Is the Premier League Failing Young English Talent?

The Premier League is considered one of the best in the world, the best managers, the best players, the best stadiums are all in England with the few exceptions. You could also argue that it is the most competitive league in the world.

There is an argument though to suggest with such a hugely rich league that the national team is becoming an utter failure. The players don’t care, the manager isn’t right and the fans feel alienated.

To look at how the top clubs are failing their homegrown talent, Chelsea are a prime example they have a huge 14 English players out on loan, and they are talented players too.

Tammy Abraham is tearing up the Championship at the moment playing for Bristol City. Lewis Baker is still at Vitesse and performing well, getting himself into the England under-21 side. Kasey Palmer who’s on loan at Huddersfield and has made 21 appearances this season.

tammy

Tammy Abraham has scored 14 goals this season.

This is just one example of the big clubs having their young talent stifled by big price tags and which you could argue can just as easily become flops as they can become stars.

The Premier League has ceased to be a breeding ground of English talent, the likes of the Class of ’96 will not be seen again if this buying culture continues.

There has to be ups and downs that is the way of the game in football, we need these young stars to come through to make England a strong team again. World football needs a strong England, at the moment England are weak and a disappointment to the nation.

We are 18 months away from the next World Cup, Southgate must take a gamble bring in the youth, Rooney’s time has run out, Cahill is not good enough and Jordan Henderson has given nothing to the team.

My Proposed England XI (4-2-3-1)

J.Hart; K.Walker, J.Stones, C.Chambers, A.Cresswell; E.Dier, N.Chalobah; A.Lallana, D.Alli, R.Barkley; M.Rashford

Bench: J.Pickford, M.Keane, D.Rose, L.Baker, N.Redmond, W.Hughes, H.Kane

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Aviva Premiership Preview: Bristol Rugby

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Andy Robinson

Captain: Jack Lam

Stadium: Ashton Gate (Capacity: 27,000)

Last Season: Promoted

Prediction: 10th

The long wait was finally over for Bristol, they secured promotion back to the Premiership at the seventh time of asking and they have made some serious progress.

There are a number of star names in the Bristol camp, a man with Gavin Henson’s CV is always going to be a talented player pair that with the new duo of Jordan Crane and Tusi Pisi and the squad has quality.

lam

Bristol captain, Jack Lam.

Bristol have a creative backline led by Samoan fly-half Pisi and the creative midfield should give space to the pace and flair of the quicker players out wide such as former Leicester and Wasps winger Varndell.

The pack is match for most Premiership sides without having any big names and lacking internationals. They should not encounter much in the way of trouble.

THREE TO WATCH

Gavin Henson

Position: Fly-Half/ Centre  Nationality: Welsh  Age: 34  Height: 1.83m  Weight: 100kg

The playmaker has it all as an inside centre, he kicks, passes and tackles well, his pace is not quite what it used to be as he enters his mid-thirties but his playmaking ability make him a valuable player.

Henson also brings international experience and a big game knowledge to a team lacking much of that, he is among a splattering of internationals brought in by Andy Robinson to help Bristol acclimatise to the high level Premiership and Challenge Cup games they will face.

Jack Lam

Position: Flanker  Nationality: Samoan  Age: 28  Height: 1.88m  Weight: 103kg

A ferocious tackler who’s size makes the tackle area a really difficult area to establish any dominance against the Bristol skipper. This coupled with effective breakdown work sees the Bristol captain dominate the immediate tackle situation.

Lam is also no stranger to attack and is more than happy to pop up on the inside shoulder of a fly-half to terrorise opposition tens.

Tom Varndell

Positon: Wing  Nationality: English  Age: 30  Height: 1.88m  Weight: 101kg

Varndell is an absolutely unbelievable finisher, up there with the likes of Cueto and Hanley he can score from anywhere due to his pace. He adds some ‘X Factor’ to the Bristol backline.

VARNDELL.jpg

Varndell in action for Bristol.

The 30 year old will be Robinson’s main attacking outlet this season, and it is a joy to ahve the talented winger back in the Premiership.

TRANSFERS

IN (13)

Luke Arscott (Bath Rugby, ENG)

Ryan Bevington (Ospreys, WAL)

Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Nick Fenton-Wells (Bedford Blues, ENG)

Jon Fisher (Northampton Saints, ENG)

Will Hurrell (Doncaster Knights, ENG)

Giorgi Nemasadze (Tarbes, FRA)

Thretton Palamo (Saracens, ENG)

Tusi Pisi (Sunwolves, JAP)

Martin Roberts (Ospreys, WAL)

Soane Tonga’huia (Oyonnax, FRA)

Jordan Williams (Scarlets, WAL)

Rhodri Williams (Scarlets, WAL)

OUT (10)

Tommaso Benvenuti (Benneton Treviso, ITA)

Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Craif Hampson (Wasps, ENG)

Darren Hudson (Released, REL)

Marco Mama (Worcester Warriors, ENG)

Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues, WAL)

Josh Ovens (Released, REL)

Dwayne Peel (Retired, RET)

James Stephenson (Released, REL)

George Watkins (Jersey Reds, ENG)

Tusi Pisi is a good signing providing them with talent at fly-half. Arscott also has a lot of top level experience making him a clever capture along with number eight Crane. Everyone knows what Tonga’huia is capable of.

PISI.jpg

Pisi lining up a kick for the Sunwolves.

Genge is a hot prospect and will be missed especially as he is now gaining recognition from Eddie Jones. Mama is a good player and could have been hugely influential for Bristol. What a way for Dwayne Peel to end his career and a glittering one at that.

My Bristol Rugby 23

15 Luke Arscott 14 Tom Varndell 13 Will Hurrell 12 Gavin Henson 11 David Lemi 10 Tusi Pisi 9 Will Cliff

1 Soane Tonga’huia 2 Ross McMillan 3 Gaston Cortes 4 Mark Sorensen 5 Ian Evans 6 Jon Fisher 7 Jack Lam (Captain) 8 Jordan Crane

16 Chris Brooker 17 Ryan Bevington 18 Anthony Perenise 19 Joe Joyce 20 Olly Robinson 21 Martin Roberts 22 Thretton Palamo 23 Charlie Amesbury

Bristol will not be challenging for the top half but relegation doesn’t look likely.

Barclays Premier League Previews (A-B)

Barclays Premier League Preview: AFC Bournemouth

Manager: Eddie Howe

Stadium: Vitality Stadium (Capacity: 11.469)

Captain: Simon Francis

Top Scorer: Joshua King (6)

Biggest Signing: Jordon Ibe (£15.3 million)

Last Season: 16th

Prediction: Relegated

Bournemouth did a good job last season avoiding the drop under the stewardship of a capable Eddie Howe.

spt_ai_bournemouth_fulham_11.jpg / Football - AFC Bournemouth v Fulham

Eddie Howe, Bournemouth manager.

They have lost two key players in the figure of skipper Tommy Elphick and Scottish international Matt Ritchie who move to the relegated Aston Villa and Newcastle United respectively.

The return of both Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings from injury does help bolster options in attack and defence.

Home games will be key if the south coast club are to survive another season in England’s top flight. Teams did have the odd slip up last season and there are sure to be a few more this season.

Teams now know what Bournemouth are capable of and should be wary of a squad with some exciting, young talent that has been brought in.

INIBE

Jordon Ibe (Liverpool, £15.3 million)

Lewis Cook (Leeds United, £5.95 million)

Lys Mousset (Le Havre, £5.5 3 million)

Nathan Aké (Chelsea, Loan)

OUT

RITCHIE

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United, £10.2 million)

Tommy Elphick (Aston Villa, £3.32 million)

Lee Tomlin (Bristol City, £2.98 million)

Jayden Stockley (Aberdeen, Free)

Josh Wakefield (Released)

Stéphane Zubar (Released)

Sylvain Distin (Released)

Josh Carmichael (Relased)

Bournemouth look to have most of their transfer dealings done, a goalkeeper is on the radar but no solid rumours have emerged over the summer.

My Bournemouth XI (4-4-2): 1 A.Boruc; 15 A.Smith, 2 S.Francis (Captain), 3 S.Cook 11 C.Daniels; NA J.Ibe, NA L.Cook 8 H.Arter 10 M.Gradel; 17 J.King 13 C.Wilson

Barclays Premier League Preview: Arsenal

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium (Capacity: 60,260)

Captain: Laurent Koscielny

Top Scorer: Olivier Giroud (16)

Biggest Signing: Granit Xhaka (£38.25 million)

Last Season: 2nd

Prediction: Europa League

Arsenal may have had their golden chance last season for Wenger to break his duck as all title contenders faded away however Arsenal choked.

The tag of serial chokers is one that the Gunners are keen to shake off as they gear up to once again try to launch an assault on the league and try and end the drought.

Wenger has his critics and he knows that only a trophy, and a major one at that can paper over the appearing cracks for the Frenchman.

XHAKA

Xhaka joins after a good season in the Bundesliga.

A few solid signings have been made and it looks as though more could be made over the coming days. Gonzalo Higuain, Julian Draxler, Alexandre Lacazette and Rob Holding.

Higuain looks set to be the most likely of the deals should Arsenal pay the required fee for the striker who became a target after the north London club missed out on Spain and Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.

INASANO

Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach, £35 million)

Takuma Asano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Undisclosed)

OUT

ARTETA

Arteta’s successful career is at an end.

Isaac Hayden (Newcastle United, Undisclosed)

Tomas Rosicky (Released)

Mathieu Flamini (Released)

Mikel Arteta (Retired)

With it looking like there could be a deal done for Giroud to leave and Higuain to join transfer business is not over for Arsenal but most of their summer dealings are now complete.

My Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): 33 P.Cech; 18 N.Monreal, 6 L.Koscielny (Captain), 21 C.Chambers, 24 H.Bellerin; 29 G.Xhaka, 34 F.Coquelin; 11 M.Ozil 16 A.Ramsey 7 A.Sanchez; 23 D.Welbeck

Barclays Premier League Preview: Burnley

Manager: Sean Dyche

Stadium: Turf Moor (Capacity: 21,401)

Captain: Tom Heaton

Top Scorer: Andre Gray (23)

Biggest Signing: Not Applicable

Last Season: Champions (Championship)

Prediction: 16th

Burnley have bounced back to the Premier League and as seasons past have shown us they have Premier League know how.

Turf Moor is a terrific ground and they will play an attractive brand of football, they have some pedigree in their ranks as well names such as Sam Vokes and Tom Heaton look to be the stars this season.

VOKES

Sam Vokes had a good Euro’s.

Last season they had a long, tough ride in the Championship but emerged victorious it will take a lot of hard work to make themselves consistent top flight performers but they should be confident coming into the season.

No real names entering the club alludes to us that business is not finalised by the club as they look to sign some names to consolidate a place in England’s top flight.

A few departures do not look like harming the newly promoted side.

IN

OUT

Joey Barton (Rangers, Free)BARTON

Matt Gilks (Rangers, Free)

Matt Taylor (Released)

Lloyd Dyer (Released)

Michael Duff (Released)

Duff could be a loss and losing as many caps as a player of the calibre of Barton could be a hindrance but it is much the same squad that won the Championship last year.

My Burnley XI (4-4-1-1): 1 T.Heaton; 2 M.Lowton, 5 M.Keane 6 B.Mee 23 T.Darikwa; 11 M.Kightly 37 S.Arfeld 8 D.Marney 21 G.Boyd; 9 S.Vokes; 7 A,Gray

The Premier League: What’s Left to Sort Out?

So following Spurs draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the incredible Foxes were crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132 year history.

goooal

Leicester City have finally won the Premier League title.

Ranieri is no longer the nearly man, and he has done it on what can be described as a tight budget with two games to spare an astonishing achievement for a club that signed their star striker for just £1 million, compared to Manchester City’s Agüero who cost them a cool £38 million as the second most expensive transfer in Premier League history.

Champions crowned now all eyes are on two important races, the race for the top four and the race to avoid the drop.

In the race for the top four it seems there are you could argue four teams but Arsenal should be safe. Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham now have to fight it out to see who can make it into the Champions League.

aguero

Agüero cost City an eye watering £38 million.

4th Manchester City

Played 36 Points 64 Goal Difference 30

The club built on Mansour’s millions, shaped around a plethora of international stars. Pellegrini heads for the exit at the end of a disappointing season where a team that should be topping the league every season is fighting to retain  Champions League status without having to win the trophy itself.

They have scored more goals than any other Premier League side with 68 but a leaky defence has conceded 38 goals, a problem that is hard to fix and with Manchester United and West Ham only four and five points away respectively with a game in hand the pressure is on.

Should they fail to keep hold of fourth the Champions League tie tomorrow becomes all the more significant.

Remaining Fixtures: Arsenal (H), Swansea (A)

Prediction: 4th

martial.jpg

Martial has been one of van Gaal’s few successes in the transfer market.

5th Manchester United

Played 35 Points 60 Goal Difference 12

Money spent on players that don’t perform. A disastrous season for the Red Devils, not enough goals, not good enough performances. Louis van Gaal has failed to restore the one great club to the top of the league.

An FA Cup final awaits against the struggling Crystal Palace what little consolation that will prove to be should Manchester United miss out on a Champions League place.With Martial looking to be the only signing that has actually made any progress the future does look bleak for United fans.

It looks as though another summer of signings is on the horizon and possibly the arrival of old rival Mourinho although it may take more than the ‘Special One’ to help this club’s fortunes.

marky boy

Mark Noble has been key for West Ham this season.

Remaining Fixtures: Norwich (A), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H)

Prediction: 6th

6th West Ham United

Played 35 Points 59 Goal Difference 17

Unlike the other two the Londoners will be happy with their current position, they have been wonderful but due to Leicester’s title run their big performances have gone unnoticed under the radar.

Mark Noble has been at the heart of this team’s fight and desire along with left back Aaron Cresswell. West Ham are looking like this could be their year to finally be in the Champions League by taking that coveted 4th spot.

The Hammers have a crucial showdown with Manchester United on 10th May which could well decide the race. And with the other two sides having the Champions League and FA Cup to focus on West Ham could have the edge.

Remaning Fixtures: Swansea (H), Manchester United (H), Stoke (A)

Prediction: 5th

Now for the relegation fight and the race to avoid the drop.

newcaaaaastle

Newcastle are having a tough year.

17th Newcastle United

Played 36 Points 33 Goal Difference -25

The historic club have had a horrific season by all accounts, a number of false dawns under McLaren were crushed after suffering some scarring defeats. And it took Benitez a few games to get the ball rolling but now the club are unbeaten in their last four matches.

Two massive games left and with points likely to be tight the game against Aston Villa is vital. It is also notable that Spurs no longer have anything to play for the Champions League is secured.

Going down would signal a backwards step especially considering some of the players in the squad but they are the form side.

Remaining Fixtures: Aston Villa (A) Tottenham Hostpur (H)

Prediction: 17th

afcsund

Sunderland could be facing the drop.

18th Sunderland

Played 35 Points 32 Goal Difference -18

Defoe is the reason Sunderland are still fighting for survival, and how crucial might his equaliser against Stoke prove to be?

The relegation fight sees all eyes now on the northeast, Newcastle or Sunderland some have already written off Norwich. Sunderland do have a tough run in but a game in hand over their bitter rivals.

With one great English club destined for the Championship it would be a shame to see another go.

Remaining Fixtures: Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)

Prediction: 18th

ncf

Norwich have not had much to cheer about this year.

19th Norwich City

Played 35 Points 31 Goal Difference -26

It looked at one point that the Canaries might have pulled away and survived but an upturn in the fortunes of Sunderland and Newcastle quashed that dream.

Watford and Bournemouth both kicked on this season from the Championship, Norwich sadly have struggled to find consistent form. They also have a game over currently safe Newcastle but again have a tricky run-in.

Norwich look down already but a good run could see them pull off a couple of vital wins. Only time will tell.

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester United (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)

Prediction: 19th

uh oh.jpg

What a year it’s been for Jamie Vardy.

So Leicester are champions but plenty to keep you interested for the rest of the season.

Six Nations Half-Term Report

So we are halfway and already two clear frontrunners have emerged, England and Wales are clearly head and shoulders above the other four.

Italy are looking like the wooden spoon favourites whilst the other three look to scrap it out for a place in the top half with each of them playing at least one of the others over the remaining two weeks.

Two new coaches, very differing starts, Guy Noves, the former Toulouse head honcho started with what can only be described as two stale wins over Italy and Ireland relying on late scores to win both.

Guy_Noves-300x258

Guy Novés, France head coach.

Jules Plisson’s long range effort and Maxime Médard’s sensational finish were the only difference between two losses in the French capital. These wins were hugely important especially as they only have one more match in Paris against leaders, England.

Cardiff was their first away game and their first real test which materialised into a tough defeat for France.

One good thing has come out of France’s campaign so far and that is the giant Fijian winger Virimi Vakatawa, his try against Italy in the opener was something you can’t teach the beautifully timed step inside rather than powering over was a showcase of his talent within 20 minutes of international rugby.

Roberts has emerged as one of a number of Wales stars, Dan Biggar has had a couple of great performances and along with Gareth Davies he has controlled the games against France and Scotland.

biggar

Dan Biggar in action for Wales at the World Cup.

It’s no coincidence that the only game Wales did not win was the game in which Rhys Priestland played the majority.

That is not to say the Bath out half is a bad player it’s a testament to just how good Dan Biggar is. His World Cup form has continued so far with his clever attacking game and solid defensive display.

Scotland have finally broken their duck with the win over Italy in Edinburgh, Scotland have had some really influential players so far in the Championship and none more so than Willem Nel.

Nel has been outstanding for Scotland, the prop is an anchor in the scrum and important in the line out. WP Nel has also been a totemic ball carrier and an enthusiastic defender and often stays on for 80 minutes.

The backs are starting to play some incredibly entertaining rugby and it is lighting up the Six Nations.

Tommy Seymour has ignited the fields he has taken, his pace is electric, he beats defenders on the outside with ease. His try against Wales was a picture of beauty with the leaping finish.

He has added some spice to a backline that already had the audacious Stuart Hogg, the evasive fullback is fast, agile and a talented footballer.

STUART HOGG

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg on the attack.

Hogg is one of the best fullbacks in the world, he has a skill set similar to that of an in-form Israel Dagg. Dagg was the best 15 in world rugby, Hogg is near that standard.

Italy have found a new star in Carlo Canna, he was the star against France with his scything breaks and tactical kicking. The fly-half knows how to control the game something the Italians have lacked since the mercurial Diego Dominguez.

Outside Canna we have Campagnaro who has been an important carrier and has made so many breaks for Italy. His pace and upper body strength make him a hugely important player for Italy and Jacques Brunel.

And of course Parisse who did not stop against France right to the last even stepping up to try and win the game with what was ultimately a wayward drop-goal.

He was shackled by England but once again a huge presence against Scotland, they couldn’t stop him making breaks or breaking the gain line.

Ireland are under pressure and the injury list will not stop growing they are missing the stars. Jared Payne just one of the added casualties to the already long pre-tournament injury list that contains names like O’Brien, Bowe and Fitzgerald.

The loss to England proved to them that they are not the force they were last year, with crucial games against Italy and Scotland to come, these are games the Irish simply have to win to claim to be a credible force still in Europe.

It looks as though Schmidt’s plan could have the cracks start to appear. An extremely worrying idea for Ireland and their fans.

England are looking unlike France in good health. Eddie Jones is shaping a revolution but is using pragmatism at the same time something we heard form Phillipe Saint-André four years previous on the other side of the channel.

Billy Vunipola has been the best eight so far, with two man of the match performances he has impressed, England the only team still in with a chance of winning the Grand Slam which is words that will only be uttered should England beat Wales in a clash of the titans at Twickenham in less than two weeks.

Billy Vunipola

Billy Vunipola has been impressive for England.

The new captain Hartley is also looking very strong for England and his leadership has been superb so far. Heads have not once dropped and he has very much led from the front.

Maro Itoje has been immense since his debut against Italy and along with other newcomers Clifford and Hill have been impressive.

The Ford-Farrell combination looks like it may be clicking as well, there were signs the two were in tandem against Ireland and Italy.

My Six Nations Team of the Tournament so far: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland) 14 Virimi Vakatawa (France) 13 Jonathan Joseph (England) 12 Jamie Roberts (Wales) 11 Tommy Seymour (Scotland) 10 Dan Biggar (Wales) 9 Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)

1 Rob Evans (Wales) 2 Dylan Hartley (England) 3 Dan Cole (England) 4 Jonny Gray (Scotland) 5 George Kruis (England) 6 Sam Warburton (Wales) 7 James Haskell (England) 8 Billy Vunipola (England)

Notable mentions must go to George North, Michele Campagnaro, Carlo Canna, Gareth Davies, Edoardo Gori, Joe Marler, Eddy Ben Arous, Samson Lee, Alun-Wyn Jones, Devin Toner, Richie Gray, Maro Itoje, Chris Robshaw, Justin Tipuric and Sergio Parisse.

Drastic Measures Are Needed to Stop Drug Culture

The current World Championships in Beijing have been marred by talk of drugs such as the two Kenyans which were found to have been doping. The cheats have of course been kicked out of any races they were due to run in the Chinese capital.

The big drugs story from Beijing was of course that of American two time drug cheat Justin Gatlin against clean, unbelievable Usain Bolt in what the media billed as a hero versus villain encounter, as Bolt won the 100 metres final with the 200 metres happening on Thursday.

The IAAF, run by former Team GB athlete Lord Coe has failed to take enough measures to ban high profile athletes like Gatlin, Gay, Powell etc. The fact that sportswear brand Nike have continued their sponsorship of Gatlin makes me feel sick. Lord Coe who holds an ambassadorial role with Nike has refused to give up his six figure salary there even though they continue to sponsor the cheating Gatlin.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Four of the eight runners in the 100 metres final ran on Sunday had been accused of doping including Gatlin and former world record holder and fellow American Tyson Gay. This is wrong how is it that the IAAF are letting four cheats run in the second most prestigious championship in athletics?

Former British athlete Dai Greene has said that he “can’t stand” seeing Gatlin on the start line. I am with Dai Greene seeing him on the start line makes me feel sick to my stomach. His disgusting and awful actions have marred the sport forever and his name and as Michael Johnson said he is not the problem, the doping is the problem, Gatlin acts as an agent to the problem.

Gatlin is an example of the spineless nature of the former chief of the IAAF before Seb Coe took charge of one of the most important sporting bodies the world.

Bolt must win on Thursday and that hopefully will kickstart his run into a glorious gold in Rio de Janeiro. If Gatlin wins on Thursday or even worse next year what is to stop him becoming a role model?

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

This toxic drug culture has to be stopped and the only way to do that is for the IAAF to start with lifetime bans for all of the cheating, doping athletes. These athletes do not deserve to represent their countries and compete in these amazing cities like Beijing or Daegu. Lifetime bans are the only way to stop these people ruining sport.

West Ham United Preview

Manager: Slaven Bilic
Stadium: Boleyn Ground
Captain: Kevin Nolan
Top Scorer: Diafra Sakho (11)

West Ham had a good season last year under Allardyce and played some good football, with a good season under their belt they’ll hope to kick on this year under a new manager before they move homes to the Olympic Park.

West Ham had a stunning first part of the season and had only lost 3 games by 8th November also had claimed some impressive scalps along the way. Losses to Manchester United, Tottenham and Southampton were nothing to be ashamed of either this run was huge for the London club. They were in the top 4 courtesy of this good form and a high profile 2-1 win over Manchester City on 25th October had rubber-stamped their credentials. They had also beaten Liverpool 3-1 in September they were showing that they were not a club to be taken lightly this astonishing form continued after November as they would only lose 3 more games before the turn of the year they cam in the form of narrow losses to Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton they finished 2014 in 6th place still impressive for the London club that had surpassed many clubs with both a bigger budget and better squad.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

The second half would not be so successful for West Ham between the 31st January until the 25th April the club would only win 1 game as they beat Sunderland 1-0. This amazing fall from grace saw them in 10th place no mean feat for the club as they failed to find the astonishing form which had won them many fans before New Year’s Day. They were still playing attractive, free flowing football but the results were proving hard to come by. They finished the season with 3 straight losses and finished in 12th place. A respectable position but you can’t help but feel had they kept up the pace and not gone off the boil then Europe was a very real possibility. This season could be an important 1 for the club.

West Ham have been a club that had rarely looked like it will win games but now they are looking the business. They have played some good games and built a squad around some key players such as the enigmatic captain Kevin Nolan who has been hugely prominent in English football over the last decade it is strange that he has few England caps to his name. Mark Noble is another really big part of the West Ham puzzle and his form at 1 point put him in contention for England. Noble is a truly important player his partnership with Nolan is a real contrast of light and shade which made them so effective for large parts of last season.

Although Sakho was scoring a lot of the goals Enner Valencia had a good season for the Hammers he himself netting 5 times. His ability to do things he has no right to do make him a standout player he has this outrageous audacity to attempt things that players should not attempt. Valencia has the ability to turn games on their head I have a feeling the striker will be a huge part of this season. He has a team around him that know how to provide the Ecuadorian with quality ball with which he can dazzle opponents and fans alike.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Transfer business a strength for former boss Allardyce, Bilic has made a total of 6 signings whilst 8 players head for pastures new. He has brought in some rathe interesting players as well as bringing in Arsenal defender Jenkinson on loan. Ogbonna from Champions League finalists Juventus is a huge coup. He is a no nonsense centre back, his aerial ability is good and makes him a real handful at the set piece. Ogbonna could be key part of West Ham’s season. Dimitri Payet is a good signing he offers an attacking outlet to compliment the forwards such as Sakho and Valencia he will be a real threat if defenders allow him the space to exploit them with his pace and vicious power.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Veteran Carlton Cole goes he was just not providing enough to the squad although the former England striker could be a valuable asset to a Championship side. Downing the biggest transfer for West Ham this summer as he heads back to the north east to join Middlesborough an interesting transfer for both clubs he will be missed in London.

IN: Dimitri Payet (Olympique Marseille, Undisclosed)
Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus, €11 million)
Stephen Hendrie (Hamilton, Undisclosed)
Martin Samuelsen (Manchester City, Free)
Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria, Undisclosed)
Darren Randolph (Birmingham City, Free)

OUT: Carlton Cole (Free Agents, Free)
Stewart Downing (Middlesborough, £5.5 million)
Jussi Jääskeläinen (Wigan Athletic, Free)
Sean MacGuire (Dundalk, Free)
Nenê (Vasco de Gama, Free)
Guy Demel (Free Agents, Free)
Paul McCallum (Leyton Orient, Free)
Dan Potts (Luton Town, Free)

Some interesting signings and a rediscovery of that early season form could see them produce a stellar season it remains to be seen how much of that was down to manager Allardyce but we will see soon enough.

My West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): 13 Adrián; 12 C.Jenkinson 21 A,Ogbonna 2 W.Reid 3 A.Cresswell; 4 K.Nolan (C), 16 M.Noble; 18 M.Amalfitano 27 D.Payet 11 E.Valencia; 15 D.Sakho

Bench: 1 D.Randolph 5 J.Tomkins 33 S.Hendrie 7 M.Jarvis 28 M.Lanzini 9 A.Carroll 20 M.Maïga

Last Season: 12th
Prediction: 9th

Watford Preview

Manager: Quique Flores
Stadium: Vicarage Road
Captain: Troy Deeney
Top Scorer: Troy Deeney (21)

Watford have achieved promotion and congratulations to the north London club however staying up could be a real challenge and they’ll be hoping the likes of Deeney and Forestieri can continue to keep Watford picking up the points.

Watford in ecstasy having won promotion to England's top flight.

Watford in ecstasy having won promotion to England’s top flight.

Watford had an excellent start to the season only losing 2 games up until the 4th November these included an impressive 3-0 demolition of Bolton and 4-1 thumping of Leeds United. October and September saw Watford tear the rule books up and find themselves in the promotion race before Christmas that was until November having started the month in pole position they then lost 4 games in a row and with that slipped 6 places to 7th in the league their lowest position in the league bar week 2 when they were in 12th. Following that run they produced a wonderful display away agains former Premiership boys Fulham and ran riot winning 5-0 at Craven Cottage. This result was huge coup for the Londoners and gave them some real thrust heading into the new year and was a relief for the fans after the horror show of November. They closed out the year with an impressive 4-2 win in Cardiff.

January was a big month for Watford and saw some incredible results they smashed Charlton 5-0 at Vicarage Road then 7 days later would hammer Blackpool 7-2. That was huge for the club 2 massive wins over formidable opposition. This saw Watford once again launch an assault on the upper reaches of the table and automatic promotion to England’s top flight. Following the thrashing of Blackpool the club would only lose 3 more games that season 2 of them to their fellow promoted clubs Bournemouth and Norwich. Ipswich claiming the final win over Watford. A 6 game unbeaten streak through the end of February and the majority of March was enough to give Watford the points they needed to burst up the table and send shockwaves through the Championship. This preceded their final loss of the season as they then finished the season with a 7 game unbeaten streak to finish 2nd in the table just behind the brilliant Bournemouth.

Watford had a style of play that many found enticing to watch and with players like captain Troy Deeney and Italian striker Forestieri up front the way they were scoring was quite incredible summed up by the club managing to bang in 5+ goals in three games. They scored 91 over the course of the season with only Bournemouth scoring more. Hopefully having a more settled coach will make Watford even more deadly this season having had 4 coaches last season before the 8th October. They will be a joy to watch if they can string together some wins and don’t over complicate things.

Their skipper and striker Deeney is certainly the key man at Vicarage Road and will hope continue his form that made him such an asset last season. His finishing ability is quite something and that led to him scoring a quite astonishing 21 goals for the club last season in all competitions. Deeney’s eye for goal makes him quite an asset however if the striker continues this upward curve it is hard to see Watford keeping hold of him should the heavyweights come knocking in January. One thing is for sure Watford will hope he can once again be the difference for them as he was so many times last season.

Troy Deeney celebrates a goal against Brighton on last years opening day.

Troy Deeney celebrates a goal against Brighton on last years opening day.

Recruitment has been a large part of the club’s summer bringing in 11 new faces to try an help the club remain in the Premier League. They’ve also cut loose 5 players to try and shift some of the supposed ‘deadwood’ that were deemed surplus to requirements. The signing that really catches my eye is that of Vydra, an extremely potent finisher and quite a coup for he new boys. He is a much coveted striker and Flores will be keen to show off his shiny new man. They have also brought in former Spurs man Capoue a very experienced midfielder that they can build around a man that will bring priceless knowledge to a squad short of Premier League know-how. Juanfran is also an exciting prospect for Watford to bring in a playmaker from La Liga club Real Betis. He could be a huge player for the club over the coming months. Behrami the Switzerland and former West Ham player also brings that Premier League knowledge to the table and could be influential in Watford’s bid to stay up.

Hydra could be key to Watford's season.

Hydra could be key to Watford’s season.

No really influential figures leave Vicarage Road this summer just a few players that were barely holding on to a spot in the squad, Watford should not miss these departures.

IN: Matej Vydra (Udinese, Undisclosed)
Valon Behrami (Hamburger SV, Undisclosed)
Étienne Capoue (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed)
Juanfran (Real Betis, £1.5 million)
Steven Berghuis (AZ, £4.6 million)
Allan Nyom (Udinese, Undisclosed)
Miguel Britos (Napoli, Free)
Giedrius Arlauskis (Steaua Bucuresti, Free)
Sebastian Prödl (Werder Bremen, Free)
José Holebas (Roma, Undisclosed)
José Manuel Jurado (Spartak Moscow, Undislclosed)

OUT: Jonathan Bond (Reading, Undisclosed)
Lewis McGugan (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed)
Marco Motta (Free Agents, Free)
Luke O’Nien (Free Agents, Free)
Vujadin Savic (Free Agents, Free)

Watford will hope for consistency this season and with a few wins they might stay up it’s going to be tight at the bottom.

My Watford XI (4-4-1-1): 1 H.Gomes; 2 A.Nyom 15 C.Cathcart 25 J.Holebas 5 S.Prödl; 19 M.Layún 8 V.Behrami 29 É.Capoue 21 I.Anya; 10 M.Vyrdra; 9 T.Deeney

Bench: 13 R.Gilmartin 3 M.Britos 14 J.Paredes 23 B.Watson 7 J.Jurado 24 O.Ighalo 11 F.Forestieri

Last Season: Championship Runners-Up
Prediction: 19th (Relegated)

Norwich City Preview

Manager: Alex Neil
Stadium: Carrow Road
Captain: Russell Martin
Top Scorer: Cameron Jerome (21)

Norwich the newly promoted team that have the most recent Premier League experience, they have a wealth of talent in their squad which may make them a difficult team to beat over the course of the season.

Norwich had a rather strong start to the season in August and September only losing 2 games and recording a win over Watford and a draw with Bournemouth who were both outstanding over the season and at the end were automatically promoted back into the first tier of English football. Norwich racked up a healthy number of points and looked primed to yo-yo back into the Premier League. However it was not to be as their autumn run was a horror show for the club as they could only win 1 game throughout October and November. This saw them slip to 11th in the Championship table having been at the top at the start of October.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

The team improved in December recording giant wins over Huddersfield (5-0) and Millwall (6-1). Neil Adams however would depart from the club in early January and Alex Neil joined, Norwich would only lose 3 further games that season. A run of 5 wins over the course of February and March would see some of their best football as they netted 16 goals and only conceded 3, the complete team, their undoubted performance of the season coming at Watford where they smashed their promoted counterparts 3-0 away from home. An outstanding performance. This purple patch also included the 4-0 obliteration of Millwall at Carrow Road, Norwich endured a very strong spell.

Through March and April their assault on the top of the table grew stronger with a run of 8 unbeaten games which saw them rise from 5th to 2nd which was a statement of intent from the Norfolk club. They played some absolute crackers over the latter part of last season including their final day 4-2 win over Fulham lifting themselves into pole position for the play-offs which saw Norwich fighting past both Ipswich and Middlesborough to complete the bounce back into England’s top flight. Norwich’s final push for promotion was wonderful to watch as a neutral and if they can produce performances like that in the Premier League will be hard to stop the club surviving the dreaded drop.

Nathan Redmond a great player, full of enthusiasm a constant threat both in built attacks as well as on the counter due to his pace. The England under-21 winger has been a mainstay in the Norwich squad for much of the last 2 seasons adding that bit of flair to a team that at times have been lacking. He is 1 of those players that can light a fire inside the Canaries and has steered them to promotion from his spot. The undeniable brilliance of the youngster has been noted by England boss Roy Hodgson, it must only be a matter of time before the pace laden winger earns a call-up to the senior national side.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

The newly promoted club have only recruited 4 players over the off season. The acquisition of Hull striker Brady is a huge coup, he is a proven midfielder2 at the highest level after his seasons at Hull including loan spells whilst he was at Manchester United where he failed to make an appearance. The 23 year old Republic of Ireland international has been a wonderful player over the past years. They have also brought in the West Bromwich Albion duo of Dorrans and Mulumbu, Dorrans is a super creating player up the middle. Mulumbu adds another top class player to the ranks, both offer not just their quality on the field but also Premier League experience off it for Norwich City.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Norwich have offloaded much of the deadwood with very few high profile names leaving bar possibly Becchio the former Leeds man but he hasn’t been at his best for some time.

IN: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7 million)
Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion, £3 million)
Youssouf Mulumbu (West Bromwich Albion, Free)
Jake Kean (Blackburn Rovers, Free)

OUT: Cameron McGeehan (Luton Town, Undisclosed)
Lucciano Becchio (Belgrano, Free)
Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, Free)
Ignasi Miquel (Free Agents, Free)
Sam Kelly (Free Agents, Free)
Carlos Cuéllar (Free Agents, Free)
Kyle Callen-Fadden (Free Agents, Free)

Norwich will be a difficult team over the course of the season will that be enough to stay up? Only time can answer this question, I think that the quality of the Premier League may be too much for Norwich.

My Norwich City XI (4-2-2-2): 1 B.Johnson; 2 S.Whittaker 5 R.Martin (C) 6 M.Turner 23 M.Olsson; 14 W.Hoolahan 4 B.Johnson; NA R.Brady 22 N.Redmond; 20 R.van Wolfswinkel 10 C.Jerome

Bench: NA J.Kean 30 S.Bassong 24 R.Bennett 8 J.Howson 41 G.Dorrans 9 K.Lafferty 11 G.Hooper

Last Season: Championship Play-Off Winner
Prediction: 18th (Relegated)

Newcastle United Preview

Manager: Steve McLaren
Stadium: St James’ Park
Captain: Fabricio Coloccini
Top Scorer: Papiss Cisse (11)

Newcastle’s season was a number of things, all bad none good. The club made some very interesting signings in the likes of Cabella and Riviére both of whom failed to impress. Newcastle finished in 15th disappointing for such a large club.

Newcastle’s demise could be pointed out to the latter part of the season when John Carver was in charge but you can’t forget that Newcastle started the season with a run of 7 games without a win these included a humiliating 4-0 loss to Southampton where the Saints ran riot. They seemed to have a lot of luck facing the north east. This run however was followed by Pardew inspiring his side to a run of 5 wins including defeats of Liverpool and Tottenham that saw Newcastle climb and Pardew’s stock rise, this signalled that Newcastle meant business and the impressive displays from players like Jack Colback and Daryl Janmaat as well as the scoring from Perez made Newcastle a tough side to beat.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

On 6th December Newcastle became the first team to beat Chelsea that season in an emphatic 2-1 win at St James’ Park, this was a heroic display from Newcastle and showed other teams that Chelsea were not as invincible as they had seemed early in the season. This was followed though by 3 straight defeats including a loss to local rivals Sunderland and that was that as Pardew left the north east of his own accord to join up with London club, Crystal Palace. This signalled a change in Newcastle’s league standing as into the breach stepped John Carver and Steve Stone who would oversee the remainder of the season as caretaker managers and would see a horrific run of games leading to Newcastle being embroiled in a relegation battle that went down to the final game against West Ham at St James’ Park.

John Carver oversaw Newcastle’s biggest defeat of the season when they faced Manchester United and crashed to a 5-0 defeat. This was followed up by a solitary win before the run of games that would see Newcastle slip from mid-table obscurity into the relegation dogfight. They suffered 10 games only picking up 1 point a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. They lost Sunderland who once again did the double over the Tyneside club and they suffered a defeat at the hands of already relegated club QPR on the penultimate weekend of the season. Their Premier League status was threatened but after Jonas Gutierrez inspired his team to 2 goals scoring 1 himself over West Ham and Newcastle could sleep easy that had retained their Premier League status, John Carver would not recover and was sacked as Mike Ashley brought in Steve McLaren.

The key player undoubtedly was former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback, Colback joined the club with high hopes of outdoing his former club and local rivals Sunderland only to find himself being 1 of only a few bright sparks donning the famous white and black shirt. The midfielder was industrious and made 35 appearances over the course of the season. He was the rock at the heart of Newcastle and his dictating of pace from the centre of the park was class. He reads the game well and has given Newcastle cause for hope as we hurtle towards next season. Newcastle fans will be hoping their local lad can give Newcastle more of what he was capable of producing last season.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Newcastle have made 3 important signings as well as seeing Darlow and Lascelles come after their year long loan at Nottingham Forest. The pick of the bunch is midfielder Wijnaldum who has been nothing short of outstanding throughout the Magpies pre-season. He has scored goals and created them, he is sure to be a worthy addition at St James’ Park. Mitrovic also arrived and his scoring prowess is quite something, the forward managed 28 goals in 51 appearances for Anderlecht last season and at 20 years old is still improving as a player and is not short of confidence he and Ayoze Perez could be formidable for Newcastle for seasons to come. Chancel Mbemba has also finally arrived after questions about his age were answered and he could be a very important addition as Newcastle’s defensive woes last season were something that McLaren is keen to address.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Newcastle see a number of departures, they sickeningly got rid of Argentina international Gutierrez who’s treatment from the club has been disgusting. They also lose Ryan Taylor and their first choice left back Santon who was key to Newcastle’s defence. The core of Newcastle has been ripped out and a gaping hole will be left by the departure of long time servants Taylor and Gutierrez who were at the club during the season in the Championship and helped them regain Premiership status it is a dark time on Tyneside.

IN: Chancel Mbemba (Anderlecht, £8.5 million)
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven, £14.5 million)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht, £13 million)

OUT: Ryan Taylor (Hull City, Free)
Davide Santon (Inter Milan, £3.25 million)
Jonas Gutierrez (Free Agents, Free)
Remie Streete (Port Vale, Free)
Adam Campbell (Notts County, Free)

Newcastle will be hoping for a better season and if they can produce some good football a top half finish. McLaren will be hoping to find a regular finisher in his side as well that have struggled for an out and out goalscorer since the departure of Demba Ba.

My Newcastle United XI (4-1-2-1-2): 1 T.Krul; 22 D.Janmaat 2 F.Coloccini (C) 15 J.Lascelles 18 C,Mbemba; 4 J.Colback; 7 M.Sissoko 16 R.Aarons; 5 G.Wijnaldum; 45 A.Mitrovic 17 A.Perez

Bench: 26 K.Darlow 19 M.Haïdara 3 P.Dummett 24 C.Tioté 20 R.Cabella 10 S.de Jong 9 P.Cisse

Last Season: 15th
Prediction: 11th