Mid­field maulers will bat­tle for Harry

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

SORRY Mr Lad­broke and Senor Hill. But this sea­son, I’m not mak­ing any pre­dic­tions. No sir. Af­ter con­fi­dently tip­ping Palace for rel­e­ga­tion and Wolves for the Pre­mier League last year, I’m bail­ing out of the bet­ting busi­ness.

In­stead, here are a few things to look out for – my spot­ters guide to the Football League. And where bet­ter to start than QPR, a club whose abil­ity to flirt with slap­stick and disas­ter is guar­an­teed to en­liven any sea­son…

HARRY’S HUSTLERS

Two years ago Harry Red­knapp was watch­ing Rafael Van der Vaart and Luka Mo­dric ping per­fect passes round White Hart Lane.

Now, his Satur­day en­ter­tain­ment will be pro­vided by Shaun Derry, Karl Henry and Joey Bar­ton. It’s like be­ing hoisted from your seat at the Royal Ballet and dumped in front of a bareknuckle boxing match.

Still, one thing’s for sure – not many op­po­si­tion play­ers will fancy show­boat­ing at Lof­tus Road. And I cer­tainly wouldn’t want to be Adel Taarabt in train­ing.

KEN BATES

Of­fi­cially the world’s most bel­liger­ent pen­sioner, Ken Bates is as loved by football fans as the tax­man.

Chelsea fans hated him. Leeds fans hated him. But did he care? Of course not. This is a man who re­sponded to ac­cu­sa­tions of anti-Semitism by an­nounc­ing he “hadn’t laughed so much since ma caught her tits in the man­gle”.

A mas­ter at pick­ing up clubs for pen­nies and sell­ing them for a mint, Bates has now left Leeds and, though 81, shows no in­ten­tion of go­ing away. If you’re the fan of a hard-up club, be very afraid.

MID­DLES­BROUGH’S NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY

It re­ally must be one hell of a do up in Tee­side – in the last two years, the hang­over has lasted for a good five months.

2011-12

Boro Po­si­tion on De­cem­ber 31: 2nd Po­si­tion at end of sea­son: 7th 2012-13 Po­si­tion on De­cem­ber 31: 3rd Po­si­tion at end of sea­son: 16th

WIL­FRIED ZAHA

Bril­liant he may be, but if Manch­ester United sign Cesc Fabre­gas and start chuck­ing mil­lions around, the jelly-legged young­ster hasn’t got a chance. If Zaha hasn’t played ten games by Christ­mas, ex­pect ev­ery club in the Cham­pi­onship to go beg­ging for him on loan. a step back from the me­dia this sea­son. No one-on-one in­ter­views, no pre-match chat.

The fa­mously fiery Scot, who last sea­son baf­fled re­porters by giv­ing a post-match Press con­fer­ence be­fore kick-off, says he wants his play­ers to hog the lime­light.

Yeah, right. And Joey Bar­ton is giv­ing up twit­ter. Davies may have ev­ery in­ten­tion of lurk­ing in the back­ground, but stick a cam­era in his face and he’ll burst into life like Bruce Forsyth.

Davies is a born show­man and rab­ble-rouser. He loves to play the me­dia and is fas­ci­nated by its work­ings. He once told me he’d love to swap jobs with a sports jour­nal­ist for a week. I give it un­til Oc­to­ber be­fore we see Billy back in front of the cam­era, giv­ing it both bar­rels like a small, an­gry, Wil­liam Wal­lace.

THE BRAD­FORD BOUNCE

League Cup fi­nal­ists, play-off win­ners, a striker who worked in the Co-op – Brad­ford were ev­ery­one’s sec­ond-favourite team dur­ing last sea­son’s fairy­tale run.

Not even Mo Farah can match the Ban­tams for feel-good fac­tor. With big­ger gates and some ex­tra cash, Phil Parkinson’s side will be rid­ing the wave for the first few months of the sea­son and are big enough to keep it go­ing. Ex­pect a play-off chal­lenge.

COVEN­TRY’S CROWDS

Or lack of them. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the de­ci­sion to lodge with Northamp­ton Town at Six­fields has gone down like a cat at Crufts.

Con­sid­er­ing the ma­jor­ity of Coven­try fans couldn’t be both­ered to watch the dross served up at the Ri­coh, can we re­ally ex­pect them to trudge 35 miles down the road ev­ery week?

The an­swer, ob­vi­ously, is no. As of last week­end, the Sky Blues had sold fewer than 300 sea­son tick­ets – less than Con­fer­ence part­timers Ch­ester had man­aged by early June. Ex­pect tum­ble weed in the ter­races and a nasty stench of rel­e­ga­tion.

THE MEADOW LANE DUGOUT

Not some­where any man­ager wants to find him­self af­ter a cou­ple of de­feats, or even a dour draw.

Chair­man Ray Trew is an en­gag­ing and like­able fella but some­body needs to tie up his trig­ger fin­ger. Craig Short, Paul Ince, Martin Allen, Keith Curle – all have sat in football’s hottest seat since June 2010 and not one of them lasted longer than 11 months.

Poor Cur­ley had a 45 per cent win per­cent­age when he got the boot last sea­son – bet­ter than David Moyes at Ever­ton.

Cur­rent in­cum­bent Chris Ki­womya has prob­a­bly got a suit­case packed in his of­fice for when the in­evitable hap­pens.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Ima­gres

BILLY DAVIES GAGGED Ap­par­ently, the For­est boss is tak­ing TOUGH GUYS: Harry Red­knapp with, left, Shaun Derry and Karl Henry

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