Premiership 2001: A new front-ear

I know best

Premiership Season 2001/2002 is almost upon us. It’s not been the most exciting of pre-seasons with few big name transfers to get the blood flowing. But it does promise to be an interesting battle for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place as United once again take the piss out of everyone else in the league.

Here I present my final Premiership table and various predictions that no dobut will not resemble the final situation in any shape or form. Except for United’s runaway title victory of course.

01. Manchester United
Manager: Alex Ferguson
Last Season: 1st
Transfers In: Juan Sebastian Veron (28m, from Lazio), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (19m, from PSV), Roy Carroll (2.5m, from Wigan)
Transfers Out: Jonathan Greening (2m, to Middlesbrough), Mark Wilson (1.5m, to Middlesbrough), Teddy Sheringham (free, to Spurs), Jesper Blomqvist, George Clegg, Andy Goram (all free)
Pre-Season: Finally the Old Trafford board have seen the light and released the funds that Ferguson needed to make an impact outside of the Premiership. Veron will be a key signing in midfield while Van Nistelrooy, who has bags of potential, may not make his mark in Europe this year but should be one for the near future. Losing Sheringham was disappointing but realistically he was going to be battling for the subs bench with about four other good strikers.
This Season: Probably going to be another cake walk for United domestically. I’m sure the reserves will bomb out of the Worthington Cup in the first few rounds while a mixture of first-teamers and reserves will lose out in the FA Cup sometime in March. The Premiership might be moderately closer this year but essentially United will have it tied up a few games before the end. Europe is where it really matters for Ferguson in his final season, but don’t expect them to be able to dent teams like Real Madrid who have spent even more than the Old Trafford outfit.
Watch out for: Wes Brown maturing alongside Jaap Stam.

02. Arsenal
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Last Season: 2nd
Transfers In: Francis Jeffers (10m, from Everton), Giovanni VanBronckhorst (8.5m, from Rangers), Richard Wright (5m, from Ipswich), Junichi Inamoto (est 4m, from Gamba Osaka), Sol Campbell (free, from Spurs), Juan (free, from Sao Paolo)
Transfers Out: Stefan Malz (550k, to Kaiserslautern), Guy Demel (200k, to Dortmund), Nelson Vivas, John Lukic, Christopher Wreh, David Noble, Stuart Taylor (all free), Alex Manninger (loan for season, to Fiorentina)
Pre-Season: The jury is out on Wenger’s pre-season activity, but overall it looks promising. Jeffers might be the player that they have been missing since Ian Wright’s departure, while VanBronckhorst is a decent midfielder who will relish the Premiership challenge. The jewel in the crown is of course Sol Campbell who Wenger persuaded to commit the ultimate sin and ply his trade just down the road from his previous employers. A new goalkeeper was a given, but Wright still has a lot to learn, and the first Japanese import, Inamoto, is not expected to make too much headway in the first XI this season.
This Season: It’ll be a battle for second place but the signings that Wenger has made should fend off the more stable teams of Liverpool and Leeds. FA Cup glory is a distinct possibility for Arsenal who will probably take it a bit more seriously than the boys from Manchester.
Watch out for: The aeging defence to take a new shape with Cole and Campbell.

03. Leeds United
Manager: David O’Leary
Last Season: 4th
Transfers In: None
Transfers Out: Tony Hackworth (120k, to Notts County), Gareth Evans (free, to Huddersfield), Warren Feeney, Simon Watson, Kevin Dixon (all free)
Pre-Season: Not much change from what was a strong squad to being with. Although it seems O’Leary has some money to spend (a 19m bid for Kieron Dyer is common knowledge), he seems content to wait and get the right men. As it is, the squad is good enough to once again challege at the right end of the table, if not in Europe.
This Season: It’ll be another strong performance from O’Leary’s babes, although the pressure is starting to grow after a disappointing fourth place last season, and no trophies to show for it. The UEFA cup will probably see them have a decent run but with Champions Leagues leftovers in the tournament, they will face some stiff tests along the way.
Watch out for: The results of the Woodgate/Bowyer trial.

04. Chelsea
Manager: Claudio Ranieri
Last Season: 6th
Transfers In: Frank Lampard (11m, from West Ham), Boudewijn Zenden (7.5m, from Barcelona), Emmanuel Petit (7.5m, from Barcelona), William Gallas (6.2m, from Marseille)
Transfers Out: John Harley (3.5m, to Fulham), Dennis Wise (1.6m, to Leicester), Gus Poyet (initial 1.4m, to Spurs), Bernard Lambourde (300k, to Bastia), Frank LeBoeuf (est 1.5m, to Marseille), Stuart Reddington (20k, to Mansfield)
Pre-Season: Ranieri has been clearing the decks with long-in-the-tooth midfielders Poyet and Wise shipped out and the respective youth and experiece of Lampard and Petit drafted in. Unknown quantity William Gallas will hope to settle in beside fellow Frenchman Marcel Desailly, but subsequently they have lost the services of John Terry. Jody Morris may find himself on the outside looking in and might also decide it is time for him to move on.
This Season: Probably going to be a better season than last year where Chelsea’s form was poor for the most part, only a strong final few months pushing them away from mid-table. The midfield purchases of Lampard and Petit are questionable for the money, but overall should improve the balance of the side. Cup runs are likely but Ranieri’s tactical curiosities may see them suffer in a knockout situation.
Watch out for: Players criticising Ranieri in the press after he plays them out of position three times in the same game.

05. Liverpool
Manager: Gerard Houllier
Last Season: 3rd
Transfers In: John Arse Riise (4m, from Monaco), Milan Baros (3.2m, from Banik Ostrava)
Transfers Out: Christian Ziege (est 4.5m, to Spurs), Leyton Maxwell, Ian Armstrong (both free)
Pre-Season: Surprisingly slow pre-season from a manager who has never been afraid to spend. The only arrivals are young striker, Milan Baros and Monaco’s Jean-Arne Riise. Fulham were all set to unveil Riise until the higher-profile attraction of Anfield stepped in front of him. Losing Ziege to Spurs will not be much of a blow as the moaning German never settled In the side but with no one else in to replace the squads weak links, you have to ask how Liverpool can improve this season.
This Season: And indeed, with question marks over Westerweld in goals, Henchoz at the back and Murphy and Smicer in midfield, the Liverpool squad is not as dense in quality as it needs to be. They will perform strongly for the main, but inconsistency has been Liverpool’s achilles heel for nearly a decade, and this season will be no different. UEFA Cup run will be likely but Leeds may be their main challengers.
Watch out for: That front line from heaven – Owen, Fowler, Litmanen and eh, Heskey.

06. Aston Villa
Manager: John Gregory
Last Season: 8th
Transfers In: Olof Mellberg (5m, from Racing Santander), Moustapha Hadji (exchange, from Coventry) Peter Schmeichel (free, from Sporting Lisbon), Hassan Kachloul (free, from Southampton)
Transfers Out: Gareth Southgate (6.5m, to Middlesbrough), David James (3.5m, to West Ham), Julian Joachim (exchange, to Coventry), Neil Cutler (free, to Stoke)
Pre-Season: Controversial pre-season for Gregory and Ellis at Villa Park. The loss of England internationals Southgate and James for 10m could be seen as very good business, even if it did send out the wrong signals. Both have been restrainedly outspoken in their criticism of the club and most fans were happy to see the back of them. Julian Joachim who has long feuded with Gregory also scurried out the Villa Park gates across the midlands to Highfield Road, Coventry. In the opposite direction came Moroccan midfielder Moustapha Hadji while Gregory managed to convince Southampton free-agent Hassan Kachloul that Villa were a bigger team than Ipswich. The jewel in the crown was the capture of former goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel on a free transfer. He may be a season or two past his best but he’ll win a good few extra points for Villa this season.
This Season: The signing of Schmeichel is the main reason that I’ve predicted a relatively high finish for Villa this year. The attacking prowess of Hadji and Kachloul will also bag a few extra goals for Villa and with Ginola (should he get a game) and Merson also available, moments of magic will be plentiful. Defensively we’ll have to wait and see how new signing Mellberg works out, but 5m is a large outlay for a relative unknown.
Watch out for: Schmeichel – and because he’s not playing for the Red Devil Mob, people will like him!

07. Tottenham Hotspur
Manager: Glenn Hoddle
Last Season: 12th
Transfers In: Christian Ziege (est 4.5m, from Liverpool), Gus Poyet (init 1.4m, from Chelsea), Goran Bunjevcevic (1.4m, from Crvena Zvezda), Shwan Jalal (free, from Hastings), Teddy Sheringham (free, from Man Utd), Kasey Keller (free)
Transfers Out: Luke Young (init 3m, to Charlton), Ian Walker (2.5m, to Leicester), Sol Campbell (free, to Arsenal), Dave McEwen (free, to QPR), Neale Fenn (free, to Peterborough)
Pre-Season: Busy and eventful pre-season wheeling and dealing from Spurs. On the surface, the capture of Poyet, Sheringham, Ziege and Bunjevcevic looks like good business, especially when balanced against the 5.5m recoup for reserve players Young and Walker. But Gus has had his injury problems and Teddy is no spring-chicken either. Success will depend on these players being available consistently.
This Season: Should be Spurs best season since the mid-90s. If Bunjevcevic can settle and bring on youngsters like Gary Doherty, Ledley King and Tony Gardner, and Neil Sullivan has a season like the previous one, Spurs should challenge for a UEFA cup place. Rebrov and Sheringham is a mouth-watering prospect also.
Watch out for: Simon Davies to break through and Darren Anderton to break down.

08. Ipswich
Manager: George Burley
Last Season: 5th
Transfers In: Finidi George (3.1m, from Mallorca), Tommy Miller (800k, from Hartlepool), Andy Marshall (free, from Norwich), Pablo Counago (free, from Celta Vigo)
Transfers Out: Richard Wright (5m, to Arsenal), Sean Friars (free)
Pre-Season: Considering they are in the UEFA cup, the transfer activity has been mildly disappointing at Portman Road. Although they were in the top six for nearly the whole season, considerable improvements will be required to keep pace again. The biggest loss they made was missing out on Hassan Kachloul when he backtracked on a move to Ipswich. The biggest gain was 5m for promising keeper, Richard Wright. Andy Marshall is an able replacement.
This Season: Should be still a top ten finish for one of the best bosses around. Young gems like Titus Bramble and Hermann Hreidarsson should continue to flourish alongside more experienced pros like Matt Holland and Marcus Stewart. If Stewart fires like he did last season, and Finidi George settles in quickly, Ipswich will have few worries.
Watch out for: Marcus Stewart getting his England call.

09. Charlton Athletic
Manager: Alan Curbishley
Last Season: 9th
Transfers In: Jason Euell (4.75m, from Wimbledon), Luke Young (3m, from Spurs), Shaun Bartlett (2m, from FC Zurich), Gavin Peacock (loan, from QPR)
Transfers Out: Shaun Newton (850k, to Wolves), (Kemal Izzet, Anthony Allman (both free, to Colchester), Tony Caig, Karim Bagheri, Mark Royal (all free)
Pre-Season: Curbishley has bought very wisely over the pre-season with three strong players captured for just under 10m. Euell will score goals as he has done for Wimbledon over the last 3-4 seasons, Bartlett (on loan last season) was a key figure in Charlton’s top-half finish and the young and hungry Luke Young will want to prove to Spurs that he was deserving of a first-team slot at White Hart Lane.
This Season: With key men like Kinsella, Johanssen, Fish and Rufus still at the Valley, Charlton should have no fears about consolidating for a further year. The new buys will shake things up a bit and a cup run, perhaps in the League Cup, a distinct possibility.
Watch out for: Curbishley being linked with all major job vacancies.

10. Sunderland
Manager: Peter Reid
Last Season: 7th
Transfers In: Lilian Laslandes (3.6m, from Bordeaux), Nicolas Medina (3.5m, from Argentino Juniors), Bernt Haas (750k, from Grasshoppers Zurich), Baki Mercimek (free, from HFC Haarlem), David Bellion (free, from Cannes)
Transfers Out: Carsten Fredgaard (free, to FC Copenhagen)
Pre-Season: Hmm…Peter Reid has performed miracles at Sunderland in the last few seasons. Their consistent top-eight performances have solidified the clubs reputation as an outfit that opponents should not take lightly. Given their solid (I’m using that word a lot here) finish last season, one would have expected Peter Reid to splash the cash and keep Sunderland up there. But Reid has plumped for a string of unknowns – Laslandes, Medina, Mercimek, Haas and Bellion have come in for a combined transfer fee of just under 8m.
This Season: And the question is, will it gel? If it does then Sunderland should finish top 7 or 8 again. I don’t think it will and expect them to finish mid-table with the Sunderland fans getting impatient come next May. We may see Mr Phillips depart for London at that point.
Watch out for: Arca, Varga and Thome … foreigners who have worked out.

11. Newcastle
Manager: Bobby Robson
Last Season: 11th
Transfers In: Laurent Robert (10m, from PSG), (Craig Bellamy (6.5m, from Coventry), Robbie Elliot (free, from Bolton)
Transfers Out: Stephen Glass (free, to Watford), Garry Brady (free, to Portsmouth), Des Hamilton (free, to Cardiff), Kevin Gallagher, David McMahon (both free)
Pre-Season: Although the signing of Laurent Robert is notable, Newcastle have struggled overall to make an impact in the transfer market. Craig Bellamy is fast becoming John Hartson Mk II – a player who makes big money moves season after season, and never really “settles” successfully. Robbie Elliot returns but he is hardly a player that the Toon fans will pay to see. Pretty much the best part of the pre-season was the release of deadwood like Brady, Hamilton and Gallagher. Stephen Glass was one of the more useful squad members but he could be back with Watford next year.
This Season: Another mediocre season for Newcastle as Alan Shearer gets groomed for his first managerial job. It’s likely that Shearer will not play regularly again after numerous injuries in the last 4-5 seasons and he seems to be the popular choice to take over from the over-the-hill Bobby Robson.
Watch out for: The boos ringing around St James Park after home draws with Bolton and Southampton.

12. Middlesbrough
Manager: Steve McClaren
Last Season: 14th
Transfers In: Gareth Southgate (6.5m, from Aston Villa), Jonathan Greening (2m, from Man Utd), Mark Wilson (1.5m, from Man Utd), Szilard Nemeth (free, from Inter Bratislava)
Transfers Out: Christian Karembeu (3.5m, to Olympiakos), Keith O’Neill (1m, to Coventry), Neil Maddison (free, to Darlington), Alan Moore (free, to Burnley), Chris Bennion (free)
Pre-Season: All eyes will be on McClaren to see if he gets “Kidd Syndrome”. After stepping out of the very safe shadow of being Manchester United coach, McClaren will feel the pressure of 30,000 fans for every game at the Riverside. Southgate is a good buy and alongside Ehiogu, the defence will be more stable than it has been for some time. Young striker, Nemeth, joins a ridiculous number of forwards at Boro – Boksic, Ricard, Job, Whelan, Windass, Deane and Ormerod. Even Andy Campbell is still at the club following the breakdown of his move to Crystal Palace. If McClaren wants to clear ranks then he will retain Boksic, Ricard and Windass while shifting out the rest. The jury is out on the former Manchester United duo of Greening and Wilson. Are they good enough for the Premiership?
This Season: The midfield is the weak area for Boro and the ex-Man U duo need to make an impact. But expect nothing but an occasional flirtation with the bottom six and little impact in the league.
Watch out for: Paul Okon, the Australian midfielder. Lot more talent than given credit for.

13. Derby County
Manager: Jim Smith
Last Season: 17th
Transfers In: Fabrizio Ravanelli (free, from Lazio), Stefano Eranio (free)
Transfers Out: Rory Delap (4m, to Southampton), Gerard Doherty (free)
Pre-Season: The big question all summer was, is he telling the truth or is he just feeding all lines as he has done throughout his career? But enough about Geoffrey Archer. Fabrizio Ravanelli finally sealed his switch to Pride Park after the on-off-on-off-on-off-on (I kid you not) saga ended with Fab signing on the line that was dotted. So far he is the only new arrival (that’s if we leave aside the curious return of Eranio only months after he returned to Italy) and some might say that it is not sufficient to ensure Derby stay clear of relegation this year, especially as they off-loaded one of their better players for 4m to fellow strugglers, Southampton.
This Season: But I think it may be enough, because if nothing else, Derby have a good squad spirit, some good youngsters (Riggot, Johnson, Christie) and seasoned pros (Strupar, Burley, Kinkladze). The prolific goalscorer was one thing they didn’t have but Ravanelli fits the bill perfectly. If Kinkladze feeds him like Juninhio did at Boro, Derby won’t struggle half as badly as last season.
Watch out for: Ravanelli to become a hero at Pride Park (and pull his jersey over his head after every goal).

14. Fulham
Manager: Jean Tigana
Last Season: Promoted as Division One Champions
Transfers In: Edwin van der Sar (7m, from Juventus), Steed Malbranque (5m, from Lyon), Luis Boa Morte (1.5m, from Southampton), Abdeslam Ouaddou (undisclosed, from Nancy)
Transfers Out: Paul Peschisolido (150k, to Sheff Utd), Simon Morgan (free, to Brighton), Wayne Collins, Terry Phelan (free, to Sheff Utd)
Pre-Season: A frustrating time for Jean Tigana has seen Fulham miss out on the signings of Jean Arse Riise (to Liverpool) and Jan Koller (to Dortumnd). But just as we went to press, he was able to secure the capture of Holland’s #1 keeper, Edwin van der Sar and the oddly named Steed Malbranque. Just like Schmeichel at Villa, Van Der Sar will be a key buy for Tigana. His only other purchases so far are the unknown defender Ouaddou and Southampton and Arsenal reject, Luis Boa Morte. He has managed to retain all of the promoted squad that he wanted with the main departure being former Birmingham striker, Paul Peschisolido.
This Season: Tigana will see his team struggle this season due to a lack of outlay on new faces. His superior coaching along with the goals of Louis Saha and the quality of van der Sar should ensure they finish outside of the relegation places but it won’t be the dream return to the top division that many fans expected.
Watch out for: Tigana getting very angry and draft in a few big buys during the season.

15. Leicester City
Manager: Peter Taylor
Last Season: 13th
Transfers In: Ian Walker (2.5m, from Spurs), Dennis Wise (1.6m, from Chelsea), Jamie Scowcroft (3m, from Ipswich)
Transfers Out: Steve Guppy (600k, to Celtic), Richard Creswell (500k, to Preston), Lawrie Duffield (250k, to Hull), Stuart Campbell (200k, to Grimsby), Tommy Goodwin (free)
Pre-Season: Different approcach from Peter Taylor this pre-season following much criticism of his lower-league buys last year. Ade Akinbiyi cost 5m but flopped spectacularly, Trevor Benjamin and Junior Lewis similarly failed to make an impact. Ian Walker and Dennis Wise have bagloads of Premiership experience and should steady the sinking ship. Jamie Scowcroft has seen his career stall in the last couple of seasons so he will be looking to re-establish himself after his multi-million pound move from Ipswich. Taylor has also managed to ship out squad players like Creswell and Campbell.
This Season: Despite the presence of Scowcroft, Walker and Wise, it’ll be another tough season for Leicester. One feels that Muzzy Izzet has lost that fizz he had under Martin O’Neill, question marks remain over Darren Eadie and Steve Guppy has gone to play Champions League football for Celtic.
Watch out for: Robbie Savage, probably one of the most underrated players in the league.

16. West Ham
Manager: Glenn Roeder
Last Season: 15th
Transfers In: David James (3.5m, from Aston Villa), Sebastien Schemmel (465k, from Metz), Laurent Courtois (free, from Tolouse)
Transfers Out: Frank Lampard (11m, to Chelsea), Stuart Pearce (free, to Man City), Marc Keller (free, to Strasbourg), Jimmy Bullard (free, to Peterborough), Terrell Forbes (free, to QPR), Davor Suker (free)
Pre-Season: Poor old Glenn Roeder. He has come in for nothing but criticism since he took over as the ‘Ammers new boss from family favourite, ‘Arry Redknapp. He certainly had a great start by unwittingly bagging 11m for average midfielder Frank Lampard. Losing Stuart Pearce might be a blessing in disguise as ‘ol Psycho can’t keep going for ever and it’s time to groom a replacement. Coming in are eccentric keeper, James, and steady defender Schemmel. Nothing too ground-breaking.
This Season: He says the right things, but can he achieve the right things? Roeder seems likeable but despite the fact that he pulled in great money for Lampard, he still has to replace him. Cole and Carrick will continue to develop, Kanoute and DiCanio are still around (at the moment) and Winterburn, Lomas and Sinclair add reasonable quality. They’ll just keep their heads above water but it will be a close run thing.
Watch out for: The end of season exodus.

17. Everton
Manager: Walter Smith
Last Season: 16th
Transfers In: Thomas Radzinski (4.5m, from Anderlecht), Alan Stubbs (free, from Celtic)
Transfers Out: Francis Jeffers (10m, from Everton), Philip Jevons (150k, to Grimsby), Stephen Hughes (free, to Watford), Richard Gough (free), Alex Nyarko (loan, to Monaco)
Pre-Season: Getting rid of injury-prone and unhappy Francis Jeffers for twice the amount of his replacement is probably one of the top pieces of business this summer. Radzinski is a highly-rated Canadian international who has starred in the Champions League, scoring twice against Manchester United last season. Alan Stubbs will probably struggle in the top flight just like he did when he played for Bolton a few years back. Stephen Hughes also leaves for free just three seasons after his 3.5m move from Arsenal. How the mighty can fall.
This Season: Radzinski might be the only thing that keeps Everton up this season although it may be quite comfortably so. If Duncan Ferguson and Paul Gascoigne can stay out of their sick beds long enough to make a difference, then Everton might make an impact away from the bottom four…but don’t count on it.
Watch out for: The Everton financial plight to hit the headlines.

18. Southampton
Manager: Stuart Gray
Last Season: 10th
Transfers In: Rory Delap (4m, from Derby), Anders Svensson (750k, from Elfsborg), Paul Murray (free, from QPR), Jacinto Ela Eyene (free, from Espanyol)
Transfers Out: Luis Boa Morte (1.5m, to Fulham), Hassan Kachloul (free, to Aston Villa), Phil Warner (free, to Cambridge), Paul Hughes (free, to Luton)
Pre-Season: Maybe the best piece of news for Southampton manager Stuart Gray is the possibility that Matt LeTissier might be fit enough to play a major role in their first season at the new ground, St Marys. LeTiss has reportedly lost a stone and is looking forward to making up for lost time. Rory Delap will be a decent buy, but little is known about midfielders Svensson and Eyene. Paul Murray makes the step up from division one but it remains to be seen whether or not he can make an impact on the Premiership. Boa Morte is no loss but Kachloul will be missed.
This Season: It will be a struggle for Southampton throughout the year due to a general lack of quality in the squad. Dean Richards will continue to shine as will Wayne Bridge and James Beattie, but players like Mark Draper, Dan Petrescu and Kevin Davies are a drain on the first XI and need to be replaced. It’s a strong Premiership this season and Southampton may be part of it for the last time for a while…and that’s a shame.
Watch out for: James Beattie and Wayne Bridge to jump ship at seasons end.

19. Blackburn
Manager: Graeme Souness
Last Season: Second in Division One
Transfers In: Carrado Grabbi (6.7m, from Ternana), Alan Mahon (1.5m, from Sporting Lisbon), Tugay (1.3m, from Rangers), Gordon Greer (700k, from Clyde)
Transfers Out: Lee Hardy (free, to Oldham), Michael Bingham (free, to Mansfield)
Pre-Season: The big arrival is Grabbi from Serie B outfit, Ternana (nope I never heard of them either). It’s a lot of money to spend on a player who has made a career as a Serie B hitman, and one feels that Blackburn will sink or swim based on the success or otherwise of Grabbi. Alan Mahon and Tugay are less spectacular buys, but Tugay has the potential to be more than worth the money if he can apply himself. Gordon Greer is a 19-year old defender who is one for the future.
This Season: Blackburn’s youngsters are what Souness must be pinning his hopes on after a rather muted raid on the transfer market. Eyebrows have been rightly raised at the outlay on Grabbi so there will be much criticism if the striker fails to deliver. David Dunn, Damien Johnson, Damien Duff and the superb Matt Jansen will try their best … but it might not be enough.
Watch out for: The exciting crop of youngsters mentioned above.

20. Bolton Wanderers
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Last Season: Division One Play-Off Winners
Transfers In: Henrik Pederson (650k, from Silkeborg), Nicky Southall (free, from Gillingham), Djibril Diawara (loan, from Torino), Akinori Nishizawa (loan, from Cerezo Osaka)
Transfers Out: Matthew Glennon (50k, to Hull), Robbie Elliot (free, to Newcastle), John O’Kane (free, to Blackpool), Nicky Summerbee, Tommy Wright, Jurgen Sommer, Con Boutsianis (all free)
Pre-Season: If ever a team cried out “relegate me”, it’s Bolton. An incredibly uneventful pre-season makes them firm favourites for relegation. Allardyce has tried to add to his striking options with the addition of Diawara and Pederson but their competition is hardly stiff in the form of Nationwide-quality Dean Holdsworth and Michael Ricketts. The defence will also suffer despite the presence of Bolton legend, Gudni Bergsson. Experienced players like Tommy Wright, Jurgen Sommer and Nicky Summerbee have been sent packing which indicates that Sam is making room for future purchases.
This Season: It’ll be long and depressing for Bolton with little to cheer them along the way you would think. Expect Bolton to go the same way as Bradford and Swindon before them, depsite the best efforts of Allardyce, who may yet get his turn at a big club.
Watch out for: A record sequence of games without a win.

That final table

01. Man Utd
02. Arsenal
03. Leeds
04. Chelsea
05. Liverpool
06. Aston Villa
07. Tottenham
08. Ipswich
09. Charlton
10. Sunderland
11. Newcastle
12. Middlesbrough
13. Derby
14. Fulham
15. Leicester
16. West Ham
17. Everton
18. Southampton
19. Blackburn
20. Bolton

And finally…

Rang…zzzz…Rangers and …zzzz…Celtic …. snooze…zzzzzzz.

My God, if I hear one more reference to Rangers or Celtic invading England again, I’m going to fall asleep. I mean, come on! How long does this tiresome elitist bullshit have to go on for before someone gives a definitive answer on it. This cloak-and-dagger political game that the Old Firm have been playing with the Premiership in the media, is only turning people off the whole idea.

In principal I have no problem with Rangers and Celtic playing in England, with a few alternative scenarious being more attractive to me.

Alternative #1

Why stop at Celtic and Rangers? Why not merge the whole Scottish Premier League into the English Premier League and create two new divisions. How about the following

League Name English Clubs Scottish Clubs Total

Premiership One 10 6 16

Premiership Two 10 6 16

Of course these two leagues will be reduced by about 4 clubs when Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, join the European Super League and leave Celtic and Rangers facing mediocre teams again.

Alternative #2

Send Celtic and Rangers down to English Division Three (if they are lucky) and get them to open the season with a sell out against Macclesfield or Rochdale.

Alternative #3

Let them both join the Premier league and pray they get relegated in their first season. We’ll see how much money they make in division one. Maybe enforce new managers upon both teams as part of the deal. Celtic can have Alan Ball and Rangers could give Paul Gascoigne a go.

Alternative #4

Get a large industrial saw, cut off Scotland from Great Britain and kick it out to sea. They can sail up to Iceland and join their league. Motherwell vs Reykjavik sounds like fun.

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