Terry Talks February 20th
Many things in England are famous for their unpredictability….the weather, election results and next year’s hit records are just a few of the great unexpected and unknown aspects of what goes on in England.
However, none of these are anything like as difficult to forecast as the results in English football! Since the early 1920’s when football pools first flourished, right through to today when TV, radio and newspapers all carry “expert” forecasts for the up-coming games. Nobody has managed to consistently call the outcome of matches.
Very rarely are the experts right and the obvious thought is that if these people are so good why don’t they just do the football pools for a few weeks and place bets on a range of football fixtures and then sit back and enjoy their winnings? It would surely beat working for a living!
Having aired my thoughts on the forecasting experts I suppose it’s my turn to have a go at getting it all wrong, although I can assure you I shall be doing my very best to come up with a full house of winners, losers and draws.
The trouble is, the more I think about up-coming matches, and the more I delve into the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams involved, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to make predictions with any real consistency.
The problems are obvious. Luck is a key factor. For example a forward may have a blinding shot from 30 yards out that looks to be on its way into the net for a winning goal with the goalkeeper well beaten. It smacks against the inside of the post. On a good day it diverts into the back of the net for a great goal. On a bad day it ricochets across the face of the goal into the keeper’s arms and it goes down as a chance missed and the game swings the other way.
Such instances are key to the magical, mystical attraction of football, particularly in England where the line between success and untold riches for a club and failure leads to relegation, loss of income and even the club failing into administration. The stakes are that high.
At the end of last season Leicester City confounded all the experts by winning the English Premier League in fine style. Now, just nine months later the Club is up to its neck in a relegation battle. This riches-to-rags story tells us as much about the capriciousness of English football as the rags-to-riches examples of clubs rising up the Leagues in quick time to claim a position in the promised land of the Premier League.
My old club, Southampton, is a good example – from going into Administration and a compulsory 20 point deduction when relegated to League One, the third tier of League football, to the Premier League, all in little over four years.
Another example, this time of a Club going in the opposite downward direction was Portsmouth’s almost “overnight” fall from the top half of the Premier League and the dizzy heights of winning the FA Cup in 2008, to the ignominy of two shots at Administration and life in League Two (the fourth tier of football) just four years later.
The day to day results in the Premier League, the Championship and, the various Cup matches continue to confound the “expert” forecasters and now I’m looking at the fixtures for this coming weekend, (Saturday 25 Feb) I can certainly see why. The dreaded spectre of relegation is now clouding issues such as superior skill and players’ ability. Teams are now scrapping for their lives and if a team of desperadoes goes out determined to give it their all and so maintain their higher division wage packets, there is always a chance they may overcome a classier, better team, but one enjoying life in mid table comfort.
One such match is Everton v Sunderland. This sees Sunderland with one foot already in the Championship and with former Everton boss David Moyes in charge, going to Goodison. On paper and recent form this should be a home win but that desperation factor will creep in. Moyes knows Everton only too well and he’ll probably line his team up defensively in the hope of getting a draw. That means if they defend well and Everton get frustrated then it’ll only need a breakaway for Sunderland to knick it. Don’t forget they won 0-4 at Crystal Palace in their last away game.
West Bromwich against Bournemouth is interesting. Bournemouth have an astute young manager in Eddie Howe and with his team very much in need of points, his line-up will seek to stifle and thwart West Brom, hoping they’ll get frustrated and then, with the home crowd getting restless, Bournemouth may get a share of the points. With West Brom not threatened with relegation and not driven b y a chance of winning the League, hard work and effort may bring a surprise reward.
Chelsea v Swansea should be a home banker with the Blues currently carrying all before them and, even acknowledging Swansea’s recent improvement under new manager Paul Clement, it looks like a damage limitation quest for them.
Crystal Palace against Middlesbrough is another that’s hard to call. Yes, the visitors are having a fair season and should have too much ability for Palace to overcome but until now Sam Allardyce has a reputation for turning failing clubs around and winning lost causes. The trouble is, he’s been failing to do this very publicly since he arrived at Selhurst Park and time is running out for him to maintain his reputation.
Burnley’s visit to Hull could go either way but since most of Burnley’s points have been won at home, I rather fancy Hull to win this one. On Sunday we have Spurs versus Stoke and while this should be a Spurs win, they have been looking a bit erratic lately and maybe they are starting to suffer a towards-the-end-of season tiredness which may be the price of their manager’s energy sapping high pressing game. It certainly seemed to put paid to their title hopes last season.
On Monday it is Leicester against Liverpool. Here again it should be a comfortable win for the visitors but Leicester will be desperate to get something and an early goal could see them hang on for a draw.
In the Championship the weekend is dominated by some tantalising local derbies. On Friday night there’s the mighty Midland’s clash of Wolverhampton versus Birmingham City. Then on Saturday we have Leeds versus Sheffield Wednesday and on Monday it’s the East Anglian clash between Norwich City and Ipswich. With local derbies it is remarkable how form goes out of the window and the game ends in a draw.
All things considered though, there are some value in the betting this weekend…If you are feeling lucky, visit WSB to bet now!