FA Cup, Round 5

So it’s Round 5 and about 2 Rounds after my Hornets got bounced and I stopped really caring.

Feb 14 2015
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 West Ham
Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Stoke City
Derby County 2-0 Reading
Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Feb 16 2015
Aston Villa 1-0 Leicester City
Bradford 1-2 Sunderland
Arsenal 2-1 Middlesbrough
Feb 17 2015
Preston North End 1-2 Manchester United

Green are those that have correctly guessed each round til the present.

Midweek Feb 10 and 11

Have you ever written something when you’re so tired your eyes close and your brain shuts off and you type random words and phrases ?  That’s tonight.. so I apologize in advance for any featured elephants or random dream words.

Arsenal suffered a disappointing result at White Hart Lane – after taking a one goal lead it was probably expected that their recent defensive improvement would hold but it was no match for Harry Kane who scored two goals after hearing that I suggested he might be overrated.   Meanwhile Leicester’s weekend consisted of a manager that seemingly could have murdered a Palace player on the pitch that was subsequently fired by report before being given a vote of confidence and not fired before being relieved of his duties in a meeting that resulted in him being at training on Monday.

Hard to see Arsenal losing this one at home.

Do You Need the Heimlich?

Sunderland have the advantage of a manager over QPR and that should be enough to power them home with a solid 1-0 victory.

Hull upset Manchester City at the Etihad over the weekend taking a 1-0 lead and managing to hold on to a 1-1 result when James Milner came through with a tremendous free kick (if it has been Messi it would have been goal of the week).  Hard to see a team that can draw with Manchester City not coming away with point at Aston Villa.  If they fail to score it will be 1 point… any more than that and tally up 3 points that has them jump the Villains who are now in the relegation dogfight completely.

Liverpool coming off a disappointing derby game lacking fight, spirit or attacking flair (though .  Spurs coming of a derby win.    When looking at the table this is really a game Liverpool should be fighting to win to make themselves relevant for Champions league discussion.   Spurs would probably take a tough away point.   The urgency should give the reds a win.

10-Feb 2015  
Arsenal2-0Leicester City
Sunderland1-0Queens Park Rangers
Hull City2-0Aston Villa
Liverpool2-1Tottenham Hotspur

Stoke are a tough nut to crack and Manchester city are probably in a must-win game (give me a cliche – pundit award).   Likely to be a touch slog but I see this ending in a solid 1-0 title implications win.

Everton set their stall out to draw in the last game and will probably not change too much.  Meanwhile Chelsea will park the bus and not do very much.    Ross Barkley came on as substitute and made a few things happen so maybe this week he’ll get the start.

Southampton are legitimate, but so apparently, are West Ham who made Man U fight hard for a 1-1 draw over the weekend.   Southampton has skill flair and plays wide and with space.  West Ham will keep it narrow and disciplined.

Manchester United will score and win at home.  I would say Falcao to score but he’s been lackluster so I will say the difference maker is Mr Rooney.

After predicting many 2-2 performances for West Brom I did some analysis that shows that they are are terrible at scoring.  We’re talking Aston Villas scoring bad.  So I pick a different score and yes, it’s 2-2.  This week will be draw but of the 1-1 kind.

Crystal Palace have the advantage of a manager over Newcastle.  Arguably.  Though they will win at home. 1-0


11-Feb 2015  
Stoke City0-1Manchester City
Chelsea 0-0Everton
Southampton1-0West Ham United
Manchester United2-0Burnley
West Bromwich Albion1-1Swansea City
Crystal Palace1-0Newcastle United



Week of Feb 7, 2015 Premier League Picks

It’s Derby Day !

Derby Day

Well, not exactly.

This is going to be a tough week to watch football.   Do we watch the North London Derby featuring the currently resurgent Arsenal against the suddenly expecting to qualify for Europe Spurs?  Or do we move to the part of the country that is largely ignored by anyone interested in the aforementioned derby between Liverpool and Everton?  Luckily the Premier league knows exactly what it’s doing and has staggered them so that we can spend the entire weekend watching the boob tube.

North London

Alexis is out.  The ox is out.. but all of a sudden Arsenal seem to have a healthy stable with Wilshere back, Giroud hitting peak form, Welbeck joining training and the enigmatic Ozil somewhere on the wing… rumours of a recent goal have been confirmed!

But while it’s the flamboyent midfield maestro Cazorla that will be the little engine that people will expect to break open the defense of Spurs, or the speed of  Walcott through the middle that people will expect to break open the game – the result may very well hinge on the play of a Coquelin who is become that midfielder that you can count on to be your cover, to paper over the gaps that pushing forward leaves behind.  There might not be goals, there might not be assists, and there might not be a statistical category for “allowing others to venture forward” but that’s what insurance position is.  It’s not really valuable until you need it.

The amount of fire power is going to ensure that even away from home Arsenal will score 2.  I think Theo is hoping that will be combined with a clean sheet.

What’s the Score going to be Theo?

Spurs, however, have looked much better.  Dembele showing some form and everyone in the know is calling the 5 year contract renewal of Harry Kane the signing of the transfer window. He’s got great balance, positional sense and what i can only call “quick feet” but he’s not dominating in anyway and has, in my opinion, been in an early career purple patch.  Defenses will adjust to his style and his shots will start to get blocked more.   He’s a good player but his work rate is astonishing and it’s only time before he needs to slow down.  Perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to keep calm under pressure and just know what to do.  This was proved during the transfer window where he told this whopper of a lie with a straight face… I want to stay at a “Great Club”.  Yes.  Nice one.

But Spurs also have Eriksen who surprises me every week.  He’s the harmless looking assassin – you don’t expect much but he scores and he scores goals that matter.  Yes, all goals matter but Eriksen seems to be scoring the goals that garner points – sometimes timing is everything.  So how many goals will Christian score?

I will Score 1 and hope it is worth Points

And Harry? What say ye?

I will Score One for Each Year of My Contract

Hardly!  Even Danny Rose is looking suspiciously at that claim – either that or he’s got that green jealousy.

1-2 for the Away Arsenal.

Scouse Derby

The Merseyside Derby is traditionally, the derby game I try to watch.  People like to talk about North London, they even talk about Liverpool against the team from Trafford but in my mind, this is always the game that is the most exciting to watch.  The challenges are borderline reckless, the passion is borderline insane.  The results is borderline predictable.

You have the ball…I know you do!

Of course, this will be Stevie G’s last chance to make it a red day and his team will get behind him.  I expect Sturridge to survive another game and prove that he’s probably the best striker that England can put on the field (when he’s healthy).
The loss will leave Martinez spending more time talking about hit team being in a relegation battle.  As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s actually quite insightful and another example of his plain speaking approach to the media.  He needs to lose his World Cup pundit habits and channel his inner Barry Fry if he wants results because this is just one more week where he’s right – they’re in trouble.  Wunderkind  Ross Barkley needs to start proving himself again as he’s looking about as useful as Jack Rodwell did at Citeh – but then again, he’s a young star so he probably gets extra attention which begs the question – who’s the spare man? and what’s he doing?  Somewhere Martinez needs to find a playmaker than can take advantage of the space that having Ross affords him.

7-Feb 2015  
Tottenham Hotspur1-2Arsenal
Swansea City2-1Sunderland
Manchester City2-1Hull City
Queens Park Rangers1-2Southampton
Aston Villa0-2Chelsea
Leicester City 1-0Crystal Palace

The other games, while relegated to the second tier of interest will still be played.

Swansea stole victory from the jaws of defeat (yeah proud of fitting in that classic piece of punditry) last week with a Jonjo Shelvey burner.   It wouldn’t surprise me to see the same again against a Sunderland team on a decent run (but still boring) that have got the advantage of a Jermaine Defoe who returns a couple of seasons after Spurs figured he wasn’t good enough.  Garry Monk has his work cut out but a Sunderland road win is just too unlikely to predict.

Manchester City looked bad against Wednesday and then looked good in the league away to Chelsea.  They are consistently inconsistent but that beats consistently bad and that’s where Hull are.  Pellegrini has seemingly found a midfield that can work without Ya-Ya Toure – with the second stringers actually learning to pass the ball forward.  Fernandinho almost looks like he might have some talent that he’s been keeping hidden.

Southampton dominated in a loss to Hull and it’s hard to imagine them doing the same again.  That means that they will dominate and win or be poor and lose.  QPR have not won on the road so their home form has been where they have been “racking up” the points.   Yeah… Southampton will have it because well…  no ‘Arry motivatin’ sniff the team …bitta problem dat innit.   I did predict last week that Harry would be the next manager gone but I didn’t think he’d preempt his firing by resigning.

Aston Villa are rubbish. There I said it.  Not even a campaign organized with as much effort as the Invasion of Normandy would allow a result here for the Villains.   I’ve seen predictions of 2,3,4 goals.   I’m going with 2 goals for Chelsea which is enough to win by 2 goals against Villa these days.

Pardew should work in Vegas with the luck he has.  It has to run out away from home against a team that showed so little little passion last week that Tim Sherwood would have said a team of tin men had more heart… and team of cleaned fish had more guts.

8-Feb 2015  
Burnley3-2West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United 2-1Stoke City
West Ham United 1-1Manchester United

Burnley have been doing better.  West Brom, it turns out, despite me predicting 2 goals each week have not scored more than Villa!  Bourahino has a massive 9 goals and that’s 1 shy of half of everything they’ve scored!   Despite me knowing that, I’m still picking them to score 2… but unfortunately, I’m picking Burnley to score 3 in a massive relegation six-pointer!

I picked against Newcastle last week and they taught me a valuable lesson: don’t pick Hull.  At home against Stoke?  It will be touch but they’ll eek out a victory that will allow the crowd to start to move on from the loss of their leader, Alan Pardew.

I remember the best game West Ham every played in the Premier League.  It was the last game of the year 1994-1995 and Blackburn failed to win at Anfield and the Hammers hosting Trafford United.  West Ham played all 10 players in defense, brought in the ghost of Tony Parks, Lawrie Lesley, and the great Phil Parkes to help bat the ball out of the goal mouth for the last 10 minutes with added Fergie time and held on to a point that let Blackburn claim their league title.  Why am I bringing this up?  Because it’s the same result won in the same style this day in 2015.

Bet of the Week: Sherwood to be next manager of QPR.   This is to have some continuance as the team had just got used to the team talks spoken in broken londonish with references to courage and heart.

One Day Son this Could All Be Yours

Side Risky bet with Hedge of the Week:
Steve Bruce to be fired by Hull hedged by Steve Bruce being next QPR manager.

Week of Jan 31, 2015 Premier League Picks

A disastrous set of selections last week for the F.A. Cup but I put that down to my desire to hold continue to view it as the greatest cup competition in the world. I pick the big teams to win and a few upsets. I didn’t foresee the massive cull of top league teams. It could be argued that the Premier League teams are not serious about winning the tournament and the cup has lost its cachet but perhaps the lower division teams just have more heart, passion and desire. Sometimes skill and finesse has a hard time against steely-eyed underdogs.

Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, all went down in a blaze of non-glory.. but one big team survived and, using policies even Scrooge McScrooge would be proud of has found a way to totally screw their fans.

Manchester United in a miserable failure failed to knock out the lowest ranked 4th round team. This has earned them, and their fans, a replay at the Old Toilet. So let’s review the reward for the home fans.

Mandated ticket purchase of roughly 50 pounds for a short notice, Tuesday evening game against a Football League 2 team (this is the 4th Division for us old timers). What a reward. If they don’t buy the ticket they get “suspended” from their season ticket and banned from seeing the next home game (which is Sunderland so it may not be that bad a punishment). If you have a credit card on file, they will automatically apply the charge for you! It’s what the modern cash management policies were invented for – big clubs ripping off its own fans.

Blackmail Policy

But this week there is more football in a league format !

31-Jan 2015  
Hull City2-1Newcastle United
West Bromwich Albion2-2Tottenham Hotspur
Stoke City2-0Queens Park Rangers
Manchester United3-0Leicester City
Crystal Palace1-1Everton
Liverpool2-1West Ham United
2-0Manchester City
1-Feb 2015
Arsenal3-1Aston Villa

Newcastle announced their new manager in John Carver, at least until the end of the season.   I guess this is a positive way of saying that they haven’t been able to find anyone else yet so excuse us while we give up and plot a cunning plan for next year.  I don’t know what that cunning plan may be but I’m going to guess is involves selling their best players.   I really have belief that Hull are better than their position and if Jelavic plays I think they will start to earn their way out of the bottom 3.  Thought he was a decent player at Everton so it’s time to see him back to fitness and form.  Reminds me a little of Rossler at the old City – hard working, scores goals and gets on with it.  Come to think of it, that’s something Everton could use right around now.

I like West Brom and Spurs are looking good in the League.  I didn’t watch the loss in the FA Cup, or their win in the Milk Capital Coca-Cola Cup but my Dad tells me that Dembele finally looked like that stud in midfield.   If they can start to control that central midfield area it will free Eriksen to move around and continue to play better than I rate him.  Apparently there is a trade in the works for Aaron Lennon for Mirallas … I like this deal but it could be improved by throwing in Andros Townsend and searching for a new penalty taker.   Think this will be an up and down game but both teams could score a couple.

Sunderland bore me because they play Sunderland football – boring.  Burnley bore me because they are going to finish in the bottom three and never really make a significant push.  Sunderland boring is better than Burnley boring when being boring at home.  Sunderland weren’t always boring but when you’re not boring sometimes you lack a little stability.

We weren’t always boring…

Stoke are a decent team that are tough to break down.  QPR are a more dynamic and exciting team but are easier to break down. Contrasting styles will make for an interesting game but Stoke will pressure the hoops until they finally cave and crack towards the end of the game.   Sooner or later QPR will break their 10 game away skid but I’m not going to bet against another loss purely on the basis that no-one loses 11 times away in succession, do they?

Leicester beat Manchester United 5-3 earlier in the year in one of the most enjoyable games of the season.  It’s hard to believe they can score even one this weekend, and it’s unlikely they will get away with pre-penalty fouls to take an improbable win.  LVG is still looking at buying players (mostly from Southampton).  Man U in its current form reminds me of a once inferior Man City – they’ve got players, they’ve got transfer targets, they’ve got overpaid stars, but they lack stability and cohesion.  This will be a trouncing that some will say proves Manchester United are most of the way back when in reality the result will be one sided and flattering and more a sign of Leicester’s failing.

Crystal Palace have the Alan Pardew bump that has seen their form improve.  Everton are now focusing on the league because it’s all they’ve got.  It should be a tough game for the Toffee Men and the Palace so a hard earned win will suffice to keep one side happy.  Martinez is going go to have to do something soon or I will be uttering a phrase I never thought I would say “Martinez looks like he might be fired soon”.

If West Ham played Liverpool at home they would be my pick.  That’s to say that all things being equal, either of these teams could work for a victory.  Anfield is worth 1/4 a goal and noise that Sturridge may play (even just a little) adds another 3/4 .  I’m looking forward to Liverpool participating properly again.

Chelsea are good even without Costa.  Man City are good, not without Yaya.  Even though he’s far from his MVP type form of last year, it’s clear how much he means to Citeh when you see them put up fairly dismal performances.   I guess he just makes it look easy.   Frank will try and give a boost but he’ll probably just remind Chelsea of the good times.

Arsenal at home you have to take. Add in a new defender and a young and energetic first team and it’s tough to see a loss.. got some players back from injury and they look capable of making a real run at things this year.

Southampton are truly plug-n-play awesomeness.  In the Top 3 and they will look to keep that true.  Swansea have been going in the reverse direction and Southampton will also look to keep that true.


BET OF THE DAY: Next manager gone will the Mr Redknapp.  Not a risky bet, that one.

FA Cup, Round 4 Picks

FA Cup 4th Round this week. Thought I’d label the teams from the previous round that were correctly picked to see how i progress week to week. It’s very odd (or random) that I did correctly select all the home teams on the 24th but not a single one from the 23rd or 25th?

The third round was disappointing for me as a Watford fan but beating Chelsea was never really on the cards.  I didn’t think I would ever see Watford win that game but then I also never expected to see that Mourinho would ever apologize for anything … but apologize he did…Mourinho Apologizes??


Jan 23 2015
Cambridge United 1-3  Manchester United
Jan 24 2015
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Swansea City
Southampton 2-1 Crystal Palace
Chelsea 3-0 Bradford
Derby County 2-0 Chesterfield
Preston North End 1-0 Sheffield United
Birmingham City 1-1* West Bromwich Albion
Cardiff 2-0 Reading
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Leicester
Sunderland 1-0 Fulham
Manchester CIty 2-0 Middlesboro
Liverpool 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
Jan 25 2015
Bristol City 1-2 West Ham
Aston Villa 1-1* AFC Bournemouth
Brighton and Hove 1-3 Arsenal
Jan 26 2015
Rochdale 0-2 Stoke

The FA Cup 4th round does have some interesting match ups as well as good opportunities for lower division teams to make it into the 5th and serious rounds.   The games start with Cambridge at home against Manchester United who really didn’t impress much in the previous round at Yeovil and it seems that Richard Money (I’m not sure I’d like to grow up with that name) isn’t phased by the challenge ahead for this team.  There’s never value in betting  a win in this game for the underdogs but at home they could put a surprise goal past the 4-4-2 / 3-5-2 / 10-0-0 of Van Gaal.   Not sure the fascination but i’m sure the official line-up and announced formation will be over-analysed again but … no buts, it’s just boring.

Swansea stunk against Chelsea and the time is good for a fan make up session.  Not sure who plays up front for them now that Man City somehow manage to get around financial fair play and make another splashy signing in Bony.  Blackburn should be decent enough to make it interesting.

A fairly big game is Birmingham at home to West Brom.   The focus for newly installed Tony Pullis will be to keep West Brom in the premier league – but a cup run shouldn’t be ignored.  They don’t want to be Wigan and have the Charles Dickens season .. It was the best of times at Wembley and the worst of times in the bottom three.

Probably the greatest hope for me is that Chelsea play a number of reserves to counter the argument that there is not enough team rotation and then lose.  It won’t happen of course.

Alan Pardew is having another October  – 3 wins in a row? Well you know what they say.  All Alan Pardew things come to an end eventually.  Southampton will rock him back into reality and his focus will shift to finish 4th from bottom – safe but with evidence that he needs money to waste over the summer.

Liverpool tied in the week and so are on the precipice of a Milk Cup final.  Liverpool don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket and so the FA Cup will be an important trophy to try and pick up.  Just like Chelsea losing in this round, an Anfield trophy just isn’t going to happen.

Aston Villa – can they score?  Can they win?  Yes and no… a draw is on the cards.

As for the other games?  They will be played.

Week of Jan 17, 2015 Premier League Picks

Last week was as strong week: 10 selection, 8 correct results with 4 correct scores, and only 2 games wrong.  The Law of Averages says this week will be a weak one.

So here are the picks.

17-Jan 2015  
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0Sunderland
Queens Park Rangers 1-2Manchester United
Leicester City1-1Stoke City
Burnley 2-1Crystal Palace
Aston Villa 0-1Liverpool
Newcastle United 1-3Southampton
18-Jan 2015  
West Ham United 2-0Hull City
Manchester City2-2Arsenal
19-Jan 2015  
Everton 3-0West Bromwich Albion

Week of Jan 10, 2015 Premier League Picks

Starting with this year’s first major disappointment: there’s no more Alan Pardew Project.  Alan left “the club” and has joined another “the club” in a move that benefits him more than anyone.  There are many questions that will remain unanswered: Why did Crystal Palace paid £3.5 million for a manager on the brink of being fired?  Why didn’t Newcastle have a replacement lined up for when he was fired?  What has Alan Pardew ever done in the Premier League?

Actually, that last one I can answer:

Matches W D L GF GA Pts Win %
155 58 34 63 198 238 208 37

But even a losing manager gets to drive to his new club in a nice ride.  Look what fancy car being a 37% winning manager can earn you.

Nice Car

To be fair, as a winning percentage that’s better than his time at Charlton or West Ham.   Call be a prognosticator extraordinaire but I have a feeling that his winning percentage won’t be going up at Crystal Palace… in the Premier League anyway.

10-Jan 2015  
Swansea City1-1West Ham
West Bromwich Albion2-1Hull City
Leicester City1-0Aston Villa
Everton0-1Manchester City
Chelsea 2-1Newcastle United
Crystal Palace1-2Tottenham Hotspur

Sunderland will be looking for a draw about as hard as Liverpool are looking for striker, defence, and a goalkeeper who doesn’t have an issue with his feet.  I’m not sure why Brendan Rodgers insists on bashing his players but after putting Balotelli on the bench and informing him he needed to “get used to it” it seems that the hard-nosed, no-nonsense, father-figure tactic is in play.  I hope he doesn’t play hardball with Raheem’s new contract because he’s one of the few bright spots for the team.  With Gerrard finally admitting to being too old for the premier league ready for a trip to the retirement franchises of the MLS things can only look up for Liverpool. It’s his senior send-off so the team should be up for the game and ready grooming younger players to take over. It’s a positive to have him start his retirement track. Some will say that he scored twice last week and is still a valuable player. To those people I say? I say that even Balotelli would have converted one penalty.

It will be 0-0 with Sunderland hanging on until a late goal from someone unexpected will turn the game – the unexpected player? Someone in a Liverpool shirt.

Swansea are  a decent team sitting around the middle of the table.  West Ham are a decent team sitting on the low end of the upper tier of the table. Two equally matched teams? This can only be a draw.

West Brom are better than their position and Hull are, according to the form books, not very good.  The difference maker is that Tony Pulis has had a chance to teach the team the ways of survival for over a week behind closed doors.   What makes Pulis refreshing is that he says what he says and he means what he means: “Saido Berahino is for sale”.  Unlike most new managers, like say Pardew, that insist they are some major purchases away from being good, Pulis says their goal-scoring machine is available if the price is right.  In other words, if you offer a team like WBA enough money they have to say yes.  Tony Pulis 2-1 Hull – we’ll give him full credit for the points.

Leicester City are bottom, basement, one place from the Championship.  This will change as they face an inept Aston Villa who can’t score.. and worse, will be without defensive player of the year Ron Vlaar with injury.  That hole in the back will make all the difference as the Foxes break through the defensive unit who just haven’t had the time to gel.

Roberto Marinez needs to channel his inner David Moyes and start looking for creative ways to play boring and winning football.  Manchester have been disappointing in recent wins but maybe someone other than Lampard will score and free us from having to listen to NYFC fans complain about how they bought tickets just to see Frankie.  Is the MLS so dearth of talent that Lampard sells tickets?   City will scrape it.

I did analysis of my picks this year so far (not good – lower percentage than Lawro by some margin, though more perfect results) and did learn that over the course of the season so far I had not picked Burnley to do anything at all!  Not even 6 points.  This pick is rectifying that situation.   They should have a decent shot at Turf Moor against QPR.  Maybe they will have two decent shots? and let’s suppose both of them results in goals? Could happen.

Chelsea are playing Newcastle in a revenge match.  Newcastle seemed to turn it on whenever their manager looked like he was close to leaving, saving him from the end.  The question becomes, what will they do when their manager has left?  You could say the players will play to impress the new manager; however, there isn’t one yet.  Maybe Newcastle will play for their caretaker coach John Carver.  Then again, maybe not.   It will be a flattering score-line for Newcastle as Chelsea will pepper their goal all afternoon and just fail to put anything away.

I’m riding the Harry Kane train until it gets derailed.  He’s young and talented but no one can put forward the effort he does for the long term.  He has been clocked traveling 8 miles during a game!

11-Jan 2015  
Manchester United1-2Southampton

One of the other items I learned is that I have seriously overrated Arsenal.  This does nothing to improve my reputation as a closet Arsenal fan.  But nothing changes here as I pick Arsenal once again to get a victory over Stoke.  Pete Crouch will maintain his recent scoring record.  To fuel his fire, Monreal said “Peter Crouch is slow and bad at dribbling… but Arsenal fear his ‘dangerous’ aerial prowess”.  I believe that means he can reach the high branches at lunch time because I think he a player with two left feet and a poor header of the ball.

Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut

Next up, a quick mid year round up.

Southampton proved over the winter break they are, as the pundits say, “for real”.  Buying Victor Valdes shows me that the turtle featured LVG doesn’t know as much as people claim (unless DeGea has said he’s leaving and nothing can change his mind).. and that the Barcelona implosion is almost complete.  I suspect that soon we’ll hear Rooney is off because he’s not one to take his marching orders well.

FA Cup Round 3 Picks, January 3rd 2015

It’s FA Cup week and every year it’s the first time where I think about the possibilities of a lower division team getting the chance to win something.  It’s an unrealistic view despite the fact that some over-aged pundit thinks the FA Cup has lost its luster and I thought I’d rid my life of him when all the competitions got bought by bigger networks.

Anyway, there is always the hope that Watford might go back… until they draw Chelsea away…. but they’re on the back of a bad loss to Spurs so maybe there’s hope? Nope, just like Watford will always lose to Everton no matter how much of his glove holds on to the ball.   Though apparently, the hairdos will be different…less curls and Peter Reid has started to dye his hair gray.

Watford v Everton


But there is always the potential upset.  Aston Villa, anyone?  They can’t score so who knows?  Will MK Dons be able to upset a bigger team in Liverpool?  It’s happened.

Wimbledon v Liverpool
Wimbledon v Liverpool
I’m not one that puts much stock in the match up.  Wimbledon were nowhere near as bad as anyone pretends now.  Dave Beasant was in peak form.  More relevant to now the only thing that the 3rd Round match has in common with the past is the name Liverpool and “Dons”.  I have no idea what “Dons” has to do with Milton Keynes at all.  It’s really about time they changed their name to something sensible like MK United, MK Villains… or what are they famous for.. MK Grids.
But I still think it’s unlikely a little team will win the Cup.  Five of the last Six have been taken by Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City (who lost in the other final).   The big fish eat the little fish.. .but I’m still going for Spurs to get the glory of victory (if they can get past Burnley).
Well, here are the picks.
Jan 3 2015
Cardiff City2-1Colchester
Charlton Athletic1-2Blackburn Rovers
Rochdale 1-2Nottingham Forest
West Bromwich Albion 3-1Gateshead
Blyth Spartans 0-1Birmingham City
Rotherham United 1-2AFC Bournemouth
Huddersfield Town 1-1Reading*
Tranmere Rovers 1-2Swansea City
Bolton Wanderers 2-0Wigan Athletic
Millwall 2-1Bradford City
Derby County 2-0Southport
Brentford 1-0Brighton & Hove Albion
Fulham 3-3Wolverhampton Wanderers*
Leicester City 1-2Newcastle United
Cambridge United 1-1*Luton Town
Barnsley 2-0Middlesbrough
Preston North End 1-0Norwich City
Doncaster Rovers 1-0Bristol City
Jan 4 2015
Dover Athletic 1-2 Crystal Palace
Sunderland 3-0 Leeds United
Queens Park Rangers 4-2 Sheffield United
Southampton 4-1 Ipswich Town
Stoke City 1-0 Wrexham
Manchester City 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Aston Villa 1-2 Blackpool
Yeovil Town 0-2 Manchester United 
Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Arsenal*2-2 Hull City
Jan 5 2015
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur*
AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Liverpool
Jan 6 2015
Scunthorpe United 1-1Chesterfield*
Everton 2-1West Ham United

Week of Jan 1, 2015 Premier League Picks – A New Year

An odd week that reminds me of the golden age of football before TV rights and subscription football – all teams playing on one day.   It used to be a ritual to sit down at at about 4.40 p.m., turn it on to Grandstand and watch the vidi-printer kick-off and start posting the results. As they came through you would look for the results that had been picked for score-draws. The astute of you would notice that we didn’t change the channel, for these were the days when there were only 3 legitimate channels and we’d have been watching Grandstand earlier in the day. On occasion, it would have been left on Saint & Greavsie – the slightly less serious side of football.   And yes, the Pools, the forefather of pick ’ems was looking for score draws.  Not wins.  Not losses.  Draws.  How English, how decidedly un-American.

The greatest evidence for how culturally relevant the vidi-printer was back in the day was that Rory Bremner would take on the role of the slick Des Lynam recreate it in comedic fashion.   The uncyclopedia entry for Des is worth reading.

Once all the final scores had come in, Tim Gudgin would read the results in that famous voice… the intonation and pitch such that you knew the away team goals before he had completed the line. Slight depression was a home win, slight raise and the away team won.   Some would prefer the Mel Smith version of events.  Look how far Burnley have come!

We also had CEEFAX to keep us up to date with scores, but perhaps the most iconic use of the vidiprinter was in Championship Manager/Football Manager to keep us watching the screen with the hope that we would ignore the time taken to simulate results.  A discussion on Championship manager is warranted, but maybe another day…. whatever did happen to Nii Lamptey?

1-Jan 2015  
Stoke City1-1Manchester United
Q.P.R.2-1Swansea City
Southampton 1-1Arsenal
West Ham 2-0West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United2-1Burnley
Manchester City2-0Sunderland
Aston Villa0-0Crystal Palace
Hull City1-2Everton
Liverpool3-1Leicester City
Tottenham Hotspurs1-2Chelsea

Manchester United have been playing well enough to get to the top 3 but it’s not been entirely convincing but that’s good enough against most teams.  Stoke are, as I say all the time, stubborn.  Man Utd will continue to give up far more chances than they create so a draw seems a fair result.  Good result for the Littlewoods/Vernon’s pools this week.

Q.P.R. have, in Austin, found someone who can consistently find the back of the net playing well and Swansea.  Swansea had won a couple before they were soundly beaten by a Liverpool team that haven’t scored a whole lot.  I figure that if you get soundly beaten by Liverpool you’re not that good at the moment (it’s hard to believe Liverpool are 8th on their form)… and with Q.P.R. pressing for goals it should be a home win.

Southampton were unlucky against Arsenal early in the winter period when they were down to 10-men and it’s hard to see them giving it away cheap or being easy at home (they are Saints, are after all ;-)).   Arsenal are on a decent run with Sanchez and Cazorla playing well but they will be missing Giroud who, for a couple of games, almost looked like a striker – rather than the french gay icon model he sometimes appears to want to be standing around looking pretty (according to some).   It will be hard fought but I see Rosicky scoring again with Danny Welbeck failing to score again.  He’s scored more than Falcao though, so maybe it wasn’t a bad bit of dealing by Arsenal in the end.  Another one for the pools!

The two Wests in the premier league fight it out but one North of the table and one South of the table.  It’s hard to see Upton Park see an away win, or a 2-2 score draw.  Chalk up another Hammers victory… when are they going to fall down the table?  Perhaps Teddy will leave and their goals will dry up?  In the meantime, here’s another photo of him for the ladies.

What a Hottie...
What a Hottie…

Burnley managed a miracle draw in the week to rival Crystal Palace’s comeback from the dead against the not-so-mighty reds last year.  A 2-2 draw against Citeh at the new Maine Road was quite the game fitting of the team.  We always used to say about Manchester’s favorite team that “If there’s a way to screw it up, they will”.   It’s unlikely Burnley can do the same again, and with Alan Pardew seemingly on his way out, it would be the perfect time for Newcastle to win.

Manchester City coming off disappointing win will try and take it out on a team with the fewest wins in the premier league (3) tied with five others.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the firepower of last year and will have to settle for a dominating midfield and a measly two goals.  As predicted, they are a much better team with Silva and it’s hard to see them losing, or tying, for that matter.

Aston Villa remind me of The Big Bang Theory’s Koothrappali …. they can’t score.
Crystal Palace are looking like they are interested in Alan Pardew so it’s a good time to put in a dour performance.

Not Scoring Much

Last week Roberto Martinez used the standard cliches that David Moyes used at Manchester United – “we were unlucky” and “things went against us”. The difference is that Roberto just speaks openly and honestly and also assesses his teams shortcomings.  Hard to see their luck continuing on the negative with a team largely unchanged from last year’s success.  Ross Barkley continues to be that player we talk about because he’s English… if he was continental we would be wondering what all the fuss is about.   Everton win, and I expect this year to be better for the Toffeemen.

Liverpool won in the week and I expect to see that great run of form continue into the New Year with another victory.  It won’t be easy as they’re playing Leicester at Fortress Anfield against a team that has amassed a massive 13….. points.   No Alan Pardew Project this week, but if Liverpool lose this game the pressure will mount on BR.  How he needs Sturridge back from his strange multi-injury thigh mystery.

It’s the Spuds at home.. a sure victory, Pochettino has turned them around playing a number of youngsters.  Harry Caine will knock in another and the spuds will keep things interesting for a while but I’m sure Chelsea finds a way to do what they do all the time… annoy everyone at the weekend that’s not living in SW6.  It’s likely to get worse because most of the big games in the second half of this year will be at the bridge (City, Liverpool – it still counts!, Manchester at the Old Toilet).

No Alan Pardew project candidate this week because Alan Pardew is undergoing his own Newcastle/Crystal Palace storyline.  It will resume next week, or as soon as AP’s future is clarified.