Pompey fans gave me dog’s abuse but I love club
I’VE managed in the Football League long enough to know that crazy results are the name of the game. By the time you read this, plenty of betting slips will be in pieces. But, this being my first column for The
Football League Paper, I thought I’d stick my neck out and tell you who I think will be the teams to watch this season.
I may be wrong, I may be right... but at least I’m speaking from experience – this July was the first time I’ve had a holiday since 1968!
UP at the top, I can’t look much further than my old club, QPR. The squad was already massive and they’ve made good acquisitions in Karl Henry and Richard Dunne – just the type of player that a clever old hand like Harry Redknapp knows you need in this division. With Charlie Austin’s goals, they’ll be very hard to stop.
Wigan, too, have made a very shrewd signing in Grant Holt. I’ve given Grant loads of stick because he’s always been a thorn in my side – either winning freekicks, getting my men sent off or scoring goals. But the truth is I’d have loved him in my side.
Owen Coyle was absolutely busting to get back in and now he’s working with the best chairman in the business in Dave Whelan – a guy who doesn’t panic when things go wrong and always supports his manager.You can’t ask for any more.
Leicester have cut back on wages but should go well, and the signing of Jamie Mackie means Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest will challenge.
But I think Brighton and Watford – without Matej Vydra – will struggle to light the league up the way they did last year.
And though it pains me to say it, I just can’t see my old club Leeds getting anywhere near.
The problem is that they are a massive club with demanding fans.While Brian McDermott did a fantastic job at Reading, his history with the club and affinity with the supporters was a great safety net. At Leeds, he will get absolutely no leeway if things don’t go right.
Yes, they’ve bought Luke Murphy from Crewe but, for me, it wasn’t the right call. If you’ve got £1.2m to spend, buy a striker. That side was crying out for goals.
That’s why it was such a strange decision to let Steve Morison go out on loan to Millwall.
When we took Steve from Norwich he wasn’t quite match fit. But I always felt that with a full pre-season under his belt he’d have been a big asset.
Anyway, Leeds’ loss is Millwall’s gain. I spoke to Steve Lomas in the summer and I told him that if he could get Morison it would be the key to their survival.
Of the new clubs, I think Bournemouth have the best chance. Eddie Howe knows what he’s doing and gets great support from his chairman. If you asked me to put money on it, I’d say they’d be more likely to be top half than bottom.
Yeovil are obviously in for a slog, although I do think Alan Tate will help them at the back. He improved us a lot at Leeds.
As for the other strugglers, it could be a bleak year in Yorkshire with Barnsley, Doncaster and even Huddersfield finding it hard.
Mind you, with Jon Stead back at Hud- dersfield, his hometown club, I think you’ll see a totally different player, more relaxed and confident. I think he’ll come up trumps and if he does they’ll be OK.
THEY won’t thank me for saying it but my old club Sheffield United can’t compete on wages with the Wolves of this world.
The lads from Molineux have to start as favourites, especially with Mr Reliable Kenny Jackett going there. They are made to measure, those two.
With the squad they have and Kenny’s knowledge of the game, I think he’ll revel in that job. He’ll almost feel like he’s won the pools!
It’s a hostile crowd when things aren’t going well, but it’s a fantastic one when they are and I think they’ll get behind him.
United will challenge, though, and I also think Peterborough, Rotherham and Crawley will go well. Kevin Davies is a fantastic signing for Preston.
And Brentford? That all depends if last season’s unluckiest team start with a nasty hangover! It will be interesting to see how MK Dons do. In the past, Karl Robinson has been praised to the rafters. But last year was the first time he failed to meet expectations as a manager. It will be intriguing to see if Karl is able to regroup.
Talking of young managers, what about 31-year-old Lee Johnson at Oldham? I read a few articles about how he was going to get them playing the right way.
Well, it’s fine saying what you’re going to do, but it’s a totally different thing to make it happen. He’s probably in for a few harsh lessons but I hope he succeeds. It would be nice to see Oldham back at the top.
At the bottom, my old mate Graham Turner has done a fantastic job at Shrewsbury. I don’t know where he plucks them from but he’ll need to find a striker somewhere because they haven’t got enough goals to stay up.
Then there’s Colchester, Port Vale and Carlisle, who will be desperate to get enough points on board early doors to see them through.
Everyone will fancy Portsmouth for League Two.Why? It’s simple – they’ve sold 10,000 season tickets.
For me, Portsmouth have the best crowd in the country. The volume, the atmosphere, the sheer din – it used to do my head in when they started banging that bloody drum. Every time I stood up to shout instructions I’d be drowned out. They used to give me dog’s abuse but I have to say, it’s a club I would have loved to manage.
Chesterfield have improved under Paul Cook, Fleetwood have got good backing. Along with Aidy Boothroyd’s Northampton, I think they will be pushing for automatic.
Strangely, I also fancy Bury to have a good season. My old mate Ronnie Jepson has gone in there as assistant and I think he could end up being Kevin Blackwell’s best signing. The dressing room will be spot on and that’s what you need at that level.
The club close to my home and close to my heart is Plymouth. I’ve had a few chats with John Sheridan over the summer and it’s clear the gloom has lifted after the disaster of the past few years.
James Brent, the owner, has given them a solid base and, with John’s expertis, and his desperation for success, I don’t think they’ll be far from the play-offs.
I’ll also be keeping a beady eye on my old player Paul Cox, who won the Conference with Mansfield last year. I’ll be honest – I never saw Coxy as a manager. He was a smashing lad but always a bit too laid back for me! He’s done fantastic there so far.
The teams I worry about are Wimbledon and Dagenham, where another one of my old players,Wayne Burnett, is in charge. Neither have enough goals.
And the other two are Hartlepool – who just don’t have a big enough squad – and Accrington.With the crowds they get and the budget there, it will be a massive test for James Beattie in his first management role.
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