Tag Archives: football

Bo Knows – The amazing story of Bo Jackson

In the first of a two part look at those super-humans who have succeeded at the apex of more than one sport, new contributor Ken Irons sheds some light upon the extraordinary career of Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson.

Bo Jackson

It is sometimes easy to forget that certain individuals have actually reached the very top level in more than one sport simultaneously.

One such a super- athlete was Vincent Edward ‘Bo’ Jackson, born in Alabama in 1962 as one of 11 siblings. His mother was a lone parent. He was a naturally shy kid with a tendency to stutter and this could lead to anger and subsequent confrontation with other children. Such confrontations, however, were apt to be short lived as it didn’t take long for his peers to realise that baiting him was unacceptably dangerous.

Bo soon developed a superb physique. He grew powerful shoulders, partly due to his ongoing love of bow and arrow shooting, and had a sense of timing that enabled him to throw huge weights accurately and at lightning speed. His massive legs and exceptional lungpower ensured that, when he fully matured (at 6 feet one inch and 225 pounds), he was about as fast an athlete as you were likely to encounter anywhere.

Bo Jackson 2

He went into baseball, football and track, with word of his talent rapidly spreading, and won a baseball scholarship at Auburn University from 1982.

His natural talents and sheer athleticism guaranteed that spectators always got good value for their money when watching him. It was whilst at Auburn (which was his ‘home’ college) that he was approached illegally and signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers who wanted him to play football for them in the ‘off season’. this led to his dismissal by Auburn, an action that pleased neither party, but one that was inevitable under the circumstances.

Bo then signed with Kansas City Royals for baseball. Soon his enormous strikes and scintillating speed, coupled with a natural sense of balance, had the fans aghast.

Once, he sprinted at top speed toward the fence to take an astonishing catch over his shoulder and then, to avoid collision with the barrier, actually ran 3 or 4 steps up, and back down, the vertical structure.  This happened in one smoothly coordinated, unforgettable movement – small wonder that ESPN subsequently voted him the greatest athlete of all time, ahead of Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer et al.

Jackson’s football career commenced with L.A. Raiders. He declined further involvement with Tampa Bay, although he’d actually signed for them, feeling bitter about his enforced departure from Auburn and stating that he’d treat football as a “hobby” in the baseball off-season.

Only Bo, with his awesome qualities, could have adopted such a cavalier stance. His football skills matched his baseball skills and one could give no higher praise than that. He was, indeed, a superstar in both sports. Multimedia fame and highly rewarding advertising campaigns followed (see below.)

While playing football on 13 January, 1991, Bo was brought down from behind by a seemingly innocuous tackle which, it turned out, dislocated his hip.

Although he was optimistic about recovery at first, he subsequently underwent replacement surgery and, try as he might to recapture past glories, was never the same man again. He did play baseball with Chicago Whitesox (this, despite a false hip), but was a shell of his former self.

His legacy is well and truly preserved however. Indeed, if he had excelled in the modern era, rather than the mid-eighties to early nineties, such were his abilities that cynics would almost certainly be attributing them to the use of steroids.

Bo Jackson’s great tragedy was the cruelly shortened span of his domination.

Check back tomorrow for part two, where Ken takes a peek at a host of others who managed to excel at the zenith of more than one sport.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

Not Coming Out

Dom Kureen takes a glimpse at the homophobic attitude and fear associated with ‘coming out’ in men’s professional football.

Justin Fashanu’s limp, lifeless corpse dangles from the rafters of a dingy lock-up garage in Shoreditch, London, his neck is bound by a short length of rope and hangs loosely, seemingly held in place by something akin to a layer of Origami paper, as a member of the public stumbles upon the tragic scene.

Aged just 37 at the time of his death on May 2nd, 1998, Fashanu had at one point been regarded as English football’s next breakout star, signing a lucrative contract with Brian Clough’s high-flying Nottingham Forest in the summer of 1981 – subsequently becoming the first black player in the game to command a seven figure sum, following his £1m move from Norwich City.

Clough, a brilliant manager, but often unnecessarily outspoken man, had been shaped by traditional Victorian family values. This didn’t bode well for his new acquisition, who was banned from training with the rest of the squad after his sexual orientation and party lifestyle became common knowledge around the football club.

In one particularly fraught exchange, Clough barked angrily “Why do you keep going to that bloody poofs’ club?”

The relationship had reached breaking point and was severed irreparably soon after, when the Forest boss had his young striker escorted from the training pitch by two police officers.

Rapidly falling from grace, Fashanu came out publically in ‘The Sun’ on 22 October 1990 – the first high profile British sportsman to do so.

The sensationalised revelations led to widespread public and private criticism, notably at the hands of his younger brother, John, who was also a professional footballer.

“I wouldn’t like to play or even get changed in the vicinity of him, so if I’m like that then I’m sure that the rest of the footballers are like that” John said shortly after his brother’s tabloid revelations. The two siblings didn’t speak during the final seven years of Justin’s life.

In the 24 years that have passed since the Justin Fashanu exclusive broke, no active male professional footballer has come out, although a handful, such as former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, have done so shortly after retiring from the game.

Indeed, even in the semi-professional game in Britain there is only one openly gay footballer, Gainsborough Trinity’s Liam Davis, who has been public about his homosexuality for four years.

Rugby, cricket, tennis and a myriad of other sports have long accepted homosexuality: be it Gareth Thomas, Steven Davies, Martina Navratilova or more recently Tom Daley, the diver who broke millions of female hearts when he used YouTube to announce his relationship with another man and was generally well received for his honest admission.

Tom Daley used YouTube to reveal his same-sex relationship
Tom Daley used YouTube to reveal his same-sex relationship.

Former England international footballer, Sol Campbell, was the target of derogatory, homophobic chants from the terraces throughout his career; despite no evidence to suggest that he was gay (he is now with wife and child).

Campbell revealed to ‘BBC News’ that in his opinion many fans and professionals still have the blueprint of a stiff upper-lipped 1970’s footballer in their mind, so anything that deviates from that prototype makes them uncomfortable… He probably has a valid point.

England women’s international, Casey Stoney, went public with her sexuality in 2014, revealing to the ‘Telegraph’ newspaper that she was inspired by the positive reaction Daley received:

  “I feel it’s really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay, and you hear about people taking their own lives because they are homosexual. That should never happen.”

Conversely, the majority of her male counterparts remain, on the surface at least, far from ready to accept the presence of persuasions in conflict with heterosexuality among their peers. The primitive psyche that surrounds the sport is one reason why it is often perceived as the brutish step-cousin of competitive pastimes.

In that sense things have receded rather than progressed since Justin Fashanu was universally shunned more than two decades ago. One need only look at how that situation regrettably played out to see why there is still an apparent taboo on top-flight players admitting such a thing, but can more than 5000 professional football players really all be ‘straight’?

The blinkers are on. As football agent Eric Hall assuredly stated for ‘Inside Story’ “Football isn’t really a game that gay people play, I believe that there aren’t any homosexual players among the professionals.”

That sort of wishful thinking may provide a misguided crumb of comfort for a sport becoming jaded by its own deep-seated insecurities; a sport unable to come to terms with the inevitable from the sanctuary of its own cocoon.

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: Week 6.

Dom Kureen experienced his first victory of the season on Boxing Day, defeating legendary soccer utility player Jonathan O’Shea by 7 points to 5 by predicting seven correct outcomes without an exact result.

Fingers Crossed

Now on a roll, the home predictor takes on Hollister CEO, former Torquay United youth team winger and devout Manchester United supporter Damian Clark – a man who resembles a youthful Lewis Hamilton.

*A correct outcome gains one point, an exact result three points. All games kick off at 3pm on 28th December unless stated.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United
Sunday, 12.00

15642382199_f249bf8d16_o

Dom: 2-2
Two teams that score and concede freely should contest an open, attractive match at White Hart Lane. Harry Kane is this season’s undisputed champion of scuffed strikes that somehow find the net. Man United will be boosted by the return of Luke Shaw, and with Falcao, Rooney and Van Persie all hitting their stride, a draw seems about right.

DC: 1-2
Harry Kane’s impressive form looks set to continue for Spurs, but with the home team’s lacklustre defence, United’s attacking power will make the difference on the day. The Red Devils have an outstanding record at White Hart Lane and Van Gaal will want maximum points to keep their faint title hopes alive.

Southampton vs Chelsea
Sunday, 14.05

Dom: 1-3
Saints have been miserable against the league’s elite, usually losing by a few goals. Chelsea seem to have swiftly recovered from their only defeat of the season against Newcastle, with captain John Terry inspiring a quartet of victories since. JT might not trouble the scorers this time, but Diego Costa is worth backing to net a couple.

DC: 1-1
Southampton have rekindled the form that propelled them towards the top of the table, highlighted by the excellent win against Crystal Palace that ultimately cost Neil Warnock his job. Mourinho’s troops have ridden their luck at times – this could be the day that it catches up with them.

Aston Villa vs Sunderland

Dom: 2-1
Two middling teams seeking retribution for Boxing Day losses. It was the Mackems’ 3-1 home reverse to struggling Hull City that will have hurt the most, deflating most of the positive kudos that a 1-0 Tyne-Wear derby victory had brought previously. Benteke’s presence should give the Villains the edge in what promises to be the bowling shoe ugly encounter of the day.

DC: 2-2
Benteke’s goals have been priceless for the Midlands side, and with Sunderland not getting the rub of the green against Hull to suffer defeat despite playing well, it makes for an evenly contested, open game of football.

Hull City vs Leicester City

Kasper Schmeichel

Dom: 2-1
The Tigers’ away win at the Stadium of Light was priceless, and perhaps a major reason why gaffer Steve Bruce didn’t join Neil Warnock in receiving his P45. Neither team exactly screams confidence. Leonardo Ulloa looked back to somewhere near his best against Spurs, unfortunately for The Foxes he alone can’t stop the rot.

DC: 2-0
Nigel Pearson and Leicester’s miserable run will continue at the KC Stadium. The transfer window needs to be used wisely if they want to avoid being cut off from the rest of the division. Hull will feel confident of another three points to pull them away from the drop zone.

Manchester City vs Burnley

Dom: 4-0
Man City have been irresistible since opting to use the Spanish Euro 2012 tactics of playing without a striker. The Burnley defenders are barely equipped to stop James Milner, let alone the likes of Navas, Silva and Yaya Toure. Danny Ings has real quality about him, but won’t get the service to make a difference today.

DC: 3-0
David Silva is likely to get on the score sheet again, the diminutive Spanish international looks to be in menacing form. Burnley will need to be at their very best for 90 minutes and hope that one or two City players take them lightly if they’re to salvage anything from this game.

Queens Park Rangers vs Crystal Palace

Dom: 4-1
There seemed little logic to booting out the stale Neil Warnock during such a hectic period of the season, other than if Palace have somebody lined up (which it doesn’t seem like they do.) Harry’s Hoops have been dynamic at Loftus Road, with Charlie Austin filling his boots, the former Poole City striker will enjoy facing this dishevelled bunch.

DC: 1-1
With Warnock’s departure just over 24 hours ago, Palace will be hoping for a fresh start, and there’s no better way to achieve that than by beating fellow relegation battlers in this London derby. QPR have been in good nick recently and will need to maintain that to gain a point against a rejuvenated Palace.

Stoke City vs West Bromwich Albion

Berahino

Dom: 1-0
Stoke have reverted to type recently, utilising Peter Crouch as a loan target man, with the lightning footwork of Victor Moses and Bojan Krkic either side. The Baggies are quite an industrious team, but could really use a Bojan of their own to take some of the offensive burden from the shoulders of reportedly Tottenham-bound Saido Berahino.

DC: 1-0
With Stoke’s organisation at the back and the flair of Bojan, who seems to have finally found his feet after years of European under achievement, they will be too strong for a West Brom team whose manager’s future is in the balance. Berahino’s goals have dried up, as has the visitors’ creativity around the penalty area.

West Ham United vs Arsenal

Dom: 2-1
Andy Carroll and co. will fancy their chances against a depleted Gunners defence, who were forced to slot left-back Nacho Monreal into a central defensive role against QPR a couple of days ago. Olivier Giroud’s senseless red card stretches Arsenal’s reduced ranks further; despite putting in a decent shift I can see them being out muscled in this one.

DC: 1-3
A tough London derby, with both teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Carroll will be in the mood to pile some post-Christmas misery upon Arsenal, but with Sanchez in mesmeric form it will be the visitors who hold out for three crucial points.

Newcastle United vs Everton
Sunday, 16.15

Dom: 1-1
A bizarre campaign thus far for Newcastle has recently witnessed six victories on the spin followed by four consecutive defeats. Ayoze Perez is a real find and the only Toon player to shine during Friday’s defeat at Old Trafford. Everton’s home reverse at the hands of Stoke was yet another blip in a soul sapping season – two side who need a win will have to settle for a point.

DC: 1-1
Two teams who could have mixed fortunes this season. Everton are yet to hit the standards set last season and Newcastle’s inconsistency has cost them in recent weeks. This one has draw written all over it.

Liverpool vs Swansea City
Monday, 20.00

Raheem Sterling

Dom: 3-1
Liverpool scraped a one goal win at Turf Moor on Friday, having gained a last-gasp point against Arsenal the previous weekend. It seems as if the Reds are picking up momentum, with Raheem Sterling leading from the front. Swansea aren’t great travellers and despite Bony’s presence they’ll succumb to the home side’s new found spirit.

DC: 1-1
Liverpool’s lacklustre summer transfer dealings have hurt them this season. With Luis Suarez sold, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Daniel Sturridge have barely troubled the scorers. As a result Brendan Rodgers  has been forced to switch Sterling to a central role.  Victory for Swansea will see them climb six points above their hosts in what has been a steady season for Garry Monk’s charges thus far.

The Premier Predictions league table is still led by DJ Rees. Dom’s win means that he now resides in mid-table, while Jonathan O’Shea is unfortunate to bring up the rear, having been the victim of a spate of underdog victories during Boxing Day’s matches.

1. DJ Rees: 11 Points

2. Just Mike: 9

3. True Geordie: 8

4. Dom Kureen: 7.20 (average)

5. Kelvin West: 6

6. Jonathan O’Shea: 5

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. Week Five

Another sticky week for Dom Kureen saw him defeated 6-4 by actor/muso Kelvin West. Surely the current rut can’t last for much longer, with a packed Christmas Premier League schedule allowing ample opportunity for a renaissance.

Pink Ganesh

In this Boxing Day instalment of Premier Predictions, Dom takes on the might of music journalist, youth educator and former Irish footballer Jonathan O’Shea, a man who speaks 14 languages fluently, three of them Flemish.

*All Boxing Day fixtures kick off at 3pm unless stated.

Chelsea vs West Ham United
Kick Off: 12.45pm

John Terry

Dom: 2-1
Chelsea were effortlessly impressive at Stoke during a 2-0 victory last weekend, with evergreen John Terry scooping man of the match honours. West Ham should provide a more arduous proposition, with main man Andy Carroll at last finding his feet (and fitness). The lanky sick note should give Terry and Cahill a headache, but the Hammers will exit empty handed.

Jon: 2-1
A blood-and-thunder East v West clash of cultures is on the cards at the Bridge. Big Fat Sam may have ‘diversified the brand’ this season, but will primarily concentrate on using his multiple big units to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea’s own beasts (Ivanovic, Matic, Diego Costa, et al). A win will keep Chelsea clear at the top and (come May) the Hammers can clinch a Europa League spot.

Burnley vs Liverpool

Dom: 1-2
Martin Skrtel’s 97th minute point salvager against Arsenal felt significant for the Reds. Unfortunate not to win on the day, Brendan Rodgers will view Burnley as the match where his team can place short-term crisis talks to bed. Clarets’ star man Danny Ings is always lively; the young striker could conceivably trade Turf Moor for Anfield next month.

Jon:  1-1
Will Danny Ings still be around by the end of January? Will Brendan Rodgers? I reckon the former will net a late equaliser to once again undermine the latter’s floundering attempts to rescue Liverpool’s stalled season. A vitally important transfer window awaits both sides.

Crystal Palace vs Southampton

Dom: 2-2
The Eagles are among a crop of unpredictable teams in the top-flight this term. On one hand they have bucket loads of flair in wide positions, on the other they lack any form of legit front man (Fraizer Campbell doesn’t count.) Saints were back to their best with a 3-0 slaying of Everton last week, but they’re never as penetrating on their travels. A point apiece.

Jon: 0-2
Palace, as their curiously-coiffed gaffer freely admits, are desperately short up front. The Saints, meanwhile, have many expensively-acquired forward options and can also cherry- pick fresh prospects, such as the impressive Harrison Reed, from their fantastic academy as and when they wish. Ronald Koeman is notoriously level-headed and will stay patient while his side grind out the win.

Everton vs Stoke City

Lego Robot Dance

Dom: 2-1
The Europa League has clearly affected Everton, with half of their summer acquisitions loan deals made permanent, inevitably that policy can promote stagnation. Worse still, key duo Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry have been far less effective since becoming full-time Toffees. Stoke are destined for a lower-mid table finish, remaining adjacent to the bottom feeders after this narrow defeat.

Jon: 2-1
It’s been a tough term on both sides of Stanley Park. Despite bringing the old gang back together (loanees Barry and Lukaku signing permanent deals in the summer), Everton have regressed. The Toffees real strength, as anyone will tell you though, lies in the wide areas – one of their flying full-backs will spring to the rescue here with a characteristic late penalty-box surge.

Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Dom: 1-3
Nigel Pearson currently resembles a toddler padding through quick sand, resorting to the same stale tactics and clichéd post-match diatribe week after week. His is a glorified Championship team, who despite early season promise are, by a distance, the puniest collective in the division. The Foxes will be totally overrun by an improving Spurs side – for whom Christian Eriksen has been a revelation.

Jon: 0-0
Freakish free-for-alls apart (the dreamlike 5-3 thumping of United) Leicester have struggled to create and score. Consistency, for Spurs, continues to be more elusive than Twitter fiend Joey Barton’s sense of hypocrisy. Erik Lamela brings to mind early-United era Cristiano Ronaldo: all slickness but little substance, while Christian Eriksen is the real deal and Harry Kane shows promise, but they still lack a killer instinct.

Manchester United vs Newcastle United

Newcastle Manchester United

Dom: 3-0
If this fixture had been played a month ago Newcastle might have fancied their chances. Since then Louis Van Gaal’s side have stumbled upon some consistency, in no small part aided by the return of Michael Carrick. The Toon have an injury crisis that threatens to suck them back into trouble – they should be fine once a few of the better players return, but until then it could be onerous for fans.

Jon: 4-2
Falcao’s Villa Park equaliser last week should be an ominous sign for the other Champions League chasers – with RVP back in full flow, United now possess the most deadly striking unit in the PL. Newcastle left the (Gallow)gate open while chasing an overdue derby win last week and suffered another bitter defeat by the merciless Mackems. Defensive frailties abound here, so expect six goals as a minimum.

Sunderland vs Hull City

Dom: 0-0
The Mackems won the Tyne-Wear derby in the dying throes on Sunday, as their Geordie hosts overplayed gung-ho when seeking a late winner, that was only Sunderland’s third league victory in 17 matches thus far. With both teams averaging less than one goal per game this has the potential to have all the hard hitting action of Pip Schofield interrogating Pudsey Bear.

Jon: 1-0
Having grown tired of ties, Sunderland finally seized the day against their reviled rivals and the sublimely talented Adam Johnson was the hero once more. Top scorer Stephen Fletcher will be the difference in this hugely important game for ex-Mackem manager Steve Bruce. Hull will have to get busy in the January window if they want to stay afloat (for evidence that Tigers can float, check out ‘Life of Pi’)

Swansea City vs Aston Villa

Wilfried Bony

Dom: 3-2
The overturning of slack jawed speed merchant Gabby Agbonlahor’s unwarranted red card against Manchester United provides a boost for Paul Lambert, who must envisage the former England forward’s presence alongside Christian Benteke as a key component of the Villains’ blueprint. Swansea love playing on their own ground and Wilfried Bony will fancy his chances against a ponderous Villa defence.

Jon: 0-6 1-1
Big boys Bony and Benteke will share the spoils here, after Villa customarily cede 79% of possession and hope to nick 0.4 of a goal on the break. Delph and Sanchez will provide some serious steel in midfield. By contrast, the Swans’ Gary Monk sets out to play keep-ball in every eventuality and has been richly rewarded by a high-flying start to the season.

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City

Dom: 0-2
The Baggies don’t often suffer heavy defeats, but have the stodgiest midfield in the top-tier, burdened by unimaginative workhorses. In the absence of Sergio Aguero the likes of David Silva and Jesus Navas have come to the party for City, who will leave the Hawthorns with three more precious points.

Jon: 2-3
Striker-less City were a joy to behold once they took the upper hand last week; with David Silva, Jesus Navas and Yaya Toure sparking off their unlikely foil, the ever-versatile James Milner. They’ll score again in the absence of Aguero & co, because West Brom are flakier than filo. Saido Berahino can edge back to form with another eye-catching display against a PL big gun, but alas no post-Chrimbo cigar.

Arsenal vs Queens Park Rangers
Kick Off: 17.30

Mathieu Debuchy

Dom: 3-1
Matthieu Debuchy turned from hero to villain last week, the right-back cum centre-half scoring his first Gunners goal to level matters at Anfield, followed by ludicrous marking that allowed Martin Skrtel to bullet home the latest of late equalisers. In 11-goal Charlie Austin Rangers boast a striker with the ability to disturb any makeshift defence, although without a single point on their travels and with the ancient Clint Hill/Richard Dunne in situ they’ll concede a few too.

Jon: 3-1
Expect: Arsenal to revert to swashbuckling type back at home, after travails on their travels. Wenger’s boys barely deserved to return with a point from Anfield but nearly snatched all three – QPR always shrivel away from Loftus Road’s tight confines though. Don’t expect: Sky’s Thierry Henry to make a brief cameo with a last minute handballed winner for the Gunners.

After four editions of Premier Predictions DJ Rees remains the front runner, with Dom just ahead of Kelvin West, despite him suffering 6-4 loss in their head-to-head!

1. DJ Rees: 11 points

2. Just Mike: 9

3. True Geordie: 8

4. Dom: 7.25 (average points scored)

5. Kelvin West: 6

 

Think that you can do better? Get in touch and you could be part of Premier Predictions in 2015!

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: Pt.3.

During the previous edition of Premier Predictions, ‘Just Mike’ managed an 8-8 tie with Dom Kureen, with both achieving one exact scoreline and five other correct outcomes.

Mystic Psychic

This time Dom tests his mettle against YouTube royalty ‘The True Geordie’ who uploaded his predictions to the video sharing site. If you enjoy football and don’t mind the occasional cuss word please check out his Youtube channel.

*All matches kick off at 3pm on Saturday unless otherwise stated. 

Burnley vs Southampton

Dom: 1-2
Burnley finally found their Premier League mojo during November, only for a 2-0 defeat at Loftus Road in their previous match to suck them back into the bottom three. A Saints side fresh from a trio of successive defeats to some of the leagues biggest hitters will see a trip to Turf Moor as winnable, but will have to dig deep to earn it.

TG: 1-1

Chelsea vs Hull City

Ben-Arfa: Steve Bruce wishes he'd kept the receipt.
Ben-Arfa: Steve Bruce wishes he’d kept the receipt.

Dom: 4-1
No longer ‘the invincibles’, Chelsea will be keen to return to winning ways after a torrid 2-1 defeat against Newcastle allowed Man City back to within touching distance of the top-flight summit. Hull City can’t buy a win and look void of ideas, they could face a morale sapping afternoon in south London.

TG: 2-0

Crystal Palace vs Stoke City

Dom: 0-1
Two teams who performed well last weekend, it was Stoke who took the headlines with a sensational 3-2 victory against Arsenal, while Palace had to settle for a stalemate at White Hart Lane. In Bojan Krkic, Mark Hughes’ Potters have one of the league’s in form players, expect the little dynamo to shine again.

TG: 1-1

Leicester City vs Manchester City

Hart stopper: Man City custodian has been in superb form this term.
Hart stopper: Man City custodian has been in superb form this term.

Dom: 2-3
The Foxes would love to turn the clock back a couple of months to take a page from their pulsating 5-3 triumph against Man United. The lights have dimmed at the King Power Stadium since then, with a series of lightweight showings leaving them rooted to the foot of the table. City have returned to winning ways both domestically and in Europe; even without Aguero they’ll win by the odd goal in five.

TG: 0-2

Sunderland vs West Ham

Dom: 2-2
Expect free-flowing, direct football at the Stadium of Light, where Sunderland have been frustratingly inconsistent all season. Andy Carroll sent out a warning to the rest of the league with his brace of goals and assist battering Swansea last week. The gargantuan Geordie will revel in the inevitable sour reaction he receives, but the Mackems have enough about them to nick a point against the run of play.

TG: 0-2

West Bromwich Albion vs Aston Villa

Dom: 1-1
A derby of sorts between two mid-table teams should be evenly contested. West Brom are tidy enough without inspiration, whilst Villa rely heavily on the over burdened Christian Benteke – the Belgian’s return seeing them halt a run of nine without a win. He might score again at the Hawthorns, but it will only be a point saver this time.

TG: 0-0

Arsenal vs Newcastle United
Saturday, 17.30

Colo: Newcastle captain should be fit to start at the Emirates.
Colo: Newcastle captain should be fit to start at the Emirates.

Dom: 3-0
Arsenal’s walking wounded are only outnumbered in the top-flight by the Magpies’ extensive casualties, so in essence it may come down to who can adapt the better of the two. Arsenal have been ordinary so far this campaign, but will fancy their chances against a Newcastle team who have a pitiful record at the Emirates in recent seasons.

TG: 1-1

Manchester United vs Liverpool
Sunday, 13.30.

Dom: 2-1
A slightly fortuitous win at St Mary’s on Monday continued United’s upward momentum, with the previously maligned Robin Van Persie at his clinical best for his two goals. Liverpool are lacking inspiration sans the injured Sturridge and erstwhile Suarez. They’ll exhibit plenty of pride at Old Trafford, but it won’t be enough to increase their points tally; Rooney and Mata to shine for the home side.

TG: 1-0

Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, 16.00

Dom: 1-2
The Swans suffered at the hands of a resurgent Andy Carroll last weekend, fortunately for them Spurs’ strike force currently carries all of the threat of a moribund chihuahua. In Christian Eriksen the visitors do possess a play maker of high calibre, and in Harry Kane a young striker with hefty upside, the pair will combine to earn Pochettino an invaluable three points.

TG: 2-1

Everton vs Queens Park Rangers
Monday, 20.00

Dom: 2-0
With Charlie Austin absent it’s difficult to see where the goals are going to come from in this hoops side, barring a rare wonder-strike from Niko Kranjcar or scuffed tap-in from Bobby Zamora. Romelu Lukaku has been a shadow of his former self since Everton splashed a club record £28m on the forward in the summer. With that in mind expect a brace from the big Belgian.

TG: 1-0

DJ Rees still leads the way with 11 points, can anyone defeat the prince of predictions? Stay tuned to find out!

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 Predictions pt.2

Last weekend’s inaugural edition of Premier League Predictions saw Dom Kureen test his psychic powers against former England beach soccer international DJ Rees. It was the sand lurking sharp shooter who prospered, crushing the host’s modest five points with an outstanding three exact results and two other correct outcomes for 11 points of his own. 

The favoured technique for predicting scores this week
The favoured technique for predicting scores this week

This time it’s the turn of a man some say owns the main cottage for cottage cheese distribution, others say he has a tongue made of wax and oat flapjacks – to those who are closest to him he’s ‘Just Mike’.

*All matches: kick off Tuesday, 19.45 unless stated.

Burnley vs Newcastle United

Dom: 0-0
Two sides whose recent winning runs came to an end last weekend. The Toon’s 1-0 reverse at Upton Park was compounded by a slew of suspensions and injuries – their depleted troops might just have enough to repel Danny Ings and co.

Mike: 2-3
With both teams prone to bouts of substandard defending it should be an open game at Turf Moor. Newcastle in particular have a lot of defenders missing, hopefully forcing them onto the front foot to compensate, although in Danny Ings the Clarets have one of the league’s in-form marksmen.

Leicester City vs Liverpool

Dom: 1-3
Glen Johnson’s last gasp winner against Stoke on Saturday dissipated some of the gloom surrounding the Kop. Leicester’s thrilling defeat in a five goal thriller at QPR was the latest in a string of setbacks, with the Foxes in free-fall. Liverpool to click, Leicester to feel sick.

Mike: 0-0
Liverpool’s late winner at the weekend failed to mask the lack of innovative quality currently afflicting the side. The same shortcomings will be highlighted at The King Power Stadium, with Leicester over compensating for the weekend’s goal fest by ‘parking the bus’.

Manchester United vs Stoke City

RVP: Taking more corners so that he can touch the ball more than 11 times in future matches.
RVP: Will he touch the ball more than 11 times tonight?

Dom: 3-1
United are belatedly showing signs of a pulse, with their much maligned back line and the previously out of form Robin Van Persie impressing during a 4-0 blitz against Hull City at the weekend. Stoke are solid and with Bojan beginning to adapt – the Potters seem set for their standard mid-table finish despite defeat here.

Mike: 2-0
It’s probably too late for Manchester United to mount a serious tilt at the Premier League title, but with their collective fire power Old Trafford should welcome back Champions League action next season. Their resurgent form should be enough to see off stubborn Stoke.

Swansea vs Queens Park Rangers

Dom: 2-1
The Swans have been frustrating in recent weeks, their aesthetically gratifying build up play too often lacking a clinical touch in the final third. The Hoops are in a rich vein of form and with Charlie Austin on fire they’ll run their hosts close.

Mike: 3-1
Swansea’s Liberty Stadium points haul is the main reason why they currently sit pretty in the table. A disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Crystal Palace should be remedied by a comfortable victory against Harry Redknapp’s relegation battlers, although Bobby Zamora and Charlie Austin could prove to be a handful.

Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa
Tuesday, 20.00.

Dom: 1-1
Two teams struggling to rise above the league’s nadir, Palace do at least attempt to do more than simply stifle their opponents (Villa’s trademark under Paul Lambert). Expect this to be last on Wednesday’s Match of The Day running order.

Mike: 2-1
This has lack of quality written all over it, although the return of Christian Benteke will afford Aston Villa supporters some cheer during the festive season. Under Neil Warnock Palace have turned Selhurst Park into a difficult arena for visiting teams, that coupled with Villa’s lack of imagination should ensure that the Eagles take the spoils.

West Bromwich Albion vs West Ham United
Tuesday, 20.00

Dom: 2-1
West Brom’s promising start is in danger of going to waste if their current poor run continues. With Saido Berahino in razor sharp form and Andy Carroll yet to open his seasonal account, the Baggies might just squeak by here.

Mike: 1-2
West Ham have reinvented themselves this season, with an eye-catching counter-attacking style to their play. Since the return of Andy Carroll from injury they’ve admittedly resorted to a more direct approach, but with West Brom unable to muster shots on goal at the moment it’s hard to see them avoiding defeat in front of their patient fans.

Arsenal vs Southampton
Wednesday, 19.45

"Fifa 15 had us both fit for three matches in a row.... fake!"
“Fifa 15 had us both fit for three matches in a row…. fake!”

Dom: 2-0
The Gunners have one of the softest centres among Europe’s elite clubs, lacking leadership and a robust element to their spine. A 3-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City brought high-flying Saints down to earth at the weekend, expect more of the same at the Emirates.

Mike: 4-4
Two teams slowly finding their place in the league come head to head in North London, with Southampton keen to prove they’ve got the staying power to mount a Champions League charge. Expect goals, cards and controversy during a highly charged contest.

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
Wednesday, 19.45

Dom: 2-1
A pair of clubs with different lofty aspirations; Chelsea will view anything less than the 2014-15 Premier League crown as anticlimactic, while Spurs know that a top four finish is well within their grasp in this most unpredictable of seasons. The latter’s fragile defence is likely to be exposed at Stamford Bridge, although it will be far from one way traffic.

Mike: 3-0
Jose Mourinho has built a squad with the quality and depth to challenge on all fronts. Tottenham did well to snatch a couple of 2-1 wins against the run of play last month, but will struggle in south London, with Chelsea running out comfortable winners on the night.

Everton vs Hull City
Wednesday, 19.45

Dom: 3-1
Everton gave a decent account of themselves during their 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane on Sunday, and although some of their big hitters are yet to come to the party they should win with something to spare against a Tigers side of diminishing potency and increasing predictability.

Mike: 1-2
Hull started the season with vigour and belief, something that has since been quashed by a combination of half-hearted forward players and unfortunate decisions. Everton remain unconvincing, struggling to juggle Europa League and domestic football, for that reason I’m backing Steve Bruce to return to the Yorkshire with three much needed points.

Sunderland vs Manchester City
Wednesday, 19.45

Aguero - a perfect strike partner for Aguero.
Aguero – a perfect strike partner for Aguero.

Dom: 1-1
The Mackems are a strange bunch, reserving their better performances for elite opposition; evident as they clung on for a goalless draw against Chelsea in their previous match. Man City’s man of the moment, Sergio Aguero, followed his Champions League hat-trick against Bayern with a trio of assists at Southampton, and although he’ll probably net again it will only be enough for a point.

Mike: 2-2
Sunderland will fancy their chances against a City side whose first choice central defensive pair, Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala, are absent, possibly forcing full-back Bacary Sagna to shift into the middle. A 2-2 draw in this fixture was the catalyst for the Black Cats’ great escape last spring, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of that scoreline here.

So, do you think we nailed it this time? Can anyone overhaul DJ Rees’ 11 point haul? Let us know your thoughts.

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 D-Day preview

Can Norwich manage the great miracle escape at West Bromwich Albion’s expense? Can Liverpool rip the title from Manchester City’s affluent clutches with a helping hand from West Ham? Dom Kureen takes a look at the today’s decisive Premier League fixtures.

Premier League logo

Cardiff City vs Chelsea

Bluebirds fans have endured a miserable sequence of results since unpopular chairman Vincent Tan dispensed with the services of Malky Mackay and appointed the relatively unproven Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – resulting in an inevitable relegation that was confirmed last weekend.

Chelsea on the other hand would have probably won the title with a top notch goalscorer among their front line – Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres managing a combined total of 18 league goals and only exhibiting fleeting prowess.

It begs the question: Why did they loan out the exceptional Romelu Lukaku to Everton?

 

Prediction: 1-2 – Chelsea should have too much for a Cardiff side already planning for next term.

Fulham vs Crystal Palace

Past it: Brede Hangeland is one of many 30-somethings on Fulham's books
Past it: Brede Hangeland is one of many 30-somethings on Fulham’s books

You would have got long odds on The Eagles staying up at the start of the season, with Ian Holloway deciding to quit after a handful of belief sapping drubbings.

That proved to be the catalyst for a remarkable change of fortunes, with new chief Tony Pulis transforming Palace into a rugged mid-table outfit and resurrecting floundering individual careers at will.

Fulham have employed three different full-time managers this season, in a futile attempt to retain Premier League status, although current boss Felix Magath has done a reasonable job of utilising a squad bursting with decrepit and erratic flops.

 

Prediction: 2-1 – Neither team has anything on the line, but Fulham will be desperate to give their long suffering fans a happy Summer send-off.

Hull City vs Everton

Two teams that have exceeded pre-season predictions. The Tigers could bounce from 16th to 12th with a victory, leapfrogging a cluster of sides directly above them.

Everton have used the loan system more efficiently than anyone else, securing the services of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deuolfeu and Lacina Traore over the past two transfer windows.

Finally running out in the steam in late April, the rise of English prospects such as John Stones and Ross Barkley has been another bonus and a major reason why European football will feature at Goodison Park in 2014-15.

 

Prediction: 1-3: Two sides whose form has petered out as of late, Everton should nonetheless be able to gain a convincing victory.

Liverpool vs Newcastle United

King Luis: Suarez has hit 30 league goals this term to keep Liverpool in contention
King Luis: Suarez has hit 30 league goals this term to keep Liverpool in contention

Steven Gerrard’s untimely slip against Chelsea, followed shortly after by Liverpool’s capitulation at Crystal Palace, will mean that the Reds are probably more concerned about events at the City of Manchester Stadium than what’s unfolding before their eyes.

Brendan Rodgers’ boys must win and hope that West Ham do them a solid against Manchester City, who only need to draw their home match to secure a resting place at the summit.

Newcastle’s 3-0 win against Cardiff last weekend eased the pressure on Alan Pardew somewhat, but their horrific form since selling Yohan Cabaye in January has undermined what was developing into a hugely promising campaign.

 

Prediction: 4-1 – Rodgers knows that it’s win or bust. With more than 40,000 fervent home fans roaring the home side on they’ll dispatch a troubled Toon side without too much resistance.

 

Manchester City vs West Ham United

Fans favourite: Yaya Toure has been Man City's key player
Fans favourite: Yaya Toure has been Man City’s key player

Dispensing with Roberto Mancini in favour of Manuel Pellegrini in the summer, City have added flair and guile to an already high calibre group, in the process hammering home a remarkable 100 league goals (one more than Liverpool.)

Yaya Toure has struck 20 of those from midfield, establishing himself as the English football’s most intimidating presence in the process. The Ivory Coast international’s availability will be key against a Hammers team with an at times painstakingly direct philosophy.

Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll are key to ‘big’ Sam Allardyce’s ethos and could cause major discomfort to City’s back line, most notably error-prone Argentinian Martin Demichelis.

 

Prediction: 2-2 – Big Sam will be keen to disrupt this party and increase his job security as a bi-product, this will be far from a cake walk.

Norwich City vs Arsenal

The Canaries have faltered in the final third of the season, not helped by an horrendous fixture run-in. Chris Hughton’s dismissal has failed to vastly improve matters and a brave 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week was too little, too late.

Norwich could still mathematically stay up… If they win 10-0 and West Bromwich Albion lose at home to Stoke by eight or more goals (or results to that effect.)

Arsenal’s recent resurgence ensured that they fended off Everton for the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying slot. With an FA Cup final to come, expect the Gunners to rest a clutch of first team regulars.

 

Prediction: 2-3 – Norwich will hope to exploit some weaker links in Arsene Wenger’s selection, but their own flaws should once again be more deeply exposed come the final whistle.

 

Southampton vs Manchester United

Van The Man: Man United have lined up Louis Van Gaal as their next manager
Van The Man: United have lined up Louis Van Gaal as their next manager

Saints have been terrific this season, utilising their young English talent, whilst augmenting the squad with a few high calibre additions. In boss Mauricio Pochettino they also possess one of the most exciting young managers around.

Manchester United may be eight points above today’s opponents, but an alarming fall from grace necessitated David Moyes’ dismissal less than ten months into the role – leading to club legend Ryan Giggs taking over at the helm for the conclusive quartet of contests.

Expect United to promptly clear out around a dozen players who have long been living off past glories.

 

Prediction: 3-3 – Giggs and Pochettino will both be keen to attack from the off, meaning that this should be an end-to-end festival of reckless, exciting football.

 

Sunderland vs Swansea City

No team has defied logic like Sunderland over the past month. Sitting seven points from safety with a formidable set of fixtures to come, they proceeded to gain 13 points from a possible 15 to secure their seat among the elite.

Swansea have been grateful of £12m summer acquisition Wilfried Bony’s 24 goals, which have proven integral to their survival. Fellow close season arrival, Jonjo Shelvey, has pulled the strings in midfield.

With only one point separating these sides in the table, both will be relieved to have belatedly hit their stride after earlier turbulence.

 

Prediction: 3-1 – Sunderland are on a roll, expect that to continue against the Swans.

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa

Big Ben: Villa have struggled in Christian Benteke's absence
Big Ben: Villa have struggled in Christian Benteke’s absence

Andres Villa Boas’ Tottenham tenure was ill-fated from the start and his replacement, Tim Sherwood, was always going to be a temporary patch on a wound that eventually required major surgery.

Having sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record fee of £85.3m in the summer, Spurs appear to have squandered the majority of that bunse on over priced flops, although Christian Eriksen has shown glimpses of his pedigree.

Villa have stagnated following a promising conclusion to 2012-13’s excursions. Much of that has been related to a trilogy of circumstances: the regular absence of star striker Christian Benteke, a clutch of dire additions in the past couple of transfer windows and fluctuating form from mediocre youngsters.

 

Prediction: 3-1 – Villa are uninspiring and despite their best form having come away from Villa Park, they are unlikely to trouble Spurs.

 

West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City

Pepe Mel didn’t have the instant impact associated with a new manager when he replaced Steve Clarke in January, finally gaining his inaugural victory at the seventh attempt.

April successes at the expense of Norwich and West Ham put the boing back in the Baggies’ step though and, barring snookers, survival is assured, although they will hope to improve drastically next time out.

Stoke have progressed significantly under the guidance of Mark Hughes, adding facets of technical play to their long-time sturdy backbone. Potters followers will head into this summer with renewed optimism regarding the future of their club.

 

Prediction: 1-1 – WBA are a pretty ordinary outfit, with a couple of gifted midfielders, while Stoke have made good progress – score draw.

How do you expect it to unfold later today? Let us know in the comments 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.

5 Premier League Meltdowns.

Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea is seemingly already etched in footballing infamy, despite only occurring last month.

The tearful Liverpool club captain realised that the resultant 2-0 defeat had probably cost his side their first ever Premier League title, just when the winds of change appeared in their favour.

Steven Gerrard

Liverpool aren’t the first team to collapse in spectacular fashion though, here are five blasts from the past!

1. Newcastle United squander a 12-point lead (1995-96)

 

“I will love it if we beat them… Love it!”  Kevin Keegan wailed at the Sky TV cameras during his interview after a nervy 1-0 win for his Newcastle side against Leeds United.

KK’s vitriol was directed at mind game mischief maker, Alex Ferguson, boss of rival title challengers Manchester United, who had speculated that certain sides might take it easy against a popular Magpies side.

Despite leading the pack by a dozen points heading into the final third of the season, the Toon proceeded to capitulate, with heartbreaking last-gasp defeats to Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers leaving their dreams of a first major trophy for 27 years in tatters.

2. Manchester United flop as Arsenal hit the accelerator (1997-98)

Wenger Boys: 10 league wins on the spin denied Man United.
Wenger Boys: 10 league wins on the spin denied Man United.

Like Newcastle a couple of seasons earlier, the Red Devils held a 12 point lead over nearest rivals Arsenal, with some bookmakers deciding to pay out before the season had ended.

The Gooners had other ideas and proceeded to embark on a ten match winning streak that ultimately meant they won the championship with two games to spare.

It was Arsene Wenger’s first Premier League crown and the start of a bitter 16-year rivalry between the Frenchman and Ferguson, which only softened in the latter stages.

3.  Fergie’s mind games cause Benitez meltdown (2008-09)

 

Approaching the second half of the 2008-09 Premier League season, Rafa Benitez had Liverpool flying.

With an eight point cushion at the summit and virtually injury free squad, the Spaniard seemed to have turned the Reds into genuine title contenders for the first time in nearly 20 years.

As with Keegan in 1996, Ferguson decided to engage his rival in a spot of psychological warfare. Benitez took the bait and there was only ever going to be one winner.

Liverpool ended up securing their highest ever Premier League points haul (86) to secure the runners-up spot, but Manchester United managed 90 to win it.

4. Birmingham City hit the beach too early (2010-11)

League Cup Glory: But Brum eased off too soon.
League Cup Glory: But McLeish’s side plummeted thereafter.

For Blues fans the 2010-11 campaign appeared destined to go down as one of the most enjoyable in recent memory.

Having won the League Cup with a shock 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Wembley, the team sat a comfortable seven points above the relegation zone with only half a dozen games remaining.

Their mind’s evidently elsewhere, Alex McLeish’s side picked up just a single point from their run in, dropping into the bottom three with a final day 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.

5. Wolverhampton Wanderers appoint Terry Connor (2011-12)

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.

Mick McCarthy’s five and a half year association with Wolves ended after 25 games of the 2011-12 Premier League season, with a disappointing yield of 21 points in those matches the catalyst for his termination.

Inexplicably, rather than appoint a tried and trusted relegation specialist to save the day, club CEO Jez Moxey opted to promote clipboard wielding lackey, Terry Connor.

The results were predictable, with zero wins and a pitiful four points from those conclusive 13 fixtures. Connor was mercifully placed back on cone duty by the start of the following summer.

There are plenty of other dishonourable mentions, feel free to add your two cents to 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.

The Number 23

England’s footballers head to Brazil this summer for the World Cup, with manager Roy Hodgson tasked with selecting his final 23-man squad at the start of June.

Here, Dom Kureen gives his verdict on who should make the cut and why.

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GOALKEEPERS
Joe Hart (26 years old, Man City, 39 Caps)
Remains his country’s undisputed number one, despite some indifferent club displays resulting in a prolonged spell on the sidelines for Manchester City earlier this season. Recent return to top form is timely, expect him to be a key figure if England are to progress beyond their group.

Fraser Forster (26, Celtic, 1 Cap)
With no serious contender to Hart’s throne, the Scottish Premier League’s elite stopper is the ‘best of the rest’, although his kicking and overall distribution remain worryingly suspect.

Ben Foster (31, West Bromwich Albion, 6 Caps)
The star turn in a poor Baggies team this season, Foster has the experience and confidence to prosper in South America and wouldn’t let the side down (a’ la Robert Green) should he be required to step up at any point.

 

DEFENDERS
Kyle Walker (23, Spurs, 10 Caps)
The former Sheffield United trainee hasn’t been at his dynamic best this term, but is still a fundamental component in his country’s blueprint for future and present success.

Glen Johnson (29, Liverpool, 50 Caps/1 Goal)
Although Johnson can be a liability in the defensive third, his powerful forward raids offer much-needed width to England’s narrow formation. That offensive ability, coupled with half a century of caps, should ensure that he edges ahead of the promising Nathaniel Clyne this time.

Leighton Baines (29, Everton, 22 Caps/1 Goal)
After spending almost a decade as Ashley Cole’s understudy, Baines is now the undisputed first choice left back at international level – one of Hodgson’s easiest selections.

Ashley Cole (33, Chelsea, 107 Caps)
A toss of a coin, with Southampton’s ‘wunderkind’, Luke Shaw, destined to displace Baines and Cole in the near future. The aura and reputation of England’s greatest ever left back should allow him one final tilt at the Jules Rimet trophy, before he gracefully steps aside at the conclusion of the tournament.

Phil Jagielka (31, Everton, 24 Caps/1 Goal)
In the absence of the internationally retired John Terry, the Toffees’ skipper is the Three Lions’ premier available centre half. As such, he will be expected to marshal the back line and should provide consistent, wholehearted displays against all-comers.

Gary Cahill (28, Chelsea, 22 Caps/1 Goal)
Prone to lapses in concentration, Cahill has at times found it difficult to step into the colossal boots of Messrs Ferdinand and Terry. For now he remains the appropriate choice to partner Jagielka in the heart of England’s back four.

Steven Caulker (22, Cardiff City, 1 Cap/1 Goal)
A £7m summer move from Tottenham Hotspur to Cardiff City enabled Caulker to play regular top-flight football, an opportunity that he’s since grabbed with both hands. Deserves to be rewarded for consistent excellence in a struggling Bluebirds team.

Phil Jones (22, Manchester United, 9 Caps)
Yet to fulfill his immense potential courtesy of various injuries, Jones’ value to his club side is nevertheless set to increase following the imminent departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Based on talent alone, he should have nailed down a starting place in the national side by now.

 

MIDFIELDERS
Steven Gerrard (Captain: 33, Liverpool, 109 Caps/21 Goals)
England’s captain may be past his talismanic best, but he is still a vital cog in the side’s engine room. Has adapted his game to compensate for a loss of pace and verve in recent seasons, ensuring that he remains indispensable for club and country as he approaches his 34th birthday.

Jack Wilshire (22, Arsenal, 15 Caps)
A creative tour de force at his best, Wilshire needs to add goals to his slick technical prowess in order to become the great player he’s capable of developing into. Has been in decent nick for the Gunners this term and should make the starting eleven at the World Cup if fit.

Michael Carrick (32, Manchester United, 31 Caps)
The veteran Geordie has had a subdued domestic season, missing almost half of Manchester United’s matches through injury. He remains a valuable squad player for England and a useful alternative to the inexperienced prospects vying with him for selection.

Ross Barkley (20, Everton, 3 Caps)
One of a host of talented English midfield players to emerge in the past few years, Barkley has more than a hint of Paul Gascoigne about his play, hopefully sans the off-field exertions. Has flourished at Goodison Park since Marouane Fellaini departed last summer.

Adam Lallana (25, Southampton, 3 Caps)
After working his way through the lower leagues with the Saints, Lallana has become a bona fide Premier League star, with the capacity to be moulded into Steven Gerrard’s long-term successor.

James Milner (28, Manchester City, 45 Caps/1 Goal)
A willing workhorse with the versatility to play anywhere across the middle of the park, or even as a full back, former Leeds United starlet Milner is a reliable if unspectacular footballer, as well as a model professional.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (20, Arsenal 14 Caps/3 Goals)
In his third Premier League campaign, ‘Ox’ has yet to fully convince that he’s ready for a World Cup, although there have been flashes of the artistry associated with him throughout his youth team days at Southampton. In the absence of club teammate Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain could find himself fast-tracked into England’s starting lineup.

Raheem Sterling (19, Liverpool, 2 Caps)
Flourishing alongside the visionary elegance of club colleagues Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho, the Jamaican born winger-cum-striker has made monumental strides in the past nine months, notching more than half a dozen goals in all competitions and wreaking havoc upon opposition backlines with his searing acceleration.

 

STRIKERS
Wayne Rooney (28, Manchester United, 89 Caps/38 Goals)
The key man for England, Rooney’s record at major international tourneys has left much to be desired since he lit up Euro 2004 as a belligerent teenager. This summer will surely define whether he goes down as one of the finest players of his generation, or merely a very good one who floundered on the big stage.

Daniel Sturridge (24, Liverpool, 10 Caps/3 Goals)
After years of treading water at Man City and Chelsea, Sturridge’s £12m move to Anfield 15 months ago has seen him mature into one of the most clinical, potent front men in Europe. If his partnership with Rooney can develop into something akin to the one he enjoys with Suarez for the Reds, England will have something special on their hands.

Andy Carroll (25, West Ham United, 9 Caps/2 Goals)
A massive flop over the past three and a half seasons, Carroll has commanded over £52m in transfer fees, despite netting a meagre 14 league goals during that period. His inclusion would at least provide an interesting alternative from the bench and his presence can assist the talented midfield runners in the side.

Danny Welbeck (23, Manchester United, 21 Caps/8 Goals)
Has discreetly prospered at club level this season, netting nine league goals at a rate of almost one every two matches. Like a select few before him (notably Darius Vassell), Welbeck appears to be a player who performs better for country than club and is a valuable member of the Three Lions’ squad.

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 Who do the fans want?

Five fans also chose their 23 to represent England at the World Cup, their selections made for some interesting reading!


Harry Groves (Portsmouth/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Forster, Ruddy.

Defence
G.Johnson, Walker, A.Cole, Baines, Jagielka, Cahill, Smalling, Jones.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Wilshire, Carrick, Milner, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Carroll, Welbeck.

Did you know: Harry’s squad effectively ends Frank Lampard’s England career, with the 35 year old’s omission surely putting the legend out to pasture.

 

Jonathan O’Shea (Aston Villa/Ireland fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Foster, Forster.

Defence
G.Johnson, Shaw, Baines, Jagielka, Smalling, Lescott, Cahill.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Wilshire, Lampard, Milner, Lallana, Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, A.Johnson, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck

Did you know: Jonathan’s squad selection is the only one of the six with Joleon Lescott and Adam Johnson’s names among the 23.

 

Sarah Kingston (Southampton/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Foster, Ruddy

Defence
Baines, A.Cole, G.Johnson, Jones, Cahill, Jagielka, Shaw, Smalling.

Midfield
Barry, Lallana, Lampard, Lennon, Milner, Rodwell, Shelvey, Wilshire.

Attack
Rooney (capt), Sturridge, Lambert, Welbeck.

Did you know: Sarah opts to leave Steven Gerrard at home and makes Wayne Rooney the captain instead.

 

Just Mike (England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Ruddy, Foster.

Defence
Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Gibbs, Walker.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Lampard, Carrick, Lallana, Townsend, Sterling, Wilshire, Barkley.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lambert.

Did you know: Mike is able to name three specialist left backs by utilising Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as backup to first choice right back Glen Johnson.


DJ Rees (Tottenham/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Forster, Butland.

Defence
Baines, Shaw, C.Davies. Cahill, Jagielka, Clyne, Caulker, G.Johnson.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Lallana, Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Huddlestone, Carrick, Wilshire, Henderson, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Lambert.

Did you know: DJ decides to reward form rather than reputation, nominating Curtis Davies, Jack Butland, Nathaniel Clyne and Tom Huddlestone after the quartet enjoyed productive domestic campaigns.

Tom Huddlestone has impressed DJ Rees since joining Hull City.
Tom Huddlestone has impressed DJ Rees since joining Hull City.

So, that’s what we think, how about you? Comment below to let us know which players you’d give the nod and why!

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.