Wednesday, August 15, 2012


By Alex Miles

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The Bottom Three (20-18): THE £40 MILLION GOLDEN PARATROOP DIVISION (so named because those clubs who are relegated receive a “parachute payment” from the EPL).

17th– Reading: Winners of the Championship last year, Reading are back in the Premier League again.  Back again after five years, I like them to avoid the drop this year. They’ve got a good manager (and reigning Manager of the Year) in Brian McDermott. He’s engineered several great F.A. Cup scalps of Liverpool and Everton, so look for Reading to nick points off some bigger clubs. That’s about all I really know, because c’mon, I’ve got other things to do than watch the Championship.

Key Man: Alex Pearce (DEF) – Reading’s Player of the Season last year, they’ll need his organization, defensive abilities, and the occasional goal he chips in to avoid the drop.

16th – West Bromwich Albion: Usually when clubs lose their managers to a more prestigious job, it’s bad for the club. With Roy Hodgson and his owlish ways, this may not hold true. The Baggies appointed former Liverpool no. 2 Steve Clarke, who is generally rated by just about everyone he works with. Even José “I’m now the ONLY ONE” Mourinho. They have a good squad, but could struggle nonetheless as they’ve got a manager who lacks primetime experience.

Key Man: Shane Long (ST) – Quick of pace and stronger in the air than you’d think, the Irishman needs to kick on from his 8 goals in 32 appearances last season for the Baggies and find some more net. Staying healthy is also important.

15th – Norwich City: Like Swansea, second season syndrome is going to be a problem. They too have lost their manager (Paul Lambert, to Aston Villa) to a bigger club, bringing in Chris Hughton from Birmingham as the replacement. The Canaries were mightily impressive last season, and were it not for darling Swansea, they would have attracted more praise. Organized and difficult to break down, Chris Hughton should suit them very well. They’ve made a few quality signings (Turner and Snodgrass, in particular), and should avoid relegation by merit of being so difficult to beat at home.

Key ManGrant Holt (ST) – Physically imposing, the striker was convinced to re-sign with the club despite reported interest from Arsenal. He has been Norwich’s Player of the Season for three years in a row, which should tell you all you need to know about how important he is to this club.

14th – West Ham United: He’s back, everybody run! HE’S BACK! That’s right – “Fat” Sam Allardyce is back. I loathe him, so prepare for a smear piece. In between steak and kidney pies and mutton sandwiches, Allardyce has been known to manage a club or two. Despite never being recognized for his talents by Barcelona or Real Madrid, these clubs have clearly missed an opportunity to bring Allardyce’s sexy brand of thuggish, long-ball tactics to the Iberian Peninsula. The Premier League is lucky to have a manager of his stature back, so we can all enjoy him gawping at Sir Alex Ferguson whenever he looks in Allardyce’s direction.

Key Man: Kevin Nolan (MID) – If you could pick a player that embodies the Allardyce playing style, it’s Kevin Nolan. The Scouser is formidable in the air and a team leader. He’s actually quite a solid bro in general, so I’ll give West Ham credit for that. 

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