The Great Premiership Sack Race

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Sunday’s curtain raiser at Wembley, as dull as it was, has finally brought home the reality that the football season begins this Saturday. Thank God. This season’s drought of summer of sport has left all us football fans surfing the internet or reading papers scratching around for transfer gossip only to be bored to tears by stories such as the Tevez saga and Beckham’s retirement (sorry I meant re-location) to Los Angeles.

But at last, the fun is about to start and we can look forward to an enthralling battle for the Premiership title. Many of you I am sure may be fancying a flutter on who is going to win the Premiership this season. However, before you all rush to the bookies, perhaps you should think about instead considering who is going to be first to get the bullet, mainly because you will have to wait for a shorter amount of time before picking up your winnings.

There are a number of rules when deciding who is going be the first to get the boot in the Premiership.

Rule 1: Stick all your money on Graeme Souness.

Unfortunately the Tom Selleck look a-like is currently out the game so we have to look further afield. In such cases you have to follow the second rule

Rule 2: Stick all your money on the manager of the team who signs Titus Bramble.

Step forward Chris Hutchings.

survived by the skin of their teeth last year with Paul Jewell in charge, mainly due to the ineptitude of Sheffield United to avoid defeat against them on the last day of the season. Hutchings appointment smacks of desperation, and his managerial nightmare at Bradford will have done little to impress the Wigan faithful. Many of the players who were outstanding in Wigan’s first Premiership season have gone, such as the likes of Roberts, Chimbonda, Bullard and De Zeuuw. Much maligned left back Leighton Baines has also just completed his transfer to Everton. And who has been brought into replace them? Titus Bramble, Mario Melchiot and the likely addition of Paul Robinson (not the cripple of Neighbours). The Wigan fans should be concerned. Any manager who believes that Bramble could play for England has clearly lost his marbles and should be sectioned immediately. Ironically, at Bradford, Hutchings was appointed the season after Paul Jewell had kept them in the league on the final day. Relegation from the Premiership was swift. As Ron Atkinson would say, could it be déjà vu all over again? Hutchings is also the same man who believed that Stan Collymore could provide the goals to help Bradford survive in that same year. Shame that Stan the Man saved all the scoring for his dogging antics. Turning to the present day, Jason Koumas may bring some much needed guile and craft to their midfield but with a defence like a sieve and less up top than Keira Knightley, Hutchings has the equivalent of Delhi belly, problems at both ends. Wigan looked nailed on to go down this year and Hutchings is the obvious top pick to be the first man to get the boot.

As for the outsiders, Billy Davies’ tenure at Derby has been consistently dogged (nothing to do with Stan Collymore) by rumours of unrest. He has done a stirling job so far and you would think it unlikely that he would not be given a fair crack of the whip for one season. However, the Premiership is an expensive league to fail in these days, and a poor start for the Rams could see Davies heading towards the exit door with his assistant Craig Brown waiting in the wings. Davies has so far made a clutch of mediocre signings and so much could depend on Robert Earnshaw finding his scoring boots. All is not lost though, as the Welsh midget/dwarf who resembles something out of Alien (and I ain’t talking about Sigourney Weaver), is second only to Thierry Henry as the player with the best goals-to-minutes ratio in Premiership history (I sh*t you not).

Steve Bruce was one game from the sack last year at Birmingham but after the backing of the board, he turned around their fortunes and led them to the promised land. Bruce will be given plenty of financial clout again this year but they have yet to really strengthen in the defensive third which could be their major weakness, especially after losing Matthew Upson to West Ham last season. Much will depend on his signings leading up to transfer deadline day and the likes of Garry McSheffrey stepping up a level successfully. Furthermore, the potential takeover by Carson Yeung could mean that he is under pressure from the start, especially with Yeung wanting to draft in a number or Chinese players. It may well be possible that Chinese is not Steve Bruce’s favourite dish this season. Birmingham’s woeful relegation campaign last time they were in the Premiership was caused by Bruce trying to get Birmingham to try and play football. His signings that season of Emile Heskey and Jesper Gronjkaer would suggest he really does not know how to spend money wisely, and the failed signing of Hossam Ghaly will have left a sour taste in his mouth. The broken nosed one certainly has a long way to go to prove that he can establish Birmingham City in the Premiership.

Sammy Lee has huge job to follow in the footsteps (or should that be mammoth prints) of Big Sam Allardyce. He has yet to really strengthen the squad and with rumours abound of Le Sulks departure, the Trotters will again have to really on scraping results and sticking to what they are good at. i.e. bullying teams into defeat. However, it also appears that Lee could be on the verge of losing lynchpin Abdoulaye Faye. Another thing standing in his way is the fact that Sammy Lee is so small. I can’t think of many successful short managers and the same applies to Chris Hutchings who fits into the same midget category. Perhaps their size will make it easier for them to inevitably be thrown from their managerial seat.

For those who fancy an outside bet, Gareth Southgate could be worth a look. An indifferent first season for the Euro 96 villain has been followed by the departure of talisman Mark Viduka. Boro will be relying heavily on the Yak Attack this season and the fitness of Jonathon Woodgate. The signing of Luke Young will hardly set the pulses racing and a new striker is desperately needed. Southgate recently came out and said that Middlesborough had done fantastically well to have been in with a shout of signing Alan Smith, a man who is nowhere near the goalscorer that Mark Viduka was. In fact, the last time he scored regularly was when he was going out with Gemma Atkinson, Ronaldo’s latest beau. And to be fair, she has more going for her up front than Boro currently do. It is also well known that Chairman Steve Gibson is huge fan of Tony Mowbray and so his position at the Baggies could have a huge bearing on Southgate’s future

On-the-Bench’s tip – Chris Hutchings 9/2

Outside bet – Steve Bruce/Sammy Lee 10/1 and 8/1 respectively

Long Shot- Gareth Southgate 12/1


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