Unknown-4Ok – it’s a week late, but I’ve been on holiday, and there’s been the Olympics and, well, you know, life gets in the way.

But, I’ve now got five minutes to spare and can share my thoughts on what I think will be the most interesting football season, since, well, since the last one.

No one could have predicted the Leicester City would win the Premier League last year – but, they did, and in doing so, they showed that football is not just about billion dollar owners and the Champions League, but that occasionally, a well drilled side with a lot of spirit and a bit of luck can prevail.

But, that was last season, what about this….

Well, let’s start with the reigning champs, Leicester City – how will they do? Well, the good news for Leicester is that they’ve managed to keep on to almost all of their players – Mahrez and Vardy, but the player they’ve lost, Kante, their dynamic midfielder who was absolutely superb for them last year. Leicester’s problem though, is that this year, other teams will see them coming – they won’t be allowed to sit back and counter attack, teams will defend deeper and show them more respect. They’ll also have the added problem of Champions League football. I wish Leicester well, but I’ll be surprised if they finish in the top 4.
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Arsenal always finish in the top 4: but, in recent years, this perennial success without the silverware is starting to grate with Gooners. Last season, one suspects, with the problems at other clubs, they had a great chance to win the title, but, as ever, weaknesses in key positions, poor results when it mattered and injuries let them down. It seems as though every year that i’ve been doing my preview, I’ve said that Arsenal need to buy a centre half and a holding midfielder, but, these positions are never really filled to the standard that Arsenal fans expect. This year, could be a difficult one for them.
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Staying in North London, Spurs had a great season last year, before falling away at the end. I like Tottenham and their manager Poccetino, I like the fact that he is prepared to bring along and actually play, young local talent. I hope that Spurs are rewarded for their endeavour with another good season.

Traditionally, Chelsea have struggled to bring on their local talent, personally, I think that it is no co-incidence that last seasons with their home grown talent, like Terry, Cole and Lampard, aged, retired or moved on Chelsea struggled. Their new manager Conte, looks like he really knows what he’s about, and the signing of the Leicester schemer, Kante, is an absolute coup – saying that, I don’t think that they’ll win a title with Diego Costa as their main striker and no real alternative to Terry at centre half.

Staying in London, my tip for this year’s dark horses are West Ham – their manager Slaven Bilic is intelligent, honest and personable, the team he is building is clever and adaptable, managing a number of styles from the hoof it up to Andy Carroll to the more subtle development of the skills of French star Payet. Their defence is well organised and they’ll benefit from moving to the Olympic Stadium. I can see West Ham pushing on, perhaps not into top 4 this year, but in the not to distant future.

Up in Manchester City and United have both changed their managers and the battle between Mourinho at United and Guardiola at City is going to be absolutely fascinating. My hunch is that this year, it will be the red half of United who will be the happier – Mourinho has bought big in Pogba and Makhitarian (who is superb) and stellar in Zlatan who is good for at least 20 goals this season, even if half the time he may not appear interested. Mourinho has a habit of getting results quickly, and I feel that this year will be no different.

City on the other hand, may require a bit more work, their defence is poor when Kompany is injured and the type of close, pressing football that Guardiola prefers may not be obtained overnight. City have also been quiet in the transfer market, which is strange – this season may well see them in a state of transition.

How about Liverpool? Well, Jurgen Klopp can no longer complain that he hasn’t had a pre-season, or that the team isn’t his – he’s signed some interesting players in Mane from Southampton and Wijnaldum from Newcastle, though perhaps more important could be the signing of no-nonsense Estonian centre half, Klaven who brings a certain menace to what is often a fragile defence. Will Klopp’s heavy metal football prevail? I hope so, they’ll definitely be an improvement on last year.

Everton could be another surprise this season – the appointment of Ronald Koeman was inspired and may prove to be the ailing Bill Kenwright’s last gift to the club he loves. They’ve purchased the effervescent Bolasie from Palace and Ashley Williams from Swansea (which is superb business); Koeman will have them playing good football whilst making them difficult to beat – I expect a good season at Goodison.

images-1Of those who may well briefly sparkle before slipping to mid-table obscurity, I expect Sunderland under David Moyes to be harder to beat than in previous years; Stoke City will be occasionally brilliant, as any team with the likes of Shakiri and Anautovic should be, whilst Southampton and West Brom have got too much experience and class to get themselves embroiled in a relegation fight, but, alas, not enough firepower to trouble the upper echelons of the league.

Which brings me to the strugglers – Middlesbrough will find it tough, because traditionally the promoted teams do, but, they’ve signed some good players in Negredo, Ramirez and De Roon and I expect them to comfortably survive. Of the other promoted teams, Burnley are well served by the fact that their manager Sean Dyche has been here before as have some of the players – they’ll be a little wiser this time around, and that should be enough. Hull City, on the other hand, despite their initial success, can look forward to a difficult season, losing their manager on the eve of kick off was a disaster, and a look at their squad, suggests a lack of numbers and class in key positions – I fear the worst.Unknown-2

I also fear for Swansea who have lost Ayew, Gomis and most importantly Ashley Williams. They’re a well run club though the Swans, and they’ll be relying on every ounce of their experience and guile to keep them up this season.

Bournemouth are also well served by an excellent young manager, Eddie Howe, performed miracles in keeping them in the Premier league last season, and should, by rights, find it easier this season. He’s made some good signings including one of my favourites Jordan Ibe and I expect good things from them.

Watford also did well last season, they played efficient, fast football and had a good home record – can they sustain it another season? I’ll be interested to see how their wonderfully named Nigerian signing Isaac Success gets on. I feel for Watford, it may depend on how they respond to the inevitable sticky patch.

Crystal Palace always have a sticky patch – last year it saw them plummet from fourth to eighteenth in the space of three barren months. They’ve lost Bolasie and I fear that one or two of their players are a bit unhappy – and the signings of Townsend and Tomkins from Newcastle and West Ham respectively look a bit poultry to me – it will take all of Alan Pardew’s skills to keep them in the right half of the league.

So, here is my legendary league table:

1. Man United
2. Man City
3. Spurs
4. Chelsea
5. Liverpool
6. West Ham
7. Arsenal
8. Everton
9. Leicester City
10.Sunderland
11.Bournemouth
12.Southampton
13.Middlesbrough
14.Stoke City
15.Burnley
16.West Brom
17.Swansea City
18.Watford
19.Crystal Palace
20.Hull City

Players to watch:

Unknown-3Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Man United, obviously.
Marko Grujic of Liverpool, this man could become the new Steven Gerrard.

Moussa of Leicester City, even faster than Jamie Vardie.

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…..Meanwhile, back at Lib-Dem Headquarters…….

by Ray_North on August 15, 2016

imagesEverything should be going really well…. shouldn’t it?

Er no.

Despite the fact that the Labour Party is in absolute disarray, the Tories have conducted a swift, but bloody civil war, and half the nation (well almost) has decided that it is in favour of Europe, the Lib-Dems are still struggling.

Opinion Polls last week, put them at a dreary 8% and there is no suggestion that the disaffected left or right are helping to forge some kind of Lib-Dem resurgence. In fact if anything, the travails of the other parties is simply reinforcing the view of most voters that the Lib-Dems are irrelevant. And that is worrying – not just for Tim Farron and his members, but, actually for the rest of us as well – because if those who cheesed off by the extremists in charge of the two main parties, feel they have nowhere to turn to, then the result will be apathy and disenfranchisement and further decay in our already spluttering democracy.

So, what is the problem with the Lib-Dems and how can they remedy it?

Well, without doubt, their biggest problem is the spectre of the coalition. Many people felt absolutely cheated by the fact that the Lib-Dems went into coalition with the Tories – it was as though they ceased to exist for anything other than self-aggrandisement or the furthering of the careers of Messrs Cameron, Osborne et al. The ease with which they supported austerity suggested that actually, at the end of the day, the Lib-Dems didn’t really care about much.

This feeling amongst voters persists and won’t be easy to get rid of.

But, until the Lib-Dems stop telling the world how great the coalition was and how they did everything in the national interest then their brand will remain toxic.

Instead, the Lib-Dems have to regain the trust of the people and that must include putting into place the type of socio-economic programme that they coherently proffered in the days of Ashdown and Kennedy, before the party was taken over by libertarian academics. Both Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy were absolutely clear about the role of the state in our lives, they were both committed to a welfare state and progressive economic policy to go hand in hand with the benefits of the free market – neither was to be subservient to the other. With Corbyn leading Labour and with Phil Hammond pulling the strings at Number 11, there is suddenly a lot of room for the Lib-Dems to forge ahead with a positive and pragmatic socio-economic policy that fully embraces the centre ground.

What the Lib-Dems shouldn’t do, is base their entire existence on a further referendum on membership of the EU – it reeks of sour grapes, in fact it already sounds dated – perhaps, instead, the Lib-Dems should see coming out of Europe as a potentially good thing – they have always been the Party of the Town Hall, they have always championed local politics – now, perhaps more than any time in a couple of generations, they can campaign to take power closer to the people with stronger, better funded local authorities. The slogan of, OK, you want your communities back, then this is how we’ll do it, may resonate.

Another problem that the Lib-Dems have is personnel – I’ve a soft spot for Tim Farron, I believe him to be an honest man, a man of principle, but, sadly, he does lack the charisma and drive to enthuse those who are currently desperately tired of politicians and politics. However, there is no obvious alternative to Tim Farron – the cull at the last general election put paid to that. This, then might be the time for the Lib-Dems to bring forward new talent – if I was them, I’d scour the country for new politicians, people with youth and enthusiasm on their side, who may be more appealing than the current crop.

Finally, of course, the Lib-Dems need to go back to doing what they traditionally did well – running local authorities and telling everyone about it. The traditional image of a local councillor wearing a Lib-Dem tie looking sagely at a pot-hole that he had managed to get filled in, may have grown tiresome, but, it was important. There is a lack of interest in civic life a gap that was often filled by worthy and energetic Lib-Dems – a return to that grassroots, leaflets through the doors politics may now be the only way for the Lib-Dems to recover from the debacle of coalition and regain the nation’s trust.

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#1084: 1980, Grace Jones, Private Life

August 10, 2016

There are great albums and then there are very good albums. For me, truly great albums are a pantheon of about 50 or so and few artists record more than one. For example, taking The Beatles, Revolver, Abbey Road and Sergeant Pepper are great albums whilst Help, Rubber Soul and The White Album are very […]

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The Republicans Can’t Dump Trump

August 8, 2016

As Donald Trump’s chances of becoming the 45th President of the United States have plummeted over the last ten days (13 points behind Hillary Clinton among likely voters in the latest Monmouth University poll released today) there has been growing speculation that the Republican Party might need a Plan B to stay in the running. […]

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#1083: 2009, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Home

July 25, 2016

We had a couple of days of sunshine up here – which was strange as it was July, school holidays and up here, is North Wales where things don’t tend to get sunny. What was even stranger was that the sunshine co-incided with me having a few hours off work – so, I decided to […]

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Jeremy Corbyn and the Cult of Personality

July 25, 2016

Battle is joined. After Angela Eagle had the balls to step up and challenge Corbyn for the Labour leadership and then nobly stood aside for Owen Smith so there was a unity challenger, we now have maybe the last chance to save the Labour Party as a coherent political force. Something that after Brexit and […]

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Cine-East Film Club Presents #69: 1971, Wake In Fright (Ted Kotcheff)

July 23, 2016

John Grant: ‘What do you do?’ Doc Tydon: ‘I drink’ The title is misleading. This is not a horror movie. Well  maybe it is in a way, but it is certainly not a horror movie in a traditional sense. There isn’t actually a bad character in it, let alone an evil one. Pretty much every […]

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#1082: 1977, Suicide, Ghost Rider

July 23, 2016

Last week saw the sad death of Alan Vega, the lead singer of New York electronic punk act, Suicide, who have so far never had a song in Songs To Learn and Sing. With their minimalistic electronic sounds and repetitive drum machine backing, Suicide were in their way almost as influential as Kraftwerk. Famous for […]

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Euro 2016: Well done Wales and why England are so woeful….

July 18, 2016

Let’s take some brief morsel of respite from our increasingly bizarre world and consider the recent European Football Championships. I predicted before the competition that the last four would comprise of Poland, Italy, Germany and France – I got two right, but the Poles and Italians, who both looked good in the group stage, perished […]

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Will You Be My Running Mate?

July 14, 2016

To take my mind off the car crash that is British politics, and the Labour Party in particular, I am having a look at the key decision that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be taking over the next eight days on the eve of the two parties’ conventions: who will stand to be […]

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Does Jeremy Corbyn Need the Support of 51 MPs to be on the Leadership Ballot?

July 11, 2016

By the end of Wednesday we will have a new Prime Minister, as Theresa May succeeds David Cameron, without challenge. The Tories will to power is once again triumphant – they made the mistake once in 2001, choosing IDS over Ken Clarke – we know now that they won’t make it again. Andrea Leadsom will […]

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I was wrong about Jeremy….

July 11, 2016

This time last year, I embarked upon a short-lived and rather embarrassing Summer romance. I was tired with my relationship, bored with doing the usual things and listening to the same old stories; I wanted something new and exciting, I wanted something different. I wanted that button popping passion that comes an illicit and dangerous […]

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Labour’s Catch 22

July 10, 2016

Given that there is now going to be a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, as he refuses to stand down despite losing the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the position seems to be: (i) Labour’s NEC implementing the Rules keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot (as he will not be able to get the […]

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Some Initial Thoughts On Chilcot and the Legailty of the Iraq War

July 7, 2016

As if we haven’t had enough to be thinking about in the last couple of weeks, Sir John Chilcot chose this week of all the weeks in the seven years he has been writing his report on the Iraq war to release his report.  The media has focused heavily on the report’s criticisms of Tony […]

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#1081: 1957, Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock

July 7, 2016

A couple of reasons for my pick today.  Firstly I went to see Elvis & Nixon with Jackie South last Sunday.  A small but entertaining enough film (with a superb performance by Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon) about the bizarre true story of the King of Rock N Roll turning up announced at the White […]

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Britain. Stop it now. Go home. You’re drunk.

July 6, 2016

Britain. Stop it now. Go home. You’re drunk. Success lies in the choices. And when you are drunk, you tend to make some pretty stupid choices. Our choice on June 23rd was a spectacularly stupid choice. Voting to leave the EU is a bit like what happens when you try and fix a faulty watch […]

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What, in the name of God, is going on?

June 30, 2016

Right, so let’s get this right…. The Tories don’t like Europe, but some Tories dislike it an awful lot more than others. So, David Cameron, to try to unite his party and take the steam out of UKIP (and for that matter the more pro-European Labour and Lib-Dems), declares that he will hold a referendum […]

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#1080: 2016, Meilyr Jones, Refugees

June 23, 2016

Our ‘europop’ theme on Songs To Learn And Sing has faltered and lacking inspiration for it myself I’ve decided to post this instead – a beautiful, touching song from my current favourite album, 2013. In some uncertain indirect way it feels appropriate on this big political day with so much at stake. PS Bear with […]

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Why I’ll Be Voting Remain

June 21, 2016

We are now only 40 hours or so from polls opening on the most momentous vote the British public has been asked to take since, well since last time we were asked to vote on this very same issue in 1975. The difference is, of course, this time it looks very close indeed. Given the […]

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The EU isn’t perfect, but it is so much better than the alternative

June 20, 2016

Of the All That’s Left gang, I was the one who hadn’t made my mind up on the day the EU Referendum was called. After all, the criticism that the EU is not that democratic and instead is a club where deals get made behind the scenes is a fair one. What is worse, it […]

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Week 24: Villain – Donald Trump

June 19, 2016

Last Week’s Villain of the Week was Donald Trump This is an Award we can be pretty sure that Donald Trump is going to win a lot between now and the General Election on the first Tuesday of November. He is the most egotistical, most bigoted and least suited candidate to have won the candidacy […]

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Villain: Week 23 – Tyson Fury

June 19, 2016

Villain of the Week for 2 weeks ago was Tyson Fury Tyson Fury is obviously a very talented boxer. But sadly he is also a bigot. He has in the past made a series of anti-semitic, misogynistic and homophobic comments.   Sadly, despite the controversy around his nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year for […]

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Week 22: Villain – Alexander Gauman

June 19, 2016

Week 22’s Villain of the Week Award went to Alexander Gauland, the Deputy leader of the AfD We are a few Villain of the Week Awards behind. This is wholly down to me and a crazy month. But in an attempt to catch up and rather pertinently given both the nasty racist rhetoric of a […]

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By-Election Special: Tooting

June 15, 2016

Today sees the by-election in Tooting following the resignation of Sadiq Khan as he takes on the Mayoralty of London Much of the talk about today’s Tooting by-election has been about the tightness of the result last year. Without the advantage of Sadiq Khan’s 11 years’ incumbency, is Labour in trouble in this part of south […]

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Week 24: Prat – Sarah Wollaston MP

June 15, 2016

This week, Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston wins our regular award for prattish behaviour It is, of course, entirely acceptable for politicians to change their mind. That is particularly true of course if they change their mind to agree with me, for example deciding to vote Remain rather than Leave in next week’s EU referendum. It […]

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Week 24: Hero – Welsh Football Fans

June 15, 2016

Last week’s Hero of the Week Award goes to the 50,000 Welsh football fans who gathered in France to celebrate their nation’s first appearance at a major football tournament for 58 years. I hope that this award doesn’t signal the kiss of death for the Welsh fans, because, thus far, they’ve been amazing, a source […]

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#1079: 2005, Tiësto, Adagio for Strings

June 10, 2016

Welcome to the second song in our Euro 2016 / EU Referendum Europop theme week. Adagio for Strings by Dutch DJ Tiësto was released in January 2005. The song is a cover of the original composition by classical composer Samuel Barber. It was voted by Mixmag readers as the second greatest dance record of all […]

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Back Of The Net Special with Ray North: The Euros

June 10, 2016

It finally happened. Last night, whilst watching a documentary on S4C about the, sadly forgotten and neglected 1976 Wales European Championship team (Toshack, Leighton James, Brian Flynn etc), I got my first Euros tingle. I’m hoping that it will now work like a party which you haven’t really wanted to go to, but turns out […]

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#1078: 1993, Haddaway, What is Love?

June 9, 2016

Oh yes! C’est Oui! Ja Ja! Siiii! (er I’m struggling now) It’s a uniquely Eurotastic time for all of us! Tomorrow the European Championships start (I’m actually struggling to get enthused about them), and next week is the Euro Referendum (I’m starting to worry about my will to live on that score as well). So […]

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Week 23: Hero – Mohammed Ali

June 9, 2016

Last week’s Hero without doubt, former Heavy Weight Champion of the World, Mohammed Ali. Mohammed Ali died last week. A man who has been a hero in three decades of illness as he was in the previous three decades of near physical perfection. Mohammed Ali is one of those few sportsmen who managed to transcend […]

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