Who will be the next Republic of Ireland manager?

Giovanni Trapattoni has left Republic of Ireland after getting beat 1-0 away to Austria leaving them in fourth place.

Trapattoni has been very successful throughout his career both as a player and a manager but it has seemed for a while now that he should go but he obviously felt that he could still turn it around and qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. He won 26 of his 64 games in charge and did get them to Euro 2012 and even though they did not perform that well it was still a decent achievement getting them to the tournament.

The squad is filled with some good players and they should have possibly done better in this qualifying phase, however one criticism aimed at Trapattoni is that he stuck with the same players for far too long. Defensively their best player by a long way is Seamus Coleman and he has started this season fantastically and the new man coming in needs to make sure he is on the pitch as often as possible. Midfield at this moment in time looking at the last squad is a little weak, they have a lot of players that are good but nothing more like Glenn Whelan. Up front they still are relying on Robbie Keane who they need to find a replacement soon because he is 33 and the MLS isn’t the most competitive.

Martin O’Neill is the favourite to take over and initially I was surprised because he is Northern Irish and he may not enjoy international management. Apart from his time at Sunderland he has mostly been successful and would get the best out of most of the players. He may be looking for a new job right now and if he can’t find a club job that he wants then this job could be perfect for him.

Another surprising name linked with the job early on is Mick McCarthy. He has already had the job once and even though he was successful he did have a few problems, for example his much publicised fall out with Roy Keane before the 2002 World Cup. He had a similar win percentage as Trapattoni as manager of Ireland, winning 29 of his 68 games so would he be the man they are looking for? Plus he probably wants to achieve promotion from the Championship again, this time with Ipswich Town although they haven’t got off to a brilliant start so he may be tempted away.

Third favourite for the position is Brian McDermott, another manager that has just recently been appointed by his club Leeds United so that may make it difficult for Ireland to tempt him away. He has only been in charge for 12 games but has only lost three of those so he definitely does have the ability after a largely successful spell at Reading. I personally do not think he will go for the Ireland job but if they did manage to convince him then I do think he would be a success.

Others linked with the job are Roy Keane, Stuart Pearce and Chris Hughton.

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Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough to take and for most clubs their aim at the start of the season is just to stay in it.

Every season it seems to go right down to the wire with more and more teams getting involved in the relegation scrap. The promoted teams are always the ones that are favourites for the drop and this season is no different.

Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace are the favourites to go down and this is probably what he wanted anyway because he feels his teams perform better when they are the underdogs. I am not convinced by the signings that he has made either but it did almost work for him at Blackpool, so second time lucky for him. New signings Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh will need to start well and be regular scorers and Jerome Thomas will probably have to play the best football of his career if they are to be successful.

Hull City also got promoted last season but I do feel slightly more confident that they will stay up because of the players that Steve Bruce has signed. Tom Huddlestone is a very good passer and will add something to their midfield. I also like the signings of Maynor Figueroa, Curtis Davies and Allan McGregor and feel that their experience will get them through some tough times. I still think they lack a goal scorer but Danny Graham should perform better than what he did at Sunderland.

The final promoted team Cardiff City have spent quite a bit of money to try and stay up this season so it would not surprise me to see them finish midtable. I do however think they have overspent on Andreas Cornelius who has potential but you need more of that to survive in the Premier League these days. Steven Caulker and Gary Medel do seem like solid signings though that should impress.

Mark Hughes will be hoping that he performs better at Stoke City than he did at QPR or it will be a long season for their fans. I can see why they are getting backed to get relegated because they stood still under Tony Pulis but they were staying up and sometimes changing things makes clubs go backwards. The team he has inherited only really play one way and if Hughes tries to change that too quickly it will most likely backfire on him.

Norwich City are a team that is surprisingly one of the favourites to get relegated because of the signings they have made this summer but maybe they will not gel and if that is the case then Chris Hughton could be in trouble. They should have enough goals in their team from Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper but neither have played in the Premier League and may find it tough to begin with. But Leroy Fer, Martin Olsson and Nathan Redmond will hopefully create a lot of chances for them. They seem to have an exciting side this year but they have not improved their defence much which is a worry.

Which Carling Cup Quarter Final game looks the most exciting?

The fourth round of the Carling Cup produced some of the most exciting games in the whole season so far.

With Arsenal coming from 4-0 down to eventually beat Reading 7-5 in extra time and Chelsea scoring five goals against Manchester United to defeat them 5-4, it will certainly tough to find more exciting games this season and I doubt all of their defences will be as bad as this again. The team I feel most sorry for though are Bradford City because they knocked out a Premier League side in Wigan Athletic on penalties and on a normal week, this would have been the main headline surely. Also, a special mention to both Leeds United and Middlesbrough for knocking out Premier League opposition too. Swansea City and Norwich City also won games which many people didn’t expect and I am sure the fans of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool would have expected to be in the draw for the next round.

So, onto the next round and I think it is difficult to choose which games will be the most exciting, but I am going to look at them all and see what I think. Leeds United against Chelsea will be very interesting as this could be the shock of the round in my opinion, because Chelsea may be more focused on their World Club Championship participation and may not take this game as seriously as they should. Leeds are a good side and under Neil Warnock they will give anyone a game, just ask Everton and Southampton.

Swansea against Middlesbrough is yet another tough one to call. The North East team have a lot of momentum at the moment and if they can keep that going, I believe they have enough quality to beat the Welsh side. But, Swansea could be the dark horses for the competition in my opinion, they have a decent record at home and if they play to their potential, then Boro may not get a kick all game.

Paul Lambert will be up against his former club Norwich City yet again and he will be hoping that his Aston Villa side can produce the goods on the night and qualify for the semi finals. But, Norwich are just starting to pick up under Chris Hughton and some very good wins at home in recent weeks have been much needed and also very impressive.

Finally, League 2 Bradford have been drawn against Arsenal at home and I don’t think they could have got a better draw as being at home gives them a little more of a chance of sneaking a result. Although this is very unlikely, they will surely get a big crowd it will just remind the football world once more that Bradford are quite a big club and it wasn’t that long ago they were playing in the Premier League. It is a lose-lose situation for Arsene Wenger’s side because they are expected to win but if they don’t put four or five past them then they may get slated.

Which game are you most looking forward to? Who will provide the biggest shock? At this stage who do you see winning the trophy?

Who will be Burnley’s next manager?

Burnley may not have had the greatest starts to the season but they probably didn’t think they would need a new manager at this stage.

Eddie Howe, left the club for a team in a lower division and this may be quite hard for some fans to take, as surely there is more potential in a Championship side than there is in a League 1 side. But, if the reports are correct, then he left for personal reasons and nobody can really stand in his way if these are true because he wouldn’t have been able to perform to the best of his abilities if he wasn’t happy. So, they have to now look to the future and if they can keep hold of Charlie Austin then they have a good chance of getting in the playoffs this season, if they appoint the right man because someone that has already scored 15 goals should be in a team competing near the top of the table. It wasn’t too long ago that they were in the Premier League and they will have hoped that Eddie Howe was building towards taking them back there, but, in my opinion, it never looked likely under him. The big question is who will they appoint?

The favourite for the job is, Michael Appleton. I do understand why they would be looking at him, but the fans may not be overly enthusiastic about this appointment because he does have limited experience and even though he is performing fantastically at Portsmouth, is he really a promotion manager? Or, is he just overachieving because of the adversity he is facing at his current club? I think he will stay at Fratton Park a while longer but who knows maybe he will want a secure future and he is more likely to get that at Burnley.

Former player, Graham Alexander, is also heavily linked with the job, but yet again he does lack managerial experience and is this really the right option in the Championship? It worked out for Chris Hughton at Newcastle United, but was this a one-off? One thing that Alexander does have is the fact that his playing career was phenomenal, with him playing over 1000 games and so should get the respect of the players straight from the off. It hasn’t bothered the fans before that he has such an affiliation with rivals Preston North End, so I don’t see it being a problem if they bring him in as manager.

Finally, and the one most likely in my opinion, is Mick McCarthy. Yes, he has been linked with every Championship job available since he got sacked as manager of Wolves but Burnley are the first team in public that have confirmed their interest in the former Republic of Ireland manager. He has a good record in the Championship and has got teams promoted in the past, so even though he may not play the best football, it is effective and he has proven methods that work in the Championship and that is exactly what Burnley need right now.

Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough on any team and it is the magic 40 point mark that a lot of teams aim for first even when they are not expected to get relegated. Even mid table teams don’t want to get dragged into a battle so they aim to get their as fast as possible and then build on that.

Inevitably the promoted teams are always the favourites to go straight back down and there is no change this year, with Reading being one of the teams that need a good start to the season or it could be a very long year for their fans. They have however some good signings in the summer which will surely give them a better chance in the always reliable Danny Guthrie and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had a very good goal scoring record at Fulham last year. They do lack a little experience in the Premier League throughout their squad so Jason Roberts and Ian Harte will both be essential to their side.

Norwich City have a new manager this season in Chris Hughton and he has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Paul Lambert. But, he has inherited a good team that was comfortable in the Premier League last year and there will be a lot of talk of second season syndrome but Hughton has performed minor miracles before at both Newcastle United and Birmingham City so I am sure he will be a success here too.

Nigel Adkins hasn’t changed much at Southampton in the close season so he obviously believes that this team are good enough to stay up but I think they need a little more especially considering the start to the season they have. In the opening five games they have to play both the Manchester clubs and Arsenal so like Bolton last season they may be demoralised before the season has even really begun. The signings of Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne would have been very impressive in the Championship and even though I rate both of them highly they just might not be able to cut it in the Premier League.

Wigan Athletic will always be considered as one of the favourites for relegation no matter how they finish the previous season. At the end of last season they were one of the most in form teams in the whole league but that have lost Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame who have both been influential in the past for them. The signing of Arouna Kone may show their intent of finishing a lot higher up than they have in previous seasons but they will always be considered as the underdog in the Premier League but maybe they like it that way.

Swansea City are one of many teams with a new manager this year and a lot of people are already writing off Michael Laudrup before he has even took charge of them for the first time in a competitive game. They won’t have to change their style much under the new manager but maybe this is the problem because a lot of teams will have now worked out ways to stop them and they still don’t really have an option B so it will be a tough task for them to stay up.

For me it will be Swansea City, Southampton and Reading that go down.

Who will Peter Lovenkrands sign for?

Peter Lovenkrands is looking for a new club after being released by Newcastle United and will be hoping to stay in the Premier League.

Lovenkrands scored 29 goals in 84 games for Newcastle

The Geordies loved Lovenkrands and he obviously enjoyed playing in front of them and leaves the club with a heavy heart as he has given them a lot over the years he has been there and nobody can ever question his loyalty. The Danish striker was very important to the team especially in the Championship where he scored 16 goals in all competitions and was a very effective partner for Andy Carroll. One of his goals that will probably be remembered most was the one against West Brom in a 2-2 draw as he had just returned from Denmark after hearing the about the death of his father. The celebration will live long in my memory and I’m sure most people in the stadium will not forget it as you could see how much it meant to him to score for his father. His chances in the Premier League were limited but he will always be considered a fans favourite in my opinion.

So where will he go next? Does he still have a future in the Premier League? Personally, I don’t think he is still good enough for the Premier League however with Chris Hughton just getting the job at Norwich City he may just get another chance. Hughton got the best out of him at Newcastle and they obviously had a very good relationship during their time on Tyneside. Lovenkrands would be a different option for them to Grant Holt and Steve Morison and has more experience than Simeon Jackson in the Premier League. Plus, Grant Holt doesn’t seem happy at the minute so he could be on his way this summer. I think he would be a decent addition to the squad but he doesn’t quite fit into their usual transfer targets however Paul Lambert is no longer the manager so they may go in a different direction.

Another option for him could be Southampton as they do not have much Premier League experience in their strike force. He could prove to be a good partner for Rickie Lambert who is a big striker and likes to hold up the ball for people to run off him. One thing Lovenkrands still has, is his movement and he will get himself into good positions and with Southampton having some very good playmakers in their squad like Adam Lallana, he could be just what they need. They do have Billy Sharp but I am unsure whether he will be able to score enough goals in the Premier League.

Finally, Aston Villa may also be interested in his services as they struggled to score goals last season and they didn’t have enough options after Darren Bent got injured with Gabriel Agbonlahor playing a lot out wide under Alex McLeish. The only thing that may make this move not work out is that new manager Paul Lambert would rather go for a younger player and they will be the favourites to sign Holt if he does get the chance to leave Norwich. However, he is a free transfer and this should work in his advantage, I really hope Lovenkrands gets a new club and I’m sure if he gets to play against Newcastle the crowd will give him a fantastic reception as they appreciate all that he has done for the club.

Who will be the next Birmingham City manager?

Birmingham City are looking for a new manager after Chris Hughton decided to leave for Norwich City and will be hoping the new man can guide them back to the Premier League.

Birmingham City finished fourth under Chris Hughton

First of all Hughton did a fantastic job at Birmingham and should be remembered fondly by their fans as he got them into the group stages of the Europa League and into the playoffs. This is remarkable seen as though they lost a lot of players last summer and he had to rebuild basically a whole new squad. He only lost 15 of his 62 games in charge but unfortunately they could not overcome Blackpool in the playoff semi finals losing 3-2 on aggregate. It was a difficult job when he took over and he has made it a lot easier for the new man so who will it be?

The favourite for the job at the minute is Lee Clark and he is quite similar to Hughton in a way because he would rather see his team pick up a point than try and get all three. This may seem a little bit of a negative tactic and it may be the reason why Clark couldn’t get Huddersfield Town promoted from League 1 but Birmingham do have enough quality in their side to produce some magic at any given time, so it could work out well for them. The only reason why they should be reluctant in giving him the job would be the fact he hasn’t managed in the Championship before.

Paul Ince is also in the running for the job and this does surprise me slightly as he hasn’t had a job since leaving Notts County in April 2011. The managers they are linked with suggests they don’t want to spend much money and are looking to give someone another chance at a good club. Ince, had a terrible time at Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, winning only six games out of 21 but this experience could have served him well and he may be able to get his career back on track at St Andrews. Personally, I don’t think hiring Paul Ince would be a good choice but he has achieved the board’s ambitions both at Macclesfield Town and MK Dons the first round so maybe he would be a success.

Finally, Alan Curbishley is linked with yet another job and he has been out of football for even longer than Ince so it won’t be easy for him to jump straight back in and challenge for promotion. But if the board are going to give him a few seasons to sort it out, I can see the former Charlton Athletic manager leading them back to the Premier League. After leaving West Ham United in 2008 he wanted to take a break from the game but nobody expected it to be this long and now it could be a huge risk giving him the job because football has changed a lot in the last few years. He did a fantastic job at Charlton for a very long time and a very underrated job in my opinion at West Ham United so why not give him another chance.

I do want to see Curbishley get another job and Birmingham could be a good fit for him as the fans are always very realistic and over the last few years have been very patient so he could be given the time to succeed and do well. I’m not sure what the target is for the coming season but I think it would be a little silly for the board to be expecting as much success next year.

Who will be the next Norwich City manager?

It looks as though Norwich City will be looking for a new manager with Paul Lambert wanting to leave the club.

Norwich City finished 12th with 47 points

The expected departure of Lambert means that not one of the three managers that had gained promotion to the Premier League will be in charge of their teams even though they all stayed up. Neil Warnock was sacked by QPR earlier in the season, Brendan Rodgers left Swansea City for Liverpool and now it looks as though Lambert will join Aston Villa. It has been one of the worst summers for the Norwich fans as they also have to deal with their main goal threat Grant Holt wanting to leave the club so it seems that something may be going on behind the scenes that not many people know about. The chairman needs to make sure that he appoints the right man next as they will need to continue their development and stay in the Premier League next year or they may find themselves struggling back in League 1 in a few years. I personally hope this doesn’t happen as the Canaries are very well supported and their fans are some of the most passionate fans in the Premier League and have stuck with them through thick and thin.

But now onto who could take charge. It seems current Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay is in pole position and it is not difficult to see why. He had a fantastic first season at Cardiff, guiding them to the playoffs where they were beaten by West Ham United and also the final of the League Cup. This was a very good achievement as he had to deal with a lot of departures and basically make a whole new team with very little money. He is a manager that works well with what he has got and does very well signing players on a free or for small transfer fees which would obviously be a good thing for Norwich as they aren’t the richest and want to develop in young British talent as much as possible.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Hughton is also linked with the job and I think he would be perfect for most sides in the Premier League so if Norwich could get him then I believe they would stay up comfortably next season. Hughton was harshly sacked by Newcastle United and has also done a brilliant job at Birmingham City where he almost got them promoted even though he had to deal with a small squad and a lot of games, including the Europa League. He is a manager that gets players playing with a smile on their faces and is a very open and honest manager so the fans would take to him.

Neil Lennon is also linked with the job and I think they could tempt him to join the club as in all honesty the Scottish Premier League will be even more boring for the next couple of years because of Rangers’ financial problems. So he may want to move so he can actually get challenged. He has a 75.22% win record and has only lost 16 of his 113 games but then again he has only managed Celtic, however in his defence you can only beat what is put up against you. I don’t know how good of a manager Lennon is but winning trophies gives you confidence and he could be a success at Norwich.

I would love to see Chris Hughton get the job as he always seems to deliver at whatever club he is at and I just think he deserves another chance in the Premier League.

Who will be the next West Brom manager?

Roy Hodgson is leaving West Brom to become the new England manager and it will be difficult to replace him but that is the task that their board have been set.

When looking at Hodgson’s record at West Brom it would seem that he hasn’t done a great job with him winning only 37.04% of his games in charge but it is another example of when stats don’t tell the full story. Last season he managed to keep them up quite comfortably and with a few more additions he has guided them to 10th place this year. He won’t be easy to replace and the next manager has a tough job but he made some good signings like Shane Long, who are good enough now for the Premier League and will improve even more in the coming years.

So looking at the contenders and the favourite is Chris Hughton and rightfully so in my opinion. What he has done in charge of Birmingham City this season has been sensational and they were unlucky to lose in the playoffs. In just one season, he has took charge of 62 games which just proves that he has a good pedigree in cup competitions and I’m sure the Baggies would love a good cup run. Out of the 62 games, he has only lost 15 games. He has already proved in his short managerial career that his teams do not lose a lot of games and firstly makes them difficult to beat so he has a similar style to Hodgson. He was harshly sacked as manager of Newcastle United and there he had an even better record as he only lost 14 of his 70 games in charge and was keeping them in the Premier League comfortably.

Another candidate for the job is ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri who has been without a job since being sacked as manager of Inter Milan. This rumour interested me the most as he has had a lot of jobs since leaving Chelsea in 2004 and has on the whole struggled with him only winning one trophy and that being the UEFA Super Cup with Valencia in 2004 even though he has managed such huge clubs like Juventus, Roma and as previously mentioned Inter. But in his defence he does have decent winning percentages for each club however he wasn’t meeting their expectations and if he doesn’t do that at West Brom they will be in serious trouble of relegation. I like the idea of Ranieri coming back to England as he did a good job for Chelsea but personally I don’t see him and West Brom as a good fit.

Finally, the last name to put forward is Michael Appleton who is the current manager of Portsmouth and this is another strange one because they have just been relegated from the Championship. The reason why I think he could be a good choice is the positive response he gets from everyone, whenever asked a question, he always answers very openly and is honest with what is going on, which a lot of managers are not these days. He previously played for West Brom and was their first team coach under Roberto Di Matteo so he knows the club and some of the players so it will be easy for him to settle into the role. It is a long shot but who knows maybe he is in with a shout.

I would go for Chris Hughton as he has done a fantastic job at every club he has been and deserves another shot at the Premier League. He may not be able to push the club onto the next level but a bit of stability would be nice at a club that is known for going up and down the divisions. With Hughton in charge there would be no threat of relegation.

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

It is that time of the year again and the unpredictability is bound to cause a lot of excitement for the neutrals but for West Ham, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City fans it is one of the most nerve wracking times of the season.

So who is going to come out on top? West Ham will playing Cardiff at home in the second leg so does that give them an advantage over their Welsh rivals or does it not matter like in the Champions League this season where both away teams in the second leg went through. Will Blackpool’s attacking and sometimes gung ho tactics work against a hard working Birmingham side or will Chris Hughton secure a second promotion to the Premier League?

First of all, let’s start with West Ham as they finished third and were in contention of an automatic spot right up until the final day but ultimately lost out to Southampton. This can sometimes knock your confidence and the players may feel quite disappointed with their season as they were favourites to return to the top flight. But in there squad they have enough experience to steer them to Wembley and into the promised land once again. Their key player will be Kevin Nolan who is a fantastic player and in my opinion has been unlucky not to receive an England cap in his career. He can grab a goal from midfield and always seems to score important goals when he is needed, he may not have done as well as the last time he was in the Championship but he still needs to be watched and 12 goals this season has been quite a good return.

Birmingham City have had such a long season and there is a worry that they might burn out as they have played in the Europa League and took Chelsea to a replay in the FA Cup. But  don’t see this as a problem as they just keep getting better and better. With manager Chris Hughton in charge you know the camp will be in high spirits and everyone will be enjoying themselves. But maybe the speculation that West Brom are interested in Hughton might just put the players off slightly and they might lose focus but I honestly don’t think this will happen. The key player in my opinion will be Curtis Davies who has had a fantastic season and will want to play Premier League football next season. He has been a rock at the back for the club and has been crucial in their good form all season, he knows he will have to be at his best to keep out the opposition in the next few games.

Blackpool are also looking for an instant return to the Premier League under the always entertaining Ian Holloway. The way the team play their football is fantastic to watch and his players are very brave to keep playing the way they do which may give them the advantage in the playoffs and the fact they have won the playoffs with a very similar team only two years ago will also help their cause. Key player to watch for me is Kevin Phillips, he has scored 17 goals this season and is looking as threatening as ever, he may not be able to start both legs because of his age but when he is on the pitch his movement will worry defenders and like Nolan always has an important goal in him. With him on the pitch I think defenders know they need to mark him which gives more space for wingers Matt Phillips and Thomas Ince who on their day can take apart any defence in the Championship.

Cardiff City have possibly been one of the most unlucky teams in the playoffs with them losing in them time and time again. What has made it worse is that Swansea City are in the Premier League and are doing well. But manager Malky Mackay has brought together a new squad this year who look hungry and determined to get to the Premier League. The goals haven’t quite flowed as much this season as they have done previously but all that matters is that they are in the playoffs once again. Key player will be Peter Whittingham as he has really quality from midfield whether he plays out wide or in the middle and has contributed 13 goals this season as well as many assists. If he is on form it will be difficult for their opponents to stop him and he can change a game in the blink of an eye.

So now it is prediction time, I believe that the final will be between Cardiff and Birmingham with Birmingham winning the final. I just think that West Ham may crumble under the pressure and the expectations and Blackpool will be unable to break down the Birmingham defence often enough. In the final I think it will be a case of déjà vu for Cardiff and they will sadly underperform on the big stage.

Do you agree with my key players and my predictions?