Gregson Pain

It was quite a mild January Sunday morning in Lancashire in terms of temperature but the gale force winds were going to prove difficult to deal with on Moor Park as Gregson Lane came to visit. Adding to the problems for anyone that intended on playing football was the heavy, uneven surface that simply wasn’t fit for purpose at any level. The fact the council make some money off amateur clubs like FPR to use such substandard park pitches is something that needs highlighting and raising to the powers that be.

In recent years Gregson Lane and FPR have had many competitive games in Division 2 of the Preston Sunday League and today was likely to follow that trend. Back in late summer 2018 the reverse fixture produced a 5 goal thriller that Gregson edged with a huge amount of support from the power mad referee. His decision to turn down a blatant penalty in the last minute and then send off the FPR captain in the following discussions was embarrassing. Credit to the Gregson players who acknowledged how bad a decision it was. A potential point from 3-0 down would have been a point gained but in truth a pathetic first half showing had done sufficient damage. Today was a day The Gers had to start well.

With Zach getting up to all sorts in Prague, Callum downed by the novovirus and a number of other absentees, FPR had to put new signing Bobby Smith in at the deep end. Bobby has played football in various parts of the world including a stint in the Hong Kong football pyramid. A player at 6ft4 and with a touch Bergkamp would be proud of, the fans were very happy with Jonnos January acquisition. New keeper Jack was back in the sticks after missing last week’s friendly and was hoping to make it back to back clean sheets.

Line-Up: Jack, Shoz, Jonno, Blanch, Alec, Dec, Livesay, Andy, Shultz, Fordy, Bobby. Traditional 4-4-2.

FPR had the wind with them first half and from a perfectly flighted deep free-kick, Jonners found Fordy who put the header beyond the Gregson keeper from 12 yards out. 1-0. The conditions were terrible and the wind and bounce were limiting any attempts from either side to play football. After a couple of half chances it was time for another headed goal and this time it came from an unexpected source – Alex Schultz. Shoz put in a delightful cross and Schultz was on hand at the back post to head home. 2-0. This was a great start and exactly what The Gers needed with the wind firmly behind them, but the tide was about to turn.

After producing nothing of note a moment of madness came over Blanch as he nudged the Gregson hobbit and down he went, penalty. The penalty was emphatically put away and it was game on. 2-1. The Gers dusted themselves off and had a great chance to make it 3-1 but Bobby was prevented from scoring by a great Gregson save. The worry was whether this would prove costly and a few minutes later the problems mounted as Alec made a challenge in the box and the blue shirt tumbled to the ground. Penalty. Just as we thought we were going in at the break level however, the gods shined on us as the penalty clipped the outside of the post and went wide. The Gers on the side erupted. #lifeline

The Gers couldn’t rely on calling Jeremy Clarkson but thankfully we can call on Fordy and he was rewarded for his none stop running and harrasing of the Gregson back line by nicking the ball off the keeper and calmly stroking the ball home. This was a big goal and instead of potentially going in at half-time level, the scoreline was now 3-1. It hadn’t been a great spectacle but it never could be given the conditions and The Gers had done well to go in at half-time with a 2 goal lead. However, the second half was going to be a monumental test of character for the team as the wind was picking up and Gregson would undoubtedly look to use that to their advantage in the second half.

HT FPR 3-1 Gregson Lane

The 2nd half started exactly as expected with Gregson going very direct with the intent of the wind being a decisive factor in their favour. The Gers kept focus and for every long ball, corner or free-kick the back 4 and goalkeeper were prepared to deal with it. With little chance of mounting a break away a 4th goal looking unlikely for FPR but some smart play by Fordy setup Bobby who was so close to sealing the game. This would prove to cause The Gers problems as Gregson capitalised on some miscommunication at the back and a tidy finish made it 3-2. Game on.

What came next was the introduction of a Gregson Lane long throw specialist. I’m talking right out of the Stoke City/Rory Delap school of launching every throw in our half like a missile into the box. In the past this may have made us crack but the back 4 along with the rest of the team defended like badgers to stop any of them amounting to anything. As the game drew to a close Dario was showing great energy as a 2nd half substitute on the left hand side and after some brilliant work from Alec Fearon, Dario burst through and put it on a plate for Fordy. Fordy took a touch and smashed it past the keeper to seal a massive win for The Gers. He also sealed his hatrick which was fully deserved after the shift he had put in over the 90 minutes. 4-2.

FT FPR 4-2 Gregson Lane

Man of the Match: Rob Ford

Credit to EP who worked on the shape in training and the likes of Jonno, Alec, Blanch and others who took it into a game situation when it really mattered and the chips were down. Next up are Kingsfold who we beat 5-3 away from home on the opening day. A physical, experienced side who we will have to be at our best against if we aim to make it back to back league wins to start the new year.

EFL Championship Preview 18-19

This weekend sees all 72 EFL clubs start their campaigns, full of hope and optimism, for now anyway. What sets the EFL apart, all three leagues, from the Premier League is the competitiveness from top to bottom. Of course, certain teams have much more substantial budgets than others but I’m of the belief a top manager and tight-knit squad will take you far. Examples of this in recent years are Huddersfield, Shrewsbury and Accrington Stanley to name a few. Those teams didn’t have the biggest budgets but managed to produce very successful football teams at their respected levels. That isn’t to say money doesn’t help but it does bring an added pressure and usually, more ego’s.

Championship

What’s New?

Coming down from the Premier League are Stoke City, West Brom & Swansea City, having all been stable clubs at the top level for 7 years (Swansea), 8 years (West Brom) and 10 years (Stoke City). The fact they all haven’t been at this level for a long time means it may prove a struggle for these teams to adapt but they all have some very good players to call on, but will they be up for the long slog when they are still picking up very nice wages? Another issue for these 3 is that all 3 managers, Gary Rowett, Darren Moore and Graham Potter have never been promoted at this level with the latter 2 being completely inexperienced in the Championship. However, that did not stop Nuno Espirito easing to the title last season at Wolves, albeit with an incredibly good team.

Also back in the Championship this year are Wigan, Blackburn & Rotherham. These three clubs bounced back from relegation to League 1 at the first time of asking and have, as expected, all stuck with the managers that achieved promotion a few months ago. All three will initially be focusing on safety but Sheff Utd and Millwall showed last season the effect of momentum so I wouldn’t rule out a run at the top half for one or two of these clubs. Rotherham did capitulate a couple of years ago when they were last at this level so I would be surprised to see them pull up too many trees this time around.

Managerial changes are never-ending in the Championship, as is common at all levels of football in the modern day and this summer has seen plenty of new faces at various clubs. Arguably the most talked about is Frank Lampard at Derby who is taking his first job in football. He talks well and has contacts in the right places so I would suspect he will do well. In contrast to Lampards inexperience, Leeds have managed to bring in Marcelo Bielsa who brings with him a wealth of experience at the top level but recent jobs haven’t gone to plan so I wouldn’t like to call this one, either way, it should be entertaining. Eyebrows were raised when Ipswich parted ways with Mick McCarthy last season but Paul Hurst has been brought in from Shrewsbury and is highly rated for the job he did at Shrewsbury and Grimbsy. It’s a step up for him but I would expect him to do well without the need for heavy backing in the transfer market. QPR have appointed Steve McLaren who is undoubtedly a great coach but his man-management isn’t the best so I think he will struggle this year. I will go over the 3 relegated Prem teams new gaffers later.

Team By Team Low-Down

Aston Villa

A lot has been written in the press since the play-off final defeat to Fulham but I’m not convinced Villa will struggle this year. Rumours of Thierry Henry taking over from Steve Bruce didn’t materialise and I believe this gives them a good chance of challenging again this season. Henry has never managed at any level whereas Bruce has one of the most successful CV’s at this level. John Terry has gone but he was well past his best and forces the whole team to play deep to compensate for his lack of pace. Grealish may or may not go but in the likes of Chester, Hourihane, Adomah and Kodija they have some quality players who will be focused on pushing for promotion again this season.

Predicted Finish: 1st-6th

Top Scorer: Kodija

Did You Know? One time ‘wonderkid’ Micah Richards is still contracted to Villa for one more season and is only 30 years old. Rumour has it he’s on around £35k a week but he’s unlikely to play for the club again.

Birmingham City

The club has been struggling ever since Gary Rowett was sacked despite pushing for a play-off position back in 2016. Gianfranco Zola was brought in but he had a torrid run of 2 wins in 24 before resigning just in time for Harry Redknapp to carry out a rescue act by winning 2 from the last 3 games. That short-term form didn’t last and Harry was sacked 8 games into last season. Steve Cotterill followed but he also struggled so it was down to another replacement, Garry Monk to keep them up. Monk had a successful spell at Swansea in the Premier League and also at Leeds at this level so the club would expect to do well in nornal circumstances. However, the club is rumoured to have breached FFP rules and without bringing in some new players, Monk will do well to avoid a relegation battle.

Predicted Finish: 16th-21st

Top Goalscorer: Lukas Jutkiewicz

Did You Know? 27 year old Jota is the club’s record signing at over £6million but he only managed 5 goals in 32 league games in his debut season for the club last year.

Blackburn Rovers

Since being relegated from the Premier League in 2012 the club has been run poorly and despite a decent couple of years under Gary Bowyer (2013-2015) this led to relegation to League 1 in 2017. Tony Mowbray was appointed to bounce the club back at the first attempt and he did so with key signings Bradley Dack and Richie Smallwood proving vital. This summer has been fairly quiet but, with a very strong centre back pairing in Charlie Mulgrew and Darragh Lenihan, a good season should be achievable. New boy Kasey Palmer comes in with proven Championship pedigree and the Chelsea loanee should shine. A lack of striker options apart from Danny Graham could be Rovers downfall.

Predicted Finish: 10th-15th

Top Goalscorer: Bradley Dack

Did You Know? Blackburn Rovers are the only club to have won the FA Cup 3 years consecutively.

Bolton Wanderers

Despite being in all kinds of trouble off the field over the last few years, Phil Parkinson has managed to get things moving in the right direction on the pitch by winning promotion from League 1 at the first time of asking back in 2017 and avoiding relegation in dramatic style as they came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 on the last game of the season. A friendly against St Mirren was cancelled during pre-season due to a rumoured late payment of wages so things are looking to be tough again this season. Parkinson has brought in the likes of Erhun Oztumer, Jason Lowe and Clayton Donaldson to try and help avoid another relegation battle but I think they will struggle again.

Predicted Finish: 20th-24th

Top Goalscorer: Erhun Oztumer

Did You Know: Oztumer is only 5ft3 but he knows where the goal is, netting 30 goals in 75 starts for Walsall and being dubbed the ‘Turkish Messi’.

Brentford

Since their return to this level 4 years ago, Brentford have managed to achieve a top 10 finish every year. Dean Smith has been in charge since 2015 and is one of the more underrated managers in the division. Despite regularly selling some of their better players, they recruit well and in the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ryan Woods and Romaine Sawyers they have a talented bunch of players. Alan Judge was a star for Brentford 2 years ago and is now back from a serious long-term injury, if he can reproduce his best form he will be like a new signing for The Bees.

Predicted Finish: 5th-10th

Top Scorer: Neal Maupay

Did You Know? Brentford are one of only 5 current Championship clubs not to have played in the Premier League (’92 onwards).

Bristol City

Bristol City are a club I can’t quite work out, people outside the club, specifically in the media, big up Lee Johnson as the next best thing but the fans don’t seem to quite agree. He has had some horrendous runs but he also had the team pushing the top teams earlier on last season. He has brought in Mohamed Eisa, Jack Hunt and Hakeeb Adelakun this summer. Hunt is a solid Championship acquisition and the other 2 are young hot prospects from lower down the EFL ladder. Eisa is a player I like the look of and think he could prove to be a bargain at around the £1million mark. He’s raw but knows where the goal is and is a skillful pacey player, if he can step up his value will rocket.

Predicted Finish: 7th-12th

Top Scorer: Famara Diedhiou

Did You Know? Bristol is the biggest English city not to have a Premier League (’92 onwards) club.

Derby County

For years Derby have been on the cusp of a return to the top flight but a combination of bad luck and a horrific loss of form on the home straight has resulted in the Rams missing out on each occasion. Gary Rowett was highly thought of at Pride Park but they again fell away last season and fell short in the play-offs. Now they have Frank Lampard in charge it will be interesting to see if they can go all the way. He has made some good signings including Jack Marriott, Harry Wilson (loan) and Mason Mount (loan). Marriott was top scorer in League 1 last season at Peterborough but is expected to step up, the main question mark is whether he has the all-round game for a promotion chasing Championship team. Mount and Wilson are very highly rated young players who will be expected to produce at Championship level.

Predicted Finish: 3rd-8th

Top Scorer: Jack Marriott

Did You Know? It has been over 10 years now since Derby were relegated from the Premier League back in 2008 only winning 1 game all season!

Hull City

It’s been an eventful few years for Hull who have experienced Premier League football on 2 separate occasions but now find themselves in the unpredictable Championship. They struggled to 18th last time out with Nigel Adkins coming in to steady the ship late in the campaign. Adkins has been promoted from this level in 2012 with Southampton but has struggled since at Reading and Sheff United. Reece Burke has signed from West Ham and is a promising young defender but he may take time to adapt and the other signings have been cheap or free. They have lost Michael Dawson who will be a big miss so I think mid-table would be a good season for Nigel. Jarrod Bowen is a good young player and his goals will be vital again this year. The fans don’t like the owner and there is always the chance it could affect things on the pitch if we see protests off it.

Predicted Finish: 17th-22nd

Top Scorer: Jarrod Bowen

Did You Know? Todd Kane has joined Hull on loan this summer from Chelsea making it the 8th loan move of his career. He will be 25 at the end of this loan move and has never played for Chelsea’s first team.

Ipswich Town

Ipswich have been a stable Championship club since 2002, they are the team with the longest active spell in the Championship, 16 years and counting! Mick McCarthy had done a very respectable job over the last few years including reaching the play-offs in 2015 and just missing out in 2016. He did all this on a shoestring budget but a cautious style of play led to a conflict with the fans and he left the club last season. Paul Hurst is the new gaffer and he has made some shrewd signings in Gwion Edwards and Ellis Harrison. Edwards is a talented winger and Harrison is a striker that has pace and an eye for the spectacular. Jordan Roberts is a free transfer from League 2 Crawley but don’t be surprised to see him perform as he is another talented flair player. Goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski is arguably the best in the division in his position. Adam Webster has moved onto Bristol City for £4million so they may have some money for a late flutter in the market if needed.

Predicted Finish: 10th-16th

Top Scorer: Martyn Waghorn

Did You Know? Both Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson have statues outside Portman Road. Both managed Ipswich and England.

Leeds United

It’s a long time since Leeds were in the Champions League semi-final in 2001 and even longer since they last won the top flight in 1992. The focus now is getting back to the top flight and the fans are quietly hopeful about their chances this year. Marcelo Bielsa is a good coach and has made some positive moves in the market. Barry Douglas is a fantastic acquisition from Wolves at left back, he performed brilliantly last year and will undoubtedly carry that form into this campaign. Patrick Bamford is an interesting one, he’s a quality forward but sometimes you question his desire, Leeds fans will hope that Bielsa can get the best out of him. Jack Harrison has just joined on loan from Man City, he will be new to this level but is very highly rated and I expect big things from him.

Predicted Finish: 5th-11th

Top Scorer: Patrick Bamford

Did You Know: Former Leeds star Harry Kewell is now managing League 2 Crawley Town. They started poorly but finished comfortably in 14th place last season.

Middlesbrough

Last season Boro just fell short of an immediate return to the Premier League as they fell victim to the play-off lottery. Garry Monk wasn’t given much time and Tony Pulis was brought in midway through the 17-18 campaign. Pulis has a reputation for playing direct football based on a solid back line that can accrue clean sheets regularly. When you combine that with the attacking talent of Adama Traore and Britt Assombalonga you have a recipe for success. Aden Flint is a Tony Pulis player if ever I saw one and will be useful at both ends of the pitch. Paddy Mcnair is a bit of a gamble as he hasn’t shown much during his career bar a brief spell of form last season in a dire Sunderland side.

Predicted Finish: 1st-4th

Top Scorer: Britt Assombalonga

Did You Know? Current Boro player Stewart Downing was in the Boro 11 back in 2006 for the UEFA Cup final v Sevilla. Boro were hammered 4-0.

Millwall

One of the surprise packages last season, Neil Harris almost snuck his club into the play-offs but they just fell short in 8th place. A key component of that run was Ben Marshall but his short term has ended and he is now at Norwich City. No other major departures means the core of the squad stays together. Millwall don’t have too many star players but veteran captain Steve Morison is a true leader and George Saville is a midfielder with an eye for a goal. I would be surprised to see them struggle this year but it would be an amazing achievement for them to equal last year’s points tally on such a small budget. Murray Wallace has joined from Scunthorpe to bolster the defensive ranks but they need more if they want to kick on this year.

Predicted Finish: 12th-17th

Top Goalscorer: Lee Gregory

Did You Know? Millwall have only ever spent 2 seasons in the top flight of English football, between 1988 and 1990.

Norwich City

It proved to be a disappointing season for The Canaries last time out (14th) as Daniel Farke struggled in his first year in England. He had impressed at Dortmund Reserves and the Norwich board saw enough to stick with him and have backed him in the market ahead of the new campaign. Farke has brought in Jordan Rhodes on loan and Teemu Pukki to help out at the top end of the pitch and has also brought in players from abroad as well as Ben Marshall to add some quality to the midfield. James Maddison and Josh Murphy have moved on for a combined £35mil plus which is great for the finances but a big blow on the field. Maddison in particular showed his class regularly last season so the new boys have big boots to fill. I think they will do OK without ever threatening the top teams.

Predicted Finish: 8th-13th

Top Goalscorer: Teemu Pukki

Did You Know? Norwich City were the first English team to beat Bayern Munich at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. They won 2-1 in the 93/94 UEFA Cup.

Nottingham Forest

For such a huge club to have not been in the top flight for coming up to 20 years is astonishing. This is the club that won back to back European Cups back in ’79 & ’80 under Brian Clough. Forest only managed a 17th place finish last time out but Aitor Karanka has won promotion from this division before and with strong financial backing he will fancy his chances this term. Karanka has spent around £25million this summer with the bulk of that being spent on Joao Carvalho (£13mil) and Lewis Grabban (£6mil). Carvalho is meant to be a top attacking talent and Grabban is proven quality at this level up front. Michael Dawson has joined on a free from Hull City, the experienced centre back will be vitally important if Forest are to mount a serious challenge. Jack Colback on loan from Newcastle will add some bite to the midfield with previous Premier League experience.

Predicted Finish: 1st-6th

Top Goalscorer: Hillal Soudani

Did You Know? Remember Chelsea hot prospect Michael Mancienne? He’s now 30 and was a regular for Forest last season.

Preston North End

Simon Grayson did a very good job in getting Preston promoted from League 1 back in 2015. He consolidated the club back in the Championship for 2 years before moving on. Alex Neil came in last summer and carried on the good work of Grayson finishing just outside the play-offs in 7th. This was all done on one of the lower Championship budgets with the likes of Ben Pearson and Sean Maguire impressing. Greg Cunningham has been one of North Ends best players over the last couple of months and will be missed following a £4million move to Cardiff City. Ryan Ledson is a very highly rated young player who has joined from Oxford United and will hope to earn a place in the starting 11 quickly. Neil will use the foundations of last season and I expect another good season from Preston.

Predicted Finish: 4th-9th

Top Goalscorer: Sean Maguire

Did You Know? PNE have not been in the top flight for over 55 years (1961).

Queens Park Rangers

The last week has seen the news that QPR have received a heavy fine and transfer embargo for failing to adhere to FFP rules. Steve McLaren has been tasked with managing the team this season and I think it will be a real struggle. The quality of the squad compared to the rest of the league isn’t very good and Mclaren has failed more often than he has succeeded in recent years. Matt Smith is a good target man and will be hoping for the likes of Luke Freeman to play off him to good effect but will that be enough to beat the drop?

Predicted Finish: 20th-24th

Top Goalscorer: Connor Washington

Did You Know? QPR were the highest placed London team in the first Premier League season (92/93), finishing 5th.

Reading

Following penalty play-off heart break in 2017, Reading had a season to forget last time out as they just about stumbled to safety. Jaap Stam went from hero to zero and Paul Clement took the managers hot seat. Despite working as an assistant to some top manager at top European clubs, Clement is yet to probe himself as the main man. He has brought in Marc Mcnulty from Coventry after he shone in League 2 last year but it is a big ask for him to step up 2 levels and carry on banging in the goals. Sam Baldock joins for around £5million but he hasn’t showed his best form for a while and is nearing 30. John O’Shea and David Meyler have joined on free transfers and although they bring experience, they aren’t going to fill the Reading fans with too much confidence. George Evans will be a miss as he moves to Derby and I believe Reading will be in for a tough ride again this year.

Predicted Finish: 20th-24th

Top Goalscorer: Sam Baldock

Did You Know? Clement has been sacked from both his previous managerial roles. Derby (2016) & Swansea (2017).

Rotherham United

Last time Rotherham were playing in the Championship in 16-17 they were the divisions whipping boys and finished bottom by some distance. However, they did manage to bounce back at the first attempt under Paul Warne. They will be the underdogs this term and the sole focus will be on survival. Billy Jones is a great signing with plenty of experience at a higher level but it is a case of whether he can stay fit. Other signings Kyle Vassell & Clark Robertson have never played at this level so have it all to prove. I would be surprised if Warne can keep this squad of players in the division beyond this season.

Predicted Finish: 21st-24th

Top Goalscorer: Jon Taylor

Did You Know? Gaffer Paul Warne played over 250 times for Rotherham as a striker but only found the net on 34 occasions. Prolific he was not!

Sheffield United

The Blades spent 6 long years from 2011-2017 in the third tier of English football before local lad Chris Wilder guided his club back to the Championship. Wilder managed to keep the feel good factor going and last season they flirted with a promotion push before fading into a respectable 10th position. With a huge fan base and the signings of John Egan, Dean Henderson (loan) and Ben Woodburn (loan) they will be aiming even higher this time out. Bringing in David McGoldrick on a free could prove to be a shrewd move as he has undoubted quality if they can keep the 30 year old fit. David Brooks has been sold to Bournemouth for a fee in excess of £10million. They will be disappointed to lose him but it is good money for a young player with a lot still to prove.

Predicted Finish: 6th-11th

Top Goalscorer: David McGoldrick

Did You Know? Both Chris Wilder (manager) and Billy Sharp (captain) were born in the borough of Sheffield and are lifelong fans of the club. Two of their own.

Sheffield Wednesday

Dutchman Jos Luhukay has been in charge since January this year and guided The Owls to 15th place in the table. He has mixed results from his time in Germany in recent years and has never managed in England before. Wednesday have been contenders at the top of the table in recent years but are currently rumoured to be struggling with FFP rules which could hold them back this year. When you look through the squad you see quality aplenty in the likes of Lucas Joao, Fernando Forestieri and Keiren Westwood. However, with a rumoured embargo limiting further options, I can’t see past a similar season as last year for Wednesday.

Predicted Finish: 13th-18th

Top Goalscorer: Lucas Joao

Did You Know: Jordan Rhodes loan move to Norwich is rumoured to be a total package (wages and loan fee) of approximately £4million for the year!

Stoke City

Here we have the bookies favourites who will be confident of bouncing back at the first time of asking under new gaffer Gary Rowett. A point that needs noting is Rowett has never been promoted as a manager despite showing in all of his previous jobs he knows how to challenge at the right end of the table. However, he inherits a very strong squad with the likes of Jack Butland, Joe Allen and Darren Fletcher being far too good for this level. Shaqiri will be missed but by bringing in Benik Afobe, Tom Ince, Oghenekaro Etobe and James McClean they have arguably improved overall. Etobe looked a talented, energetic midfield player for Nigeria at the World Cup and the likes of Ince and Afobe are proven at this level.

Predicted Finish: 1st-4th

Top Goalscorer: Benik Afobe

Did You Know? Club captain Ryan Shawcross (30) has been at Stoke City for over 10 years and was part of the team that achieved promotion back in 2008.

Swansea City

Not many will have heard an awful lot about Graham Potter when he was appointed Swansea manager this summer but he isn’t one to be underestimated. He joined Ostersund in the Swedish 4th tier back in 2010 and left them in the top tier this summer having had Europa League football. The problem Potter has is the likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Ki Sung-Yueng & Andre Ayew (loan) have left the club and apart from Barrie Mckay they haven’t brought in much Championship experience. Bersant Celina seems a real talent and the midfielder has joined on a permanent basis from Manchester City, keep an eye out for him. Overall I feel Swansea are one of the hardest teams to call this year, they could struggle due to the outgoings but on the other hand Potter could prove to be a gem and anything could happen then.

Predicted Finish: 8th-13th

Top Goalscorer: Oliver Mcburnie

Did You Know? Leon Britton only ever played for one club, Swansea City, but aged 16 West Ham paid a then record fee of £400k to buy Britton from Arsenal. He failed to ever break through to West Hams first team leading to his move to South Wales.

West Bromwich Albion

It raised an eyebrow with most when West Brom sacked Tony Pulis last season and again when Alan Pardew was appointed as his replacement. Darren Moore did his best to save The Baggies but they were relegated and he now has the task of bringing them back. It’s his first managers job at first team level but he is a hugely popular figure with the players, staff and most importantly, the fans. His task won’t be easy as he has seen Jonny Evans, Ben Foster and James Mclean, amongst others, leave the club. But, he has signed a top goalkeeper in Sam Johnstone and is closing in on highly rated Yeovil defender Tom James. He still has to deal with some high earners that want out and that may be what holds them back from a real title push. Jay Rodriguez and Nacer Chadli are still West Brom players but both won’t want to play Championship football if at all possible.

Predicted Finish: 3rd-8th

Top Goalscorer: Hal Robson-Kanu

Did You Know: Darren Moore won promotion with West Brom twice as a player, in 2001-02 & 2003-04 and was seen as a rock at the heart of The Baggies defence.

Wigan Athletic

After relegation in 2017 to the third tier, Paul Cook was brought in as manager and guided The Latics to the League 1 title. After such a fantastic season the aim will be to carry the form into the new season and have an outside shot at the play-offs. In the likes of Nathan Byrne and Nick Powell they have genuine quality but the main strength of this side is they all give everything they have for each other and the gaffer. Christian Walton resigns on loan and is a highly regarded goalkeeper while Callum Mcmanaman offers an outlet on either flank if he can stay focused. Will Grigg lived up to the hype again in League 1 but he has struggled to step up in the Championship previously and Paul Cook is ruthless enough to look elsewhere if he fails this time around.

Predicted Finish: 7th-12th

Top Goalscorer: Nick Powell

Did You Know: Wigan Athletic have a limited history having only joined the Football League in 1978.

So that’s my thoughts on the coming season but the beauty of The Championship is anything can happen and inevitably a big club will be fighting for their lives and a club will come from nowhere to challenge the club’s fighting it out at the top. Luckily, football isn’t decided on paper, it’s on the grass where every clubs fate will be decided and that’s why we all love it.

Five Star Gers As Fordy Arrives!

After a generally positive summer league campaign came to an end last week with a record of 4 wins and 4 losses, it was time for winter preparations to commence today at Gregson Lane Wanderers, our first pre-season outing. After a thoroughly enjoyable and stable couple of years Shultz starts the year solely focusing on playing and Jonno takes over managerial responsibility with the assistance of EP.

Jonno has announced a couple of signings in the past few weeks but it was unlikely any would feature in today’s fixture. The team lined up with Lee in net, Alec, Bobby and Luke Holden as centre backs, Shoz left wing-back and Jack Salisbury right wing-back. Andy, Livesay and Shultz were in the engine room with Cal and Danny furthest forward. The mantra from Jonno was clear, the team was going to play a positive possession based game and cut out the long balls.

Gregson Lane Wanderers had got the better of The Gers twice last season and had been promoted to the second tier of Sunday League football at the first time of asking, this was going to be a difficult task. FPR started positively and had the better of the early exchanges but a moment of confusion left the Gregson number 9 clean through but he somehow hit the post. The Gers regathered themselves and midway through the half Livesay put a fine header past the keeper from an Andy corner. 0-1. The Gers kept playing but it took an error at the back by GLW for FPR to pounce. Composure from Livesay to find Cal who showed the same composure with his finish. 0-2. While GLW clearly had some good individual players, The Gers seemed the much better overall unit.

HT GLW 0-2 FPR

Changes were made at HT as Jonno switched to a 4-3-3 as part of his experimentation ahead of the new campaign. The Gers seemed to struggle to initially adapt but were still solid from open play. However, from a corner in around the 55th minute the GLW striker got to the ball first and it was game on. 1-2. The Gers had to weather the storm and battled hard to keep the talented GLW front players at bay. With around 15/20 minutes to go the fans were shocked but delighted as new signing Fordy was brought on for his debut!! ‘FORDY FORDY’ could be heard from the sidelines.

The game was tight and the next goal was going to be massive. FPR had a corner from the left back area and managed to play through the back line, into Shultz in midfield before the ball found Fordy who produced a fine finish. 1-3. This was a goal of quality that gave the team a new found confidence and the players seemed to find another 10%. More good play led to a set piece and Fordy got up well but headed into the side netting. The Gers wanted more goals and from a corner moments later Bobby tapped home from a Harry cross/shot. 1-4.

This was turning into a great result to match the performance but some slack defending from another corner saw the GLW striker tap home his second. 2-4. This was frustrating as from open play the home team had created very little but they now had a glimmer. Moments later Lee had to be at his very best in goal to save a certain goal from 20 yards out. It looked like it was going to be a potentially tense finish but a quick break combined with some magic from Fordy saw the big man head home to put the game beyond doubt. 2-5.

FT GLW 2-5 FPR

The main focus of the game was fitness but to produce some of the football that was on show and combine that with the focus and determination led to a thoroughly deserved victory. Fordy showed what he was all about in his short cameo but every player in a white shirt turned up. Luke Holden impressed both at centre back and right back and Lees distribution as goalkeeper was fantastic. Plenty of room to improve further in the next few weeks but a good marker put down by The Gers.

Man of the Match: Luke Holden

Villain of the Match: Shoz (for leaving early)

What a time to step up..

After a battling, albeit frustrating point at Gregson Lane last Thursday, The Gers headed into the final 2 league games 1 point adrift at the bottom and time running out to get points on the board. The last 2 games had brought performances and points (4) but with no away wins it was going to take a big turn around to ensure any chance of survival. Vernons were up first, a club we had never beaten before. Today needed to change that statistic.

LINE-UP 4-3-3 – Andy, Shultz, Bobby, EP, Blanch, Shoz, Andy, Livesay, Luke, Cal, Danny.

Jonno failed to make the squad due to injury but was on the sidelines to give the lads encouragement along with Lee, Alec and Bry.

Early on was a cagey affair with neither side giving much away, the first goal didn’t look like coming at either end. Around the 25 minute mark however, FPR managed to find a bit of rhythm and after nice play by Danny and Cal, Livesay got himself in the danger area to head home. Rather than sit on the lead, FPR started to show more belief and 10 minutes later Andy ran at the back line before finding an angle for a shot which the Vernons keeper was too slow to get down to. Again FPR pressed from the front but no more goals were coming and at half time it was Vernons 0-2 FPR.

2nd half saw Luke be replaced by wee Bry on the right as Luke had an important 5k event his fiancé was participating in. Vernons brought on a striker who had quick feet and pace. He instantly caused problems and around the 55 minute mark he hit a snap shot against the bar and the rebound was tapped in by the Vernons number 9. This could have been time to panic but a quick swap of the centre halves to combat the 2 strikers strengths worked wonders and the push for an equaliser was halted.

Vernons were naturally enjoying more possession as they pushed for an equaliser but the shape of FPR was solid and Andy was handling anything which did get through to him. Around the 75 minute mark Bobby nicked the ball off the Vernons sub ran 50 yards playing a neat 1-2 with Cal before being clattered right on the edge of the box. This was ideal range for Andy to test the keeper but he did more than that as he fired an unstoppable shot into the top right corner of the net!

Vernons heads naturally dropped but with 15 minutes to go the job was not done. FPR kept their shape knowing how close to a crucial 3 points they were and chances were coming, Bobby headed wide from a delightful Bry cross and Shoz came close twice. Cal has rarely been off the scoresheet in the last couple of years and he did it again late on as he got on the shoulder of the last defender before beating the Vernons keeper. FT Vernons 1-4 FPR

This result was fully deserved as every single FPR player had put in a shift to be proud of and the quality at crucial moments was there for all to see. EP stepped in at centre halve and fought brilliantly with a bruising centre forward. Andy put in a match winning all round midfield display and Shultz was a rock at right back. That’s without mentioning many other top performances from the rest of the team and the lads cheering us on from the sidelines. News eventually filtered through that Gregson Lane had lost and FPR had moved off the bottom of the table. The season finishes on Thursday with Penwortham away. Another tough game but realistically a win is needed to ensure survival.

Man of the Match: Andy Johnson

Villain of the Match: None

The Great Escape Part I

Here we are in April without a league win to our name throughout the 17/18 campaign, we’ve been naive at times and damn right unlucky at others but with 4 games to go it’s points or relegation. What makes the situation The Gers find themselves in all the mark remarkable is the fact the squad is better now than it was a couple of years ago when I first joined the club but we haven’t shown it on the grass. 4 points adrift we were facing an organised, disciplined and feisty Earnshaw Bridge. 11 points above us this wasn’t going to be an easy game but the lads had confidence following a draw at their place a month back.

The team lined up with Lee in net, a flat back 4 from right to left of Blanch, Trundle, Jonno and myself. The midfield was short in stature looking at it on paper with Luke playing on the right, Shoz on the left and Andy and Livesay occupying the centre of the pitch. Shultz was playing between the lines of the oppo midfield & defence with Cal leading the line. We also had a very strong bench with Worthy, Danny, Bry, Alec & Tom raring to go on the touchline.

FPR started the better of the two sides with some nice play from the midfield but no clear cut chances were forthcoming. Luke had the beating of the Earnshaw left back and Shoz was doing a good job as a more defensive winger on the other side. Unfortunately Earnshaw upped the ante after the early stages with the manager getting sent to the non-existent stands for complaining. Lee Mccrea produced a stunning save from a free header as an Earnshaw player beat the offside trap and had a free header from 8 yards. Moments later a great run from another Earnshaw player got in down the Gers right but Lee tipped another certain goal onto the ball and I was on hand to block the rebound off the line and away for a corner. The Gers had hung on going into half-time.

The team-talk was positive and the team went out in the 2nd half knowing we would need to improve but a win was definitely still on the cards. It was another cagey affair but the back 4 of FPR held firm and on a rare press the ball was nicked off the Earnshaw goalie but Luke couldn’t hit the open target from 10 yards. The team kept their heads and on the hour mark Cal produced some magic with a great touch and finish to put us 1-0 up. Substitutes were introduced with Danny, Worthy and Bry getting on the pitch and Earnshaw didn’t show any real signs of scoring. Some minor concerns when Earnshaw chucked 5 6ft plus players up top for the last 10 minutes but The Gers fought like badgers for the cause and erupted as the final whistle was blown.

FT – FPR 1 – 0 Earnshaw Bridge

The win has now brought the gap between FPR and Gregson Lane to 1 point and only 3 off Leyland Orient. Next up is Gregson Lane on Thursday which will be one of the biggest games this club has had. Today the likes of Lee putting the needs of the team ahead of his own to produce a first class performance in net is exactly what this club is all about. We undoubtedly have quality with the likes of Cal up top and a host of very good players all over the pitch but the effort needs to be exactly the same as it was today for all 3 remaining games.

Man of the Match: Lee Mccrea

Villain of the Match: Luke Adams (purely for the miss, otherwise a good display!)

A Year With ToMo

This time last year just before Tony Mowbray took over as manager, the club was not in a good place at all. Coyle was in charge, Lowe was captain and the team was deep in the relegation zone with most fans expecting us to be down by April. The atmosphere both home and away wasn’t enjoyable and the connection between the fans and the players/management was almost non-existent. That has changed full circle a year on and that is largely down to the work of Tony Mowbray.

When he took over, I was skeptical but after looking at his managerial career a bit closer, I noticed a pattern of being popular with supporters, never being relegated and a promotion on his CV. He also clearly had flaws as he had failed at Celtic and ended up leaving Coventry in difficult circumstances. He managed to get the team organised relatively quickly and made Mulgrew the first choice centre half rather than a versatile utility player.

Despite a valiant effort Tony fell just short of safety despite gaining a respectable 22 points from 15 games. Unfortunately too many draws led to us going down on goal difference. The fans were devastated at full time after the Brentford game but you could tell most fans believed Tony needed to stay if Rovers were to give themselves a chance of bouncing back. The team was going to change significantly as many players were either on loan or out of contract. Both central midfielders were to leave the club and it was important that the correct replacements were made.

Tony held talks with Venkys and arrived back in the UK with a new contract and talk of a promotion push. Plenty of activity in the transfer market saw plenty of fodder depart but thankfully the likes of Mulgrew, Graham and Bennett were persuaded to stay. If Tony had walked, I don’t believe those players would have still been here now. Venkys backed Tony with a decent budget and he managed to spend the money shrewdly in getting the likes of Dack and Smallwood. Some signings haven’t hit the heights, ie Gladwin and Samuel but overall he did a good job in the transfer market.

This season has seen Rovers overcome a poor start to now lead the League 1 table as things stand. Mowbray has caused frustration at times by chopping and changing but overall he has got results we have needed. Dack has been an inspired signing, Smallwood another and the experienced Mulgrew has been arguably the best player in the league. Danny Graham has come good after Christmas and will be looking at 20 goals by the end of the season. In the biggest games Mowbray and his players have delivered and the next 12 games are going to be like cup finals.

The fans have travelled in huge numbers this season and the backing for both the team and the manager has been phenomenal. The performances have been mixed but the fans haven’t lost faith and the relationship between the fans, players and management is as good as it has been in a very long time. After some very dark years it has been a year which has made us proud to be Blackburn Rovers fans again. The players are proud to pull on the blue and white halves and put in 100% when they cross that white line on matchday.

So what next? The sole focus now is on getting the club promoted back into the Championship. 12 games and the target has to be 10 wins. Tony needs to be confident in his approach as the squad he has put together is too good for this league and the quality combined with the work ethic should see us through. Is Tony the best manager in the world? No. Does he have his flaws? Absolutely. But he has done a sterling job in putting this club back in a much better place and hopefully will seal promotion for us come May. Here’s to more good years under one of footballs good guys.

Gers Undone By Set-Plays

The Gers were back in action this morning at top of the table Arkwrights. Following a 3-3 draw earlier in the season, hopes of a positive result were there. The team lined up with a physical flat back 4 and the middle of the park was filled with energy with Shoz, Andy and Livesay in the engine room. 

The Gers started well and played much of the better football, Arkwrights going for the percentage, direct approach. Early on an FPR corner dropped for Bobby in the 6 yard box but the shot was poor and off target. More football followed and a cross from Shoz was fumbled by the Arkwrights keeper but couldn’t quite fall for Cal in the area. Arkrights were on the back foot and after a barage of moans to the referee they won a suspect free-kick 30 yards out. FPR had a high line but the giant number 4 got free 6 yards out and fired a shot at Cam. Cam saved well but the rebound fell to the Arkwrights striker who, unmarked, couldn’t miss from less than 10 yards. The moans to the ref and the Tony Pulis tactics had Arkwrights 1-0 up. 

It was hugely frustrating to be a goal down after the positive start but The Gers didn’t drop their levels and continued to pass the ball around without creating too many clear cut chances. Another corner for FPR was delivered well but Elliot couldn’t direct his effort on target. As the half was coming to a close the ball was played long to Cal who fought off 2 defenders but the ball wouldn’t bounce for us on the artificial surface. It’s good that games are rarely called off on artificial pitches but it isn’t the same game you get on traditional grass surfaces. 

HTArkwrights 10 FPR

For all the positive play in the first half, the start of the 2nd half was dire as Arkwrights appeared to up it a gear and FPR dropped 3 gears. The defence stayed sharp and no chances came until the ref awarded another free-kick in a similar area to the first goal. The ball managed to find an unmarked Arkwrights player who somehow found the net with a combination of neck and back. 2 goals from 2 set-pieces. Remember Stoke 2010? These lads have it down to a fine art. 

It could of been a time for heads to drop but The Gers kept going and Livesay from 20 yards out produced a goal of the season contender to make it game on. Arkwrights werent used to being tested on home turf and started to moan to the referee more than I get moaned at by my Mrs on a daily basis. Tackles were firm from both sides but Arkwrights seemed to think only they should be allowed to make them. The game was on a knife edge but with around 15 minutes to go the right winger of Arkwrights found room on the edge of the box for the first time and put his pot shot in the top corner. This was a killer and after playing 75 mins on this surface, the lads didn’t have anything left to push for the 2 goals needed. Another set piece late on saw Browny fail to clear on the line and it should of been 4-1 but the ref believed Cam having the ball kicked out of 1 hand was a foul. It summed up a terrible game for the referee but when he had the aggressive, intimidation and constant moaning from grown men, it’s understandable how he struggled.

FT Arkwrights 3-1 FPR

Positives have to be taken from this. Set pieces had cost us but technically we had played the better football in large spells but maybe lacked that sunday league knowhow that Arkwrights showed. On another day a stronger ref perhaps doesn’t give the soft free-kicks that led to the first 2 goals. The midfield 3 showed great energy, particularly Shoz who covered a hell of a lot of ground. Moving forwards FPR play Walton next week who are a team that play the right way. It will be a completely different kind of challenge but one we go into with belief.

Man of the Match: Chris Sharrock

Villain of the Match: The Referee

A Game of Fine Margins

After a month without a game thanks to Storm Frank, Betty or whatever they were called, the Gers welcomed top of the league Vernons to Moor Park on a cold but sunny autumn morning. The clocks had gone back so the lads should have been fresh after an hour extra in bed but the likes of Luke Holden and Alex Blanchard had clearly enjoyed one too many glasses of wine the night before and we’re trying to figure out how they would get through the game ahead.

With main striker, Cal, on girlfriend duties in London, it was down to Andy to lead the line. Lee made a return to midfield after a spell on the sidelines with injury. Last week Lee announced he was stepping down from managerial duties and would concentrate on his playing days, the club thanks Lee for all his efforts over the past few months, particularly the fantastic end to the summer league campaign. Shultz will now be assisted by young Elliot Powell who has a real desire for coaching. Can he turn Danny Mackley into the next Neymar? Unlikely but he’ll give it a reet good go. 

The game kicked off and both teams seemed up for it early doors. Things were fairly tight until a blind pass by Lee sent their striker clean through on goal. He surely had to score but Cam stayed big and the shot was horribly wide. Up the other end Luke Adams nicked in ahead of the Vernon defender and was taken out blatently in the the box. Somehow the ref waved play on. Minutes later FPR played some great football involving a number of players but Shoz couldn’t score when through on goal. 

The Gers had every right to feel unlucky to be level but it was time for a horror show. Luke Holden threw a short throw to Bob but it wasn’t a good one and bounced knee high. Bob lost the ball and 2 Vernons players were in on goal. Bob was determined to make amends and somehow got back to slide/block a certain goal. Unfortunately the deadlock was broken minutes later as a scramble in the box saw a blatently offside Vernons forward smash the ball in the net. The flag should have gone up but the inability to clear the ball to row z proved costly. Within a couple of minutes it was 2 as another scramble saw 3 FPR players fail to close down a Vernons forward 12 yards out and he smashed the ball past Cam. 

HT FPR 0-2 Vernons

It was dissapointing to go in 2 down. Vernons are clearly a strong side with good players but a clear penalty was missed by the ref and a blatant offside missed by the liner for the 1st goal. Blanch was feeling ropey and Dan Sutcliffe came on to replace him at centre half. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good start for the lad as he powered a header past Cam into his own net. Luke Holden has to take a big portion of the blame for the goal as he was easily beaten down the wing and a free cross was delivered. 

3-0 was very harsh but FPR players don’t quit, they fight for this great clubs heritage and Danny made it 3-1 as he scored directly from a corner. This should have been a lifeline but the Gers had a horror show as, somehow, a Vernons player got all the way down the line from his own half to whip in another free cross and an unmarked striker made it 1-4. Again the Gers battled and Andy made it 2-4 with a fantastic long range effort. Both teams had all number of half chances to add to their tallys and a great save from the Vernons keeper stopped Danny making it very interesting late on. 

FT FPR 2-4 Vernons

After the game Boby grabbed Shultz for a couple of comments and his man of the Match.  

Shultz: ”Hard fought performance against a tough side. 10 minutes of madness cost the game. MOTM- bobby J. Saved a couple of clear goals”

2 points from 4 games is a poor start but the performances haven’t been bad and the cup run shows no sign of letting up. Next week is a winnable game at Earnshaws but their will be no blog as I will be away for that one. 

Managers MOTM – Bobby J

Villain of the Match – Luke Holden 😉

Comment of the Match – Lee McCrea: “I’m just not good enough”

You only Blag when you’re winning…

What a brilliant win today, play like that every week and we will be in contention come the end of the season. Mowbray finally left Antonsson out of the side and the team played much better. Dack and Chapman offer bundles of energy which is contrasted well with the experience and know how of Danny Graham. Paul Downing is the best centre back partner I have seen for Mulgrew this season and he was very good again both on and off the ball. Raya pulled off a superb save at 0-0 in the first half which seems to have been forgotten by most!

Raya – a massive save in the first half at 0-0. A couple of nervy moments from crosses but he’s young and learning his trade. 7/10

Nyambe – great energy and determination throughout from the youngster. Broke up any danger and also offered support in attack. 7/10

Mulgrew – Technically brilliant once again. For me he is a lower Prem quality player and we are lucky to have him in our current predicament. Untroubled by Portsmouths attack. 7/10

Downing – calm and assured. Quite a stylish centre half who can pick a pass. He will face bigger tests but he easily passed this one. 7/10

Williams – a solid league 1 left back but I feel we should look at other options as he offers virtually nothing going forward and can be caught out against better opposition. 6/10

Bennett – 100% commitment is guaranteed with this guy. Sadly lost his pace with a bad injury before he joined us but a great crosser of the ball and he covers a lot of ground. Another good game from him today. 7/10

Whittingham – One of his better games today. Tidy on the ball and he even won a header! Almost scored in the 2nd half and looking like a useful addition after all. 7/10

Smallwood – he does exactly what you want from a ball winning midfielder, he harasses the opposition until we get the ball back and gives it to the better players.  He almost scored a stunning 25 yarder which would have been a bonus! 7/10

Chapman – his energy is fantastic even if he is let down by his decision making at times. He had the beating of the full back and did brilliantly to create the opener. 10 times more threatening than Antonsson. 7.5/10

Dack – this guy is coming good slowly but surely. Full of energy and he has a trick up his sleeve. A brilliant finish and building an understanding with Graham. If he works hard and wants it enough he can be a stand out player in the coming years. 7.5/10

Graham – a proper shift from the veteran. Held the ball up well and linked up with the midfield really well. A lovely finish and hopefully the first of many. Just ease off the pies Danny! 7.5/10

Mowbray – Finally got it right with the starting 11 but he needs to stick with it now. Maybe went too defensive at 2-0 but you can’t argue with a good win. He needs to keep going with the energy and enthusiasm of the likes of Dack and Chapman and blend it with the experience of Graham/Bennett. A steady back 4 and goalkeeper is needed also as we move forwards. He’s got his flaws but his heart is in the right place and I think he will come good for us this year. Fingers crossed anyway!

The Race For The Golden Boot

The Premier League season is well underway now and most of the big name strikers have started in fine form. Lukaku, Morata & Aguero all have 6 goals in 6 games but Harry Kane will be right on their tail as he proved his quality with his 6th hatrick of 2017 midweek. Elsewhere you have a number of outsiders who I will give my thoughts on later in the blog.

The Big Four


Harry Kane has picked up the award in the last two seasons and is the bookies favourite to do it again this year. He has 4 goals already and is known for getting better as the season goes on and defences tire. His ability to finish from anywhere is absolutely phenomenal and is a bit of a throw back to Shearer in that respect. He has himself in perfect shape and is not one to go out and make the headlines for the wrong reasons either. The only question mark over him this year is the Wembley factor, could it be enough to stop him making it 3 golden boots on the spin? With this Tottenham team and his absolute thirst and desire for goals, you can’t look past him getting 30 league goals – injury permitting. 

Romelu Lukaku has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent weeks, through no fault of his own. The media attention to ‘that’ song has been way over the top when you can focus on the fine form he, and United, have been in. I thought he would score goals for United but didn’t think he would start so well, highlighted by his bullying of the Moscow defence last night, resulting in another 2 goals for his tally. He will fully expect to be in the mix for the golden boot but may fall short as he isn’t United’s penalty taker. This could be the difference between him and someone like Kane who will expect to score a good handful from the spot.

Sergio Aguero has been the outstanding player in the Premier League over the last 5 years for me. He is technically outstanding, combines strength & pace and most importantly, he is absolutely deadly in front of goal. The fact he has never got into a Premier League Team of the Year is a travesty but he has had his fair share of injuries. Without those injuries, he would already have a handful of personal accolades, hopefully this year can be different. In City he has a manager who is going to play an attacking game every single week and in the likes of De Bruyne & David Silva, chances will be constant. Pep has dropped Sergio om occasions in the past 12 months but seems to have decided that he is the man this season.

I thought that Alvaro Morata may have taken a bit of time to adapt to the pace & intensity of the English game, but I am delighted that he has proven me wrong. He only arrived late in pre-season and didn’t start the opening game against Burnley, but he has shone in the opening 6 games and already has 6 league goals. He showed his class again last night against a strong Atletico defence and is looking more than ready to step up to the plate now that Diego Costa has moved on. Morata seems a very level-headed individual and Chelsea will be right in the mix come May with the likes of Hazard supplying him. 

The Arsenal Duo


Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette are the leaders in the pack behind the big four and both will expect to have 15+ goals by May. Alexis has been one of the best players in the league in the past couple of years and is calmness personified in front of goal. The issue is whether his head is in the right place due to his expiring contract. His head appears to be on good shoulders so don’t be surprised to see him high up the scoring charts again this year. Lacazette has shown in the early stages of his Arsenal career that he is a born goalscorer, even if doubts remain over his all-round game. The Arsenal style of play plus penalty duty will surely see him genuinely in the mix if injuries can be avoided.

The Outsiders


Jamie Vardy has been one of the top strikers in the league for more than 2 years now and he has started this campaign in good form, unfortunately for him, Leicester won’t create half as many chances as the likes of City & United. 

Saido Mane had 3 in 3 before his controversial red card at Man city. He is a constant threat with his pace in behind and has shown his ability to finish on a regular basis. 

Gabriel Jesus was a breath of fresh air for Man City in the second half of last season but the goals have dried up at the beginning of this campaign. He looks a little weak at times but clearly has ability and the backing of his manager. Don’t count him out just yet.

Javier Hernandez has managed to score goals for West Ham this season despite the team playing poorly. He knows exactly where to be in the box and will no doubts bang them in when West Ham do hit their stride. 

Finally Marcus Rashford is showing signs of having a good year and may be in with a shout if an injury to Lukaku gives him more minutes up front. From the wing, it will probably be a hurdle too far for him to overcome this year.