Back Of The Net Special With Ray North: The End of Season Doings*

by Ray_North on May 21, 2013

Back_of_the_NetWell, the final goal has rippled the onion bag, the final yellow card has been flourished, the fat lady has sung and the last cliche has been opined for another season. And, it has to be said that the 2012/13 Premier League Season was not one that will stick for long in the memory, except perhaps as a season that saw the end of the Fergurson era.

Alex Fergurson has bestrode British football like a giant purple nosed hairdryer since the year I took my ‘O’ Levels, but, no more, the man who turned Manchester United from sleeping gods into the greatest football club in the land has retired. Do I thank him for his contribution. No, I bloody don’t. Do I respect his achievements – yes, of course.

But, Sir Alex is not the only one who will be missing when the lads start again in a couple of months – there will be no Roberto Mancini, which is ridiculous, no Rafa Benitez, which is absurd and no Paul Scholes, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen, three men who will be missed.

So what can we say about 2012/13? Well, the title was won by a very determined and focussed Manchester United, their football wasn’t always up to their highest standards and some of their defending was appalling, but, their will to win and their confidence in themselves was undiminished and that was what got them through. Last year’s champions, Man City were a disappointment, though coming runners-up is no mean feat, you got the feeling that their team failed to kick on, where United were focussed, City were vague and directionless, both on the pitch, with a few players not really reaching their best form, and off it, where some of the signings were weird.

Chelsea and Arsenal grabbed the other two remaining Champions League spots – but, both teams suffered with inconsistency and confusion during the course of the season – Arsenal, who finished like a train, still lack the steel that is needed to beat the likes of Swansea or Wigan on a Tuesday night in January; whilst Chelsea, seem to have a lot of flair players and a lot of old-lags who want to have their say, on reflection, Benitez performed admirably in getting them into the top three and winning the Europa League. I have a feeling that both will have learnt from this seasons troubles and will come back stronger – Mourinho, if, as expected, he returns to Chelsea will be inheriting a fantastic squad, whilst Arsenal are surely now, close to making the step up from tippy-tappy fancy dans to title contenders.

There will also be changes at Everton, for whom David Moyes, once again this season squeezed every millilitre of skill and effort from his players to finish sixth – it was a tremendous season for a great club with a great manager. People talk about Fergurson’s shoes being difficult to fill, but, personally, I think the greater challenge will be for whoever takes over at Goodison.

Across Stanley Park, Liverpool improved, sort of. Eight up to seventh may not seem like a massive leap forward, but, Brendan Rogers has got them playing some great football and, just as importantly, he has brought on players who seem to really want to play for him. In Coutinho and Sturridge, he has bought well. I expect great things from Liverpool, but, then again, I always do.

UnknownTottenham should also look forward to next season, especially if they can hang on to the phenomenon that is Gareth Bale. Anders Villas Boas will have enjoyed this season after his time in the asylum that is Chelsea and was desperately unlucky not to qualify for the Champions League. I think he will prove to be a very good manager for them.

Of the rest, WBA, defied the odds (well, my odds, I predicted that they would go down), and played some very effective football. Swansea continued to pass the ball and, if they can keep Michu, Hernandez and Ashley Williams, and perhaps more important their manager Michael Laudrup, they should enjoy another decent term next year. Southampton too, can be pleased with the progress they made this season, they scored lots of goals and tried to play football, though they did sack their manager with unnecessary haste, which is a shame. And, West Ham, consolidated nicely and will want to secure some kind of deal for Andy Carroll, who I believe could shine in the right team.

Everyone else seemed to be involved in a relegation scare at some point in the season. Newcastle were desperately disappointing and may rue buying quite so many French players with no Premier League Experience; Sunderland were woeful at the beginning of the season leading to the sacking of the very gallant Martin O’Neil; Stoke at times didn’t know whether to kick the ball or the opposition; and Fulham were, well, Fulham were Fulham; whilst Aston Villa did well to stay up considering the youngsters who Paul Lambert was relying upon, I hope that this experience will help mould them into a good team.

The three relegated clubs can be summed up thus – Reading, no surprise, they did their best, but simply weren’t good enough; Wigan, desperately unlucky with injuries and loss of form in crucial games, but can take solace from their FA Cup triumph; and QPR, well, just about everyone at QPR should hang their heads in shame – no heart, no passion, no clue.

My player of the season – well, for me it has to be Gareth Bale.

My moment of the season – two of them one good, one bad: the bad was Louis Suarez moment of swivel eyed lunacy in trying to bite Ivanovic (if he wanted to hurt him, bloody punch him!), the second was Ben Watson’s goal to win the FA Cup for Wigan, that’s what the glory of sport is all about.

My goal of the season – Louis Suarez against Chelsea, the control, the turn, the finish, genius.

Finally, I’ve looked at the predictions I made at the beginning of this season – oh dear, woeful, amazingly, I didn’t correctly predict one finish. I mean in a league of 20, it is some feat to not even flukily predict a correct final placing, but, no, not one. As you can see, I predicted a great season for Newcastle and relegation for WBA, got that wrong. Once again, I realise I know nothing.

Final League Table (my prediction in brackets)

1. Manchester United (3)
2. Manchester City (1)
3. Chelsea (2)
4. Arsenal (6)
5. Spurs (7)
6. Everton (9)
7. Liverpool (5)
8. WBA (18)
9. Swansea City (17)
10. West Ham (11)
11. Norwich (19)
12. Fulham (13)
13. Stoke (12)
14. Southampton (15)
15. Aston Villa (8)
16. Newcastle (4)
17. Sunderland (10)
18. Wigan (16)
19. Reading (20)
21. QPR (14)

Enjoy the break.

*’Doings’ a word used by Bob Paisley, who legend has it was not the most articulate, when he couldn’t think of the right word/proper noun – e.g. ‘Jimmy, Tommy, I want you to put pressure on the Borussia Munchendoings Doings, Ok.’

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eddie Kaye May 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Just had to see who had the bragging rights from August (and seeing as Mr North’s body hair is safe for another 12 months)

1. Manchester United (30 Ray) – 1st
2. Manchester City (1) – 2nd
3. Chelsea (2) – 3rd
4. Arsenal (6) – 7th
5. Spurs (7) – 5th
6. Everton (9) – 6th (if it wasn’t for the Geordies being shite, and those pesky Gooners I’d have been proud with top 6, still 5/6 ain’t bad as a mathematically defunct Meatlof impersonator would say)
7. Liverpool (5) – 8th
8. WBA (18) – 15th (first real miss)
9. Swansea City (17) – 16th
10. West Ham (11) – 11th
11. Norwich (19) – 16th
12. Fulham (13) – 13th
13. Stoke (12) – 10th
14. Southampton (15) – 17th
15. Aston Villa (8)- 14th
16. Newcastle (4) – 4th
17. Sunderland (10) – 9th
18. Wigan (16) – 19th
19. Reading (20) – 20th
21. QPR (14) – 18th

Quite proud guessing the bottom 3 (albeit in the wrong order). Looking forward to seeing how wrong Mr North and I can be about North East teams next year.

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