Blackpool fan Norman Ralph takes a look at Blackpool’s season so far and what they have up their sleeve for the second half of this already exciting season back in the top flight.

When I wrote a post on my own blog about Blackpool winning the English Championship play-off final with the title “Blackpool for the Champions League”, I was writing somewhat tongue in cheek, I could not have imagined that they would actually go out and perform the way they have done. The English Premier League season is nearly half way through and Blackpool lie in 12th place on 19 points. They are not going to qualify for a Champions League spot from here, but it is highly likely they will avoid relegation which is a major feat in itself as they were by some margin the bookie’s favourite to go down at the start of the season (average price around 2/7).

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*All stats are correct as of Friday 19th November

Many questions were raised when Jay Bothroyd received a call up to England’s National team for the friendly against France. Isn’t there someone else playing in the Premier League that would be more worthy of a call-up? Is a player playing in the second tier good enough for an International team as highly ranked as England?

There are many blogs that have gone into the positives and negatives of Bothroyd’s call up, that is not the question I wanted to look at. Fabio Capello has himself questioned the number of English players playing at the highest level, limiting the pool of players he can pick his squad from. Does Capello have a point? If not who are the strikers playing in the Premier League that Capello could call on and are other countries suffering the same fate?

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You’ve read BBC, consulted TeamTalk listened to the Journalists on twitter, but of course it’s the opinion of me “gibfootballshow” that you’ve been waiting for, Yeah I know this is the 107th Premier League preview you’ve read however where would I be as a blogger if I didn’t recognise one of the biggest leagues in the world starting it’s season, going to try and do it a little different so you don’t lose interest quickly, but I can’t promise miracles.

Instead of just picking the winners, I will list all 20 Premier League clubs and little reasons why as we go on, also at the end there will be 5 players to watch out for this season. So without further ado here we go English Premier League 2010/11 starts now.

2.Manchester United
3.Manchester City


I have picked Chelsea as my eventual winners of the league, good manager a very strong squad, if Essien stays fit he is like a new signing for them, Ramires for me is a pivotal move, very strong energetic midfielder, loves to go box to box, great technique, workhorse engine, I think will take to the Premier League like a duck to water, Lampard and Drogba will score 20 goals each as always, Daniel Sturridge will have a good year, I don’t think any of the other teams in the league are as strong or have as much depth.

Manchester United will be strong, Hernandez looks like being the steal of the year, need to see whether he can play with Rooney first, Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar are another year older, lots of expectation on Nani and Valencia, Sir Alex will need to summon all his managerial expertise to overcome Chelsea this season, not far behind them will be Manchester City, some excellent signings geared more towards building a team than just buying big name players, Kolarov will come to be a very important move, great left back, desire to get forward, cultured left foot, there is also not lots of pressure on him to perform, David Silva and Mario Balotelli are two fantastic signings “Super Mario” is the most exciting signing this summer for me, one of the best young players in the World, £24 million may sound like too much money however in two years he will be worth double, the move to the Premier League gets him away from the pressure of the Italian media that highlight everything he does simply because he is a black Italian man, in this country the things that he does are no different to any footballer, Bellamy, Cole and Terry make him look like an alter boy. Mancini will have a hard job keeping the 25 players picked for the squad happy; this could be City’s downfall.

Year after year we say “Arsenal need a goalkeeper, a centre back and a central midfielder” Well they signed a centre back, but he lacks experience I have no doubt Koscielny will be one of the top defenders in 3 or 4 years, but not this season, with an experienced goalkeeper behind a young defence they would concede fewer goals and have a chance at the title, the first team are Championship material, and on their day capable of beating any team in the league, however once the injuries and suspensions kick in, the players replacing them will struggle, I’m sure Bookies have suspended betting on a van Persie injury occurring at some point.

8.Aston Villa
9.Birmingham City

Anfield is buzzing again, Roy Hodgson has got some smiles back on the faces of Liverpool fans already, mostly because he has “convinced” Gerrard and Torres to stay at the Merseyside club, Joe Cole is a decent signing maybe not for £6 million signing on fee and £90,000 a week but that will all be forgotten once he scores the winner against a big club, Problems still exist however, the defence is not watertight, Carragher is aging and cracks are starting to appear, whether you can count on Agger and Skrtel together worries me, Glen Johnson proves times after time he can’t defend, and Fabio Aurelio is Liverpool’s best left back, the midfield is strong Christian Poulsen will be a success at Anfield, either along side Lucas or Gerrard with Jovanovic and Cole supporting, I can see Liverpool playing better football than last year but in the end coming up short.

There will not be much between Spurs, Everton and Villa, with O’Neill gone and Milner surely to follow Villa will struggle, there are still quality players there, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are cornerstones to build the team around, if the new manager spends the Milner money wisely (if he gets any at all) then they could push for top six, Tottenham will need to find a way to balance the league matches with the Champions League, favourites to qualify over Young Boys, Arry Redknapp needs to strengthen his squad to have any chance of competing on two fronts, defensively there are problems, King and Woodgate will not play 20 games between them, Dawson needs a stable partner to be able to excel, Keane, Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko are all good players but lack that extra little touch of quality all the big teams have.

David Moyes has been quite quiet so far, Jermaine Beckford arrives with high hopes, able to score in League One for fun, questions over whether he can make the big step up, Pre-season form in promising, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill and Saha are important pieces of the Goodison Park jigsaw, Jagielka and Heitinga are the safety net keeping it all together, all the pieces there for a good season, depth could be an issue. Nikola Zigic and Ben Foster no doubtly make Birmingham a better team, I worry on how Zigic will adapt to the EPL style and the laws of averages would say it would take a miracle for the performances seen at St.Andrews to be repeated, there is time still left for Alex McLeish to strengthen the squad, does the club have that extra ambition though.

10. Wigan
11. West Ham
12. Fulham
13. Sunderland
14.Stoke City
16.Blackburn Rovers

7 teams that could all either finish top half of the table or near the relegation battle, worse case scenario they could end up with both, the league is tight enough that a victory either way could mean 9th or 16th, which I suppose is the appeal of the EPL. Wigan and Martinez need to adapt and play a passing but defensively tough strategy, Boselli is an exciting signing, added to Rodallega, N’Zogbia, McCarthy and Alcaraz they are a young exciting team, with an equally exciting manager. West Ham have a chance to redeem themselves from an awful season last year, good signings in Winston Reid and Pablo Barrea, dealt a blow with Hitzlsperger’s injury, they have the tools to finish safely away from relegation.

Fulham are a bit of an unknown force with Mark Hughes in charge, not quite sure how they will line up, If they complete the deal for Moussa Dembele he will be an excellent recruit, as of right now I think the team is weak in parts, with Schwarzer, Hangeland, Murphy and Zamora it is a strong spine. I worry for Sunderland at times, they sign good players Riveros, Mensah and Wellbeck, but they suffer from players not being able to settle or injuries the North-East is a place where the fans are always expectant and this pressure sometimes becomes too much for players, they rely heavily on Bent’s goals and I’m not sure they have the players to be creative for him.

Stoke and Wolves are two similar teams, both now have a big money striker, Fletcher and Jones, both play a strong physical game, and both in their first season in the Premier punched way above their weight, this year will be another tough year, the worst thing a team can do is think they are “established” and rest on their laurels, which is why both teams have went out and spent money on making the team better, I’d prefer Tony Pulis to Mick McCarthy as a manager, not the prettiest football to watch but it produces results, another team under the same ilk are “Big” Same Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, only one signing so far in Mame-Biram Diouf on loan from Manchester United, not the worst team but they are not going to strike much fear in the other teams, could get drawn into a relegation battle, but should have enough to survive.

17. Newcastle United
18.Bolton Wanderers
19.West Brom

So on to the bottom of the Premier League, I think everyone has Blackpool going down, it would be a massive shock if they stayed up, a bit like Arles of Ligue 1 in their story and their signings, lots of journeymen onboard, a good manager, but it will be a long old season for the seasiders. I see West Brom joining them in the drop zone, I like Roberto Di Matteo as a manager has done a great job however they just don’t have a strong enough team to stay up, another yo-yo year for the Baggies. The big battle for me will be the last relegation place, which will be between Newcastle United and Bolton, no offence to Owen Coyle but his team I think will struggle, Elmander has just not turned up in the EPL yet, Klasnic is good, the loss of Weiss and Wilshere will effect them, Petrov isn’t getting any younger, and they could lose some good players in January at the latest, Chris Houghton is probably the most inexperience manager in the league and with Newcastle not splashing the cash they could find it tough on their return to the top flight, Collocini and Gutierrez, Nolan and Steve Harper are of Premier League quality, and could be the little bit of class that keeps them up……just.


#1 – RAMIRES – Chelsea

Just signed today for Ancelotti’s team, I have like the player since I first saw him in last years Confederations Cup, he started next to Kaka in midfield and was breathtaking to watch, Brazil played with a fast counter attacking style and Ramires was the catalyst being the pace and the power, a player that never stops running, will defend and attack all game, good on the ball, does the simple things well, just an all round good player and a very exciting signing for Chelsea fans to watch.

#2 – WINSTON REID – West Ham United

Signed from FC Midtyjland this New Zealand international was one of the brightest prospects in Scandinavian football, after a great World Cup for the only undefeated team at the tournament he looked very good, Strong, good in the air, seem to have a good positional sense, has pace to stay with the speed merchants, I think he will add an extra layer of protection in front of Robert Green, and could become the leader of the Upton Park backline.


A free signing for David Moyes, everyone is questioning whether he can make the step up in class, there is no doubt Jermaine has the ability, his mentality might be under question, failed to turn up at times when Leeds needed him most, this could be the best situation for the striker, no pressure to score loads of goals, Everton don’t have a World Class forward in the squad so there could be plenty of chance for Beckford to step in, as a player he knows where the goal is, has pace to trouble defences, a true predator.

#4 – GIOVANNI DOS SANTOS – Tottenham Hotspur

Now by the time the transfer window closes, dos Santos could have left Spurs, I really hope he stays, he seems to have grown up a little, maybe even matured, after a fantastic World Cup where from the first minute he looked in the mood to terrorise defences, he was one of the reasons Mexico drew plaudits and made it through their group stage, I watched Spurs play in pre-season and again he looked in the mood, a lovely back heel to Bale for the only goal against Benfica, he seems to have played his way in Redknapp’s squad, I would love to see him given a chance at White Hart Lane, this could be the year he fulfils his potential.

#5 – STUART HOLDEN – Bolton Wanderers

If Coyle’s men are to stay up they will need to exciting play of the only Scotsman to play at the World Cup, born in Aberdeen, Stuart has been a star of the MLS and is due to break into the US Men’s National Team very soon, had his season disrupted by injury during a friendly in the Netherlands with the National Team, Bolton fans were just starting to appreciate his talents, a tricky winger who can play in a fantastic cross, he will be a star for his country leading up to the 2014 World Cup, and I expect him to be a star for the Lancashire club this season.

There we go, predictions done, teams put into order and players to watch, now tomorrow of course they will all either not play, get injured or lose.


The English Championship can boast one of the wealthiest games in all of football, the Playoff Final played at Wembley could be worth 50 to 60 million pounds to the winner, and heartbreak and a tough season ahead for the losers.

4 teams tonight and tomorrow fight for their place in the Playoff Final; both games still in the balance, the winners will then be 1 win away from a place at England’s top table the Barclay’s Premier League.

The teams in question are Blackpool, Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City and Leicester City. Nottingham Forest were once the top team in Europe winning 2 European Cups, and then in the 90’s the fell all the way down to the 3rd tier of English football, Promoted from League One last season they have had a remarkable season under Billy Davies it is no easy feat to have the chance of 2 promotions in a row.

Leicester City of course had some wonderful seasons in the Premier League under Martin O’Neill making stars out of Neil Lennon, Emile Heskey, Steve Guppy, Muzzy Izzet etc once O’Neill left Peter Taylor continued the good job but was sacked in his second season, Micky Adams took over and things got from bad to worse for Leicester, relegation then administration followed and Leicester like Nottingham Forest found themselves in the 3rd Tier of English football, a rebuilding process began, Once in League One talented manager Nigel Pearson took over and in his first season they were promoted as Champions, and now with a chance for consecutive promotions and a chance to have a crack at the big time again.

If any team could do with the riches of the Premier League Cardiff City would be pretty high up that list, there’s has been doubt cast over Cardiff’s financial state in recent times, Peter Risdale trying to find a rich buyer for the club and coming up short, then promising all season ticket sales would be spent on players, and once again not delivering, Cardiff have been in the Championship since 2003 and would see this as their greatest chance to make it to the top flight, talented players like Peter Whittingham, Michael Chopra and Joe Ledley will be hoping they can fire their team to Wembley, and the Cardiff fans will be hoping the same, if they don’t win promotion the chances of these players remaining at Cardiff next season are very slim, even their status as a club could be under threat.

Now most people reading this blog I would hope have at some point taken a holiday in Blackpool, cold sea winds, Blackpool Tower, the Piers, the Pleasure Beach and Premier League Football, sounds good doesn’t it, well maybe not good but would be wonderful for the people of Blackpool, with the backing of Latavian Businessman Valeri Belokon they have made their way out of League One and up the Championship table and secured their Playoff spot on the last day of the season, having eccentric manager Ian Holloway in charge has spurred The ‘Pool on to new heights, and who would bet against them reaching the dizzy heights of the Premier League.


Blackpool welcomed Nottingham Forest to Bloomfield Road last Saturday and the game did not disappoint, Forest started the better side and made it pay when Chris Cohen curled a beautiful shot with the outside of his left foot past Blackpool’s keeper, this only woke Blackpool up and they went on the hunt for a equaliser, a great move sweeping from right to left then back in the middle to find Keith Southern unmarked in the box his left foot shot trundled into the net, the first half ended with Dexter Blackstock’s header coming off the crossbar and Stephen Crainey clearing efforts off Blackpool’s goal line.

The Second half was all Blackpool and when James Perch brought down DJ Campbell in the box, Charlie Adam who has been Blackpool’s talisman all season calmly tucked it away for the 2-1 lead and that’s how the game finished Blackpool might rue the chance to score a third with the amount of possession they had in the Second Half.


This game was a much tighter affair, both teams still attacking but not as open as at Blackpool, Cardiff at times looking like the home side as they peppered the Leicester goal, the first half was all Cardiff, nervous Leicester fans could only watch on.

The second half started the same, Jay Bothroyd had a great header tipped over the bar in an early attack, it was Richie Wellens that got Leicester going firing a drive just past the post, then they had a penalty claim when Martyn Waghorn was bundled over when trying to get on the end of a cross, the pleas were waved away by referee Wiley.

On 78 minutes Peter Whittingham made the break through, a free kick on the right hand side, looked like he was going to play it into the box, He had different ideas, smashing the ball with his left foot past Chris Weale, there was nothing the keeper could do, a fantastic goal. For the remaining 10 minutes Leicester bombarded the Cardiff goal but David Marshall was not to be beaten and Cardiff will take a 1-0 lead into the 2nd leg.

2nd LEGS 

Tonight Blackpool travel to the City Ground with a slender lead, and Billy Davies will be hoping his team can use the home advantage and peg back the result and go on to Wembley. Blackpool will be confident they can score a goal away from home, it should be a great game, I cannot see anyone running away with it, and should go till the end, I would not be surprised if it ended on penalties, an exciting but cruel end for either team, my heart says Blackpool, think it would be great to see them in the Premier League, however my heart says Nottingham Forest I think they will have too much at home for Blackpool.

Prediction Blackpool 1 Notts Forest 3 (3-4 on agg)

Tomorrow Leicester go to Cardiff knowing they have to score 2 goals, and I think it will be too much for them, Cardiff looked great on Sunday and I think they will score more at home and I can’t see Leicester having an answer for them.

Cardiff will win by two and book their place at Wembley.

Prediction Cardiff 2 Leicester 0 (3-0 on agg)


That would make it a Nottingham Forest v Cardiff City Final – who will go on to emulate Burnley from last year when they beat Sheffield United in the final, and although they have come back down, I doubt they regret their year in the Premier League.