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.

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.

What will Wilfried Zaha add to the England squad?

Wilfried Zaha has been called up to the England squad and will hope to play some part in the game against Sweden.

Although, it is only a friendly it is a huge achievement for a Championship player to be called up and so far this season the Crystal Palace player has been in fantastic form and has caught the attention of manager Roy Hodgson. His club are flying in the league and now under new manager Ian Holloway he will be given even more chance to express himself on the pitch, as the former Blackpool man wants his team to be attacking and create chances. But, the big question is, does he deserve his call up?

A lot of people believe that he is good enough for the Premier League and has been linked with a lot of different clubs since making his debut in 2009. But, he has stayed at Crystal Palace and will be hoping that his and his current clubs form can continue and they can both play together in the Premier League. He has now played over 100 games for the club and in the last two seasons he has played over 40 games which a lot of players can only hope to play, especially at his age.

He will add something different to the England squad and will be a breath of fresh air which most England supporters have been crying out for. Too long have England fans had to watch mediocre and uninspiring performances and they now just want someone to get them off their seats which players like James Milner (who does a solid enough job on the wing defensively, but against opponents England should be beating, he should come nowhere near the first 11) and Theo Walcott (who has largely underperformed internationally since his hatrick against Croatia) don’t do often enough.

It would be far more exciting turning on an England game and watching Zaha and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings then it would certainly make a lot of defences frightened and the England strikers would be expecting a lot of chances to come their way. For too long, England games have been a chore to watch and giving players like Zaha a chance will make fans a lot more optimistic about watching their country.

But why Zaha? Personally, I think he is one of the better English wingers and I am glad he has got a chance because it is more than likely that he will be a big star at club level and internationally. But, is the real reason they have called him up is to convince to sign him up for England instead of his country of birth Ivory Coast?

I don’t think this is the reason he got called up as Hodgson is now starting to give other players chances, such as Zaha and Everton’s Leon Osman and this can only benefit the national side. I hope he gets an appearance in Sweden and proves to everyone that he is a real talent, the only people that may not be happy are the Crystal Palace fans who will have to listen to even more transfer rumours about one of their star players.

August Players and Managers of the month

The first awards of the seasons have been announced and they are the player and manager of the month awards in the Football League.

First, let’s look at League 2 and the winner of the manager of the month award went to Martin Allen who has had a fantastic start to life as manager of Gillingham. The club are sitting top of the table after five games with 13 points and if they can continue this sort of form they will comfortably win promotion back to League 1 although it is early days yet and anything could happen. Allen finished the last season very well keeping Barnet in the Football League so it is no surprise at a club with a bigger budget he is surpassing expectations slightly. Player of the month for League 2 has went to Oxford United captain Jake Wright and the defender has been in impressive form so far this year helping Oxford start the season very well winning their first three games and only conceding one goal. Unfortunately for them their form has dipped slightly but I believe they will be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season.

In League 1 the awards went to a player and the manager of Tranmere Rovers as they also started the season very quickly and have surprised a lot of teams already. Ronnie Moore is in his third spell at the club as manager and are still unbeaten in League 1. They have already scored 11 goals and only conceded 2 so their goal difference is already very healthy (some of these have came in September but it is still worth noting). They were seen as outsiders for the playoffs this year because they don’t have as big a budget as some teams but that hasn’t stopped them so far and they may be a shoe in for the playoffs if not more. Andy Robinson won the player of the month award after scoring a hatrick against Carlisle United. The 32 year old has been named in the team of the year in League 1 twice before so he is no stranger to the division and will need to continue to be as influential in the coming months if they want to get out the league.

The Championship awards followed the same pattern as the league before as both the awards went to player and manager of the same club. Blackpool were the beneficiaries of the awards and Ian Holloway is looking to guide his team back to the Premier League. He is still doing a magnificent job in my opinion as they had no right to get promoted in the first place and after losing so many players has still managed to challenge at the very top of the league. Holloway is an entertaining man on the sidelines and his team are very attacking on the pitch so they are a perfect combination and he seems to get the best out of every player. One of these is Thomas Ince who was linked with moves away in the summer and it is no surprise after his performances in August. In the first three games the young winger scored four goals and got four assists so there doesn’t need to be any explanation why he won it really.

Will Joey Barton leave QPR on loan this summer?

Joey Barton looks set to leave QPR at least on loan this summer after he was given a lengthy ban at the end of last season.

Barton played 26 times last season scoring 3 goals for QPR

There is no doubting Barton’s footballing ability as he can on his day be one of the best box to box midfielders in the country and can be very influential on the pitch so it is not surprising that a lot of clubs would like to have him. The advantage of him going out on loan to a Championship or possibly even lower club is that his ban will run out quicker and will be available to Mark Hughes a lot sooner than if he stayed at the club. But surely teams interested in him would surely want him at least till January and could he make a difference to their team and if QPR were willing to pay his wages for the duration of the loan spell then it could be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Some people will be against him joining their club because of his reputation and the fact that he has been given more than one chance but if he joined your club and played excellently for a long run of games and helped you get promoted would you be complaining then? Opinions in football change very quickly and this could definitely happen with Joey Barton.

So first off, the club that surprisingly looks the most likely to sign him is newly promoted to the Football League Fleetwood Town. He is currently training there and would obviously be a fantastic addition to their squad and would probably help financially as a lot people may buy tickets to watch Barton play. Or possibly watch him implode on the pitch? As much as I would love to see this happening, it is unlikely as I can’t see him dropping down to League 2 but there is always a chance especially if he enjoys the training sessions and gets on with the players and staff.

More realistically though I could see him signing for Blackburn Rovers who have just been relegated to the Championship so they do still have some quality players and will be looking to bounce back on their first attempt. This transfer as alluded to earlier may not sit well with the fans, and Steve Kean doesn’t have the greatest of rapport with them anyway so I would personally advice him not to add fuel to the fire and sign Barton but if he does perform for them, he will win them points and they could be crucial come the end of the season.

Finally, Blackpool are also linked with him and this could be fantastic for both club and player because manager Ian Holloway is known for giving players a new start. Holloway is a brilliant man manager and gets the best out of his players and they seem to overachieve every single season and it just seems like a fun laidback place to play so maybe that would help keep Barton calm. Blackpool play football the right way and the one time England international would certainly fit into their team.

Will Matt Phillips sign for a Premier League club this summer?

Blackpool winger Matt Phillips could be set to leave the club in the next few weeks with a number of clubs looking to sign him.

Phillips scored 11 goals in 35 games for Blackpool last season

The 21 year old had a fantastic season last year both at Blackpool and during a loan spell with Sheffield United early in the season where he scored five goals in just six games. But, it was his performances in the Championship that are making him one of the hottest properties in the division. There is no doubt that manager Ian Holloway will want to keep him but he is a very good manager and if he thinks a player deserves a move then he will let them go at the right price. However, another year in the Championship wouldn’t do Phillips any harm and under the guidance of Holloway he could become an even better player. Six teams are heavily linked with him and they are Wigan Athletic, Reading, Sunderland, Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke City and he could do a very good job for all of this teams. But which team would he have the most success at?

I think Aston Villa could be a good move for him as they are largely underachieved last year and didn’t play to their full potential and with them likely to play 4-3-3 again next season he would easily fit into their team. A front three of Agbonlahor, Bent and Phillips would be frightening to any team as they have the pace to punish teams on the counter and would link up brilliantly. New manager Paul Lambert also likes to take young players from the Championship and give them a chance in the Premier League and most of his players at Norwich City succeeded and he has to be given a lot of praise for this.

If he is allowed to leave Blackpool then he will also have to take a look at Stoke City because they are now an experienced Premier League side and they will help him become a better player and maybe push onto the next level as he will learn a different way to play. Obviously, Stoke still have Jermaine Pennant but he didn’t seem too happy last year and could be moved on if they get in a replacement. Sometimes people are harsh on the way Stoke play but if you watch them properly they do try and get the ball wide and cross the ball which Phillips will enjoy.

Finally, out of the teams linked with him Everton are probably the best team and have the best manager in David Moyes so this will help his career and a lot of players have progressed from Everton and been sold on for a lot of money. Plus, they are always up there challenging for a place in Europe when it comes towards the end of the season so this will obviously interest Phillips. If they bring in Steven Pienaar it may be difficult for him to get in the side as Moyes likes to play Leon Osman on the wing a lot of the time and with Ross Barkley set to feature more this season he may not be guaranteed a start every week and this may put him off.

Who will be the next Swansea manager?

Swansea City are looking for a new manager after Brendan Rodgers decided to leave for Liverpool and will be hoping their new man can continue the good work of Rodgers.

Swansea finished 11th in the Premier League

It was a bit of a shock to me how well Swansea did in the Premier League this year and the problem with success is that your best players will get linked with moves away from the club and on some occasions like this, the manager also gets offered new jobs. Liverpool must have been difficult for the Northern Irish man to turn down and I’m sure all the Swansea fans will wish him every success but personally I believe he has took the job too early and could be yet another flop at Anfield. He should have stayed with the Welsh side and tried to keep them up for another season because of a few reasons. One being they gave him a chance in the Championship and Premier League after he failed at Reading and another reason being second season syndrome. Towards the end of last season, Swansea were getting found out and teams knew how to beat them for example Newcastle United set a blueprint of how to beat them when they won at the Liberty Stadium 2-0 and they may struggle next season.

So I think the next manager has to get it right and not only continue the work that Rodgers has started but also develop a little bit more of a plan B. Graeme Jones has been made the favourite, this seems strange to me as he has no experience of managing in the Premier League and even though he is a very good assistant we have seen recently that it doesn’t always mean you will be a good manager. Terry Connor failed to win a single game when he was appointed Wolves manager and a few years ago when Sammy Lee took over from Sam Allardyce at Bolton he ultimately failed. So I think this would be very risky and they should look elsewhere.

Personally, I think they should try and get Ian Holloway, he has proved he can overachieve with teams in the past and it was very impressive the way he has got Blackpool challenging for promotion again after losing many key players in the summer. However, he has only managed one season  in the Premier League and it obviously ended in relegation which would be quite worrying for the fans. Holloway, would follow the same style of football as Rodgers and may even make them more adventurous which would add something to their game.

Gus Poyet, is also linked with the job and he also likes to play a passing game at his current club Brighton so it would be easy for him to adapt his tactics to the way Swansea already play. At Brighton he has won 46.15% of his games which is quite impressive considering they only just gained promotion to the Championship and were close to getting into the playoffs last season. It may be too early in his career to get a Premier League job like this but he could still succeed as I think he will become a very good Premier League manager in the future so could just need a chance.

Dave Jones is also one of the favourites for the job and I just think this is a very strange one as he has just got Sheffield Wednesday promoted and will not want to leave them so soon and I cannot imagine the fans taking too kindly to a former Cardiff manager being in charge. He does have Premier League experience and does like to play good short passing football but other than that, I don’t see why he is even linked with the job.

This could be one of the most important managerial decisions Swansea will have to make as staying in the Premier League is a must not only for them, but for English football, as more teams that get promoted will feel that playing football can keep them up, instead of long ball tactics as a lot of teams revert to when they gain promotion.

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?