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

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Who will be Nottingham Forest’s next manager?

Alex McLeish has left his job at Nottingham Forest after just 40 days in charge of the club.

There had been a lot of speculation that he was going to leave the club soon after the way the club conducted themselves in the January transfer window. With the biggest problem being the club pulling out of a deal for Peterborough United midfielder George Boyd because he failed an eye test. A lot of players and former players were saying that they have never even done an eye test during a medical. What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that Boyd recently scored a goal from the halfway line. But back onto McLeish and his time at Forest will not really be remembered fondly after a lot of fans didn’t even want him in the first place and his record of just one win from seven games is not a great record at all, especially for a club that was challenging for a place in the playoffs under Sean O’Driscoll. McLeish’s last game was a defeat to his former club Birmingham City and after the game he refused to commit his future to the club and now a few days later he has left by mutual consent.

So, who will take the job now? The current favourite is former manager Billy Davies. Straightaway I am not sure about this one at all because he had problems with the board the last time he was at the club and I do not know whether he would get on with the new board. But if they could convince him to come back he would certainly bring good football back to Forest and give them a good chance of promotion this season. In his first spell he won 53 of his 126 games and would love to finish the job he started. However, it does look like he is going to join Blackpool.
Billy Davies
Nigel Adkins is also an early favourite for the job and it is obvious why and at the moment he will get linked with every job going in the Championship. He may want time away from the game after being harshly sacked by Southampton even though it looked as though he could have kept them up. He proved he is a good manager and would bring attacking football to the City Ground. I think it will be a long shot but if the board can convince him to join the club then the fans would be very happy with their new manager.
Nigel Adkins
Finally, a name that has been linked with the role is the current Kuwait head coach Goran Tufegdzic. This would be a ridiculous appointment but it certainly would not surprise me at all. He has been in charge of Kuwait since 2009 after being their assistant and he does have a decent record in charge but it is nowhere near the standard required for the Championship. Some fans will want to give him a chance but I can see the large majority wanting the board out, if they don’t already.
Goran
Other linked with the job are Roy Keane, Paolo Di Canio and Mark Hughes

Who will be the Premier League’s top scorer?

The Premier League season is nearly upon us and the fight for the title, European places and the relegation battles are always very interesting but what about top goal scorer, will it be a one horsed race or will it go right down to the last game of the season.

Last year’s winner Robin Van Persie is expected to join Manchester United and that will surely only help him to become the winner of the Golden Boot for the second season running. Unlike at Arsenal you know that Alex Ferguson’s team will be right up there come the end of the season and they have the players to create even more chances for the striker and if he can develop a good understanding with Wayne Rooney then it could be his best season yet.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero had a fantastic year last season capping it off with the Premier League title but this year he will want to score even more goals and now he has had a full season in England he will just keep getting better and better so he will definitely be up there come the end of the season. He didn’t have the best of times in the Community Shield but there is no doubt he will come good.

Fernando Torres may have been branded a flop by a lot of people but this could be his season as he is now definitely first choice and won’t have to worry that when he misses a chance he will be replaced in the line up by Didier Drogba. He is the main man and now is the time to prove that he was worth the £50 million price tag. With Spain, he finished top scorer at Euro 2012 so he will obviously be very confident and the way he took his goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield shows that he hasn’t lost his finishing ability.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has scored a lot of goals already in his career and even though he had quite a poor European Championships he will be back to his best in the coming season. He has proved over the years that he can score a wide range of goals from long rangers to scrappy goals in the six yard box and now has a knack of scoring a lot of goals with his head so he is always a massive threat.

Finally, maybe a little bit of an outsider as he may not always be first choice but Carlos Tevez owes the Manchester City fans this year I feel, because of the way he acted for a long period last season. He did come good at the end of the year but it was almost too late, however his performances were obviously good enough and he ended up lifting the title at the end. But, I am sure he doesn’t feel he deserved his medal and will be doing everything he can to make sure he deserves one this year if they win it and what better way to do that than score the most goals in the league.

Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be contested by Southend United, Torquay United, Cheltenham Town and Crew Alexandra with all four teams hoping to end the season on a high.

Southend and Torquay narrowly missed out on the automatic promotion spots and this could have damaged morale within the squad as Crawley Town took the final spot but I am sure they would have already put that behind them and will be hoping for a chance to play in League 1 next season. Cheltenham Town were out of the automatic promotion race and were safely in the playoffs so they have had a lot of time to prepare for these games coming up and Crewe had to secure their place on the final day.

Southend under Paul Sturrock have been magnificent this season and their form towards the end of the season has been sensational with the amount of clean sheets they are keeping, which could be vital in these playoffs. If they keep three clean sheets they are guaranteed promotion in my eyes because they do have goals and enough experience to get them through. The key player for me has got to be Freddy Eastwood who has recently rejoined the club and has the ability to play at a higher level. Although it didn’t quite work out for him at Wolves or Coventry City, I think he has enough to cause teams problems in the playoffs and could just snatch a very important goal.

Torquay lost their last game of the season against Hereford United to end any hopes of finishing in the top three. But, they shouldn’t let this result affect them as they have had a good season under Martin Ling and he will have them well organised for the playoffs, with each individual player knowing exactly what they need to do. Their form going into the playoffs has not been great and there has been worries of fatigue in the squad but there is a big prize at the end of it so I am sure the players will be up for the challenge. Eunan O’Kane is a key player for me as the 21 year old has been playing magnificently all season and looks like a seasoned pro rather than just a youngster. He has remarkably already played 120 games for the club, adding another 49 to that tally this season and has been linked with a move away.

Cheltenham Town have surprised me this season as I did not expect them to be this high up the table but fair play to them as they deserve it and manager Mark Yates also deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club. Their win in the final league game of the season against Plymouth Argyle will have given the fans a little bit of optimism going into the playoffs as they had to work hard for their victory and it won’t be easy to get through to the final. Marlon Pack is someone who I think could be very influential in the possible three games as he is very good on the ball and for someone so young he looks like he could play at a much higher level than League 2. He has scored six times in his 50 games this season and could easily be the one that makes the difference.

Crewe just secured their place in the playoffs on the final day and will be hoping that their players will take confidence from that and use it to their advantage. They have a lot of young talent in their side and this could work out well for them as they will go out onto the pitch with no fear, however, they may not be used to playing in games that are so important and may freeze under the pressure. I don’t think manager Steve Davis will allow that to happen and will make sure they are focused on their football rather than the occasion. It is difficult to choose a key player for Crewe because they have so much talent in their squad but it will be a tough test for them and their inexperience may work against them but Nick Powell is a sensational footballer and will one day I am sure play in the Premier League and if he progresses the way he has so far, then he will surely be an international footballer too.

I think this is the hardest of the playoffs to call as each team has a good chance of winning it but I think Crewe will beat Southend just because Southend may not have got over the disappointment of not getting automatic promotion and if they concede the first goal their heads may drop. The other semi final I just think that Cheltenham will win as Torquay have had problems with fatigue and it seems like the stress will get to them the most. The final will be very interesting but I think Crewe may just take it although I do imagine all the games to be very close and only won by the odd goal.

Hughes looking to improve QPR

A slow start to the transfer window might be starting to pick up the pace with QPR and Mark Hughes finally getting somewhere. They had been in talks with a lot of players and clubs to bring players in but finally they got in Taye Taiwo, a left back from AC Milan who has been linked to Arsenal and Newcastle in this transfer window.

The 26 year old has only played four league games for Milan but he was a very good full back for his previous club Marseille and was rated as one of the best in Europe at one point. QPR fans will be hoping he can rediscover this type of form and can aid them in their quest to stay in the Premier League.

No offence to the current left backs at the club but that is where they are the weakest and obviously Mark Hughes has identified this quickly. In his first two games he played Clint Hill in that position and although he is a very steady player in the Championship he is not good enough for the Premier League and left back isn’t even his best position as I believe he does a better job at centre back. The other left back in the squad is Armand Traore who is 22 and does seem to have some potential which former manager Neil Warnock spotted but against the better side he looks poor when defending and not very effective going forward with wayward passes and awful crosses. Which was shown mostly in his last game for Arsenal when they shipped eight at Old Trafford and then proved once again that he is a liability in one of his first games for QPR when he was branded a disgrace by Warnock for his sending off in the game against Aston Villa.

Hughes obviously wants to improve the defence with QPR being linked to players such as Chris Samba and Wayne Bridge. However, both of these look unlikely as Blackburn are reluctant to let Samba go and if they do Tottenham seem very interested and will probably be a better destination for the centre back. Wayne Bridge is a strange one for me as he doesn’t seem interested to leave Manchester City even though he gets nowhere near the first team, he just seems to want to pick up his wages and sit in the reserves. I hope I am wrong about him because to me he has been the second best England left back for years and if it wasn’t for Ashley Cole, he would have been first choice. I also feel sorry for him because he always joins a club with a lot of money and potential and then gets replaced, at Chelsea with Ashley Cole and now at City firstly with Kolarov and now Clichy. They are also in talks with Nedum Onuoha who may be a good signing as he did look promising for City.

QPR need to focus on improving their strike force though if they have realistic ambitions of staying in the league because Jay Bothroyd, DJ Campbell (although he was impressive for Blackpool last season), Rob Hulse and Federico Macheda they are not going to score a lot of goals. I would have put Heidar Helguson in that list but so far he has done the business somewhat surprisingly but I don’t think he alone will score enough goals to keep them up.

They also need a goal scoring midfielder but they aren’t easy to find so they may just be hoping that when Taarabt comes back from the Africa Cup of Nations he will live up to his potential because I was expecting a lot more from him but he has been unable to step up to the plate.