What to expect in 2010/11
FourFourTwo's very own bearded Mystic Meg tells us what to expect from the coming Premier League season...
Finally, finally, the Premier League season is underway and the sparks fly immediately.
On opening day, Spurs and Man City play out a thrilling 6-6 draw, while West Brom upset Chelsea away from home with Roberto Di Matteo surprising everyone by picking himself, then scoring the winner against his former club.
Liverpool-Arsenal isnÃ¢ÂÂt as exciting Ã¢ÂÂ in fact, our Woy falls asleep Ã¢ÂÂ but on Monday, with all eyes on Chris Hughton, Newcastle are thumped 7-0 by Manchester United (Barton s/o 3Ã¢ÂÂ). WeÃ¢ÂÂre fully behind Hughton, insists the Newcastle board. Three hours later heÃ¢ÂÂs sacked.
Aston Villa charge to top of the league under new manager Mark Hughes, who betters even Steve Coppell by leaving Fulham just 27 minutes into his first competitive game. Fulham meanwhile, under new boss Martin OÃ¢ÂÂNeill thanks to a touch of dugout swaperoo, record a shock win over United at Craven Cottage.
The season shows no signs of letting up, with Everton 5-4 Manchester United and Wigan 0-14 Man City grabbing the headlines. In other news, Stoke are yet to pick up a point and Harry Redknapp is arrested for impersonating a policeman.
New Newcastle gaffer Gareth Southgate doesnÃ¢ÂÂt fare much better than Hughton, lasting just four games. When he gets the chop, confusion reigns as Steve Bruce is his surprise appointment, with Roberto Martinez following his predecessor at Wigan to Sunderland and Martin OÃ¢ÂÂNeill going to the Latics. Bob Bradley takes over at Fulham, proclaiming, Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm rapt to be here. I love ham.Ã¢ÂÂ
Shock! Blackpool stun Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield, with Steven Gerrard saying the Kop is Ã¢ÂÂright to boo the playersÃ¢ÂÂ before skulking off and wistfully staring at a poster of the Bernabeu for the rest of the evening.
Still, Liverpool bounce back in the Mersey derby, despite David MoyesÃ¢ÂÂ attempts to confuse the Liverpool players by wearing a deerstalker cap and smoking a pipe.
Newcastle dominate NovemberÃ¢ÂÂs news. After losing 3-0 to arch-enemies Sunderland at home, then to Arsenal, Blackburn and Fulham, the knives come out and boss Steve Bruce is skewered. Sven-Goran Eriksson, having been linked with every job under the sun and several more actually on it, finally takes over the Toon, only to be fired before the end of his first press conference after glaring slightly amorously at Mike AshleyÃ¢ÂÂs wife.
With fans clamouring for some passion at St JamesÃ¢ÂÂ Park, Kevin Keegan is appointed (again) in the Ã¢ÂÂManager/MessiahÃ¢ÂÂ role. In his first game, Mighty Mouse makes an emotional plea to the fans at half-time to be patient after Newcastle go a goal down to Bolton, then tearfully resigns in the post-match conference, saying heÃ¢ÂÂs not up to the job and heÃ¢ÂÂs going to retire and become a monk.
Not learning from their mistakes, Newcastle appoint Alan Shearer (again). Surprisingly, they start picking up points.
By Christmas, the relegation battle is somewhat dampened by Blackpool and Stoke (by now managed by Phil Brown, for some reason) finding themselves 20 points off the pace, but Blackburn are making an inexplicable charge for a European spot. Birmingham are too, with 6 foot 8 Nikola Zigic heading a goal a game.
Arsenal, clear at the top and unbeaten since September, are finally toppled by Carlo AncelottiÃ¢ÂÂs Chelsea. Then, after a late winner sinks United, the ItalianÃ¢ÂÂs eyebrow recedes into his hairline and is never seen again.
On New YearÃ¢ÂÂs Day, the football world is stunned as the talkative David Gold is revealed to be a rubber puppet, controlled by master ventriloquist David Sullivan (he always seemed quiet). The faÃÂ§ade is revealed when GoldÃ¢ÂÂs ear falls off and he starts repeating, Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt want to go gack in the gox.Ã¢ÂÂ
Over at Molineux, Mick McCarthy foxes critics by taking Wolves into the top half, eloquently exclaiming in the soon-to-be-infamous post-match press conference after they stun Chelsea, Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm happier than a pissed midget.Ã¢ÂÂ
The Blues soon recover to make the title race a genuine Ã¢ÂÂ albeit predictable Ã¢ÂÂ three-horse race between the usual suspects. Villa have slipped to fifth, behind Man City, while Spurs are languishing in eighth and Liverpool 12th. Roy Hodgson remains in charge, because no one has the heart to sack him.
A quiet month. Nothing of note happens. At all.
Upset! Wigan beat Man City at Eastlands. Controversy! Wenger rests his entire squad against Sunderland, fielding three nine-year-olds and limping to a 0-0 draw. Inevitability! Chelsea and Man United turn the title race into a head-to-head battle.
Meanwhile, thanks to a Ched Evans wonder strike, England lose to Wales in the Euro qualifier at the Millennium Stadium. By now, expectations are so low no one is surprised, but Fabio Capello is sacked on the spot. The hunt for a replacement begins...
Suddenly Newcastle are back in the headlines as Alan Shearer, who has guided the troubled Toon out of the relegation zone (a new era is heralded at St JamesÃ¢ÂÂ Park as a result), is offered the England job.
The catalyst for ShearerÃ¢ÂÂs appointment is a surprise win over their opening day conquerors Manchester United, as Fergie rests his players for the crucial Champions League showdown against Rubin Kazan in ten daysÃ¢ÂÂ time. In a thrilling match, the Magpies prevail 4-3 despite a Darron Gibson 30-yarder and a brace of own goals.
Shearer leaves and Allardyce returns. Big Sam wins his first two matches 1-0 but is roundly booed for playing 5-4-1 with Steven Taylor as a lone striker. After giving the fans the finger, heÃ¢ÂÂs fired in disgrace and in the shock of the season, Diego Maradona is appointed.
Newcastle flounder under Maradona as Jonas looks out of place at right-back and Alan Smith even more out of place in goal, and the Argentine walks out in style, calling the board a bunch of donkey-bothering f*ckwits. Fans insist on a manager who understands the club, so Paul Gascoigne is made the clubÃ¢ÂÂs ninth manager of the season, with the boardÃ¢ÂÂs official statement reading, Ã¢ÂÂIf Maradona can be a manager, Gazza can bloomin' well be one too.Ã¢ÂÂ
HeÃ¢ÂÂs fired two days later.
It all comes down to this. Three weekends to go. Manchester United vs Chelsea. Sky Sports does its nut. Never has a game been bigger than this.
1-0. United win the title. Oh.
There are no surprises as Man City claim the fourth Champions League spot ahead of Spurs, either.
But at St JamesÃ¢ÂÂ Park, Hughton returns and claims a vital draw in the final game of the season to keep Newcastle up. HeÃ¢ÂÂs given the keys to the city.
Wigan also stay up with a last-day win, sending West Brom down to the Championship (again) with a bemused Stoke and an ecstatic Blackpool, who have won at Old Trafford on the final day to avoid finishing bottom. They go on an open-top bus tour around Blackpool, which is cold.
Taking the trioÃ¢ÂÂs place in the Prem for next season are Middlesbrough, Ipswich and, due to an administrative error everyone is too polite to correct, Burton Albion FC. Roll on 2011-12...