Football’s Coming Home

The summer of 2018. A year of redemption. Basking in the sunshine, BBQ’s out, beers in the cooler and Moscow in clear focus.

The dark cold of Iceland, defrosted.

The dull heartache of South Africa, eased.

The penalty curse, lifted.

The hopes of a nation, repaired.

Safety in numbers begins at the back with Jordan ‘between the sticks’-ford parrying danger and jabbing our way to the final bell.

Harry ‘The Mountain’ Maguire’s concrete block burying Sweden & those who throw Stones from glass houses have been well and truly silenced by John.

Kyle’s been no Walker either, tearing up turf in his new role with sumptuous ease. A unit, strong and stable in Europe, like we were promised. this one reliable, trustworthy and more than a shade under £350million.

From rearguard to Lingard, as Lionel Jesse milly rocks his way into the XI. Dynamic, direct & despite his petite frame prowling the edge of the area for scraps to pulverise into top corners.

Deliveries? On lock. Kieran Whippier is the answer. The Bury Beckham and his pinpoint precision helped find Dele waiting in the quarters.

As for Alli, it’s been more than a fortnite he’s been impressing for. Dancing his way through bodies of outstretched legs to provide the penetration we’ve been longing for.

Every team needs reliability. Jordan Dependerson, is the nations the unsung hero. His dogged determination and lion-heart has been evident weather deputising the armband or not, his growl can be heard from touchline to touchline.

The squad is Young, hungry and courageous but Ashley brings the experience. A cultured, versatile pro with heaps of medals. Whether he adds a World Cup one to his collection or not there should be nothing but pride weighing his shoulders down.

The price of Sterling may have struggled in recent years but to us, Raheem is invaluable. Unselfish running, bursts of invention and a right-footed weapon the papers love to shoot at, we’ll have none of that criticism here.

Onto King Kane, our clinical captain. Unassuming, charming and delightfully pleasant off the field, but the second his boots grip onto the turf the monster within grows. Rocketing penalties, leading the line, nodding in late winners, he Kane, he saw, he conquered.

If it’s looking tight and you’re looking for someone to Loftus, Ruben is our guy. Causing a stir on socials for his Cheek but it’s his appearance on the field that has been breathtaking.

Everyone’s played a part so far and when we looked in Dier need of a new storyteller, Eric stepped up from 12 yards to rewrite the history book.

Now the man who put us on this journey to Rashia. The United wonderkid shed a tear in the quarters but it’s the eyes of the opposition that weep upon Marcus’ arrival.

The squad has strength in Delph and plenty of it. Fabian, Gary, Trent, Phil and both the Danny’s all Rose to the occasion with AA performances when Cahill’d upon.

We’re not there yet but when we need a party, you know the guy to go too. Jamie Vardy, the nations favourite firework. Thunderous, colourful and packs a punch.

We’ve got a worldclass stopper but you need a top draw Jack-up keeper and we have Butland, safe as houses.

There is already a Pope in Nick, but will we have a few more knights added to the realm when our heroes touchdown on home soil?

Arise Sir Gareth – the leader of lions. He’s felt the lot, turmoil, pain, there’s even a slice of Pepperoni in his past but now it’s all about that waistcoat. He’s the lad next door who offers to help repair the parting fence. The guy who’ll happily take in a parcel without digging out the contents. You’d even trust him with housesitting your manor whilst you gallivant abroad, no need to lock the doors, Gaz has morals. In addition to that trustworthy smile he’s also the man who has restored pride and passion to this wonderful country.

No longer are there three lions to sing of. That pride is now 23 strong and they all deserve to be number one! Football may have extended its gap year (or 52) and regardless of the outcome tonight and Sunday, something has already come home – the spirit of English football.




Here we go, it’s time. The madness has begun, the reporters across the country are digging out their thermals and club executives are cramping up at the thought of those hideous cheques they’re about to write. Welcome, to the January transfer window.

Unlike retail there are very few sales or deals to be found, in fact, it’s the opposite. Not quite a 5am queue outside Next looking for 15% off a pair of woolly socks but prepare yourself for overpriced, overrated, agent-pushing, farcical fees for footballers… as opposed to the summer window where, well, all of the above still happens.

To make the dealings a tad more digestible I’ve whipped up a few bankers to watch out for over the coming weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious one…

It’s The Most Wengerful Time Of The Year.
Keep an eye on; Arsenal being linked with a player you’ve never heard of.

To be fair, I’m a tad late on this one as its already begun. Yesterday Arsenal announced the signing of Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos… I know mate, statement of intent or what. No doubt over the coming days, weeks and months we’ll hear about how he once scored nine in an under 15 International and he has so much potential he’s the Greek equivalent of Tony Adams.

I may be wrong and in a few years we’ll be popping Mavropanos in the same bracket Yossi Benayoun, Kim Kallstrom and Cohen Bramall as one of the greatest mid-season purchases by Wenger, we know he has a faultless record when it comes to January buys.

What A Load Of Balag’s
Keep an eye on; Guillem Balague, ‘so called’ football expert and his “done” deals.

Alongside Garth Crooks, every time I hear this man speak I question if he’s so clever and informed that it’s above my level or could it possibly be is he that far off the mark, once again, that he must own shares in the company to keep getting work. Guillem is the go to for SkySports on any Spanish transfer activity.

Anything slightly sun swept or laced with sangria, this guy knows the deal. Remember when he told us before anyone that Sergio Ramos had penned a deal with Manchester United… oh wait, no that didn’t happen did it. Erm, what about that summer, sorry, every summer, when he tells us how Cristiano Ronaldo still loves United and will be there by the end of the week? No, didn’t happen either did it.

He’s already come out with the fact Phillipe Coutinho is Barca bound, something I think we all have guessed. In fact, Nike even let slip on their official website he was about to “Light up the Nou Camp” but you keep up those exclusives, Guillem.

I’m Dreaming Of A Jim White January
Keep an eye on; Jim’s yellow tie bursting out the wardrobe.

A man we all know and love. A man we trust to bring us the latest news on transfer dealings and the only man on TV who can midshow, live on air, glance down at his phone or take a call from an acquaintance… He must be on an all-you-can-eat tariff because that phones ringing more than a PPI salesman.

His exciting, direct presenting style makes the final few hours before the window slams shut box office and is now synonymous with some big deals being done at the death. Don’t ever change, Jim.

Out With The Old Trafford, In With The New.
Keep an eye on; Manchester United being linked with every single player that has a pulse and once scored since April 2009.

It must be incredibly tiring as a United fan being teased with all these lucrative names every time a window rolls around. It usually comes about in the least imaginative ways too. Either a big players agent has hinted the player wants a new deal and because of Uniteds financial clout they are top of the pile to flog them too.

Or Antoinne Greizmann’s brother has tweeted a picture of the food place ‘Subway’… Hang on, isn’t there one of those chains just off Sir Matt Busby Way in Manchester?! It’s blatantly already been agreed then… actually come to think of it, the number 7 shirt is vacant too isn’t it?! Done deal, I’m off to get the ‘phone hands’ tattoo’d on my chest and start thinking up an ‘Antoinne is a red’ chant for the Stretford End. Chill out, until Agent P books a basketball court and lavish villa in Miami nothing is real.

Klopp Till You Drop
Keep an eye on; Liverpool are urging Jurgen, “we need defenders because Loris can’t Karius”.

Liverpool are just irresistible going forward aren’t they. Utterly destructive. The fab four sharing goals around like giant Christmas toblerone. Mo Salah’s 20+ goals haven’t fixed the problem, however. The best way to describe Liverpool is like a really expensive cheese grater. Looks flashy and slick, can cut through anything with sumptuous ease but still has far too many holes in and it’s only got good for one half.

Luckily for Liverpool fans, they have a quick fix. Once again Fenway Sports Group asked for Southampton vouchers for Christmas and Father Christmas did the deed. Cashed in already to the tune of £75million for Virgil Van Dijk and the longest running (most boring) transfer saga is finally tucked away. Will that sort the defensive frailties? Or will it be like trying to patch up the Titanic with duct tape? Only time will tell.

“Evan I Said The Should Have Kept Him”
Keep an eye on; EVERY SINGLE PUNDIT saying Manchester United shouldn’t have sold Jonny Evans in the first place.

We’ve all seen that the importance of strong, dependable defenders in the Premier League has inflated the market to ludicrous numbers (see above for VVD) but Jonny Evans rumoured departure from The Hawthorns has been met with a general nod of commendation. Well, that and probably a £200million price tag.

A reliable, consistent performer for West Brom since his move from United back in 2015, he now has all the big hitters sniffing around for his services. Cue every former player berating the Old Trafford hierarchy for letting him go… Call me cynical but I don’t remember anyone batting an eyelid when he departed especially when Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Mateo Darmian and Luke Shaw all came through the door to replace the void left by Evans.

That said, the Northern Ireland international would be a welcome addition to most top-flight sides. In other news, the same pundits also predicted the world would end in 2012, they predicted England would beat Iceland comfortably in 2016 and they’ve got next Friday’s winning lottery ticket tucked into the brim of their bowler. This analogy can be used for the majority of players once at a big club, simply replace the name ‘Jonny Evans’ and reuse. De Bruyne, Salah, Matic etc.

Peter O’Dearwinge
Keep an eye on; A future deadline day classic story.

Just think, Peter Odemwinge, once one of the most inform forwards in the Premier League, bagging 15 goals in his debut season for West Bromwich Albion, now forever known for a failed move to QPR.

He was Odemwinging his way down the motorway probably belting out a bit of ‘Animal’ by Conor Maynard and Wiley (number 2 in the charts at the time) dreaming of a debut goal at Loftus Road. However, as we know, his club at the time, WBA, rejected the approach from QPR without telling the Nigerian forward leaving him sat in the car park dejected, unwanted and disappointed.

Not sure it’ll ever happen again but in the off chance any professional footballer is reading this debating his own last minute A road dash just remember, McDonalds will now fine you if you stay in the carpark longer than 90minutes so, think ahead.


Last Minute Chopping
Keep an eye on; The groundsman spitting teeth about the ‘Keep Off The Grass’ sign being ignored by a helicopter pilot at 11:55pm.

Let’s be honest, this is what we live for. We’re desperate for a big name to swoop down from the skies, sign on the dotted line and smash a barrel load of goals instantaneously.

Picture the scene… the clock is ticking, you’ve missed out on your top three targets and just as the night digs you feel dejected and wallow in footballing despair. But wait, what’s that noise, you glance up to see a whirring rotor and a beaming light beginning its descent. Sat in the passenger, headphones wrapped around his greasy ponytail you see, grinning, the Geordie giant, Andy Carroll. Happy New Deal.


Contracts, What A Pain In The Arsene
Keep an eye on; Not just Arsenal but a shed load of Premier League clubs facing a fight to tie down their want away players.

We all know Alexis, Ozil and Wilshere are lurking by the Emirates summer exit door but it’s not just Wenger facing a numbers headache. Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini’s deals all expire in the summer. As do City rivals Fernandinho and Yaya Toure.

In addition to this players with six-months remaining on their current deals can sign a pre-contract agreement with foreign sides as of now. Prepare yourself for agents earning their pennies by plugging their players in every possible avenue. The back pages, the front pages, Zoopla, AutoTrader, Celebrity Big Brother, nowhere is safe.


More Clauses Than A North Pole Family Piss Up
Keep an eye on; The numbers, the fees, the agents cut, instalments, bonuses, incentive based promises, the lot.

Football clubs aren’t short of a few bob, so please, do us all a favour and just pay the money. Everyone wants a deal, no one wants to see a penny more escape their padlocked wallet, so they dress it up in a 700-page document with millions of discrepancies and sky-high promises that make up the final figure.

Say the figure wanted is £100million, the club will hardly ever pay that. They’ll want to pay £45million up front, £15million across three-years, then another £10milion if he ever wins the Balon D’Or. A further £10million will be shelled out if the team he’s joining wins any silverware, £5million once he’s got his own car parking space at the training ground, £2million when a child asks for the players name on the back of his shirt, £3million when he gets paparazzi snap him in a local nightclub.

The final £10million pound is usually reserved for if the player ever gets selected in a Human World XI against an Alien life form squad beamed down from Mars to play for the rights to Earth.
Whatever happens, we’re in for a tantalising few weeks deals dipping in and out, managers getting rattled and moaning in press conferences, players and agents wanting more money and Arsenal Fan TV racking up the views because of another Wenger out rant… Actually, when you put it like that, it’s just the same as every other month on the football calendar.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy,

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year.

Losses Lose Bosses

Ronald hasn’t got a Kloeman as Toffee’s sticky run continues and life’s a Bilic for Slav’s Hammers who got another nailing.

The race is on to get to the front of the job centre queue as the managerial merry-go-round picks up pace. Make sure that Football Manager Champions League win with Hemel Hempstead Town is on your CV; you might get a phone call.

Another woeful outing from Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday with Arsenal mauling their way to a 5-2 win after Idrissa Gana Gueye eye saw red midway through the second half.

An early Wayne Rooney strike had one or two dreaming of a turn in fortunes but much like a midweek defeat to Lyon in the Europa League Everton hit the self-destruct button.

Defensively shambolic, offensively blunt and not a lot in the middle really sums up how, despite the millions invested, the clock has been ticking for a while.

We all dream of a team of number tens… True, but just ask the Blues on Merseyside if it’s practical. Spoiler – it’s not.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney were all brought in for big bucks in the window but without a genuine goal threat to combine with, finding the back of the net has been rare.

The question of Koeman’s influence in the recruitment has to be raised. If he has sanctioned the move for three like-for-like players, and failed to buy a proven goalscorer with the £150million summer spending, then he’s been digging his own grave since June.

His shopping list must have looked more basic than a University freshers.

Just three teams have scored less than free spending Everton in the Premier League this season, Swansea, Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace. To be fair, Rooney has scored more on nights out this season than his side has in the Premier League.

Similar questions cannot be asked of Slaven Bilic in the capital, however. Joe Hart, Marko Arnautavic and Javier Hernandez arriving in the summer was arguably the shrewdest business of them all but results and performances have not followed.

With the ninth highest net spend in the window and the recent return of Andy Carroll the Hammers squad looks in the best shape it has for sometime. It’s a different story for Slav’s hairline though, which is looking barer than the home end did at fulltime on Friday night.

It’s worth pointing out the obvious, but a lack of invention going forward and a leaky rearguard are never going to stand you in good stead.

The London Stadium must cease to become a go-to excuse. A season deep into their tenure, if you’ve not adapted yet or dealt with the change, that’s purely unacceptable.

And, that said, many of those wearing claret and blue won’t have experienced much of an Upton Park life so it’s a cop-out that needs to be muted. The fans, rightly so, miss the atmosphere, the prestige and the football from the Boleyn but you have to move with the times.

It seems more of a stylistic crisis with numerous attempts to play direct on Friday night to the five-foot-nine-inch Hernandez who is hardly the ideal target man. I mean, imagine playing catch with Wolverine, it’s going to be a waste of time and a waste of a good ball.

A 3-0 home defeat to a newly promoted side will always invite pressure and, as good as Brighton were, West Ham were nothing short of an embarrassment.

They say it’s not the defeats that cause pain it’s the manner of them and for both of these sides the lack of inspiration or motivation on the field of play has the faithful chewing the corners off the match day programme.

It may be Halloween season, but the scariest thing for both managers is their league position. Neither can feel hard done by if they are shown the door in the coming hours as these managerial horror stories have already written their own nightmare endings.

It’s worth pointing out, both sets of owners have stuck by men under pressure previously, so it wouldn’t be unheard of to see them in the dugout for their midweek cup outings… Both sides have tough ties though so it might be more beneficial to their final win percentage if they were ousted before then.

The Hammers hierarchy may have their eye on saving a few quid knowing Bilic’ is out of contract in the summer but will they bulk at the price and sulk at the performance? Or pay up to make sure they stay up.

Farhad Moshiri’s billions may be enough attract some of Europe’s elite bosses into the dressing room or will he trust the Dutchman currently in the hot seat and open the chequebook again in January to find a fix… If it’s not too late.

Bookies have been slashing their odds on both to get the chop and with markets open for both successors it could be a case of when, not if.

Early favorites are David Unsworth (Everton) and Manuel Pellegrini (West Ham) but names like David Moyes, Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti have also been floated around… Although, If either could get King Carlo back in the country I’ll print this off and tuck into it for my lunch.

Two wonderful football clubs, steeped in history, backed by the loyalist of fanbases and realistic expectations, whoever takes over (if the posts become available) will have a mouthwatering project if they can find the formula.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy,

We’re Off to RASHia

United wonderkid Marcus makes up for blunder to all but bag our place at the World Cup.

Aaaaand breathe. The international break is done, we can return to tinkering over our fantasy football team, placing ridiculous 48 team accumulators and discussing the latest dodgy refereeing decisions in the Premier League.

But, before we dig out our lucky socks and head out for a good old-fashioned 3pm kick off on Saturday we must look back on a successful, slightly boring yes, but still a successful week for England.

Friday night against Malta… The less said the better. It’s hard to take any positives from games like that because we expect England to slam four, five, six, seven past the minnows and roll on through like a pre-season fundraiser for a church roof but it’s never really the case.

Let’s be fair, at half time we were all tugging out strands off hair, except Wayne Rooney, not only has he not got too many strands to be pulling at but he’s got bigger drinks to down at the moment.

No disrespect to Malta but this should have been a Mayweather McGregor evening… actually, scrap that because I backed McGregor and I think the Notorious had more chance of a finishing blow than the Maltese Maradona, Michael Mifsud (Google him, Danny Rose already has).

Eventually we nicked a few late goals but overall the evening was the footballing equivalent of a Gareth Southgate anecdote.

I’m always a bit harsh on Southgate, probably unfairly, but I struggle to feel motivated or inspired by a man who always looks like he’s won a raffle prize to be in the dugout.

His squad selections and new approach to International duty must be credited though. A larger squad with no withdrawals’ may seem like a given, but it’s not, and it means we are slowly but surely wandering towards the correct location.

Slovakia at Wembley was always going to be a sterner test and in parts I felt we produced some solid passages of play. Jordan Henderson may not be many fans first pick to take the armband and not quite in the Terry/Adams/Butcher mould of leader but he’s certainly a man who demands a lot of himself physically on the pitch. He did get overrun early on but second half drastically improved.

Seconds into the game and Marcus Rashford’s overplaying in a dangerous area lost possession before a neat one-two gave Stanislav Lobotka a Wembley moment he’ll never forget.

Eric Dier’s shin levelled things up before halftime and then England’s brightest prospect Rashford swung a right footed shot into the far corner on 59 minutes to secure the points and leave Southgates men just two-points from qualification.

A good result, some patches of promise and a few of the Spurs lads got to feel a Wembley win, which was nice for them.

Now, I don’t post frequently anymore so I’ll take this opportunity to “predict” the XI who will start for the first game in Russia… should we make it.

Obviously I can’t predict injuries or Ozil-esque missing symptoms but this is how I think it’ll go…

Jack Butland will be the number 1. It’ll happen. I’m a Joe Hart fan and he’s an essential part of the squad with his leadership qualities but the lads chocolate wrists are beginning to break up like a brittle 99p Easter Egg found down the back of the sofa in November. Butland would have been in sticks already were it not for an ankle injury but now he’s back and playing regularly it’s only a matter of time before he returns to the fold.

(This is predicted on a 4-2-3-1 shape)

Kyle Walker / Ryan Bertrand as full backs. With both Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Rose still yet to recover from injury these lads are in pole position to get the nod. Trent Alexander-Arnold will get more and more gametime under Klopp at Liverpool this year and could be a little outsider for a squad place at the World Cup too if you fancy a flutter.

Michael Keane / Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence. This I think was the toughest area to predict, purely because there are so many serious options. Cahill as Chelsea captain will give the experience needed and Keane’s move to Everton will show he is a top-level performer. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and John Stones are all in with a shout of starting but with the competition for places at their club sides so rife it’ll be touch and go to see if any can hammer down a consistent place for months on end, if they can, it’s anyone’s jersey.

Eric Dier / Jordan Henderson will be the pair to dictate our possession centrally. Both took a fair bit of stick in the Slovakia game for their lack of mobility but with the attacking options we have going forward Southgate may sacrifice their offensive duties for a more sturdy, disciplined role.

Raheem Sterling / Dele Alli / Marcus Rashford as the three in behind. I’ve gone for Sterling ahead of Ox again, purely based on predicted club form. Ox at Liverpool will probably find himself operating from a deeper role so that may give Sterling the edge in a wider position. Alli is the first name on the team sheet and barring some hideous change of career or a nine-month ban for flicking the bird to a referee he’ll be there as our number 10. Three words that England fans have been shouting for months on end now so Gareth, listen up. Rashford. Must. Play. This kid is the real deal, frightening pace, direct, tricky and fearless to pull the trigger, he has to play.

Up top, of course, Harry Kane. One of Europe’s most feared marksmen. Lethal from anywhere inside 30-yards, holds the ball up brilliantly, runs in behind, links up with Alli the lad has the lot and we need to play to his strengths. I swear to god if he even trots towards the corner flag for a set-piece I will slide-tackle the TV off the wall.

A few names I wouldn’t be shocked to see on the plane next summer could be Nathaniel Chalobah and Andre Gray from Watford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan at Crystal Palace, Danny Drinkwater at Chelsea and Tammy Abraham on loan at Swansea.

Ignoring my Chelsea bias in there all of the lads named above could give a different option to the management if their Premier League performances match up.

I don’t want to brag too much but I did back Rashford (at 80/1 at the time) to go to the Euros after he scored on his debut for United so my track record for this kind of stuff is pretty bang on.

Anyway, enough of this, Glenn Hoddle, you may return to your cottage by the Sea and watch videos of your England managerial career to pick up tips until the next break.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy,


Five fantasy footballers that might have been swerved by the mainstreamers but if you’re caught sleeping on these lads, you *might regret it. (*probably won’t)

It’s back, finally… no, mate not just my articles, apologies for the lack of uploads but I had so many episodes of The Bill on record I just couldn’t stop watching, REAL football is back.

I’ve taken a breather from Sun Hill now so forget your dodgy reality TV and our bang average summer because it’s time to get serious and focus on the real world of… Fantasy football… that sounded better in my head to be honest.

Everything is on the line – bragging rights in the office, the wittiest team names, a few quid on the line and most importantly a money-can’t-buy (non-existent) crown to the 2017/18 champion.

I compare my fantasy football skills to my culinary prowess, it starts off as a great idea, then I realise I’ve no idea what I’m doing before googling the answer and making do with a mediocre mess in front of me. But this year is going to be different!

I’ve done my scouting (by that I mean I’ve been so desperate for football I ended up watching highlights of Huddersfield, Swansea and Bournemouth’s pre-season campaigns… I know but it’s that or Love Island, mate and I refuse to succumb to peer pressure.)

I’ve had a word with a few experts (well, TalkSport have given some tips and I’ve read Paul Merson’s column) and most importantly I’ve got my team name sorted, Pathetico Madrid. Decent.

Ready for my five golden picks you need to weave into your XI? These aren’t the ones that jump off the page but they’re decent value, will score points on a regular basis and will allow you the freedom to go and pick yourself some bigheads.

Picking a team on a budget and refusing to pay the big bucks? Sounds like a Tottenham Hotspur pre-season briefing doesn’t it? But you have my word, these lads won’t bottle it at the tail end of the season.

Some similarities though, Danny Rose didn’t want to be in my fantasy team either…

The GK you need in is Wayne Hennessey. Palace look well set up under Frank DeBoer and will need to be well drilled to stop another relegation threatened season. At £4.5million, stick him between the sticks and watch him palm some points your way. This one is a bit of a gamble tbf but with newly promoted Huddersfield on the opening day I’d back the Eagles for a clean sheet.

One defender that gets overlooked a lot is Christian Fuchs at Leicester. Last year was a torrid season for the former champions but they now look more settled under Shakespeare so I’d fancy them for a mid-table finish and Fuchs will be instrumental to that. With the addition of Maguire to the heart of the Foxes defence, they’ll concede less so assists, clean sheets and the odd goal could be headed your way provided you don’t ‘Fuch him off’.

In the middle of the park we’ve gone for an ever-present in the Rafa revolution, Matt Richie. This lad has a wand of a left peg and will be lining up every set-piece the Toon have. Rafa is an intelligent man so be prepared for a lot of well-worked set-piece maneuvers with Richie at the heart of them. At £6million a lot of Newcastle’s survival will rely on his quality so get him in your squad and save yourself some dough at the same time.

Now, here’s where the fun begins, our guy up top. We’ve picked a plucky Italian who finished last year averaging a goal every other game. Add to that four bonus points and an assist this could be the season of Manolo Gabbiadini. £7million is a shed load cheaper than the big hitters and whilst everyone sneaks in Kane, Aguero and Lukaku you could nab some secret points from the Saints hit-man. If you ignore all of the above, this is the lad you’ll regret sleeping on most.

Now, last year my picks flopped hard so take all of these with a pinch of salt and I have tried to give some alternative players.

It’s easy to say ‘Select Kane’ ‘Get DeBruyne in’ or ‘Stick Alonso as Captain opening day against Burnley’. But realistically everyone is doing the same and the difference between Champions League and Sunday League will be who you can have picking up points that they don’t have, so shop around.

I don’t want to be hypocritical so I’ll come clean, I’ve only got one of these four in my squad (I won’t tell you which one though) However I can assure you once the opening weekend is out the way I’ll be thundering a few of these into my XI.

Good luck for the campaign, unless you’re in my work league, in which case, why are you snaking my tips for, get out!

Stay clever,

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

A Glossary Of Terrace Talk

Something a little different this week. Instead of me ranting, moaning and complaining about some minor football issue we’ve seen this weekend I thought I’d open up into the world of footballing phrases.

These are the ones you hear spat out in every level from Sunday league right up to Europe’s elite sides. From pundits to press officers, they all love a coded phrase, so here are ten of my faves, translated into every day language… Manager jargon can be interpreted slightly differently.

Firstly let’s get warmed up with a few words that are often used in football chat. Worldie means very good and Stanchion are the weird brackets in the back top corners of the goal, just a few very simple, relevant words you’ll probably hear if you get dug into a conversation, they’re all yours now, enjoy.

We won’t go through all the usual ‘It’s a game of two halves’ sayings because they’ve been done a million times over so I’ve selected a few that have been heard recently and may not be most common.


“He’s just not that sort of player” – One you will have heard a lot in recent weeks since the Neil Taylor leg-breaking challenge on Seamus Coleman. Usually spouted in defence of the offender by a manager or fan or pundit. Ask yourself have you ever heard of a player that is that type of player?

Translation – It was probably accidental because he’s not plastered in tattoos, sacrificing chickens on Saturday and burning out a Harley Davidson outside a council estate.


“Can he do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night in Stoke” – Without doubt, the best phrase used by football fans. It’s usually in jest of a top quality player playing abroad questioning whether his hat-trick in the Champions League is enough proof of his ability. Until he can wrestle free of Ryan Shawcross’ man marking, dart towards the ball, flick it up and smash a bicycle kick into the postage stamp, is he even worth talking about?

Translation – This lad is exceptionally good, but let’s not give him too much credit until he’s turned water into wine and fed a village of 900.


“I didn’t see it” – Aaahhh the Arsene Wenger go to. He loves this one (once he’s found the zipper on his coat) usually referring to another theatrical performance from one of his players or a hideous decision from the officials. Usually balanced out with a rhetorical, smug answer of “I did see it but I prefer not to speak about this” (Aka, the Mourinho).

Translation – Everyone saw it. It was completely the wrong decision, you don’t need to ask me that and if I respond I’ll get in trouble. Do you want to pay the £25,000 fine for me? No? Well then, move on.


“He’s a quiet lad with a good head on his shoulders” – Usually in reference to an academy graduate breaking into the first team. Yet to buy his ninth Rolex and Overfinch Range but still got the tramlines cut into his barnet. Could be a baller in the making if they can keep his attitude problem a secret and flog him to the highest bidder next summer.

Translation – Usually the geekiest looking youngster on the circuit, in bed by 10pm except on a Friday when he pops down the local for an orange juice and swans in just a smidge past 11… Lad.


“I have never seen anything like that before” – Whether it be a worldie from 25-yards into the stanchion or a two-footed lunge go unpunished, we’ve seen almost everything now. Unless Mike Dean rises like a salmon at the far stick three minutes into injury time to nick a winner for Spurs, we’ve probably seen something similar happen before, so leave it out.

Translation – We haven’t seen anything like this since, well, erm last weekend probably. Yeah, then I remember vaguely something similar happening, but that was the first one I’d seen since, well the week before that… etc. etc.


“He’s lost the dressing room” or “The players aren’t playing for him” – Referring to the manager’s lack of influence over his playing staff when results are going down the pan. It’s a huge cop out used by fans because their gaffer isn’t prancing along the touchline smashing water-bottles into Row Z. One of the most overused terms used by under-qualified fans, how on earth would any of us know if he had “lost the dressing room”… Unless you’re reading this and you’ve got a squad number, if you are, what are you doing reading this? Get back to training and stop slacking.

Translation – The players have gone back to their useless selves. He conjured up a minor miracle and made them decent, now look, they’re back to being wack. SACK THE BOARD.


He’s a “No nonsense” or “old-fashioned player” – Basically, he smashes challenges like he’s breaking into an Easter egg, takes pride in clearing the ball out of the stadium and doesn’t wear gloves (even when it’s snowing…). Blood stains on his t-shirt, a nose more crooked than Sepp Blatter and plain black, leather boots. None of this fancy gold trim on his wheels, oh no, a good solid pair of Puma Kings with each of his victims… I mean, opponents, squad numbers carved into the tongue.

Translation – No-one will ever buy him from this team. He was born here, he will die here. He has kicked the ball less times than the oppositions striker so far this season and in his ten appearances he’s been sent off four times (all of which he claimed to have ‘got the ball’ and the other lad ‘made a meal of it’)


“He’s got an absolute wand of a left peg” – A term only ever heard about a lefty. For some reason seeing a goal scored with the left foot looks 10x better than a right footer, no idea why, it just does. It’s an accurate description of anyone who can strike a ball on their left side from 30-yards.

Translation – He can score with his left foot from anywhere outside the area. Goalkicks, he’ll take em’ and probably score. Throw-ins? Drop them too his feet and watch him fizz a diag to the opposite flank.


“They’re a team that like to play football” – Obvious one? Not quite. Talking about your Barcelona’s, your Bayern Munich’s, your Arsenal’s, side’s that don’t mind knocking the ball about for 20 minutes solid. The most ridiculous phrase ever used though, everyone likes playing football, that’s why they play football… well that and the £200k a week wage might sweeten the pot. Never in reference to a side that is physical, strong or assertive it’s about the cute, pretty sides that keep the ball on the floor and never shoot from more than 15 yards away.

Translation – They pass a lot, and I mean a lot. I once went for a hotdog on 15 minutes, came back at 27 and Pique and Mascherano we’re still doing one-twos on the edge of the box.


“The club is in crisis” – Fam, blood, fam, fam, fam, Wenger Out fam. Arsenal is a prime cause of this term being used weekly. Arsenal Fan TV does some superb work talking to fans where there is a genuine split of opinion. It is a crisis if Arsenal don’t finish in the top four because that is the size of that club, when people claim that you can’t have a crisis unless your going out of business it makes me laugh. Why not? It’s like saying you can’t say your hungry unless you haven’t had a meal in 3 weeks and are starving to death. Context is everything.

Translation – It’s pretty bad in terms of football but in the real world, these
problems are minor. Unless you are at a club in a genuine state, but usually these are the fans that moan and sensationalise the least.


Well, I hope these have been useful next time you’re sat in the boozer watching Soccer Saturday and just a little extra piece of jargon busting, ignore every tip Paul Merson gives you. Amazing pundit, top class footballer but dreadful luck in predicting results.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.

Friend or Defoe?

There is a Jermain sized headache appearing for gaffer Gareth after veteran poachers Wembley opener.

Thank god that’s over, International football is such a drag isn’t it but don’t worry the Premier League returns in a matter of days.

We dug a win out over some European minnows and played our part in another dull friendly which doubled up as Lukas Podolski’s over the top testimonial (the gladiator music was a bit much wasn’t it…) but we will come on to that, let’s start with the positives.

Gareth Southgate is fitting into international football pretty naturally so far, he did initially have a kind of teaching assistant deputising feel to start with but now he’s gone fully fledged Geography lecturer on us with his ‘do it yourself’ hair cut and brown shoe combo.

There’s a video doing the rounds which is from Gareth’s playing career where he states he only drinks water in the week but will have a few beers at the weekend… suddenly Wayne Rooney’s omission makes sense.

I’m giving him a bit of a hard time already and oddly enough I’m pretty impressed with what he has done so far… I know, what’s happening, England and positive in the same sentence, I’ve not heard that since they started drug testing Sunday morning “footballers”.

We have to remember that Germany are a class above, we are brilliantly deluded in this country into thinking our footballing elite are on a par with the best in the planet… no chance.

We know our place, we know our potential and we have to build on that so pessimistically looking at a game against the world champions ‘B’ team was a pretty even affair, bloody dull, but even.

So positives to be had from Dortmund on Wednesday night? I thought our new shape was encouraging and gave us a fresh, enthusiastic approach to the game. We see it deployed week in, week out by Antonio Conte at the Bridge and it’s been excellent to watch. A solid, disciplined base with captain Cahill leading and debutant Michael Keane slotting into like an old glove.

The most demanding role is the wing-back/wide midfielder roles but with players like Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand as options there, we have the quality to play with this shape.

It also allows our attacking players, where we’re probably most gifted, to get on the ball more, drift into areas they can’t on a more rigid formation and be more expansive. Playing this way with the form Dele Alli and Adam Lallana are in is certainly very encouraging and Southgate has to be applauded for acknowledging this early doors.

Then we get to the negative side. England letting us down In someway shape or form on the international stage is about as predictable as Gordon Ramsay’s swear jar being full.

Let’s quickly breeze over this because it’s been covered by proper publications and I don’t want to give the idiots any more time then they’ve already stolen but there were some unsavoury sights midweek that brought shame, once again, on our footballing brand.

The lack of respect, the chanting and the despicable behaviour by some of the England fans in Dortmund on Wednesday night was deplorable. We have some of the greatest fans on the planet who travel coast to coast to see our boys play and then we have some morons who continuously embarrass us by representing the country in completely the wrong way. I don’t know how you can pinpoint this issue and completely abolish it from the game but it needs to happen, and fast.

Now onto Lukas Podolski. What a career, what a character and what a left foot. The boy has got a wand of a left peg and, as he has his entire career, dealt a sledgehammer of a strike right into the postage stamp to decide the game on the night. Congrats Lukas, you’ve represented your country well.

Niceties aside, was that really the gladiator music they played when he got subbed off? Is this where football is heading?

It would be funny if we now had players with their own theme tunes as they were introduced or substituted tho, Wayne Rooney would have Smashmouth (because of the Shrek reference, harsh I know), Dele would have Sandi Thom ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker’ (that video of him singing it is still a belter) and Raheem Sterling would probably have Jessie J ‘Price Tag’ (One for you Liverpool fans out there). If you have any suggestions for more footballer theme tunes feel free to tweet me them @_ItsJJ.

I just hope next time we get an invite to a retirement party they lay on some sausage rolls because that, a 90’s cheese disco and an old, former employee cracking his trousers down for a funny photocopying prank are the only things that could have saved another instalment of ITV’s dullest midweek internationals.

Sometimes I think the only way I could care less about switching it on would be if Harry Hill started to commentate like You’ve Been Framed, that’d tip me over the edge.

It may not have been a blockbuster of a game but it was mildly encouraging in patches so ahead of the Lithuania game, surely, we were oozing confidence.

Foolishly, once again, I had a flutter on England to win 4-0 and Dele first goalscorer… That’ll teach me to be ambitious.

We got the result, that’s the main thing.

Only two things to pick out from the game worth mentioning, really, Jermain Defoe being the headline.

What a wonderful player he is. Without doubt jumping straight to the top of the pile as my favourite international moment was little Bradley Lowery leading England out alongside his best mate Jermain Defoe.

A beautiful moment, a wonderful gesture from captain Joe Hart too.

Defoe did what Defoe does and now Gareth has a bit of a headache.

He will be 36-years-old when the next international tournament rolls around, will that be asking a bit much from him to contribute? Not for me, if he’s scoring, get him on the plane.

Age is but a number, I mean, don’t give Bobby Charlton the nod because his goal scoring is probably on top of him now (somewhere his hair has never been) but as long as they are playing top-flight football and performing at that level weekly why would their age concern us?

The other thing was Jamie Vardy taking the opportunity to launch his new range of guyliner, which will be on sale from all Bargain Booze outlets. Opening day offer of a free pen with every crate of WKD purchased, use the code ‘Get Banged’ for a further 10% off.

One step closer to qualification, that’s probably the bottom line and the only thing we can really learn from the past weeks football is Russell Crowe is just a poor mans Lukas Podolski.

Just a quick side note too, I’m sure you will echo this, best wishes to Seamus Coleman who suffered a hideous double leg break in Ireland’s draw with Wales on Friday night. A brilliant captain for his country, a dependable full-back for his club and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Thanks for reading,

Take it easy.