So far so good… sort of

It’s been a strange return to the Premier League so far for the Foxes. An impressive of haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United has been followed up by the embarrassing return of just one point against Palace, Burnley and Newcastle. A fiery start to the new campaign has quickly been extinguished in a seemingly typical fashion.

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. It’s always used with negative connotations and it’s the sort of arrogant fatalism spouted by nearly all football fans the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent blip does seem to resonate with our rather unfortunate habit of helping teams on a bad run. Like other Foxes fans, I’ve noticed on many occasions that periods of bad and indeed good form end against City. In fact, I’ve often said that all runs come to an end at the King Power Stadium – no matter if the visitors are winless Conference North Hyde or the impenetrable Barcelona on the back of their ninth consecutive clean sheet.

This has certainly proven to be the case in City’s last three outings. Crystal Palace were without a home win in the current campaign before Leicester turned up and relinquished three points from two atrociously defended set pieces. Burnley had waited six league games to find the back of the net following their opening day defeat to Chelsea, and Claret goals proved to be like London buses as Burnley rocked up to Filbert Way, scored twice, and deservedly stole a point from a lacklustre Leicester side. And then of course just yesterday, Leicester travelled to winless Newcastle United and believe it or not, lost.

Given this odd bit of trivia, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the Foxes that our next opponents are a Swansea City side without a win in five. Gulp. The Swans are certainly not a bad side either, and I’d be willing to bet that their first four games are more indicative of how their season will go than their last few. It feels like City never do well in South Wales too, with Leicester’s last success in Swansea coming in 1986, although, we’ve only met twice since then.

Leicester travel to Swansea next Saturday in the hope of recapturing our previously held panache. Many theories have been floated on social media as to what is the cause for City’s downturn in form. Some have pointed out that a failure to start with what is perceived as our strongest team, has left us looking for points too late on. Others have noted that an inconsistent team is leading to unsettled form, the opposite of Leicester’s system last term.

I personally would welcome a return to the 4-4-2 system of last campaign that served us so well. I’d also advocate for Jamie Vardy starting in a central role so he can pounce on through balls like a bloodthirsty jaguar. I would also like to see Riyad Mahrez start. Admittedly, playing him yesterday would have been a bit of a stretch given his international commitments but the Algerian is capable of changing any game, particularly in his current purple patch of form.

These are just my suggestions and whatever the problem(s) is/are, it’s important to remember that form is temporary and to stay supportive of the side. I share everyone’s frustrations that we aren’t collecting as many points as we should be. After all, if we can take five points from Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United, we should be able to beat Burnley and co.

Unfortunately, football isn’t like that. Leicester are doing okay though and that’s what’s important – we’re on course to achieve our targets and we have proven on our day, we can be a match for every side in the division. The results may not be glittering but the signs are still good for the Foxes – so until our good form returns, until our strikers rediscover their ruthlessness, until our midfield returns to being unplayable and until our defence becomes immovable again all we can do is back the team and the manager. Foxes never quit, keep the faith, blah blah blah.

The Misrepresentation of a Party: Don’t discount the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are currently considered toxic in British politics. In between the last general election and the upcoming election in 2015, the party has fallen from 25% to 6% in the opinion polls.

Criticism for the party has largely stemmed from what was perceived as an ill-informed decision to enter in to a coalition with the Conservatives, and the party’s inability to scrap university tuition fees; inability being the key word. The party’s decision to enter in to government with the Conservatives was controversial but it must be understood that this was a rare opportunity for the party to enact some of their own policies. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats could not scrap tuition fees without backing from either the Conservatives or Labour – and they didn’t get it. Although, it wasn’t all bad news, the party has managed to make the issue of repaying tuition fees far easier. However, the electorate, particularly it’s student portion of which Lib Dem support has been traditionally quite reliant is still not satisfied with that and given Scotland’s amnesty from further education debt, that is understandable. In an uncommon twist, the party leader Nick Clegg, who is routinely and often unfairly lambasted and belittled by the wider media and public, apologised for not being able to deliver on this policy – even though the influence of a junior party in a coalition government is greatly constrained. I understand the grievance with the party on this issue; I cannot fathom nor express how frustrated it makes me that this however is accredited to the ‘downfall’ of the Lib Dems. Especially seeing as any resentments held against the Conservatives for their failure to deliver an EU referendum as promised (The Lib Dems are too committed to one by the way), Labour for their economic incompetency or Ukip for their immeasurable number of faux pas are seemingly non-existent.

The Liberal Democrats do not hold as much sway in the media as its opponents. The newspapers in this nation largely lean towards the Conservatives and more recently have begun to serve the right-wing populist agenda of Ukip. In opposition, many newspapers also back the Labour party. As a result, the accomplishments of the party in government are not well-documented or at least, are easily steamrolled by the two larger parties. For instance, the movement for equal marriage was only in one party’s manifesto; the Liberal Democrats’. The Labour party, try as they may, cannot take credit for the Liberals’ work like they did in the mid 20th-century. Likewise, the Conservatives cannot legitimately profess to have toppled Labour’s mess alone. The Lib Dems have played a crucial role in reversing the fiscal devastation left for them. The Tories then tried to reap the praise for the raising of the income tax threshold to £10,000 which is and always has been a Liberal-driven policy – as are the plans to take that step further by raising it once more to £12,500 after 2015.

As well as this, the Liberal Democrats have helped cut immigration in government, eliminated the deplorable practice of detaining innocent children for immigration purposes under Labour. The party are the only ones standing in the ‘IN’ camp of the European Union, surely casting off the ‘wishy-washy’, non-committal reputation the party has. The party has helped boost the number of apprenticeships and has helped create over a million new jobs in the private sector whilst in government. The party has blocked Tory plans to let schools be run for profit, to give millionaires inheritance tax cuts and have cleaned up Labour’s economic nightmare.

In the upcoming election, the Liberal Democrats are the only party continuing to champion LGBT+ rights, the only party taking a serious stance on the drastically serious issue of female genital mutilation, the only party supporting the rights of football fans to enjoy the game without being discriminated against - as well as campaigning for safe standing in English football stadia. The party is also dedicated to reforming unfair drug laws that would stop those in possession of drugs from facing jail time. As well as this, the Liberal Democrats are aiming to criminalise the frighteningly more common acts of ‘revenge porn’. This week, the Lib Dems have come forward as the only major party committed to treating mental illness as seriously as physical ailments.

Liberalism is not irrelevant, no matter what the media says. This brand of politics will always be in demand in this country – it has just fallen on hard times. Obviously, I am writing this with an agenda. I am a proud Liberal Democrat and it would be naive and hypocritical of me to share my views with you like the biased newspapers. But, it’s vital that the electorate don’t rule the Liberal Democrats out of the race. We still have a lot to offer, do your research, and read up on the party’s success and future plans. The fight of our lives is on its way and the Lib Dems have a better chance than you think.

How 9 Years of Television Were Just About Saved in Four and a Half Minutes

And relax…at the end of last week, the highly anticipated alternative REAL ending was leaked on to the internet and thank goodness it was. I really really like How I Met Your Mother. It never made me laugh consistently but it had a lot of heart, a great story, a unique gimmick and characters you cared about. Yeah, it was quite funny and easy to watch but its biggest triumph was making characters care so much about Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily, Marshall and Tracy. In April, I wrote about how Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ ill-conceived finale basically ruined the nine years of TV that preceded it, so it seems only fair that now they’ve tried to correct their glaring faux pas, that we look at what went right and what still didn’t…

+ - Ted didn’t end up with Robin

Hallelujah! The fact that the blue french horn peskily found a way to trump the yellow umbrella back in March was without doubt the worst part of the finale – and that’s no mean feat! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ted and Robin make no sense. Maybe they did in 2005 but after nine long years of watching the pair develop, there’s simply no way. I’m still annoyed at the ridiculous U-turn of the writers in the original ending especially because it was probably just so they could use archive footage. Urgh. Thankfully, Robin can be my favourite character again. The meeting (what the show was about) between Ted and Tracy was sufficient for the viewers and it was right to end the episode there.

Fulfilling… Ted meets Tracy and she doesn’t die! Hooray!

+ - Ted’s recap of the series

I don’t usually like self-appreciating shows but HIMYM probably deserved a moment of reflection in the finale. Ted recapping the long journey that led him to the mother, was far more respectful to her character and the show itself than having him disregard this journey as an afterthought in order to pursue Robin. It gave us a happy reflection on Ted’s irritating quest for the one, allowing the series to cap off it’s achievements on screen.

 - Ted not visibly addressing the kids

I know, it’s a really small detail but it seemed right that the last line – “and that kids, is how I met your mother” – was spoken visibly to the children by future Ted, just before the visual credits. Of course, had they gone with the correct ending in the first place I’d imagine that small creases like this would have been ironed out.

+ - The implication that Barney and Robin got back together

As a fervent supporter of Robin & Barney over Robin & Ted this was the most satisfying part. The finale’s ending wasn’t the only thing that was wrong with it – the rest wasn’t good either. I had real concerns when the alternate ending was announced that Robin and Barney would remain separated. After all, they broke up earlier in the episode and no new footage was filmed to piece together a different climax. However, future Ted’s narration about the tribulations of life and how things “things fall apart, things get put back together” as the camera pans to Robin and Barney exchanging glances at Ted and Tracy’s wedding. It also bodes well that in Ted’s recap of his story that Barney and Robin falling for each other was included and their divorce wasn’t. Long live Stinsbatsky!

Reunited? The right couple may have survived after all.

 - The change of music

I’m definitely being pernickety here but my favourite thing – scratch that – basically the only thing I liked about the original ending was the music. The Walkman’s ‘Heaven’ carried on a long tradition of the show using great songs to escalate the emotion of certain moments and it was the perfect nostalgic track to see the show out. I seriously love that song.

+ - The clip of the dancing yellow umbrella

After all, the yellow umbrella was what the show was all about. Not the blue french horn. It was NEVER about the blue french horn.

So there we have it, the alternate ending was simply unquantifiably better than the original. Thank you, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for rectifying your horrendous blunder. I think it’s best we all pretend that the original ending never happened. At least now, I won’t have to sell my HIMYM boxset on eBay.

The Death Penalty Should Stay Dead

One of the more arduous, repetitive and indeed controversial political debates currently is that of the death penalty’s restoration. Having not seen an execution for fifty years, recent high-profile crimes such as the murder of Lee Rigby have sparked some support for reintroduction of capital punishment. In fact, Ukip MEP Louise Bours stoked the discussions last week by hinting that Ukip may be in support of the re-introduction.

With an issue like this, there are always strong feelings on either side. Those in favour of reintroduction say it will mean the worst of criminals pay the ultimate price, the families of the victims will get ‘closure’ and it will stop tax-payers funding criminals’ prison life.

However, it isn’t that simple. How are we supposed to teach lessons to criminals if we kill them for their crimes? They won’t suffer, they’re dead. Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy of the justice system to punish killing by killing? Should we not deter society from killing by never using it to solve problems? It’s also short-sighted to assume that victims’ families want the death penalty reintroduced too, with many speaking out against the penalty.

The death penalty is not even a sufficient deterrent of crime. The UK’s homicide rate is 18 times lower than the United States, where they do utilise execution. It’s not even cost-effective to kill violent criminals either, a common misconception is that the death penalty is cheaper than keeping criminals in prison for life – but it isn’t. In the United States, those sentenced to death can end up costing the tax-payer four times as much as those given lifetime incarceration. Those on death row often appeal and can end up waiting for execution for up to twenty years, which hardly solves the prison overpopulation problem either.

And just what are we to do if a jury reaches an incorrect verdict and innocent man or woman is charged with murder and subsequently put to death? Do we then send the executioner to death for what would be the killing of an innocent person? Do we kill the jury too? These cases, although rare do happen – it only takes one instance for this potential law to be thrown in to disrepute.

As far as Ukip goes, Louise Bours support for this motion’s reintroduction reeks of right-wing populism. She’s probably just testing the waters to see if they can ram this in to their manifesto for later this year. Either that, or they hate the EU that much that they simply cannot stand that the organisation opposes the death penalty too. In reality, the death penalty is expensive, labourious, hypocritical and barbaric. Journeying back to a bygone era where brutality was an acceptable resolution is not the answer, as is shown by the USA’s higher crime rate. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel vengeful in situations like these. Of course, those supporting the death penalty have a point – these people don’t deserve to live whilst their victims don’t. Financially, the death penalty isn’t beneficial – let the criminals suffer in prison, their life can be taken away from them without death.

FAO: Leicester City Supporters

Yesterday, top-flight football finally returned to Filbert Way. An exhilarating game ended 2-2 as a weakened Leicester side more than spurred a quality Everton outfit. An 86th minute equaliser from the Foxes was welcomed by a wall of noise that in truth encapsulated the King Power Stadium for match of the 90 minutes but for some, it still it isn’t enough.

Since the inception of ‘identikit soulless bowls’, of which we’re proud owners, home atmospheres have been routinely slated. Our home atmosphere has been steadily improving for the last few years, it’s still not as good as Filbo’s – it never will be. As a group, we’re probably a little hard on ourselves. Having followed City away for years, I can safely say we’re above average at home. Of course it fluctuates and sometimes the atmosphere is dead but such is the nature of the beast.

Anyway, getting to the point, yesterday’s atmosphere was raucous. Our supporters have received acclaim from other football fans, press, pundits etc. but in turn we’ve also received criticism (mostly from Everton fans).

Firstly for the goal music. Okay, no one wants goal music but this isn’t something we as fans control, like having ‘Hey Jude’ played instead of ‘When You’re Smiling’ and Lee Jobber’s irritating drum. It’s not like our goal music is loud either. I cannot count how many times fans have left the ground asking “did we not play goal music today? I didn’t hear it”. It’s certainly not even close to the deafening sounds of Chelsea Dagger that literally mute the Forest fans at the City Ground.

However, the major complaint was ‘the poznan’. Okay, it’s not ours. It’s not Man City’s either and while we’re on the subject, Crystal Palace did not start the ‘We Love You’ chant they just popularised it here in England. We’ve done that with chants too you know, without being uppity about it. The celebration was only adopted to parody the Citizens during an FA Cup tie three years ago and it probably should have died a death when they showed us how to perform it during last season’s League Cup meeting – but it didn’t.

For the record, I don’t like it. Having watched the poznan on Saturday instead of doing it, I realised it looks a bit naff when the whole ground isn’t joining in but suggestions that it needs to be ‘binned’ or ‘axed’ or ‘banned’ are a bit over the top. You can’t ban a celebration -we would all be moaning more if the celebrations were muted and nobody did anything following a goal. Actually, why are those partaking in it more at fault than those that aren’t? Wouldn’t it be ‘amazing’ if the whole stadium did it?

What’s really embarrassing, is that fans only seem to want to lead a charge against the poznan now because we’re in the Premier League and other fans are criticising our support. Who cares what they think? We should have some self respect and ignore their opinions. It’s great that people are currently so enthusiastic about improving (or maintaining) yesterday’s atmosphere but maybe just sign up and follow the activities of Filbo Spirit rather than attacking fans who are trying to support the team.

 

Football is in Debt to its LGBT Fans

It’s 2014 and there are still no openly LGBT people in English football. Not a manager, a player, nor even a physio. Other sporting organisations in the traditionally more conservative United States such as the NFL and the WWE and even Rugby Union and cricket here are streets ahead of ‘the beautiful game’ when it comes to equality.

Homophobia is still a huge problem in English football. The FA and the 92 league clubs are, in my opinion doing little to combat anti-LGBT perceptions on the pitch and in the stands. When I corresponded with the FA, they were proud to boast of several initiatives they had backed including Opening Doors and Joining In and Football vs. Homophobia. Other than placing their name on a few programs, the visibility of the FA’s work is scarce to say the least. In fact, the campaigns they allegedly support haven’t had much success with England’s top clubs either. Just over a quarter of the ninety-two Premier League and Football League clubs are signed up to the Football vs. Homophobia campaign.

The FA has had numerous opportunities to avow its pledge to opposing homophobia but refuses to comment on the provocative choices of Russia and Qatar for the following two World Cups. Sadly, it seems there was greater tumult in the footballing world, when it was alleged that the decision was the product of a payoff rather than the fact the bribers were from a country that incarcerates homosexuals?

The biggest problem is the non-existence of ‘out’ footballing personnel – and the absence of transparency. In recent years, high-profile names such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have come out as gay. The former waited until he was retired to do so and the latter felt he’d be safer from abuse and judgement in the United States, where social conservatism is almost sacred. If that doesn’t highlight the problem then I don’t know what will.

Just this week Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending homophobic texts as well as racist and sexist ones, using phrases such as ‘independently minded young homo’ and ‘gay snake’. Imagine being a young gay footballer working under people with those views. In a truly appalling follow-up the League Manager’s Association dismissed Mackay’s and Moody’s heinous behaviour as ‘banter’ and the pair ‘blowing off steam’. Football doesn’t take the issue seriously. Last season, footballers and managers were given the opportunity to showcase their support for LGBT people in football by supporting Paddy Power and Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers rainbow laces campaign but most didn’t lace up. Only one player from my club did so, which is demoralising – every player in the top six divisions received the laces for free.

It’s important that fans, players and footballing bodies alike make LGBT players feel comfortable to not hide who they are. A recent poll found that 73% of English fans would accept a gay player in either their club or national team, even when we account for demand characteristics and social desirability bias; we can be nigh on certain that the majority of football fans would embrace or at least tolerate more LGBT personnel in the English game. So, we need to ask ourselves why players are still so petrified.

It’s time for football to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. It’s not enough to say you’re anti-homophobia but do nothing about it. The FA, the Premier League and the Football League need to introduce high visibility initiatives to make gay footballers feel safe enough to ‘come out’ and hopefully soon – that’s the best way to rid the game of homophobia. For too long, football fans have put banter ahead of equality, shoddily made Richard Keys vines ahead of an all-encompassing environment. Seriously, it’s 2014. There are more openly gay active NFL players and WWE wrestlers than there are openly gay players in English football. Our sport may be the world’s best but when it comes to a Premier League for equality; football is doing a Derby County.

Leicester is better than Nottingham

The title says it all. Leicester is better than Nottingham and that’s all there is to it. Today, the Leicester Mercury published an opinion piece from budding journalist Catherine Hancock (who I’m sure is lovely by the way) detailing why she thought that Nottingham was the top city in the East Midlands. Of course, you can’t expect me to read that and not respond, so let’s travel through Catherine’s arguments and unhinge them bit by bit.

Like Catherine, we’ll start with sport. Leicester has a Premier League football team. Nottingham doesn’t. Those are the facts. Actually, our northern neighbours haven’t graced the top-flight since 1999, a time when S Club 7 and Steps were still dominating the charts. Forest fans, as we all know, love a good history lesson but their triumphs under Brian Clough are not really relevant now. Not only does Leicester boast a Premier League football team, we’re also the home of the Rugby Union’s most successful ever club, the Leicester Tigers, with ten Premiership titles to their name. Add the only cricket club to have won the Twenty20 Cup more than once and the country’s oldest basketball club (and current cup champions) in to the mix and you’ve got a true sporting city,unlike the underachieving Nottingham.

And if we’re simply talking sporting icons, how can you look further than England legends Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton, who both hail from the city? And who can forget the Jester from Leicester Mark Selby who won 2014’s World Snooker Championship?

When we’re talking music, Leicester once again reigns supreme. How can you argue with Showaddywaddy, Mark Morrison, Engelbert Humperdinck, X Factor champ Sam Bailey and of course, the crème de la crème; Kasabian? Are we to submit all of these music icons to that miserable Jake Bugg? I don’t think so.

Let’s not forget that Leicester was also the city that brought up the legendary Attenborough brothers – you’re welcome, Earth.

Apparently, Nottingham is also ‘the city of history’ too, because it’s the ‘home’ of Robin Hood, who could well be fictional. Leicester’s local Maryland Chicken chains have more history than that. Leicester can boast to be one of the country’s oldest settlements, as well as one of it’s most populated (more than Nottingham). It was also, the place Richard III met his maker, and was discovered some 530 years after he died – he wasn’t fictional.

Catherine also said that Quentin Tarantino chose Nottingham to be the location of one of Pulp Fiction’s premières – which I admit is quite cool. However, it doesn’t quite have the same honour as Queen Elizabeth II hand-picking Leicester as the first stop on her Diamond jubilee tour in 2012.

In fact if the cities were to go head-to-head Nottingham would be knocked out in the second round. Nottingham is the country’s singleton, bad breath and crime capital – quite a resumé, I know. We could stretch even further and call Nottingham the obese capital, if we were to include Bassetlaw in north Notts.  There’s actually such a gap in quality between the two cities that your life expectancy increases five years if you travel 30 miles south via the A46.

Let’s face it Nottingham cannot compare. How can you stand a few good ice skaters against the city responsible for Walkers crisps, the largest outdoor market in Europe, being Britain’s first environment city, the birth of local BBC radio and more importantly than anything else, the modern English language, and expect to win?

Neither are bad-looking cities by the way, not particularly beautiful but not ugly either. For me, Leicester edges that too but I’m sure others will disagree. In truth, there are several thousand reasons why Leicester is better than Nottingham, maybe the most relevant one is that nobody from Leicester would ever write in a Nottingham newspaper just about how great our city is. There you go, add humility to the list of things we do better too!

If you’re keeping score, don’t bother. It’s game, set and match to Leicester.

(P.S. – You can read Catherine’s blog at http://www.catherinescolumn.com)

2014-15 Predictions

I thought I might as well have a go at predicting the final tables for the upcoming 2014-15 season in England’s top five divisions. If nothing else, this will be good for a laugh in 9 months time.

Premier League

The usual suspects will compete once more for English football’s crown with Chelsea’s manoeuvring in the transfer market making them best placed to steal the glory. Defending champions Manchester City will challenge all the way in a more competitive race that should see both Arsenal and Manchester United more involved than last season. Despite their performance last season, the loss of Suarez could seriously hinder Liverpool’s progression.

The bottom end of the table will again be ridiculously congested. New boys Leicester should have enough about them to secure Premier League safety. There are still doubts over Burnleys staying power, given their lack of funding but spirit and team ethic may be enough for the Clarets. QPR’s squad greatly underachieved last season and there’s little to suggest their flawed transfer policy has improved – the Hoops will probably struggle. Both Sunderland and Swansea have looked to improve, though there is still some doubt over the ability of Garry Monk. Last season’s mid-table stalwarts Newcastle and Southampton will be more involved in the survival scrap but should each have enough. West Midlands duo West Brom and Aston Villa are widely tipped to drop below the dreaded dotted line and Hull City may struggle to balance the commitments of domestic and continental football.

1 Chelsea
2 Manchester City
3 Manchester United
4 Arsenal
5 Liverpool
6 Everton
7 Tottenham Hotspur
8 Stoke City
9 Newcastle United
10 Southampton
11 Swansea City
12 Sunderland
13 Leicester City
14 West Ham United
15 Crystal Palace
16 Hull City
17 Burnley
18 Aston Villa
19 Queens Park Rangers
20 West Bromwich Albion

 Championship

The most competitive division in football is once again the hardest to call. Derby’s play-off heartbreak could help them emulate local rivals Leicester by reaching the title this time around. Brighton will miss both Ulloa and Upson immensely and could find the top six out of their reach. Wigan looked a lot stronger under Uwe Rosler and could give promotion a better go this season. The relegated trio Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff all possess enough quality to be there or thereabouts next season but as we’ve seen in previous years immediate returns to the Premier League are hard to come by.

Wolves and Brentford should have enough to secure survival at the very least. Rotherham look to be the most in danger of the three former League One clubs with Birmingham, Millwall, Charlton and the disastrous Blackpool set to be looking over their shoulders once more.

1 Derby County
2 Wigan Athletic
3 Norwich City
4 Fulham
5 Blackburn Rovers
6 Cardiff City
7 Brighton & Hove Albion
8 Reading
9 Watford
10 Middlesbrough
11 Ipswich Town
12 Nottingham Forest
13 Wolverhampton Wanderers
14 Bournemouth
15 Bolton Wanderers
16 Sheffield Wednesday
17 Brentford
18 Leeds United
19 Charlton Athletic
20 Huddersfield Town
21 Rotherham United
22 Millwall
23 Birmingham City
24 Blackpool

 

****************************************************************************

From this point on, I don’t know an awful lot so please excuse my inferior knowledge

****************************************************************************

League One

1 Sheffield United
2 Preston North End
3 Leyton Orient
4 Barnsley
5 Bristol City
6 Doncaster Rovers
7 Peterborough United
8 Yeovil Town
9 Swindon Town
10 Milton Keynes Dons
11 Coventry City
12 Notts County
13 Chesterfield
14 Bradford City
15 Crawley Town
16 Walsall
17 Oldham Athletic
18 Scunthorpe United
19 Fleetwood Town
20 Port Vale
21 Colchester United
22 Crewe Alexandra
23 Rochdale
24 Gillingham

League Two

1 Shrewsbury Town
2 Bury
3 York City
4 Southend United
5 Carlisle United
6 Burton Albion
7 Luton Town
8 Portsmouth
9 Stevenage
10 Tranmere Rovers
11 Plymouth Argyle
12 Northampton Town
13 Oxford United
14 Newport County
15 Cheltenham Town
16 Hartlepool United
17 Mansfield Town
18 Accrington Stanley
19 Cambridge United
20 Exeter City
21 Dagenham & Redbridge
22 AFC Wimbledon
23 Morecambe
24 Wycombe Wanderers

Conference Premier

1 Grimsby Town
2 Bristol Rovers
3 Gateshead
4 Kidderminster Harriers
5 Wrexham
6 Forest Green Rovers
7 Barnet
8 Lincoln City
9 Torquay United
10 FC Halifax Town
11 Eastleigh
12 Aldershot Town
13 Braintree Town
14 Woking
15 Alfreton Town
16 Macclesfield Town
17 Chester
18 Dover Athletic
19 Nuneaton Town
20 AFC Telford United
21 Welling United
22 Altrincham
23 Southport
24 Dartford

Leicester’s Thai Owners are NOT Vincent Tan

One of the things that annoys me more than most things is not receiving credit for the good work you do. This summer, I, among many other fans, have been eagerly anticipating Leicester City’s first match back in the top-flight of English football. Having stormed the Championship last season racking up a monumental 31 wins and 102 points.

Despite, last season’s dominance, Leicester, as well as being plugged as potential dark horses for next season have been slated for an immediate return to the second tier too. I would be lying if it didn’t irritate me that my team has been written off by some (mostly Forest fans) before they’ve even really been assessed.

It’s fair to say that the Premier League can be a self-appreciating, internal, self-obsessed division. Fans of the division may not know an awful not about a rejuvenated, well-prepared Leicester side that is entering the division with a century of points, a circumstance that has never ended in immediate relegation. That’s probably why, when asked why many think Leicester will go down they can’t really give a reason – I’m certainly yet to hear or read a compelling one.

It baffles me that pre-season predictions have seen us placed below both Burnley and Queens Park Rangers who failed catastrophically to keep pace with City last season – nine and twenty-two points below respectively. I could forgive this view point, if either club had blown the division out of the water with their transfer dealings but you would be hard-pressed to argue that was the case. These people have written us off simply because we’ve just come up, and even we don’t have the spending power of the hooped West Londoners (even though it hasn’t helped them much thus far). Our dominance last season makes it much less likely that we’ll go down next season, statistically at least. But many fans choose to overlook that.

However, the most annoying critique of City heading in to the 2014-15 campaign has got to be the comparisons of owners Vichai and Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha with Cardiff City’s egomaniac boss Vincent Tan. Simply put they’re nothing alike. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has been awarded with great leniency and faith from his Thai bosses during the Foxes horrendous slump in the 2012-13 season despite intense media pressure to give him the axe. Vincent Tan changes managers more than he changes his clothes. Too, the owners of Leicester City have invested in every aspect of the club, they don’t spend frivolously now like the did in Sven’s era, despite the media’s best attempts to paint Vichai’s comments to suggest such at a press conference in May. More importantly, the Foxes chairman and vice-chairman respect the culture of the club, vowing never to change the club’s crest, colours or identity unlike Mr. Tan who seems more interested in goading his club’s fans in to fisticuffs than rewarding their support like the Srivaddhanaprabhas.

This may simply sound like the bitter ramblings of a big-headed fan of a newly-promoted Premier League side but it shouldn’t be perceived as such. In spite of my staunch belief that Leicester will offer more than survival next season, I concede that there is a chance we could go down and people thinking it is not ludicrous at all. However, all I ask is, if you want to write us off – at least have a bloody good reason.

2014-15 Premier League: Fans’ Preview (Part II)

With English’s top-flight once again relevant now the famous Leicester City F.C. have bounced back, there are just four weeks to go until the football season starts up once more.

 

Manchester United

@Edward_Walsh96

Last season: 7th
Manager: Louis Van Gaal
Rivals: Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal
Odds: 11/2

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
A top four finish in the PL. After the poor finish last season, we need to quickly recover to play in the top tier of European football.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My greatest fear is the lack of experience with a winning team. In addition, the adaptation to a new manager could be a struggle.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
The back four needs to be strengthened for next season. Bringing in Luke Shaw as LB was a good decision but with his big price tag and his young age it’s a gamble,

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I want to beat Liverpool the most next season. Our biggest and oldest rivals in the football history for Man Utd. After their impressive season last year, it made them perk up!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Herrera will be a player to look out for in the midfield. I’ve seen him play and he is a very talented midfielder with a lot to bring to Manchester. RVP will be another player to look out for next season. Finally Luke Shaw will bring some freshness to the LB position.

6. Who will win the league?
I think Chelsea will win the league. They have brought in two very good players and have come close to winning the title, I feel it’s time they won it.

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Ham and Sunderland. I think Leicester City will finish a close 17th.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I think QPR will be surprise a few with a mid-table finish. Other than that I think everything will be as expected.

9. Where will you finish?
I believe we will finish a close third, which will be a massive improvement on last season under David Moyes.

Newcastle United

@nufc4me

Last season: 10th
Manager: Alan Pardew
Rivals: Sunderland, Manchester United, Middlesbrough
Odds: 1000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mike Ashley to sell and leave

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Two strikers

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I want to beat Sunderland

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Caldwell

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea

7. Who will go down?
Sunderland

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Newcastle

9. Where will you finish?
8th

Queens Park Rangers

@DazzerQPR

Last season: 4th (Championship)
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Rivals: Fulham, Chelsea, Watford
Odds: 7500/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
QPR to stay up.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
QPR to go down.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
All over. 1 LB as cover, 1 RB as cover, 2 CB’s, 2 CM’s, 1 Winger & a striker as well as keep Loic Remy.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Chelsea (and everyone around us who’ll be fighting for relegation)

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Joey Barton, Matty Philips and Charlie Austin are my dark horses

6. Who will win the league?
Man City

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Brom and Aston Villa

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Everton pushing on, Southampton could struggle big time!

9. Where will you finish?
Hopefully 17th or above!

 

Southampton

@ConnorArmstrong

Last season: 8th
Manager: Ronald Koeman
Rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Odds: 1250/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
I hope that this season ahead provides us with signs of improvement as it progresses, as it seems pretty obvious that Ronald Koeman is going to have to rebuild. It’d be great if we could have a good cup run along the way.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
That Koeman’s new side can’t adapt quickly enough and we end up playing catch up, possibly leading to relegation.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I think the only place we don’t actually need to strengthen is central midfield. We’ve had players plucked from defence and attack, and we still need a goalkeeper to compete with Artur Boruc.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
For obvious player/manager related reasons from this summer, I most want to beat Liverpool and Tottenham. West Ham is another big one for me personally, living in Essex – there’s a lot of Hammers about!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
A bit difficult to say right now, seeing as the key men seem to be leaving, with new faces arriving. Dušan Tadić looks an exciting acquisition, though.

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Brom and Aston Villa

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester – I can’t see them flirting with relegation in the slightest and I think they’ll causes some upsets.

9. Where will you finish?
Somewhere between 10th and 15th. I’ll be happy so long as we stay up with a few games to go and show progression as the new manager builds his own Saints team. 

Stoke City

@JessySCFC

Last season: 9th
Manager: Mark Hughes 
Rivals: Port Vale, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Odds: 2500/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is that we’ll finish higher than our current highest finish (9th). 

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is injuries to our best players! 

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We really need to strengthen our strike force, it’s what lets us down the most.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
As per with every season, I’d most want to beat Arsenal and West Brom. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Arnautovic. His pace is unbelievable and this season he’ll be better than he was in the previous because he’s finally started to get used to our playing style and the league itself. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea.

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, QPR, West Brom

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester, I hope. (You’re welcome Chris)

9. Where will you finish?
I hope that we’ll finish 7th or 8th, which may be optimistic to say the least. 

Sunderland

@TonySAFC1973

Last season: 14th
Manager: Gus Poyet
Rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Leeds United
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
A solid consistent season

2.What’s your biggest fear?
A relegation battle

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
A right-back and left-back

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Hull City

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Jordi Gomez and Giaccherini

6. Who will win the league?
Arsenal

7. Who will go down?
West Brom, Aston Villa and Burnley

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Swansea or Leicester

9. Where will you finish?
10th

Swansea City

@luseax

Last season: 12th
Manager: Garry Monk
Rivals: Cardiff City, Bristol City. Bristol Rovers
Odds: 4000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
For Garry Monk to have a great first season in charge of us.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I’d say with the signings we’ve already made we’re okay. Although I would like to see us bring in a central defender and right back. Feel like we need stronger cover for Rangel if he can’t play some games.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I’d like to see us beat everyone naturally. Although a win against Everton would be nice as it’s never happened before. Not that I hate Everton, it just would be nice to beat them once. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Bafetimbi Gomis. Great signing for us, and could be lethal combining with Bony, providing he stays. 

6. Who will win the league?
Man City

7. Who will go down?
Argh, I hate this question. West Brom, Villa and Burnley.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Dark horses hmm.. Have a feeling Leicester might surprise a few this coming season.

9. Where will you finish?
Mid table again, going for 11th.

Tottenham Hotspur

@samhyde97

Last season: 6th
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham United
Odds: 66/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mauricio Pochettino taking us back to the Champions League, or perhaps even better, some silverware: the Europa League.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Losing Lloris before the season and/or losing Eriksen after the season.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Left Back, Centre Back; Rose and Dawson are worse than useless.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
As usual, Arsenal, of course.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Bentaleb and Tom Carroll, as well as the usuals; Eriksen, Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen etc.

6. Who will win the league?
City; no one can compete with that much money except Chelsea but I still don’t think they’ve got a good enough striker in Diego Costa.

7. Who will go down?
QPR (they’ll spend too much trying to create a whole new team again), West Brom, and Burnley.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester City; great squad and the money to keep it together and improve it, and Southampton; they may have lost their stars but with Koeman as manager and Tadic, Fonte and Rodriguez they can still do well.

9. Where will you finish?
Unfortunately and rather pessimistically, I think, without a solid defence it will be another 5th or 6th place finish.

West Bromwich Albion

@TheDelaney24

Last season: 17th
Manager: Alan Irvine 
Rivals: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Stoke City
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mid table mediocrity. Sounds uninspiring but there’s a rebuilding job going on at the Hawthorns this summer, having lost a few players in the close season. I’m sure most Baggies would take safety & continue good progress we had made. 

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation. I think it would be very hard for us to come back if we were relegated. Financially, we’d be fine, but we’d lose a lot of very good, established players.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Defence & attack. The signing of Lescott was a major statement, & it looks like the club are addressing our lack of full backs. We really need one top striker and a winger though.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Would have to be Villa again. Midlands derbies are few & far between these days, with Wolves & Birmingham in the Championship. Beating one of the big boys is always pleasing. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Everyone knows about Lescott and he will be a great addition to our squad. On his day, Stephane Sessegnon is a joy to watch, & Mulumbu has been courted by bigger clubs for a while. Squad is a bit thin at the moment but hopefully we can add a couple of the new lads to that list in time. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea. If Costa transfers his La Liga form to the PL Chelsea will be a formidable outfit. They’ve been crying out for a goalscorer. Cesc was an excellent addition too.

7. Who will go down?
I think Villa will struggle with Lerner having put the block on any major expenditure until they’re sold. Burnley will find it tough, but the last one could come from anywhere. Southampton? Interesting to see how they cope after the firesale. 

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
If they continue the progress from last season, then Palace will surprise a few people. Think Leicester will do ok too, they have a few £ to spend and have a good set up in Pearson and his team.

9. Where will you finish?
I think it’ll be tight but I think we’ll stop up. Anywhere between 10th and 17th would be deemed a reasonable season for us. 

West Ham United

@IAmKieranA

Last season: 13th
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, Arsenal
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is for us to have a very solid finish around mid-table.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear of the new season is that we will struggle again due to the lack of funds but hopefully Lambert can find a few cheap gems.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We need more depth in defence as in a new centre back and right back

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Spurs, of course!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Aaron Cresswell and Ravel Morrison can shine and also Kouyate

6. Who will win the league?
Manchester City

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, Leicester and West Brom

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Everton.

9. Where will you finish?
I’ll go for 8th