The Three Year Swing….

28th November 2009.

Portsmouth were 20th in the Premier League.

Southampton were 20th in League One.

43 teams separated these great rivals.

28th November 2012.

Southampton are 18th in the Premier League.

Portsmouth are 20th in League One.

45 teams separate these great rivals.

A role reversal of immense proportions as their fortunes almost mirror each other perfectly. What does the future hold? Who knows.

Of that 2009 Premier League table, Birmingham City, Burnley, Blackburn, Hull, Bolton and Wolves are also now absent (is it me or does the league look a hell of a lot stronger now?).

Things can change so fast in football! That is why you must always take advantage of the ascendancies! I noticed some of the teams that now sit between us that were of particular interest:-

Chris

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Saints Get Their Man: Jay Rodriguez

For me, as someone who was never his biggest fan, having Rory Delap as our record signing felt like a monkey on our back. How could we ever be taken seriously with a player of Delap’s quality holding such a prestigious title?

Finally, on Sunday that record was broken. In what was seemingly a long drawn out process, and after much journalist/supporter speculation Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez signed for the club for a fee believed to be in the region of £6-7 millon. Whether or not the club intended to announce it on that day is questionable, but after an eagle eyed hotel guest/member of staff took the snap below, the cat was out of the bag!

Transfer Window

Nigel Adkins has clearly been a long time admirer of “JRod” with the club being continuously linked with the England U21 international, and both staff and supporters alike will be glad to have got their man.

Having scored 15 goals in the Championship last season, 21 in all competitions, the 22 year old proved to be hot property last season, with the likes of Everton, Sunderland and Fulham also believed to be interested.

Immediately, to me it looks like we have bought a player who would be ideal playing off Rickie Lambert, and certainly one who has bags of potential. Many have scoffed at the nature of the transfer fee, but effectively we have gone to Turf Moor and taken their Adam Lallana. How much would you want for him?

To know what we can really expect I sought out those who know him best, and got the opinions of Jamie Smith of Burnley blog NoNayNever and Tony Scholes, editor of Clarets Mad.

Losing Jay

Jamie – “Burnley fans have known for at least a year that Jay Rodriguez would be a Premier League player. I think it’s fair to say – with no disrespect intended to Southampton – that many of us hoped he would get a move to an established side in the top division, but at least a move to the south coast means he’ll have his mate Jack Cork around and the chances are he’ll start most games.”

Tony –“I’m sorry to see Jay Rod go because we are, without doubt, losing our key player. But Southampton are now in the Premier League and Jay needs to go and play there to take his career onto the next step. I watched him come through the youth team via the reserves to the first team and even in our promotion season of 2008/09 he scored some vital and some stunning goals coming on as a substitute.”

Value for Money

Jamie – “A lot has been made of the fee Southampton have paid for Jay and from an outsider’s point of view, this is understandable. £6-7m is a lot of money. But there aren’t many young English strikers out there as good as Jay. I firmly believe it will look like a bargain in a couple of years.”

Tony – “You are getting a player who, in my view, will prove to be very good value for the money you’ve paid, I believe it to be £7 million. He’s a young player who has just got better and better since getting a place in the first team in September 2010.

I don’t think you’ve paid too much for him. It might seem that way right now with him having such little experience but more than one Championship manager last season described him as the best forward in the division.”

Rodriguez at Turf Moor.

Type of Player

Jamie – “It’s hard to describe exactly what sort of player he is. When he first came through into the squad he was seen as a bit of a specialist finisher, coming on to score the winner a few times in our Carling Cup run helped. But he had a bad injury at the start of our season in the Premier League and barely got a look in.

His appearances/goals ratio isn’t really fair to judge him on as he played a lot from the bench in his early days. But the last two seasons saw him secure a place in the side. Brian Laws put his faith in him and Jay repaid him well and last season he was even better, breaking 20 goals for the first time, even though he didn’t play after mid-March because of injury. His goal record in the last two years in the Championship is as good as anyone’s.

Jay can score all sorts of goals. He’s not afraid to have a pop from distance, but he’s far from the sort of player who just shoots whenever the ball comes. He’s intelligent and confident enough to play with his head up – and that’s rare. He’ll drop deep and link the play, his touch is excellent. He’ll run the channels, look to go in behind, get on the end of flick-ons. He’s not great with his back to goal against a big, strong defender, but should provide a good foil for Rickie Lambert. He’s very good in the air for his size, despite not looking like the sort of striker who’ll score headers.”

Tony – “In looking at his strengths and weaknesses I think it is fair to say he has a lot of attributes. He’s a player who doesn’t necessarily do all his work inside the penalty box although he definitely has an ability to get more than his fair share of goals. He scores different kinds of goals too. He’ll get the close range centre forward type goals, he’ll score with headers, he’s a clinical penalty taker (one spot kick apart) and has the ability to hit shots from distance. He’ll say he’s a central striker but I think he offers most when playing that bit deeper enabling him to pick up balls from deep and make runs. He’s strong, and getting stronger, he’s quick although we are not talking Theo Walcott type pace here.”

Future

Jamie – “It’s anyone’s guess how Jay will adapt to the top league and his first few games will shape that to some extent. If he gets off to a flier like Shane Long did last season, he could be in the England squad by Christmas. A slow start will test him. He is a player of huge, vast potential, but the fear for Burnley fans is that he doesn’t get enough service to impress and Southampton come straight back down. I’m sure the Saints survival next year is worth a few quid for us.

The recent transfers of Danny Fox and to a lesser extent Jack Cork haven’t endeared Southampton to Burnley fans, but we’ll certainly be looking out for you on Match of the Day next season to see how Jay gets on.”

Tony – “I personally think he can go all the way and play for England, although we’ll need to be quick because he does qualify for Spain through his dad. He’s English through and through though, a local lad who has lived his entire life to date in Burnley. During his time in the first team he’s become hugely popular with the Turf Moor crowd and there is no doubt he’ll be missed. Because he’s so highly thought of the reaction has been, in the main, one of wishing him the very best of luck. Nothing would please us more than to see Jay Rod become a top Premier League player and pull on an England shirt. You might just have got yourselves a bargain.”

More can be found from Jamie at:- http://nonaynever.net/9709/one-of-our-own-jay-rodriguez/ and Tony:- http://www.clarets-mad.co.uk/feat/edb4/jay_rod__hes_still_one_of_our_own_746850/index.shtml, both worth a read to see how Jay became a terrace favourite at Turf Moor. Thanks to Jamie and Tony for their thoughts.

It is great to see the confidence in him from the fans of his former club, and my reference to Lallana at the start of this article was no coincidence, he is “one of their own” and they are rightly proud of him and confident in his abilities, like we are with Adam. I for one am delighted with this signing.

Welcome to Southampton Jay Rodriguez.

Saint Jay.

Chris

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Saints To Call On Spirit Of 78?

The England Manager has walked out, Liverpool are heading to the League Cup Final, Portsmouth are facing the possibility of relegation after financial woes, Saints have been knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round but occupy a promotion spot, chasing Sam Allardyce’s side to the top flight as they face Burnley on a February Saturday….

Sound familiar? Well all that happened in the 1977/78 season, the last time Saints secured promotion to the top division.

Ok, some of them maybe rather tenuous coincidences, but in the eyes of the superstitious any parallels can and will be drawn!

New Striker Boyer formed a lethal partnership with Ted MacDougall to fire Saints to Division One.

Pulling the strings at the Dell in the late seventies was Alan Ball and once they had entered the promotion spots in early January they were never to leave them.

Goals from new boy Phil Boyer and strike partner Ted MacDougall were key as they eventually finished second to a Bolton side containing now West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. They almost nicked top spot, drawing their last two games to see them fall a point short, but Lawrie McMenemy’s men were good value for their promotion and it would bring top flight football to the Hampshire coast for twenty seven consecutive seasons.

Saints beat Burnley yesterday in an impressive showing and the fans will be hoping that the recent shaky home form has been put behind them. Perhaps now the 2011/12 side can emulate that of the boys of 78 and lose just one more game between the 12th of February and the end of the season…..

The 1977/78 Saints Promotion Season Remake

Directed by

Nicola Cortese

Starring

Nigel Adkins as Lawrie McMenemy

Rickie Lambert as Ted MacDougall

Adam Lallana as Alan Ball

Kelvin Davis as Peter Wells

Jos Hooiveld as Chris Nicholl

and introducing

Billy Sharp as Phil Boyer

Also Starring (in order of appearance)

St. Mary’s Stadium……………….The Dell

Bartosz Bialkowski……………Ian Turner

Frazer Richardson……………Manny Andruszewski

Danny Fox………………….David Peach

Jack Cork…………………Steve Williams

Jose Fonte………………..Mick Pickering

Jason Puncheon……………Austin Hayes

Dean Hammond…………….Nick Holmes

Aaron Martin………….Malcolm Waldron

Danny Butterfield…………….John Sharpe

Guly do Prado…………………Tony Funnell

Morgan Schneiderlin……………Trevor Hebbard

David Connolly……………….Steve Neville

Richard Chaplow……………Peter Osgood

Dan Harding…………………….Tim Coak

Dan Seaborne……………………Mel Blyth

Ben Reeves…………Forbes Phillipson-Masters

Tadanari Lee…………………..Tony Sealy

Andy Crosby……………………Don Taylor

Jason Dodd…………………John McGrath

Chris

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)…

Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.

In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.

Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.

Richard Chaplow celebrates his opener at London Road.

As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.

So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.

We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!

Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.

They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.

What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.

Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.

Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.

Saints not shy for Sky on opening day.

Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.

Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-

Played – 8

Won – 3

Drawn – 3

Lost – 2

Goals For – 14

Goals Against – 14

Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.

What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!

With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Bobby Stokes

“Whoever it was really shouldn’t have thrown that coin at Mark Dennis.”  – Steve Moran talking about his last gasp winner at Fratton Park in 1984. Time had been added on because of treatment to Dennis who had been hit by a coin from the Pompey crowd.

Bobby Stokes

30th January 1951, a hospital in Paulsgrove on the Portsmouth to Southampton Road, a boy is born who would have unwanted fame heaped upon him as the unlikely hero of a famous cup upset.

Robert William Thomas Stokes was a talent at school and county level in Hampshire (he scored fifty three goals in one season for Hillside Junior School and played seven times for England Youth) and it was fully expected that he would sign for his boyhood heroes at Fratton Park. Legend has it though that he failed a trial with Pompey and was forced to look elsewhere, others believe he chose Saints over Pompey because of their youth team (or lack thereof) at the time.

Either way, Stokes would start his career with the arch rivals of his hometown team. He had a modest start to his life at the Dell, but did score on his first team debut against Burnley in 1969. He wouldn’t become a regular until the 1971/72 season and was considered an important member of the team from then on. Despite never being a prolific goalscorer and being relegated with the club in 1974, he will always be regarded as a Southampton hero. @MiltonRoadEnd was a fan “Underrated, probably because he was playing alongside the likes of Davies, Channon, Paine & Osgood. Always gave 100%.”

When he struck gold for Saints in the eighty second minute of the 1976 FA Cup final,  it was to be both the highlight of his career and perhaps the beginning of the end of it. Famously a shy man, Stokes would never need buy a drink again, and the spotlight that he was suddenly in was not suited to him. The reward for scoring the first goal in the final was a car, and legend has it, that Bobby who couldn’t drive booked lessons for after the final just in case.

Stokes struggled for form in the subsequent season after cup success and made just eleven appearances for the first team, scoring just one goal.

Stokes and the Cup!

Upon leaving the Dell Stokes would find himself in familiar surroundings, back in his hometown. Stokes would make twenty nine appearances for Pompey and score three goals (though by now he was playing more in midfield) as the blues ended a shocking season bottom of Division Three.

Stokes Pompey career was over almost as soon as it started with the Fratton crowd not taking to the man who had left their town and performed heroics for “scum”. Pompeydiehard remembers “Bobby was a great shy lad ,we grew up together played in the same school side and at Hants level. He went to Saints instead of Pompey as they never had a youth policy in those distant days. I spoke to him when he joined Pompey in the seventies, he said Dickinson came in for him and his own club didn’t seem to want him to stay. Think he couldn’t really settle at the Park after being at yours for so long. Never really worked out for him here.”

Stokes the Blue.

Stokes left Fratton Park the following summer and joined a growing list of European players who headed to the United States and the evolving North American Soccer League. He signed for Washington Diplomats and became a team mate of Johan Cruyff’s. He played four seasons in Washington before heading back to Hampshire and signing for Waterlooville. He would further play for Cheltenham Town and Chichester City before calling it a day in 1981.

1980 Washington Diplomats

Stokes ran a pub in Portsmouth before working in the Harbour View cafe. He was often tracked down by journalists, usually around cup final time, and despite his modest earnings, never charged a penny for his time. A regular in the stands at both the Dell and Fratton Park he was granted a testimonial year with Saints in 1994, but after a lengthy battle with drink Stokes passed away in 1995 of bronchial pneumonia aged just 44.

“I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.” – Bobby Stokes February 1995.

R.I.P. Bobby Stokes
Pompey boy, Saints star.
1951 – 1995

Chris

Championship Preview Part 1…

Where better to get an all round overview of the thoughts of Championship fans on the coming season than the fantastic club specific blogs. I caught up with a contributor/tweeter from each of the twenty four Championship clubs and got their thoughts on the coming season…

Barnsley:-

Name:- Wilky

Club:- Barnsley FC

Twitter:- @onthepontyend

Website:- On The Ponty End

What can we expect from your club this season? Expect to see a far more resilient and united team at Oakwell this time out. What we may lack in stand-out names on our team sheet, we will more than make up for in our approach and ethic. Many have Barnsley FC as relegation certainties, I disagree. We feel the time may be arriving when our Academy and shrewd acquisition may just begin to bare fruit.

Who is your most important player? It’s a very fresh (expected first eleven) this season, but I would highlight Jacob Butterfield who has featured last season, but would expect to make it in to automatic selection this season. He has excellent skills and vision, which would make him our natural playmaker to link our attacking force together.

Your predicted finishing position? Mid table.

Who might win the Championship? Big Sam will sort it at West Ham United. 

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough United.

Most anticipated fixture? It would probably be Leeds United. Last term we took 4 points off our local rivals and love to destroy their so called mighty status. No Leeds fan would admit they were the weaker team last season and have attributed both results as a poor day at the office on their part. Let’s see!

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Champions League Final, to see if Barcelona really have re-written the football blueprint. Will Manchester United or any club overcome them soon? It’s an interesting situation.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan will be different class in the Npower Championship. His willingness to compete and his goals mark him a class apart.

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Wait until they score first, knowing that their demise will inevitably follow later in the game versus The Super Reds. Pride always comes before a fall and in this instance, there’s always so much smug self satisfaction going on, they would fail to see anything else happening … You only sing when you’re winning!

Birmingham City:-

Name:- Kevin Ball

Club:- Birmingham City

Twitter:- @joysandsorrows

Website:- Joys and Sorrows

What can we expect from your club this season? Err, good question. Things are very odd at the moment, not even sure if we have a full squad! I hope some entertaining football though under Chris Hughton.

Who is your most important player? Any who are left? 😉 Difficult to say, but I will be really pleased if we can keep Scott Dann. He is an amazing defender.

Your predicted finishing position? I’ll be happy to be in the play off mix as a minimum.

Who might win the Championship? Got to between Leeds, Forest, West Ham, Leicester and I hope us! (Well you never know!)

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough. Sorry Posh.

Most anticipated fixture? Probably v West Ham as there is no love lost between our present board and our previous board. Also the way we knocked them out of the Carling Cup last season.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Leicester v Forest I would have thought.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only) who would it be? This is tough, because I didn’t pay any attention to the Championship last year mainly because I didn’t think we would be in it this year! 😦

You find yourself stuck in The Ricoh Arena. How do you escape unnoticed? I would ask could they tell me where the other two Cathedrals were!

Blackpool:-

Name:- John Godwin

Club:- Blackpool Football Club

Twitter:- @goders

What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking, entertaining football with some heavy defeats and shock wins mixed in.

Who is your most important player? DJ Campbell, but depends if we keep him or not! If he goes I see Barry Ferguson leading the team with Matt Phillips adding lots of pace and flair.

Your predicted finishing position? 7th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley.

Most anticipated fixture? Blackpool v Saints (at St Mary’s).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton v Pompey.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? West Ham – Kevin Nolan.

You find yourself stuck in Deepdale. How do you escape unnoticed? Dress in tracksuit and cap whist eating a Wigan kebab (meat pie).

The only way is up for Campbell and Blackpool?

Brighton & Hove Albion:-

Name:- Darren McKay

Club:- Brighton

Twitter:- @NorthStandChat

Website:- North Stand Chat

What can we expect from your club this season? More of the same. Gus Poyet is very definite in his views on how the game should be played: pass, pass and pass again. We have some exciting new players offering lots of attacking promise whilst we’ve yet to strengthen at the back. Maybe we’ll win every game 6-5.

Who is your most important player? That’s a tough one given our new blood. Craig Mackail-Smith is the big money big (and long) name but I have a sneaky feeling that Will Hoskins will turn out to be key for us this year. At the back we’ll be looking for Gordon Greer to lead by example, and that includes not picking up needless sending offs.

Your predicted finishing position? Hopes of ‘doing a Norwich’ are perhaps a tad optimistic, but I think we’ll have enough to ensure we remain free of relegation concerns. Mid-table mediocrity? Yes please!

Who might win the Championship? It’s an obvious answer, but West Ham or Leicester should be there or thereabouts with the squads they have.

Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace. Woeful.

Most anticipated fixture? Crystal Palace at home. For the first time in a generation, we get to compete with our rivals on an even footing.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I really can’t think of one. I’m not sure there’s another Championship game I’d pay the entrance price to see. But, given the source of these questions, I’ll say that sampling a derby between those other 2 South Coast Championship clubs probably holds the most appeal.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Glenn Murray. It sounds like he needs a big hug already.

You find yourself stuck in Selhurst Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d pretend to be Glenn Murray – nobody will be noticing him in a few weeks time.

Bristol City:-

Name:- Chris Cooper

Club:- Bristol City

Website:- OTIB

What can we expect from your club this season? Hard to say with all the uncertainty still surrounding Nicky Maynard. He really is vital to any potential success we may have. After a turbulent (to say the least) season last time around, I’d expect us to improve upon that with a far more settled side. Mid-table finish after a short flirt with the play offs, maybe sneaking in should Mr Maynard stay the duration.

Who is your most important player? Maynard without doubt. Can produce something from absolutely nothing, something very few players in the Championship can do. If he leaves, then Albert Adomah who had a storming debut season on the right wing, and is on the verge of full honours for Ghana.

Your predicted finishing position? 11th.

Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham and Leicester at this stage.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley are perennial top of the bottom 6 material.

Most anticipated fixture? With Swansea gone, our games with Cardiff should be reignited. West Ham at Upton Park will sure to be a popular one as well.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Couple of fantastic derby games this year. West Ham Vs Millwall being the obvious one. The two South coast clubs (Pompey and Saints) on even standings should be interesting as well.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? As our defence resembles the red sea in biblical times, Matt Mills would plug the hole I’m sure.

You find yourself stuck in the Memorial Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? I hide myself in the large tent behind one goal (the away end) and wait untill the end of the season until its wheeled away to be used at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. I mean what sort of tinpot club has a temporary tent?

Nicky Maynard - The Key to Bristol City's Season?

Burnley:- 

Name:- Tony Scholes

Club:- Burnley

Twitter:- @clarets_mad

Website:- Clarets Mad 

What can we expect from your club this season? That’s a good question and right now it almost feels as if we are about to step into the unknown. Since the squad reported back for pre-season training no less than three of them have left with a further two, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, expected to leave for Bolton at any time. To replace them we’ve signed two young defenders on loan from Manchester City and as yet, nothing else. There is time yet but it does feel as though we’ve wasted an opportunity by not getting the squad together early enough.

Who is your most important player? Hopefully all of them will be important but the stand out players are Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez who have both come through the youth system at Burnley. McCann is fit again after almost two years out of the game and at his best is as good a central midfield player as you will find in the Championship. He’s been so badly missed and it will be like having a new signing. Rodriguez, despite the name, is a real case of local boy makes good. He’s just enjoyed his first season in the first team and has become a crucial member of the side. He ended the season as leading goalscorer and not many players in the entire Championship scored more goals than he did. HIs 15 didn’t include a penalty and he could well step up towards 20 goals this coming season. He made an England debut last season at under-21 level and has an exciting future in front of him.

Your predicted finishing position? I would love to say first, but so would any supporter of any club. I’ll be realistic and I think if we could make a good start then we have a decent chance of making the play offs. In 2009 we finished 5th so I’ll go for that again.

Who might win the Championship? Not many eyes are looking too far beyond Leicester at the moment. Only today they have signed Manchester City’s Michael Johnson on loan and they are certainly putting a strong squad together. You know there’s money around once Sven Goran Eriksson shows his face, but for how long? Could it be another club where it all ends in tears? For now though they have to be favourites.

Who definitely won’t? I suspect there are a few who fall into that category. I think Peterborough will struggle and I don’t think there will be too many complaints if they do given they’ve got both Barry Fry and Darren Ferguson there.

Most anticipated fixture? Right now it’s Watford because it’s our first game. We’re stuck with hardly any local games this season with Blackpool as the only other North West club in the Championship. Personally I’m looking forward to going to Brighton and not having to suffer the Withdean but maybe Leeds will be the big games for us.

Most anticipate fixture that doesn’t involve your club? If that’s in the Championship then I’ve no real answer. Nothing stands out above anything else. Outside the Championship, and outside England, I’ll have the Barcelona v Real Madrid games marked in my diary.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club who would it be? It would have to be a goalscorer. They are the players who win the games for you. I’d have liked to have re-signed David Nugent so I’d go for someone like him or potentially Reading’s Shane Long.

You find yourself stuck in Ewood Park. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s easy. I’d just walk out. They’d be too busy tucking into their Venky’s chicken.

Part Two featuring Cardiff, Coventry, Palace, Derby, Doncaster and Hull coming soon…

Chris