tomorrow’s decomposing core. One misplaced utterance or flicker of ill-fortune can be the trigger for itchy-fingered billionaires to direct their firing squad towards former icons.

As the strain grows on Mourinho, he will privately regret his own hair trigger tendencies which have resulted in a world-class medic contemplating her position, and a long-serving captain hardly able to conceal his disgruntlement.

The Special One is mortal after all it seems.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

The curse of Prince William

Are England cursed when it comes to football at major tournaments, or is it simply a case of the reverse Midas touch from Prince William? Dom Kureen ponders.

Having witnessed their male counterparts struggle to impose themselves at every tournament of note since 1998, England’s women headed to Canada for the 2015 World Cup with limited expectations.

Many weren’t convinced that Mark Sampson’s team could even progress beyond the group stages, with a 2-0 opening game defeat at the hands of France adding credibility to that argument.


Turning Point

From there it became an adventure; 2-1 victories against Norway, Canada and Mexico, including a 25 yard strike from the brilliant Lucy Bronze, providing highlights during a glittering run which saw the Lionesses reach the Semi-Final stage, where they faced current holders Japan.

Despite playing their best match of the tournament, England were this time on the wrong end of a by now familiar 2-1 scoreline, courtesy of two debatable penalties and an unfortunate 92nd minute own goal from the outstanding Laura Bassett, who had marshalled England’s defence superbly throughout the contest.


Big Willy Style

The defeat came on the same day that Prince William decided to stick his pointy beak into matters that don’t concern him, overloading the squad’s head with blatant fibs about them having united the entire country (a ridiculous claim that can’t have been taken seriously by anyone with half a brain), who were all staying up to watch the matches (usually kicking off at around 12.30am.)

Just over a month earlier Mr charisma vacuum had cast his poison onto another team’s dreams of glory. “Wills” gloated about being a die-hard Aston Villa fan, providing a pep talk with his extensive knowledge of the game a day before their FA Cup final appearance in May. The result? Arsenal massacred them 4-0.

Prince William
Madame Tussauds were running out of poses for their dummies

The Duke of Cambridge may seem perfectly noble in these gestures of good will, but to see an entitled drip scurrying to become the self anointed (monotone) voice of the nation’s throng of sports fans is little short of ridiculous, serving as an unwelcome distraction to events, particularly that Wembley final where the infatuated TV production team insisted on panning to the guy every couple of minutes.


Stick to guarding the palace…

All I ask of the future king this summer is that he steer clear of Andy Murray matches at Wimbledon, avoids any Ashes cricket this summer and gives the athletics World Championships a wide berth… Although he’s still more than welcome to pledge his full, unequivocal allegiance to Aston Villa FC, specifically moments before their encounters with Newcastle United.

I am able to form enough incoherent, scrambled sentences myself without some follically challenged nitwit with an alluringly punchable face acting as spokesperson for me, as he attempts to piggy back on anything approaching British sporting success. At least David Cameron waits until after they’ve failed before extending empty hearted commiserations.

If either of those men breathed in the general vicinity of a cacti it would wither and die.


Final Plea

Infect the media by all means with your droning, rehearsed rhetoric; anyone not entirely devoid of wit can flip a channel or throw a Doc Martin boot through a screen rather than stare for days at footage of a door to ascertain whether you named your kid George, William or Henry.

Just leave sport, art and anything else not related to your royal remit out of the PR circus.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier Predictions: Round 10

Meg was certainly mystical in round 9, ending my two-match winning streak with a narrow 8-7 victory. This time I’m taking on one of the Midlands’ hottest young acting talents, and long-time suffering West Brom fan Dave Towns!

*All matches kick off at 15.00 on Saturday, May 2nd unless stated.

Leicester City vs Newcastle United
12.45, Saturday


Dom: 3-0
How different the landscape is from just over a month ago. Back then Leicester languished a full 17 points beneath Newcastle, but with a win here they would close the gap to just one, inflicting an eighth successive defeat on their fellow basement dwellers. That’s what will happen, as victory will see Foxes gaffer Nigel Pearson refrain from all talk of ostriches.

Les FerdinandDave: 3-0
Newcastle have been dragged into a relegation dogfight since Alan Pardew ditched the club to join the more ambitious Crystal Palace. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson went on an ostrich related rant during the press conference after his side’s 3-1 mid-week loss at Chelsea, but he’ll have more to smile about this time.

Aston Villa vs Everton

Dom: 3-2
Tim Sherwood has given Villa players and fans their belief back. Suddenly the erstwhile out of sorts Christian Benteke is once again a force to be reckoned with. Everton have gone on a blazing run of form recently, but are in mid-table limbo with Europa League ambitions, thus the Villains should prevail.

Paul McGrath

Dave: 2-0
Everton are already getting the sun cream out, whereas Villa are into squeaky-bum time. It’s now or never for Tim Sherwood’s improving side, and I can see Everton obliging by rolling over.

Liverpool vs Queens Park Rangers

Dom: 3-1
Brendan Rodgers has received plenty of flak for failing to build on last season’s success. Inflated transfer fees saw the £65m Luis Suarez windfall spent on the likes of Dejan Lovren and Mario Balotelli. Terrible travellers QPR are seemingly resigned to relegation.

Former Liverpool Football Club and Engla

Dave 1-2
This really is last chance saloon for The Hoops. Lose at the weekend and they might as well start planning for life in the Championship. Liverpool are dragging themselves over the finishing line like a dog with no hind legs, so don’t be surprised when Rangers take the points.

Sunderland vs Southampton

Dom: 1-1
Dick Advocaat’s impact on Sunderland has been negligible, despite yet another Tyne-Wear derby success. When 82 year-old Jermain Defoe, and (alleged) child molester Adam Johnson are your best players you’re in trouble. Saints have been brilliant all season, but the Mackems’ desperation will earn them a precious point.

Marian Pahars

Dave: 0-2
Southampton are playing with pride and remain in contention for a Europa League spot. Sunderland seem to be excited by the prospect of hosting Bristol City next season, a loss here could see them cut adrift of safety.

Swansea City vs Stoke City

Dom: 1-2
Swansea have reached a record 50 Premier League points in another excellent season, but Stoke have really impressed me this term, with Mark Hughes getting the best from a host of previously inconsistent players – the future is bright at the Britannia stadium.

Roberto Martinez

Dave: 0-0
This is the game that Tony Cottee will be watching for Sky Sports, and the former West Ham goal-sniffer is in for a long afternoon, with nothing set to happen in this for 90 minutes..other than the ref possibly dying from boredom.

West Ham United vs Burnley

Dom: 1-1
Burnley’s season has fizzled out, with Danny Ings’ dry spell seemingly consigning them to playing their football next season in the second tier, although the out of contract forward will have no trouble finding a new club. West Ham have similarly fallen off a cliff in recent months, expect a dissatisfying point apiece.

Leicester City programme Rio Ferdinand Steve Claridge

Dave: 0-1
Much like the Swansea/Stoke match this has snooze-fest written all over it… but a caveat will arrive when James Collins nets a blinding own goal in the 80th minute to provide three precious points for the Clarets!

Hull City vs Arsenal

Dom: 2-2
Two teams in decent form meet at the KC Stadium, and a point will be satisfying enough for both. Ultimately Hull won’t be relegated and Arsenal will easily qualify for the Champions League.

Thierry Henry sticker

Dave: 1-3
Hull’s good run is set to come to an end. Arsene Wenger will wear a massive coat and not notice anything apart from the penalty claim that the ref (correctly) turns down.

Manchester United vs West Brom
Saturday, 17.30

Dom: 3-1
United will be a force again next season, with such a vibrant second half to their campaign confirming that Van Gaal was certainly a shrewd appointment. West Brom are all but safe, so this loss won’t be of great consequence to their season.

William Prunier

Dave: 3-0
I never bet on West Brom, they always prove me wrong. Except this time, probably. Man United to come out of the blocks quickly and Pulis to have no plan B.

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
Sunday, 13.30

Dom: 2-1
Chelsea have ground out some important results in recent weeks, a trait that looks set to continue with a narrow victory against Palace. With so many wild card players, the visitors are always good for a goal, although newly crowned PFA player of the year Eden Hazard should sparkle in the face of lumbering opposition defenders.

Dimitri Kharine

Dave: 2-0
Chelsea will seal the Premiership title at Stamford Bridge. The champagne will be flowing by half time and no-one will realise that make-weights Crystal Palace are even there.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City
Sunday, 16.00

Dom: 1-1
It’s a strangely transitional phase for both of these teams; Spurs have never fully reached their potential since selling Gareth Bale, while City overspent on mediocre players in the summer, and the likes of Toure and Kompany seem to be on the decline. A draw will sum up where they’re at.

Spurs

Dave: 1-4
Spurs tend to struggle against the top teams, particularly Manchester City. Despite Manuel Pellegrini clearly being on his way out, the visitors will have a field day against Tottenham’s high line, with Eric Dier in particular exposed.

Mystic Meg’s victory last weekend sees her slot into equal third in the Premier Predictions table, Kureen still leads guest pundits 66-62, with only a few weeks of the season remaining.

1. DJ Rees: 11 Points

2. Just Mike: 9

3= True Geordie: 8

3= Mystic Meg: 8

5. Dom Kureen: 7.33 (average)

6. Damian Clark: 7

7. Kelvin West: 6

8. Jonathan O’Shea: 5

9. Nightshade: 5

10. Rik Waller: 3

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

John Carver and 10 other terrible EPL managers

John Carver’s reign as full-time Newcastle United boss has thus far proven little short of an unmitigated disaster, achieving the worst sequence for the club in 28 years by losing seven league matches in a row.

John Carver

Carver has previous failures on his CV; his track record was equally inept during his stint in the hot-seat, with just three points yielded from five matches as Leeds United’s interim boss, a similarly short and unsuccessful term at Sheffield United, and a woeful spell at Toronto FC, which ended with the club in the MLS relegation zone and Carver given his marching orders.

Mentioning that he’s a Geordie who worked under the great Sir Bobby Robson in virtually every interview may have been a ploy to garner sympathy from the Tyneside natives, but has in fact had the opposite effect, with the Toon Army soon tiring of JC reminiscing about getting the rub to justify his appointment.

Carver isn’t alone though, here’s a rundown of ten other terrible Premier League managers.

Iain DowieIain Dowie

Dowie has successfully led two teams to the Championship, as well as directly causing the relegation of a third. His top-flight career peaked in the mid-2000’s, as he tried admirably to save Crystal Palace from going straight back down, while at his next job, Dowie hopelessly kept Charlton in the relegation places, despite being given extensive funds, before getting sacked halfway through the 2005/06 season.

At Hull City, Dowie was brought in to keep the Tigers in the top tier, but once again, the former striker could not inspire any sort of survival. These facts speak for themselves and Dowie has to be considered one of the least inspiring Premier League managers ever.

Terry Connor

One in, one out: Terry Connor was out of his depth as a manager.
One in, one out: Terry Connor was out of his depth as a manager.

 

Terry Connor was Wolverhampton Wanderers’ assistant manager when Mick McCarthy was given the boot in February 2012. Despite having zero experience as a senior manager, Wolves entrusted Connor with keeping the club in the Premier League.

The 50 year old, who is back as McCarthy’s assistant at Ipswich Town, took over with the club in 18th position, yet by the end of the season, Wolves were at the bottom of the table. Connor failed to win a single game in his 13 games in charge, leading Wolves to seven consecutive defeats and life in the Championship.

Luiz ScolariLuiz Scolari

Scolari makes the list as he had a talented squad and excessive funds at his disposal; and this is without even mentioning his previous achievements, including a World Cup! His stint with Chelsea was in fact Scolari’s first (and only) job as manager of a European club and this may explain the reason why he didn’t even last until the end of the season.

The Brazilian boss endured a horrid run of form with the Blues and was replaced with interim manager Guus Hiddink in February 2009, who arrived to adjust the error of Scolari’s ways and win the FA Cup.

Les ReedLou Reed

Les Reed holds the record of having the shortest managerial reign in Premier League history, when he left Charlton Athletic by mutual consent, after just 41 days. He is regularly voted as the Addicks’ worst manager of all time and it’s to no surprise.

Reed’s stint of seven games produced one victory, one draw and five defeats, one of which was an embarrassing loss to League Two’s Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup. He was swiftly replaced by Alan Pardew in December 2006.

Juande Ramos

The first of two former Spurs managers in this list did initially win the hearts of his supporters by clinching the League Cup over Chelsea in 2008. Yet, in his second season in charge, the former Sevilla head coach lost his way in spectacular fashion, amassing 2 points from the opening 8 league games.

That mark remains Tottenham Hotspur’s worst ever start to a Premier League season and an inability to speak English did not help matters for the increasingly forlorn gaffer. Surprisingly Ramos’ next coaching position was at the helm of Real Madrid.

Steve WigleySteve Wigley

Steve Wigley replaced the equally inept Paul Sturrock as full time Southampton manager in August 2004. Many were surprised with Wigley’s appointment as his only previous experience was that of a three year spell of non-league Aldershot Town.

Wigley lasted a total of 14 games, with the Saints’ board realising their mistake and the 51 year old quickly returned to his duties with the club’s youth teams. he managed only one win during his time as manager  but that was against bitter rivals Portsmouth.

Steve KeanSteve Kean

Blackburn Rovers fans reading this will surely be satisfied that bumbling Kean’s torrid Ewood Park tenure has been acknowledged. The Scottish coach miserably led Blackburn to relegation during the 2011-12 season, and somehow managed to evade “Kean out” demands for many months before finally getting the boot in early 2013.

The 45 year old, currently without a job, splashed £8.25m on the exceptional Jordan Rhodes, but still couldn’t inspire the Blue and Whites towards a play-off place, suffering 30 defeats in just 60 games all told. His ignorance to the fans’ calls to resign just beats Paul Ince to a spot in the list.

Jacques SantiniJacques Santini

Who? I hear you ask. Santini is the first of two Spurs managers in this list (and Christian Gross could also have been included). The French manager had worked wonders at Lyon and tried his luck in the Premier League with Tottenham.

However, he only lasted five months in the job and was soon replaced by his assistant, Martin Jol, who went on to do very well. The French boss had a decent record as Spurs manager but announced his resignation after just 13 games.

Alan ShearerAlan Shearer

A harsh choice perhaps, considering that the Geordie legend was afforded only eight matches in charge of his beloved Newcastle United, and inherited a squad choc-full of has-beens, ne’er weres and rotten to the core characters.

It was little wonder then that his final stats in charge read 1 win, 2 draws and 5 defeats, albeit three of those reverses were at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Still, it was 1-0 losses to Fulham and Aston Villa that truly put paid to the club’s survival hopes, as Hull City escaped by a single point.

Brian KiddManchester United

After stints as manager at Barrow and Preston North End, Kidd became an assistant at Manchester United from 1988-98. While there, he learned from one of the all-time greats: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Did Kidd take what he learned from Ferguson into the head job at Blackburn? Of course not. Instead he got Rovers relegated in 1999 — just four years after they were champions.

The most painful part for Kidd is the knowledge that the stinging words of Sir Alex were swiftly proved accurate. Fergie never forgave Kidd for walking out of United and in his autobiography, he described his erstwhile right-hand man as a worrier who could not evaluate a player and talked behind his back –something which was difficult to deny after Kidd oversaw a host of terrible signings, such as £9m dud-duo Ashley Ward and Jason McAteer.

Agree with our list? Feel that we missed out some truly horrible bosses? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.