92 clubs favourite players – Crystal Palace – Dwight Gayle

Crystal Palace are back in the Premier League and they will be hoping to last longer than they did the last time and under Ian Holloway they should be entertaining.

The player I have chosen as my favourite is someone that a lot of people will have heard a lot about because he certainly has an incredible story and one that will be mentioned basically every time he is on the pitch. Dwight Gayle has had an incredible rise and for someone that was playing in League 2 at the start of the last season probably did not think he would start a league game at Old Trafford this season.

At Dagenham and Redbridge last season he started impressively and was probably just happy to be a player in the Football League. He scored seven times in 18 league games and even though he was only their for half a season, the goals he scored and points he gained for the club arguably kept them in League 2. John Still was the manager at the time and he was very good at picking up talent from non league football and turning them into good footballers, he certainly helped a lot in his development and I’m sure will be proud.

He then decided to move on and joined Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United where he got better and better and was soon getting more headlines for his performances. I personally felt that this was a great move for him because like Still, Ferguson has been able to pick up players, particularly strikers and make them better and then eventually make a profit on them when they finally leave. But I don’t think even Ferguson expected him to get a move to the Premier League and because they got relegated to League 1 at the end of the season he probably felt he could not stand in his way even if he does eventually end up just playing Championship football next season. Gayle did try his best to keep Peterborough up and 13 goals in 29 games proves that he certainly is good enough for that level but the big question is whether he can make the step up once more.
Gayle
I do feel that he will end up back in the Championship and Crystal Palace overspent on him but he will give them a great opportunity to get promoted at the first time of asking. I was very happy to see him get first goal in the Premier League against Sunderland and even though it was only a penalty he had to put it away and with it being such a crucial moment in the match it showed me that he has the mental strength to be able to compete at the top level.

Ian Holloway will hopefully get the best out of him and let him express himself but he has been criticised so far by how he is playing him because he is getting pushed out wide a little more than he would want and maybe that is why he hasn’t quite had the chances to prove his worth but I do hope he manages to get double figures in the Premier League.

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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.

Who will win the Championship?

The Championship is always one of the most exciting leagues in the world and is always one of the hardest to predict.

The relegated teams have a good chance of going straight back if they can keep hold of their best players and as we have seen in previous seasons sometimes the teams that get promoted into the league carry on their momentum and get a second promotion on the bounce.

The favourites to win the league are Harry Redknapp’s QPR and he does have experience of leading a team to the Premier League in Portsmouth so does know what it is all about and will surely get more out of his team than he did last year. The signings he has made so far have been very good and they will definitely be committed to the cause. Richard Dunne and Danny Simpson are both good enough defenders to still be in the Premier League. Karl Henry will add steel to the midfield and Charlie Austin is a proven goal scorer at this level.

Reading only had one season in the Premier League but they have got rid of quite a few of the players that helped them to promotion the last time but they have brought in some good players themselves that have Champions League experience in the shape of Wayne Bridge and Royston Drenthe. Nigel Adkins is a good manager and I feel that he will get the team playing decent football and will be right near the top of the table come the end of the season.

Bolton Wanderers will be hoping for a better year than last year and will hope that Dougie Freedman can do what he started at Crystal Palace in the early part of the season. He has made some strange choices in my opinion letting Marvin Sordell got out on loan when he has proved his ability in the Championship before. But in his defence he has replaced him with Jermaine Beckford who will be looking to prove some of his doubters wrong. Alex Baptiste, Marc Tierney and Andre Moritz are also solid signings.

Whether you agree with what they did last season you have to give Gianfranco Zola and Watford credit for getting the team together and playing as well as they did straight away. It looks like it is a similar story this year but using a slightly different loophole to bring in the players that they want from their owners ‘parent’ clubs. But the most exciting signing they have made in my opinion is Lewis McGugan because he has a decent goalscoring record and will be hoping that he can add something to the already talented team.

The team that I personally think will win the league are Wigan Athletic. The signings new manager Owen Coyle has made are already really consistent players, they may not grab the headlines but they do everything that is asked of them. James Perch, Stephen Crainey and Chris McCann all fall into this category. Then they have brought in more attacking players that will definitely get goals in Grant Holt and Marc Antoine Fortune. Also Scott Carson will be a brilliant goalkeeper and could get the most clean sheets. The only worry I have is if their campaign in Europe takes too much out of them.

Who will win League 1?

League 1 ended in spectacular fashion last year and hopefully this year will have an equal amount of excitement.

There are once again some very big teams in the division and it is tough to call as they do not always adjust to the league as quickly as they should. Sometimes it is the littler teams that triumph and end up in the promotion picture, just look at Yeovil Town last year, who would have bet on them at the start of the season.

Wolves are the clear favourites to win the title and they should challenge because they have suffered two consecutive relegations and still actually have some Premier League players in their squad. I like new manager Kenny Jackett he has come in and it seems like he got rid of the negative vibes around the club and will be successful. So far he has not had the opportunity to sign many players but Sam Ricketts at the back could be crucial and the returning Leigh Griffiths will surely score a lot of goals.

Another relegated team are also one of the favourites and this one is not surprising as Peterborough United have been in this situation before and returned to the Championship swiftly. However it has not been as champions so it makes me think that second place or the playoffs may be their best bet. They haven’t signed many players either but they were very unfortunate to get relegated on the final day so why change anything? Dwight Gayle has left for Crystal Palace and they will need to replace his goals.

Brentford were probably the most unlucky team in League 1 last season and in all honesty should already be in the Championship so it is no surprise to see them as one of the favourites. Manager Uwe Rosler really wants promotion this season and the players he has brought in should help them achieve that. Loan signing Ben Nugent should be good enough for League 1 and striker Will Grigg showed that he knows where the back of the net is for Walsall last season. I also think the signing of experienced player Alan McCormack is very good and he may not get the headlines but is always reliable.

The final relegated team Bristol City cannot be discarded either though because Sean O’Driscoll is a great manager and he should never have to drop down to League 1 to have a job in my eyes. He should still be manager of Nottingham Forest really. But he is at City and he has a tough job, he lost two of his best strikers In Jon Stead and Steve Davies and will be hoping that some of his signings can step up like Jay Emmanuel Thomas and Marlon Harewood. I also think that Marlon Pack and Scott Wagstaff are great signings and they will be brilliant under O’Driscoll who likes to play football the right way.

The final pick is Sheffield United but I am a little unsure about them as their new manager David Weir has no experience of being a league manager and they really needed someone that knew the league and how to get out of it in my opinion. But saying that they still do have a great chance of winning the league as they have not lost anyone from last season’s squad that should be in their starting 11 and bringing in players like Febian Brandy and Stephen McGinn are positive moves. Weir will also have a lot of contacts so they may use the loan market very well this year.

It is tough to back against Wolves but I just feel that it could be Bristol City that take the title.

Peterborough in League 1

Peterborough United were relegated to League 1 after defeat to Crystal Palace on the last game of the season and will be hoping to bounce back.
Peterborough]
Some will say that they were unlucky because they finished the season in fantastic form but at the bottom of the Championship a lot of teams were playing well and if it was Barnsley or Sheffield Wednesday that went down then they would have been unfortunate so Peterborough were relegated when in most other seasons they would have stayed up but three teams do have to go down. Darren Ferguson is in his second spell in charge of the club and this relegation really hasn’t helped his CV at all and although he does have two promotions to his name he still hasn’t proved that he can keep a team in the Championship and challenge for promotion to the top flight which makes me think that he will not get any higher in his managerial career. However he has never really had the funds to work with and maybe if he was at a bigger club then things may be different but his time at Preston North End also was not successful but I do think he is the man to lead them back into the Championship.
Darren Ferguson
One thing that has been guaranteed over the years from the teams was excitement and this must be good for the attacking players but it does not make it easy for the defenders and goalkeeper Robert Olejnik found it tough in his first season in the Championship and I thought when they signed him he may not have been good enough. His performances were ok and I feel he will come back stronger now and there is a very good chance he will be the best goalkeeper in League 1 next year.

Their midfield did also lose something when George Boyd joined Hull City on loan part way through the season and they did seem to lack a little bit of creativity but there is still some talent in there. I think Grant McCann is a decent player and they will be hoping they can keep hold of him although there will be a few Championship teams interested in him. Another player that they have to try and keep hold of is Tommy Rowe who has been linked with Leeds United recently and will be a big loss if he left the club.

Rowe scored five times last season

Rowe scored five times last season


They will also have to replace striker Dwight Gayle who looks as though he will also leave with Crystal Palace being his most likely destination. But if they can get a decent transfer fee from him then they will be able to improve their options upfront as well as a few other areas of the pitch. Lee Tomlin could also be leaving and although he isn’t that prolific, he does chip in with enough goals to be vital to Peterborough. Tyrone Barnett someone that they signed for over a million pound has been largely disappointing but if he gets given the chance in League 1 he could be the man to lead them to promotion.
Tomlin signed for Peterborough in 2010

Tomlin signed for Peterborough in 2010

Crystal Palace in the Premier League

Crystal Palace won promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs and they will be an interesting addition to the league.
Crystal Palace
Under Ian Holloway they will be a good attacking side but may struggle in defence and unfortunately for him this tactic did not work for him at Blackpool. Hopefully he will have learned from his last experience and Crystal Palace will have a good chance of staying up. I do like a lot of their players and I do like Holloway but this time he seems to be rehashing what he said during his time at Blackpool about them going to struggle and maybe this will work against him because now teams may not underestimate them as much as they did Blackpool. Holloway’s record at the club does not seem to be one that should have got promotion to the Premier League so a lot of credit has to go to Dougie Freedman who helped them get off to a good start. Out of his 37 games in charge he has only won 13 but one of them was against Watford at Wembley and against Peterborough United on the last game of the season to secure the place in the playoffs so he has proved he can win the big games. Plus defeating Brighton in the playoffs showed he has grown tactically as a manager.

Defensively I am very worried about the team because they have players that I do think are good in the Championship but maybe not good enough for the Premier League. Danny Gabbidon and Peter Ramage are two players that certainly fit into this category. However, I do think they have a very good goalkeeper in Julian Speroni who has improved massively and has got better and better every year he has been at the club.
Julian Speroni
The midfield will be losing one of their best players in Wilfried Zaha but there is no point in focusing on what they won’t have. Although there is a slight chance that he could come back on loan, but this does not seem likely at the moment. Jonathan Williams is someone that I am looking forward to seeing in the Premier League because he is a fantastic footballer and deserves to be in the top league now after injuries stalled his career slightly. He is only young so it will be a steep learning curve for him. Mile Jedinak is another that I think will be able to make the step up.
Jonathan Williams
They do look a little weak upfront too but Glenn Murray got 31 goals last season in all competitions and will be the man they rely on to get them the goals to keep them up like Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert have in recent seasons. Aaron Wilbraham started the playoff final and I would be very surprised if he started any games next season and a new striker was brought in to replace him. I think they should sign Kevin Phillips permanently because he can still score goals even if he is only limited to substitute appearances.
Glenn Murray

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

The Championship had one of the best ever endings to a season with nobody knowing who will be in the playoffs until the last whistle.

Watford, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will be hoping to win the playoffs and gain a place in the Premier League alongside Cardiff City and Hull City. Bolton Wanderers missed out on the playoffs by goal difference and Nottingham Forest only missed out on the last day after losing to Leicester. For me this is one of the most difficult to predict simply because of how close it all was at the end of the season.

Watford finished third and have been one of the most entertaining teams this season but they had such a disappointing end to the final game. They lost 2-1 to Leeds United but in their defence they conceded a late goal from a counter attack. If only they had managed to score a goal they would have actually finished second and gained automatic promotion. Troy Deeney got a red card in that game and so that means there will be more pressure on top goal scorer Matej Vydra. But, he isn’t in the greatest of form himself. Watford have been criticised this season because of all their loan signings but Gianfranco Zola deserves more credit for getting them to perform.

Brighton finished fourth and are going into the playoffs in the best form and with their experience they may be the team to go up. Wayne Bridge and Matthew Upson at the back shows they have a lot of quality and experience and they have been a large part of their rise to towards the top of the league. In midfield they have a lot of young and talented players like Liam Bridcutt , Will Buckley and Kazenga Lua Lua that probably deserve a chance to show their talents in the Premier League. Even though their top scorer only has 11 goals they still have good strikers with the efforts and determination of Craig Mackail-Smith and Jose Ulloa who has had an impressive start to his Brighton career, scoring 9 in 17 league games.

Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway have been very hit and miss and they need to find some form and quickly. Their win over Peterborough on the last day of the season could be crucial as it showed that they can come from behind to win games and still have a lot of quality in their team. Glenn Murray, the top scorer in the Championship scored one of the goals and Kevin Phillips got another so they have players that can score at anytime in a game. Their defence is a little bit of a worry but in midfield they have a lot of talented players like Wilifried Zaha and Jonathan Williams.

Leicester were the last team to qualify for the playoffs and I was really surprised that they got in there because they had to beat Nottingham Forest away and hope Bolton didn’t win. So this could push the team on because they will be very confident and maybe seen as outsiders. They have a lot of talent in their team and this could be Nigel Pearson’s last chance to get promotion with Leicester so there could be extra motivation for the players.

However, I do think Watford will beat Leicester and Brighton will beat Crystal Palace in the semi finals and then it will be a very exciting final. Then I am going to go for Brighton to win the playoffs and compete in the Premier League next season.

Who will be Oldham Athletic’s new manager?

Oldham Athletic are looking for a new manager after Paul Dickov decided to resign from his position.
Oldham Athletic
This may come as a surprise to football fans that do not follow League 1 closely as they will have just seen that they beat Liverpool in the FA Cup 3-2. Apart from this result it has been an awful time to be an Oldham fan as they have lost eight of their last nine league games with the latest being a 3-1 defeat to Walsall. This defeat has left them in 20th place, only one point above the relegation zone. The worrying thing about this is that all the teams below them have a game in hand and Dickov has decided that he is not the man to keep them up after guiding them to 17th and 16th in his two full seasons in charge. Dickov was manager for 141 games, winning 43, drawing 37 and losing 61 of them. Now it is up to the board to find someone to take control and make sure the club do stay in League 1 and there have been some interesting names linked with the post.

The favourite for the post and the most likely to get the job is Iain Dowie. If he does get the job then it will be the second time he has been in charge of the club. His first spell was from May 2002 to December 2003 and he led them to the playoffs but unfortunately he could not continue his job because of a number of reasons including financial problems at the club and he finally left because of family reasons. Since he left the club he is most recognised for his work at Crystal Palace as he got them promoted to the Premier League. One of the problems with appointing him is the fact that he has been out of management since he left Hull City in 2010.
Iain Dowie
The second favourite for the job is a man that supports the club and would certainly want to succeed and keep them in League 1. That man is Paul Scholes and although he is still actually contracted to Manchester United he is obviously nearing the end of his career (he has already retired once). Would he be a good choice though? In my opinion I don’t think they should go for another inexperienced manager but his love for the club and his connection with Sir Alex Ferguson could allow him to bring in some good talented youngsters from Old Trafford.
Paul Scholes
Another person linked with the job is Nicky Butt also a former Manchester United player. But yet again he is very inexperienced and a job like this won’t be the easiest and it may be tough for him. However, the players should respect him and listen to everything he has to say because of what he achieved as a player. Just like Scholes, he may have some good connections to Manchester United as well as other clubs and managers that he played under.
Nicky Butt
Other names linked with the role are Neil Redfearn, Phil Brown and Simon Grayson

Who will be the next Nottingham Forest manager?

Nottingham Forest are searching for a new manager after sacking Sean O’Driscoll who had just led his team to a 4-2 victory over Leeds UnitedForest

O’Driscoll, joined the club in strange circumstances after earlier in the summer being appointed Crawley Town manager, however he never managed the team in a competitive fixture and left for Forest. He was given just 26 games in charge and only lost seven of those games, so his record was not that bad and there was a very realistic chance of the club getting promoted this season with the former Doncaster Rovers manager in charge. The team are currently 8th in the table and only one point outside the playoffs and with a crucial game against promotion rivals Crystal Palace next it is a very strange time to sack their manager. If they win the game then they will only be four points behind their opponents so it is actually unbelievable that the manager has gone, but the players need to move on and try and get promotion under the new manager, and there certainly will be some high profile names linked with the job and the former champions of Europe will be looking to appoint a well known name.

The clear favourite for the job is Alex McLeish and it will be interesting to see what the fans think of this decision because he has had an indifferent time as a manager in England. Under his guidance, Birmingham City were relegated twice but he also led them to a ninth place finish in the Premier League and a Carling Cup, as well as a promotion from the Championship. But, his time at Aston Villa was a disaster and he was hated by most of their fans for his negative style of football. However, I do not think he was ever given the chance to succeed at Villa Park.

Al McLeish

The next manager linked with the job is the recently sacked Chelsea manager Robert Di Matteo. If they could convince him to join the club then it would be fantastic for them as he lifted the Champions League trophy last season. For him, personally it may not be exactly what he is looking for, but he will surely be given money to do what he wants, rather than getting players bought for him which seemed to happen at his former club. I honestly can’t see this happening but there have been stranger things happen in football.

Roberto di Matteo

Finally, Roy Keane has been linked with the job and he also has experience of winning promotion from the Championship with Sunderland, so he knows the league and what is needed to succeed. However, his time at Ipswich Town was not so successful and he did not achieve his own expectations and they struggled for long periods under his management. He played 123 times for Forest and scored 22 goals so he knows exactly what the fans expect and will want to be the one that gets them back into the Premier League.

PKT5111-369467FOOTBALLER - ROY KEANE1992Roy Keane - Nottingham Forest FC.

 

Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.