When there’s proper football to be had in the flesh, Pete Sixsmith isn’t likely to stay in to watch Man Utd vs Arsenal on the box, with United fans incensed at Michael Oliver’s application of relatively simple laws of the game. He took himself off to Hetton to see Sunderland’s Under 21s in winning action. The opposition, West Ham, are also the first team’s opponents for the next away game. Could it be an occasion for trying out one or two of the brighter sparks among the young ‘uns, if only because the seniors have repeatedly let us down? Maybe not, but who knows what a hungry Mandron or Watmore might do …
This post is about relegation, something never far from our minds, and who this season’s three might be. Over the summer I looked over a little bit of history and generated some numbers in order to bring you more of my dodgy predictions. Enjoy them or argue with them as you will. Just don’t nick the family allowance and run off to the bookies.
For the last couple of years I’ve reported on our progress towards the Deloitte Money Football League. I had just about started an update in February when other things took priority – we had a double to celebrate, then a cup final, and then we started digging what we thought was a grave, only it turned out to be a tunnel. I finished my piece around the start of the World Cup, when there was a lot going on and then went off on holiday. Now here we are, in the transfer window with friendlies underway and next season’s fixtures around the corner, and I’m hoping our esteemed editor can find space between Pete’s reports and Borini’s never-ending saga.
Who’s feeling confident then? The game at Anfield was one I actually feared beforehand. It’s been a while since I’ve actually feared that the opposition were so far ahead of us that the scoreline was destined to be ridiculously high one, writes Stephen Goldsmith.
Then, around mid afternoon, rumours filtered through that Gus was planning on mixing it up a little. There’s a piece in The Journal today by Mark Douglas suggesting that Gus needs to stop tinkering with team selections and formations. There’s a good point in there, but I’d argue that this particular change was entirely necessary. Furthermore, it added the first glimmer of excitement in relation to actually watching the game. Opposing manager Brendan Rodgers has tinkered and tweaked formations until something has successfully stuck, and unlike the very good Douglas, I don’t sense it’s all panic motivated. Poyet has constantly said that things would click yet the performance at Norwich appeared to expose his hopes as blind optimism. The starting eleven that were turned over at Carrow Road were also the same guys who rampaged to a 3-0 win at St James’.
Personnel does change too much in the middle of the park, of course, and that’s something we regularly discuss on the podcast. I call it the “revolving door” scenario. That isn’t unique to this manager though and the players’ ineptitude and inability to perform consistently is the primary reason for this.
We speak about all this kinda stuff with Richard Mason from the Northern Echo and assistant editor of A Love Supreme , Chris Thompson – look out for their upcoming 25 year anniversary special. We also chat to Nigel Kahn about the upcoming West Ham game. 0-0/0-1 anyone? He hates Allardyce, does Nigel. After the former Sunderland defender’s comments and gestures at the end of the Hull game it’s hardly surprising if that’s a fair reflection of his behaviour there.
Subscribe on iTunes or listen below.
You can just imagine the thought process for West Ham supporters.
Fourth bottom. Team’s under pressure, Big Sam’s under pressure and a lifeline may be needed. Just when all seems too gloomy for words, along comes the home game against Sunderland.
Pete Sixsmith has not been the world’s most cheerful chappie this season. He was in decidedly happier fettle after yesterday’s sweet demolition job, finding warm words of praise for the entire Sunderland team, spirited and dominant as they were, and for the fans’ equally spirited mockery of the ineffectual pantomime villain, Kevin Nolan. He even offers sporting applause to the sizeable away support who must have been appalled by what they saw but kept up decent encouragement of their players throughout …
I realise our massive fan base will be more than anxious to check out the latest Salut! Predictions League table, but they’ll have to wait.
Lack of time and a steward’s enquiry into the accuracy of the league table, means I will get to it during the not so festive period. Right in between the darts and one of my many siestas.
As I generally don’t know my arse from my elbow during the Xmas fortnight, trying to figure out which day it is becomes practically impossible. I’m an advocate for the Xmas break in the Premier League – so we’re certainly having one here.
So, I’ll take this opportunity to wish everybody a merry chr… hahaha – I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to. Here’s the predictions yaaaa’ll.
Southampton v Sunderland
Jake: Saints 0 Sunderland 1. I don’t really believe this.
Malcolm: My head says we won’t get anything from this one and will lose 2-0. My heart expects us to get something and a 2-0 win. So I’m going with my epiglottis and well settle for a 2-2 draw.
Sixer: A game neither side can afford to lose. They have tightened up their defence while ours is as stable as a Christmas jelly. Wickham to get at least one. 2-2.
The rest: Goldy 1-2. Bill 0-1. Colin 0-2. Robert 1-2. Jeremy 1-2. John Mac 1-2.
Newcastle v Q.P.R
Colin: I’m afraid I really want the Mags to win this and keep ‘Arry deep in trouble. Newcastle are also relegation rivals so there is merit is them losing, too, but not quite as much as things stand. I also regard them as a better team than Rangers. 3-1
Bill: Newcastle 2 QPR 0 If the Barcodes can’t beat QPR at home, then maybe it’s Alan “Christmas is cancelled” Pardew who should be looking for another job. It’s by no means a cut-and-dried result, though.
Goldy: Neee snidey copying tactics from me this week, I promise. Let’s get this right, I’m not particularly enjoying Newcastle’s slump – not while we’re in danger ourselves. It won’t always end like it did in 08/09 and that’s frightening. There’s jitters eleven miles up the road, however, and a rejuvenated Q.P.R to nick a point here. 1-1.
The rest: Jake 1-1. Malcolm 1-1. Sixer 1-2. Robert 2-1. Jeremy 1-2. John Mac 1-1.
West Ham v Everton
Robert:Without Fellaini Everton will struggle to dominate teams like they have so often this season. I expect a dull 1-1 draw in this one.
John Mac: EFC haven’t had it all their own recently but Sam’s had a couple of injuries and tends to fight hard at home. So 1-1 with neither team firing on all cylinders.
Jeremy: It doesn’t matter whether or not you approve or admire Big Sam’s approach to management. The man tends to get good results wherever he goes. West Ham are galvanised under Sam’s leadership and have surprised those who expected a relegation battle for the Hammers. This should be a really tight game so I’m going for West Ham 1 Everton 1.
The rest: Jake 1-2. Malcolm 2-0. Sixer 1-1. Colin 1-2. Bill 1-3. Goldy 2-1.
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
Stephen Goldsmith writes: Enough of all this Man Utd v Arsenal and Liverpool v Man Utd nonsense, Wigan and West Brom will provide us with the third fixture to mull over this week. I actually think it’s an intriguing fixture. Seriously. West Brom have made an interesting appointment in Steve Clarke and I am genuinely interested as to how his managerial career is going to pan out. He’s worked for some big names – all with vast managerial methods it seems. Wigan are decent at home, however, and it could be a good yardstick for both teams.
Sunderland travel to the wonderful Goodison Park this weekend. I have seen us draw there at best and will never forget the Boxing Day massacre of 1999 – where a soon-to-be Sunderland bound Don Hutchison netted twice in a 5-0 rout. That game is a decent summation of our achievements in this particular fixture.
I have faith in this side, I really do. We are a top central midfielder away from being a very decent side and if Gardner, Colback or Larsson pull their finger out and take responsibility we have a chance against anyone.
Everton v Sunderland
Bill:I have little to base this on but blind faith in the probability theory – the one that says that sooner or later we’ll probably start playing better. We know the squad can do it, we’ve seen them do it and O’Neill desperately needs to get them doing it again. I don’t see us taking all three points at Goodison so, for once; a draw would be a decent result. Even better if Sess starts looking once more like the player we were all so afraid the Cats were going to lose. 2-2.
Colin: Since I am always wrong, bottom of the league and cannot even score sitters (e.g. Man U v Arsenal as a home win) I will be honest with us for a change instead of loyal and hope to be utterly wrong on both scoreline and winning team. Everton 2 SAFC 1
Jeremy:A home win comes as standard in Everton v Sunderland fixtures. No reason whatsoever to think that this one will be different even without Tim Cahill. 2-0 to the Toffees and more pressure on O’Neill.
The rest:Malcolm 3-0. Sixer 1-2. Robert 1-2. Goldy 2-2 Jake 2-0 John Mac 1-1.
Newcastle v West Ham
Sixer: How sweet would it be if Nolan levelled in the 82nd minute and Carroll headed the winner in the 93rd? It could happen! 1-2.
Robert:Newcastle still don’t look like a great side. On paper they’ve got quality all over the place but it doesn’t seem to have come together yet. And this week they’ll be without Coloccini in the middle so I expect West Ham to trouble them all day. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.
John Mac:NUFC lack ball winners/holders who hold midfield together and dour Sam-organised defence keeps them at bay for much of the game. 1-1.
The rest: Malcolm 2-0. Bill 2-1. Colin 1-2. Goldy 1-1 Jake 3-1 Jeremy 1-1.
Wigan v West Brom
Malcolm:The Martinez way is, I feel, beginning to click – at least enough to overcome the Baggies. The Midlanders may be a force to be reckoned with at The Hawthorns, but they’ll come unstuck up in the land of Uncle Joe’s mintballs. Latics 3 WBA 1.
Goldy:Since that little bit in my intro bigging this game up, I guess it’s only fair I comment on it. Wigan, rarely expected to finish above the bottom six, are very decent at home – while West Brom has had the kind of start we all hoped for here. They don’t always travel well though and I’m going for 2-1.
Jake:Can’t waffle – really don’t care 1-1
The rest:Bill 2-1. Sixer 1-2. Colin 1-3. Robert 1-1 Jeremy 2-1 John Mac 1-1.
Stephen Goldsmithwrites: It can be a cruel game this football carry on. Not only did chicken dancing, Sunderland slaying Kevin Nolan nab a point for West Ham against the lads in the last minute on Saturday; he cost me three points in the Salut! Predictions League. How DARE he!
As that gifted 3 points to Colin and Jake, both rather predictably leap-frog me in the table. It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed when you have to rely on a Newcastle win to gain yourself a solitary point.
As Malcolm’s e-mails notifying me of the league standings get quicker by the week, it’s safe to assume that he is going well at the top of the table, along with the reliable John Mac. There was nobody who went pointless this weekend, though Jeremy remains the only person yet to predict a correct scoreline this season. As I am sucked back down towards the basement like some sort of metal object towards this huge magnet of despair, I can only but be glad there was no wagers placed on final league standings.
Colin is actually only above me on the alphabetical technicality. Nope, that statement didn’t make me feel any better.
Here’s the table:
|Correct Results||Correct Scores||Points|
Stephen Goldsmith writes: I was really tempted to pick some obscure and irrelevant fixture in addition to the lads at West Ham and Newcastle at home to a Michael Turner inspired Norwich this weekend.
But as Sky Sports salivate in anticipation of a handshake and a possible lack of respect displayed from a segment of mindless fans, I felt it was only fair to offer the Liverpool v Man Utd game to our enthusiastic panellists. I think if we’re all honest, it’s a game that is of monumental proportions in this day and age and it’s always one to look forward to.
Without further ado, the predictions are:
West Ham v Sunderland
Sixer: Big Sam is out-thought by the tactical genius known as Martin O’Neill – although Jedward have a better grasp of tactics than the gum chewing former Sunderland centre half. 1-2.
Colin:As I have written at ESPN, it won’t be 8-0 to them as in 1968 but beyond that I am unsure so will allow loyalty to dictate. 1-2.
Bill: This should be the three-point game we need. The Cats are gelling and, we must hope, building full match-fitness. The Hammers have a perfect home record so far but I think this flatters them. 0-2.
The Rest: Jeremy:2-1. Goldy: 0-1. Robert 1-3. Jake 1-1. Malcolm 1-2. John Mac 1-1.
Newcastle v Norwich City
Jeremy: 1-2. Former boss gets a warm reception at the Temple of Darkness on his return. Canaries battle hard against their hosts and emerge victorious in 3 goal thriller, taking all 3 points back to East Anglia.
Jake: Can’t see Norwich getting anything from The Sports Direct Arena, and on top of Ba stealing three points from me at Everton last week with that late goal, I’ll probably get nowt here either. My guess, for what it’s worth is 2-0.
Malcolm: I’ll let the head rule this time. I’m afraid that Magpies are bigger and stronger than Canaries who won’t be singing when the final whistle blows. 3-0.
The Rest: Sixer 3-0. Colin 3-1. Bill 3-1. Robert 2-1. Goldy 2-0. John Mac 2-1.
Liverpool v Man Utd
Robert: Liverpool are coming off what they will see as a disappointing draw with Sunderland. United are coming off a resounding win against Wigan. Naturally I’m going to pick Liverpool to get their first win of the season. I think they’ll finally put an entire performance together and get a sneaky 2-1 win.
Goldy: These games are always bouncing and I can’t wait for it. Man Utd to lead for the most part but Liverpool to claim a point much to the delight of an emotional Anfield. 1-1.
John Mac:A home win after a defensive error and a dead ball into the box. 2-1.
The Rest:Sixer 1-3. Colin 1-2. Bill 2-4. Jeremy 0-3. Jake 0-3 Malcolm 1-2.