BotN season preview: New signings, Tintin & underwear auction websites

The Back of the Net team continue their Premier League 2014/15 preview with a completely serious look at QPR, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland...

Queens Park Rangers

Having sneaked through the play-offs despite underachieving in the Championship, big-spending QPR are now all set to underachieve in the Premier League. No-one wants to see a repeat of their calamitous 2011/12 season, except for literally everybody in the country not associated with QPR.

Manager: Following years of upheaval, the board are relying on Harry Redknapp to bring stability and dignity to Loftus Road. The ex-Spurs boss has enjoyed a career of unbroken success, interrupted only by relegation at Bournemouth, relegation at Southampton, relegation at QPR and financial catastrophe at Portsmouth.  

Key player: Redknapp will hope that centre-back Steven Caulker will be like a new signing, because he is a new signing.

If they were a John Cusack film, they would be... Pushing Tin.

Prediction: Never has a side been promoted with so much Premier League class already in place. With Caulker, Rio Ferdinand and Mauricio Isla adding weight to an already formidable squad, Rangers look set to take the division by storm. 7th.

Southampton

The young but tactically sophisticated side that shone in 2013/14 has been dismembered by richer, better-resourced clubs, because nobody likes a show-off. New mananger Ronald Koeman has been charged with wiping the squished remains of the team off the glass ceiling.

Manager: Like many Dutch footballers of his generation, Koeman looks quite a lot like Tintin. A talented but controversial player, he once provoked the ire of rival fans by wiping his backside with Germany player Olaf Thon.

Star signings: Ex-Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster has a big reputation in Scotland, though it has been nearly three years since he last had to make a save. Many believe that Saphir Taider is a gem.

If they were a chess Grandmaster, they would be... Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Prediction: Last year's exciting team may have lost five of its stars, but the money raised has been reinvested wisely. Taider, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pellè are potentially even better than the men they replaced, and Koeman is a high-calibre coach with bold ideas who can get the Saints marching onwards and upwards. 7th.

Stoke City

For many years the club that other fans loved to hate, Stoke are now the club that everyone loves to feel passively indifferent about. Expect them to pack men behind the ball between August and March before hitting on the break after the clocks go forward.

Manager: Chippy curmudegon Mark Hughes is constantly railing against the media and attacking fellow managers over perceived slights, which makes him a ray of summer sunshine compared to predecessor Tony Pulis.

Key man: The Potters have a number of likeable footballers who don't go out of their way to deliberately hurt people, but Robert Huth is not that type of player.

If they were a theme park, they would be... Chessington World of Adventures.

Prediction: Hughes has quietly revolutionised Stoke from one-note battlers to a silky, attractive side, without sacrificing their defensive steel. If Bojan Krkic finally fulfils his vast potential, the Potters could be on the verge of something special. 7th.

Sunderland

The model of a sensible, well-run club, if only because of their close proximity to Newcastle, Sunderland's red and white stripes betray the club's origin as a barbershop quartet. They have become so accustomed to battling relegation that they may well decide to seek relegation out and challenge it to a duel.

Key player: Club captain Lee Cattermole is a combative, snarling presence all over the pitch, whether he's scything down an opponent, remonstrating with the referee, or trudging back to the dressing room to serve another three-match ban.

Shirt sponsor: Sunderland are sponsored by BidVest, the world's largest underwear auction website.

If they were a boy's name, they would be... Bryan.

Prediction: The extent of Gus Poyet's transformation can hardly be overstated. The Uruguayan took Sunderland from relegation certainties to mid-table in the space of a few weeks, and given a full season, only a fool would bet against him taking the Black Cats into Europe. 7th.

SEE ALSO

Arsenal, Aston Villa, Burnley, Chelsea - Cesc impersonators, psychotic cops & too many trophies
Crystal Palace, Everton, Hull, Leicester - Interrogation suites, hair transplants & Steve Bruce's bone structure

Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Newcastle - Transfer sagas, adopted pandas & personalised jelly
Swansea, Spurs, West Brom, West Ham - Ambitious nicknames, moustaches & matchmaking


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