Ah, glorious August, when football fans up and down the country are filled with what usually turns out to be misplaced optimism about the fate of their teams over the coming nine months. And speaking of misplaced optimism, TheChels.Net has asked their resident Old Crone to look into her crystal ball and see what might lie ahead. Please note that these predictions may contain a hefty dose of bias and/or personal dislike.
From The Invincibles to The Indifferents. The “giants” of North London are now battling with their neighbours for the title of London’s second best team. And they’re a selling club, with noted ladies’ man Robin van Persie the latest to forsake the New Library in search of some silverware.
Fan View: Expect more rumblings of discontents from the readers. Possibly a smashing up of Starbucks in Islington. Many Chels likely to swerve away match due to extortionate ticket prices. For those willing to part with £62.50, The Drayton Arms is always a good pre-match venue.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 5th
At least this year we won’t have to visit the Sewage Works and listen to the shabby side of Birmingham singing “Have You Ever Seen Chelsea Win The European Cup?” Increasingly unpopular owner Randy Lerner has appointed former Norwich boss Paul Lambert to import his Norwich style into a team likely to achieve mid-table mediocrity at best. Might get a run in one of the cups.
Fan View: Annoying accents abound, expect large traffic jams round ground as they all drive to games. Swift train service from the South (under new management). The Witton Arms (formerly The Cap & Gown) usually welcomes away fans, although there is an increasing tendency for Chels fans to drink in the City Centre. Possible postponement as clashes with FA Cup Final (our participation more likely than theirs).
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 13th
The blue half of Merseyside starts about as well as a clapped out rust bucket. David Moyes retains Messiah status through harvesting young talent, selling it on, yet still keeping them relatively in touch with LFC. It would be nice to see him win something this season.
Fan View: Increasing intolerance of red half of Merseyside due to ongoing and rightful resentment over their European ban. Fans slightly more bearable than their neighbours; less banging on about history. It’s still Liverpool though.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 9th
Expect more of the same this season at the cottage from the fat jolly Dutchman’s side, the rivals we really can’t really be bothered to hate.
Fan View: The disenchanted plastic Gooner from work has bought a Fulham season ticket. Only ground in the Premier League with a neutral section which will probably be heaving with Chelsea. Eight Bells in Putney a popular pre-match venue, although a bit of a yomp to the ground (and a ramble across Bishops Park in the dark can be very disorientating for those with ooky eyesight).
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 11th
You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. The ailing red side of Liverpool might have recruited the highly-rated Brendan Rodgers, but he will have to do battle with the overwrought expectations of The Kop. For all the talk of a new era at Anfield, their biggest foe is “history”. The American owners will expect a swift return on the over-investment of Joe Allen. Might get a decent run in Europa League, but think this could be a real season of transition for them while they lower their expectations.
Fan View: “istoree….istoree…istoree…” (repeated on a loop). If you drive to Liverpool, expect to come back to smashed windows and a jacked up car. Your fault for going there.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 8th
I’m going to make a big prediction here. The logical step for the Etihads is to make the Champions League their target. What will actually happen is that they’ll get drawn in a group of death with Barcelona, Juventus and PSG, and absolutely stiff. I’ve heard rumours that Manicini’s deeply unpopular in the dressing room, and he could be looking for a new job by Christmas.
Fan View: Snappers up of unconsidered trifles (see Poznan and One Step Beyond), and becoming increasingly annoying nouveau arrivistes, as any Chelsea fans at Villa Park for last week’s Community Shield will confirm. Stadium a long way out of town, and most fans drink in City Centre.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 3rd
“It’s just like 1999” crows the red-nosed one as he parades his latest trophy signing. Well it’s not. Ferguson is 13 years older and fast approaching retirement. Part of me suspects that one day he’ll just collapse on the touchline, as the great Jock Stein did. That was one of the worst nights I remember in football. Much as I dislike Manchester Utd, I pray it won’t happen. On the pitch, they’ll challenge again, but they are not the force they were. Van Persie and Rooney could be a magical partnership. However one is injury-prone and the other only avoids lengthy periods of suspension due to refs not wanting to incur the wrath of the OT hierarchy and their supporters.
Fan View: Expect long queues on the motorways heading north, and First West Coast Services packed with Southern Mancs. Irritating. But not Scousers. City Centre drinking opps abound, but Salford Quays also very popular.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 2nd
Last season’s surprise package. It was genuinely refreshing to see the Geordies do so well and thanks to Alan Carr’s dad, they have one of the best scouting systems in the country. I’d be pleasantly surprised to see a repeat of 2011/2012’s heroics.
Fan View: A warm welcome from the locals, albeit oxygen tanks required to the Nou Camp-esque away section. A deservedly popular away day, with the Bodega a main hang-out.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 6th
Chris Hughton has stepped into Paul Lambert’s formidable shoes, a shrewd move by the Canaries. Hughton worked wonders on thin air at Birmingham last season, and I’d expect the East Anglians to make further progress this season and possibly win a cup.
Fan View: Another cracking away day, nice people, excellent pubs nearby, good ground.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 7th
Where do we start with QPR? Under Mark Hughes’ management they will turn into a team of kickers, as we’ve seen at his previous clubs. The Unhinged One looks as if he’s off to Marseille whilst he serves his domestic ban, and the so-called “Super Hoops” have bought in Park-Ji Sung from Utd (dog owners of Shepherds Bush beware) and journeyman forward Andrew Johnson. The build-up to the match between QPR and Chelsea on 15th September is likely to resemble Dante’s Inferno. I’m determined to get hold of a JT mask to wear. Mark Hughes was a great servant at Chelsea – indeed, I always thought we sold him a year too soon. But as a manager, he flatters to deceive. He’s narrowly avoided relegation in the past, and for me the trap door can’t open under that nasty little bunch from Loftus Road too soon.
Fan View: Shit ground, shit fans, filled with bile and underachievement. Distinct possibility of trouble. No colours. Take off JT masks before leaving. Travel by train or car. The only good thing about this particular away trip is Westfield being close at hand for soothing refreshments and retail opportunities.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 20th
Now under Russian ownership. Robbie Savage has already managed to upset the population in an interview given to Radio 2 last night in which he expressed the opinion that they’d finish bottom. This felony was compounded by the fact that 500 Reading fans were sitting in the room next door, waiting for the Five Live Season Preview, with Savage’s interview being piped live into them, a fact of which he was unaware.
Let’s be honest. Brian McDermott is a good football man but has no track record as a manager, and it’ll be a long, hard winter for them.
Fan View: Well they weren’t very nice on the night of the Cech/Cudicini disaster, although relations may now have thawed due to personnel changes. New-build Meccano ground. Handy for London.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 18th
It’s fantastic to see the Saints come marching back into the Premier League. Nigel Adkins is a brilliant manager and I sincerely hope that they’ll have the same sort of season that Norwich had last time out.
Fan View: Friendly fans, united in our mutual love for Ossie. Likely to be a popular away day.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 10th
I have a grudging admiration for Stoke. When we struggled to a point on the opening day last season, I rightly predicted we wouldn’t be the only leading side to come a cropper there. The phrase “wet Wednesday night in Stoke” may have become a football cliché, and their style is almost anti-football at time (long-throw bombed into the box, foul as many players as possible), but again most teams won’t relish the visit to the Britannia. My reverence is reserved for Tony Pulis. A football man in the finest traditions.
Fan View: Old fashioned away day in England’s coldest ground. Long way from City Centre.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 12th
Pulled themselves round from a disastrous start last season following the installation of football’s very own Peter Pan, Martin O’Neill. Probably another mid-table finish this time round, but could put a cup run together.
Fan View: More friendly locals, the Metro system has made it much easier to get around so a drink in Newcastle itself on the cards. By the time Chelsea arrive in April, temperature could be into double figures.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 14th
With Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Liverpool, it came as something of a surprise to see former Chelsea man Michael Laudrup installed in the manager’s office. They’ve done a good job in fleecing Rodgers’ new bosses for Joe Allen, but pickings in the transfer market have been slim thus far. There’s always one team promoted the previous season that crashes and burns second time out, and it could be Swansea’s turn.
Fan View: A welcome in the valleys (I’ll be in Benidorm).
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 17th
The Spuds prepare for life after Harry, and the choice of Andre Villas-Boas, dismissed under a cloud after just nine months at Chelsea, is intriguing. Although AVB’s man-management capabilities remain suspect, with slightly fewer gargantuan egos in the dressing room at White Hart Lane, this time he may survive into a second season. He has noticeably given Modric what may be described as the “Anelka Treatment” and this time Luka is likely to be allowed to fly like bird. If they invest the proceeds properly before the transfer window closes, they are likely to challenge again for a Champions League place.
Fan View: It may be a long way to Fulham Broadway, but take your hiking boots for the annual yomp to Seven Sisters. Or head to White Hart Lane station for a quicker escape. Drink at Liverpool Street. Hostile locals. No alcohol at HT (BYO).
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 4th
After Steve Clarke nobly walked out of Liverpool in support of Kenny Dalglish, it was good to see him finally get a No.1 job. I’ve always had a soft spot for WBA (mainly because they’re not Aston Villa), in spite of last season’s catastrophic result for us there. Likely to struggle but avoid relegation.
Fan View: Deservedly popular away day, with legendary local balti house nearby. Good drinking opportunities in Birmingham, with a fine Metro connection. Nice fans.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 15th
The pikey boys are back in town, in one of their last Premier League season at Upton Park prior to a proposed move to the Stratford White Elephant. Big Sam has plenty of experience in keeping teams with little or no money in the top flight (see his miraculous tenure at Bolton), but again, my biggest fear is for his health. Expect to see the Spammers involved in a last-day relegation dogfight.
Fan View: There should be a sign at Mile End saying “here be dragons”. Prepare to run a gamut of snarling abuse. Pubs around ground likely to be closed so might be worth a swifty somewhere prior to getting on the tube.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 16th
The team most likely to inherit Bolton’s mantle of “Great Survivors”. Capable of either blinding brilliance (Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal last season), or getting battered. Lucky to still have Roberto Martinez in charge after Liverpool courted him during the summer, but likely to struggle again. Dave Whelan could do with shutting his trap.
Fan View: Lovely fans, genuinely dedicated to their team in a traditionally Rugby League town. The demise of the George Orwell at Wigan Pier was sad, but the Red Robin is usually the place to be for away fans. Strong contender for Britain’s best chippy (opposite the train station).
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: 19th
The season is going to hinge on factors resulting from our success in the Champions League last season. The chance to play for additional silverware in the form of the European SuperCup and the World Club Championship has in fact driven a truck through our league programme, with the game against Reading already re-arranged for next Wednesday, and a trip to Japan in December for the World Club Championship.
On the other hand, getting the Reading game played so early could mean that if we get out of the blocks quickly, hopefully we could have nine points on the board by next Saturday night. The QPR game last season was where it all started to go wrong, and it’s to be fervently desired that the pre-match team talk on 15th September will include an admonition not to rise to any dubious tactics from the opposition.
We have three consecutive massive home league games starting as the clocks go back, against Manchester United, followed by Liverpool and Manchester City. At that time we should be in a position to assess if the already legendary di Matteo can cement his position as a Chelesa great on the managerial front (after all, even Jose failed to deliver the Champions League in three seasons) by adding the Premier League title to his bow.
We’re overdue some success in the League Cup, and I have a feeling that the last Sunday in February could see yet another trip to Wembley. With a top seeding for the Champions League, progression from the group stage should continue to be de rigeur, and there’s the prospect of some very attractive trips to come for those lucky enough to have a European away season ticket.
Gypsy Rose Baby’s Prediction: Premier League and Capital One Cup Winners