Midfield maulers will battle for Harry
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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
BILLY DAVIES GAGGED Apparently, the Forest boss is taking TOUGH GUYS: Harry Redknapp with, left, Shaun Derry and Karl Henry