Dan’s Remarkable and Brilliant EPL Predictions (based on one game and a lot of bull shit prejudices)

Arsenal

Yes they blew the first game and it looks like last season again where they lost the season in the first two months. Guess what, it just happened again. They have still yet to focus on the issues of a good scoring striker and a powerhouse in the midfield and will continue to challenge for 3rd place.

Aston Villa

Sherwood is a dickhead who has found his level. I am happy for him. He’ll do a decent job at Villa and I am happy for them. I have a soft spot for them. They’re hardworking and increasingly creative and that will keep them challenging for the top 10 without ever getting there.

Bournemouth

I know very little about these guys and yet I will still say with confidence, they will try hard, have  agreat home win against one of the big teams, beat Spurs at away and get relegated before the end of the season.

Chelsea

What the fuck is Jose going on about with his Dr. Clearly he has exaggerated the issue but probably for his own reasons. She will be gone by Christmas. Chelsea aren’t as good as last year. They dont have the aura. However while they will struggle in the Champion League (relatively) and get knocked out in the quarters, they’ll win the league by 5 points. If they get a striker who can stay fit and score, they’ll dominate again.

Crystal Palace

Alan Fucking Pardew is a good manager. Newcastle fans know it. And he has brought in decent players in Cabaye and held onto some good ones. They will have a good cup run and have no worries in the league, beating United at Old Trafford.

Everton

Martinez has struggled despite inheriting a team with a rock solid defence including some real quality in Jagielka and Coleman and now with some quality going forward in Barkley, Osman and Lukaku. Yet that last name says it all. Lukaku makes ex Exeter City captain Russel Coughlin look hard working (random memory). He has talent but not ethic. Plus he is a dickhead. If Lukaku fires, Everton will finish in the top 6.

Leicester City

Pearson got wrongly fired for having a racist son and being a tool. But mostly he got fired because the Thais in charge have no idea what they are doing. They will bring down the club and started brilliantly by hiring Ranieri, one of the shittest managers of the last 15 years who somehow manages to get new jobs. This is apparently his last. The sense of relief is like you’ve been dying for a piss. Leicester might stay up but it wont be by much.

Liverpool

Rodgers is under pressure after an average last season but ignoring the delusions of grandeur, Liverpool aren’t the team they used to be. They are meant to finish outside the top four. A lot of their buys for the last 2 summers have been baffling. Benteke is a beast but behind him play a squad of averageness. Rodgers is a good coach but his buying policy might get him fired by the end of the season.

Manchester City

Well Pellegrini is a makeweight, mostly because the delusions of an average club thrown tax free money from a despot is now modern football. All dickhead fans long for a murderous regime to come in and give them Champions League football. Man City haven’t improved for two years. Toure is still a fine player. All of the guff said about him by old pros is ridiculous. Aguero is the best striker in the world on his game. Kompany and Hart are overrated. Sterling aint worth that much sterling. They lack cohesion and defence. Of course they will challenge for the league but have a bad March and drop of out the CL and the league race.

Manchester United

Van Gaal is going to struggle this season to finish 4th. The players still aren’t good enough in defence and they still have no idea what they are doing. Van Gaal will blame the players but if the students don’t under the concepts, its the tutor’s fault. Depay is balls, Rooney will get a red in a big game, Smalling is the best of his defenders ironically (Rojo is gash, Phil Jones is Bournemouth), De Gea will rightly leave and United might not finish 4th. That would be the end of so much.

Newcastle United

Ahh is it a new season? Are we optimistic again? Hell yeah. First game of the season showed that Newcastle can look good but also have holes to be exposed by good coaches and pace. So it will be standard season of some glorious wins, amazing escapes and remarkable capitulations. McClaren is average and his recent record is poor but sadly that’s what we deserve under Ashley. I am hopeful for Mitrovic. You know he will get a few goals, a few punch ups, a few drunkens nights and a last minute bullet header to beat the Mackems.

Norwich City

No fucking idea beyond probably will get relegated. How about that for a review?

Southampton

Great team. Great coach. Fantastic purchases and nice style of play. Might struggle in defence this season but much to admire and will challenge for 6th.

Stoke

My fuck they have bought and bought often well. Shaqiri should be a helluva talent. If Hughes can integrate them all, they will try and fail magnificently. Stoke of course, aren’t going anywhere. 10th.

Sunderland

Ahh what a disaster. Terrible start to the season and will remain another season of struggle. They’ve bought terribly. They should just about stay up and Defoe will get 12. Then Dick will retreat back into his pants.

Swansea

Yet another excellent club with good players who will move on next season to bigger things. This will be the end of Gary Monks who is doing well but will fail sooner rather than later. There you go. That’s a prediction for next season. This season they will finish 9th and have a good cup run.

Tottenham

Quiet times at Spurs as Levy presumably realises they are a second rank club who won’t win shit. I like Pinocchio! He can organise a team well but his lack of strikers will see them struggle as their defence won’t be able to handle the pressure. This is the end of the recent optimism as they’ll simmer down to 8th.

Watford

Bought a 100 players and have a good coach. They might just make it and it started well. Of course they will struggle and use the wrong brand of football but they’ll be okay.

West Brom

Pulis is a good manager and has bought well. I like a lot about them despite Pulis’ reputation. I like stadium. I like the nickname, the Baggies and I dont understand anything they say. But then I am not listening. 13th.

West Ham

I loved Bilic in Euro 96. He looked determined and focused alongside Stimac and the other guy. Then in the World Cup 1998, he proved himself to be a dickhead, feigning injury to get Blanc banned form the final. Bellend. However despite struggling relatively, they have decent players and will finish close to the top 10.

2013

PANO_20130201_172821It was some year, different to others in its intensity and focus but still a worthy entrant. I feel I say this every year but it’s certainly true. Apart from living and experiencing the Middle East while in Qatar, a memorable experience in itself, I travelled to Dubai, Oman, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Lebanon, Poland twice, Romania three times, Nepal, Czech Republic, Armenia, Georgia, England three times, Scotland, Italy, Barcelona and Turkey seeing the capitals and plenty of other places in all. I’ve seen the mountains and the beaches, the sun and the snow. Friends have been made, re-met and re-made. I’m going to say with confidence it was a good year.

Newcomer of the Year Nancy in Doha. Great fun, funny sense of humour and wicked to boot.

Gary O’Connor deserves an honourable mention too. Great boss, Good drinker. Newcastle United supporter. Mildly crazy.

My Christ Its Been a Long Time

Meeting Jim in Dubai after 5 years Seeing Andy Carlin after a few years for a few hours opposite Reading Station

20130831_155848Meal of the Year

Eating Hungarian food in the middle of Romania Seafood in Cambodia

What the hell happened Last Night

Happy shakes in Cambodia

Vodka in Tbilisi

Sights of the Year

IMG_20130329_202733

Edinburgh in summer

Inside the Sagrada Familia

The Tyne Bridge in glorious sunshine

The mountains of Nepal

Random Moment Award

Being in an Indian dance bar in Muscat. Truly surreal.

Cultural Event of the Year

The political protest in Armenia over the bus price hike. A direct and effective protest that puts our consumerism to shame. Want to get something done, dont subsidise the enemy!

Red Bull Flugtag event in November????

Sports event of the Year

Spain vs Uruguay

Meeting Seb Coe and Sergei Bubka001

Films of the Year Cloud Atlas – grand, pretentious, over-ambiitous, stirring, thought-provoking and visual stunning.

Musical moment of the Year Queens of the Stone Age in Gdansk

Book of the Year – I really didn’t read last year which tells its own story. Maybe Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman or the History of the Middle East to garner some background. Ahh no, The Life and Times of the Penis! Interesting read. But sadly I might only have read 3 books that year 😦

Bar of the Year Beach bars in Cambodia

Scariest moment of the Year The landing through the storm just before Christmas. Scariest of my life.

Big Balls Moment Mosh pitting in Gdansk with Olivia at the Heineken Opener in Gdansk.

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Person of the Year Olivia. It was a fun time from the music to the mountains to the cities.

Would I do it all again? Hell yeah. I’d like to thank everyone for helping me along the way 🙂

Roll on 2014. This is gonna be good 🙂 Hope to see you soon

At the Manager’s Trough

250px-Guus_Hiddink_2012Guus Hiddink is the manager/coach (whatever the term is) of Anzhi Makhachkala, the club from Dagestan. It was founded in 1991 after the fall of the Soveit Union and is owned by a billionaire who’s pumped millions into the club. They are perhaps most famous for paying Samuel Eto’o around $400,000 a week to play for them. They also bought Willian, one of the world’s best young players from Shakhtar Donetsk recently.

Due to the security climate in the Caucasus mountain republic, Anzhi train and play in Moscow and this week it’s the second leg of their tie with Newcastle. The first tie in Moscow was pretty dire and ended 0-0 which was about the right result. The 5,000 crowd was pretty pathetic despite the cold weather.

I’m deliberately writing this before the game so there can be no accusations of any possible sour grapes. I actually think we should win this game and so Hiddink will continue managing on the fringe of Europe, geographically and figuratively. he is after all one of the premier managers in the game and along with Eto’o, one of the games great strikers, I am a little disappointed by his absence from the mainstream.

He may argue its a great challenge to take and mold a new club.  And of course Anzhi should be able to leapfrog to the front like many other clubs in recent times. Manchester City and Chelsea are two very recent examples in England and a decade before Newcastle United saw a huge injection of cash to take them to the top of the league. Its nothing new either. Some of Europe’s greatest clubs have benefitted from the same expenditure.

But more generally clubs grew because they had a fan base behind them. Attendance was a big factor in the budget of the club. The club was the talk of the town and Saturday afternoons were full of apprehension, excitement, joy or sorrow. Anzhi due to obvious factors don’t play at ‘home’ and Hiddink hears distant cries as his team scores. 

toon_2503802bWhile I wish  Anzhi well, hope stability comes to the land and the locals get to see their own club play before them, Hiddink will be sat there last Tuesday in his lavish Moscow apartment watching Barcelona attempt to overturn AC Milan (and Manchester United and Real Madrid battle it out last week) with a sense of lost opportunity.

Hiddink is a respected manager and tactician for the biggest of stages. In reality, he is being paid a fortune to take a job which bizarrely never requires going to Dagestan and involves playing in huge stadiums to sparse crowds. After his exploits with PSV, the Dutch national team, South Korea and Russia, Hiddink is already a wealthy man and at the top of his game. He’s buffing up his pension while the rest of world football is busy looking elsewhere.

January Transfer merry-go-round

Four years ago I walked into a bookies in London and asked to speak to the manager. He duly came, looking slightly suspicious. I asked him what odds he would give me that Andy Carroll would be playing for England in the 2014.

Surprisingly he said ‘who?’ I sensed my chance. I downplayed his record for England youth teams and his Newcastle record and just called him a prospect. The bookie asked around the office and one young worker gave him a brief outline. He turned back and asked how much I wanted to put on. ‘Twenty-five quid.’ I said. ’20-1 then,’ replied the bookie. Done.

This week Andy Carroll, still only 22, transferred from Newcastle United to Liverpool for a cool £35m. Forgetting his apparent wishes to stay, that kind of cash for a still fairly unproven striker had to be taken and I say that as a Newcastle fan, fully aware that only Kung Fu Shola Ameobi, Niles ‘great name’ Ranger, Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands are the last front line strikers left at the club. And none could be called prolific.

But that’s the present situation. Newcastle had to take that kind of cash, just like Liverpool had to accept £50m for Torres, want-a-away or not. Forget all this bullshit talk of ‘in this present economic climate, that’s too much money.’ Since when has Premier League football lived in the real world. An average player at an average Liverpool earns over £48k a week.

Carroll may have professed his wish to stay (and I think he did) and the fans may lament losing the Shearer heir that quickly but financial reality, the sort of modern business practice that Mike Ashley, a man I waiver between loathing and hating, knows the score here. Despite not having a Plan B if Carroll was sold, the present squad and that £35m would keep the club moving in the right direction and I’d be happy with the present league position.

So who got the best deal? Chelsea, Liverpool or Newcastle? Chelsea needed to invest and will certainly have made Michel Platini raise an eyebrow. But they will need to keep doing so for another few years. Liverpool had no choice but to sell Torres and David N’Goal is not going to help out much. A net outlay of £7m on Carroll and Suarez is pretty good. Next to fix that defence.

But for me taking a realist point of view, I’d say Newcastle came out best. £35m is more than the club has spent in years. An organised team especially in midfield can fair well in this average league. Carroll might turn out to be brilliant but he is leggy and possibly prone to leg, ankle, knee injuries. In that case, its a bad investment. But Kenny is not often wrong about a player. Staying fit, Carroll will lead that line for years to come, bullying defenders and hopefully putting John Terry through the back of the net at least twelve times. If he promises that, he can retire right now from international football now. Some things are more important than money.

Newcastle 0 – 0 Derby

How the hell we didn’t win today, I really don’t know. Dominated and created so many chances. Could have had 6. On any other day, we would have smashed Derby by half time. But at least we weren’t Cardiff who blew a 4-0 half time lead to draw 4-4. 12 corners to 1 and 13 shot to 2 says it all.

Gutierrez and Enrique had an excellent first half but Enrique stopped bombing forward in the second which left Guti isolated. Delivery into the box once R Taylor went off was poor too. Smith maybe sat too much but played well. Harper, Coloccini, Simpson and Taylor look rock solid, especially Coloccini who actually looks far better than this league. Carroll is still a rough diamond. We might have seen the best of Pancrate sadly, Shola was guff and Nolan maybe looked tired.

Still I am enjoying this league and Nile Ranger is still the best name in the football league.

sportsdirect.com @ St James’ Park Stadium

Thanks Mike.

Naturally the fat shit wasn’t on hand to announce the name change, sending Derek ‘lambasted’ Llambias to guff his way through another interview. He really must get paid very well to do this. That said, I feel sorry the guy. I guess he feels he has to earn a salary somehow. And I agree about the firesale quotes. It’s all fairly reasonable except the naming rights. While I don’t hold with the end of the world scenarios, it more likely shows how little Ashley is trusted in the wider business world. They also tell us what we all knew about Hughton. He is a patsy. Interview is below.

Relegation:

“It’s been extremely painful – it was a shock, it was unthinkable. We did have a business plan in place at the time that we just put into a cupboard, because we thought we never needed to use it. We’ve had to move on since then and it’s given us an opportunity to bring the wages down to an acceptable level in the Premier League, but not in the Championship.Chris has created a tremendous team spirit that’s reflected on the pitch. Going forward, we hope to maintain that.”

On the difference between Premier League and Championship income:

“It’s huge. We’ve dropped from £100m revenue to £50m. A good chunk of that is TV money from the Premier League – £40m. We get a parachute payment of £12.5m. In the Championship itself you get £2.4m income. You get a drop in your season tickets, attendance and retail – it all drops. That shortfall needs to be made up. Mike is picking the shortfall now and it’s very, very difficult, but we’re getting through it.We didn’t fire sale. At the time the press were saying we needed to fire sale, but we didn’t. We purposefully kept a nucleus of the team that we felt could take us up. It’s working and we’ll add to that – Chris will continue to add to the squad.”

Loans:

“That’s where we’d like to be – it’s affordable. But if Chris identifies a player that we feel will add value, then we just may go out and buy him.”

Renaming SJP:

“We could have worded it (the announcement) better, which is why I came out yesterday to try and explain where we are and what we’re trying to achieve. With the renaming it was always going to be whatever brand it was @ St.James’ Park. For the remainder of this season, we already have sportsdirect.com on the Gallowgate. We’d like to take that branding through the rest of the stadium and have on the outside where you see St.James now, ‘sportsdirect.com @ St.James’ Park’ to showcase to whoever’s out there who wishes to buy that package.”

So will there always be signage reminding people that this is SJP?

“In our reign, absolutely. It’s just adding to it. If it brings in a good chunk of money to the club that goes straight to the team, it’s a revenue that we should look at. Newcastle United’s history is just incredible. It will go to other stadia – people have to look at maximising their revenues. That’s one part of a stadium that you can use that is under-utilised.”

The £20m investment announced last week – how much will go on running costs?:

“In the Championship, every penny plus. It’s a very expensive club to run – we’ve got the highest wage bill in the Championship and that will increase over a period of months to make sure that we give Chris and the team 100% to get us to where we belong.I can’t give you a figure (on how much of that will be invested on players). If Chris comes along and says, ‘I need a right winger, I need a creative midfield player – this is the cost’ then that’s the cost and that’s what we have to put in. We need to get out of it (the Championship) and then once we’re out of it, we need to stay in the Premier League. We believe that we have got the foundation to get out of this league and we believe that we’ve got the foundation to stay in the Premier League. Let’s hope that we have the team that will take us there. It’s very important that the negative press and negativity around the city needs to stop. You need to concentrate on supporting the team. You may not like the administration but we’re here, we’re investing. We’ve made mistakes in the past but we are doing our best. If you get behind our team, your team, it’s necessary.”

Is Mike Ashley in it for the long term?

“His vision is that he’s going to be here to take it back up the Premier League. I think that’s his goal. Once we’re back up there it’s a review of where we again. He may want to take on a partner, i’m not sure – we’ve not had that conversation. (Getting back to the Premier League) is his total focus. It’s all our focus – let’s get back up to where we belong.”

Do you worry about your popularity?

“It’s not fun. When we originally came up it was great and we mixed with the fans. Mike’s a guy that likes to talk to the fans, the everyday person, before the game. I had trouble getting him out of the pub to get him there for kickoff. He still enjoys his football but it’s not the same for him, he used to bring the kids and it was a family atmosphere for us. Do we miss being popular? we were never that popular. It would be nice just for people to focus on the team and the pitch rather than focus on us as individuals or administrators.”

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

“There’s always something you want to change – what would that be? too much to mention, quite honestly. We’re nearly spot on, it’s just that certain decisions took us in a certain direction and it’s very hard to recover from those decisions. A combination of time and results – success – will heal the wounds. We’re patient people and the fans will come around eventually. I’ve no idea of what length of time that will be – I may be a very old man, but they will see in the future that we do care.”

Chris Hughton:

“Once we focused on taking the club off the market, Chris has done a very good job, the players back him 100% so he was the obvious choice going forward and I think it’s the right choice. He’s a really nice guy and he’s got an opinion that we like. We just like what he does. It’s been difficult for Chris. He’s been treading water for so long, he’s been the bridesmaid for so long and now he’s the main man and he will put his stamp on it, absolutely. Chris can recommend players and the board will have the final say. Mike’s got to put the money in so he’s got to agree to that sort of funding. You need to be as flexible as possible. You can’t be too stubborn about certain players. If the number one choice is this and the manager is insistent – but we can’t afford it, then there has to be a number two choice. So it’s a question of ‘Chris, what do you need – give us two or three options for this position and we’ll do our best to get the first one.’ You need that flexibility and a lot of Premier League clubs will go down the line of recommendation by the manager. Mike inherited a very heavy wage bill – and still has some hefty players to pay, but they are good players. They are the guys who are going to get us back up and it’s worth the price if we get back up.

Renaming – did the adverse reaction provoke a rethink?

“We considered it, but then you have to consider what it brings to the club. On a financial basis it brings a good chunk of money that goes directly to the team. If you want extra players, then we need to bring extra revenue and that is one source of revenue that has been undervalued in the past. We’re not taking away St.James’ Park, we’re just adding to it. We will showcase sportsdirect.com until the end of the season and I’m sure we’re going to get a sponsor in for next season.”

Newcastle United

So three disastrous stories last night came out of Newcastle United.

The first is that Ashley is not selling up is ironically is the least bad for once. At least that gives the club some stability for the meantime. He hasn’t been able to sell the club for the new money he craves. Pretenders like Barry Moat simply couldn’t persuade the banks to finance his ideas. Probably good in the long-run if the club is to have an ambitious future. The bizarre statement that Ashley will pump into £20m this week is the kind of guff you get used to. Presumably the clubs has been paying it’s bill of late and the transfer window doesn’t open until January. So the £20m is for what exactly?

However, having Ashley around for longer grants him the power to make binding decisions about the club. In choosing Hughton, Ashley has at least shown he is consistent in his incompetence. I never wanted Shearer back for some romantic gesture. I wanted a proven winner, a motivator with tactical know-how to get the team out of this division. With our players, it shouldn’t be that difficult. However Hughton is like too many decent but not great ex-players, hard-working, dependable and reliant on others to lead. He isn’t the man to motivate this team. The team is starting to struggle for momentum already with its small squad and lack of strikers. If we get promoted, Hughton should move aside and of course should a new owner come in after promotion, which is Ashley’s hope, a new manager would also be appointed. And with Boro appointing Strachan, the odds of immediate promotion lengthen. Total farce.

Naming rights are fairly normal in football these days but only for new stadia. Changing the name of a grand old place like St James’ Park after 117 years just highlights Ashley’s insensitivity to the storied club. I am not surprised or overly bothered. The Toon Army will always march to St James’ Park.