Apocalypse Football

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Ultimate Championship 2014-15: The Average Predictions

Last year I worked out the average predictions across the four divisions. When entered as the league standings, they incorrectly predicted I would win. Nonetheless, it did surprisingly give an insight into who the main contenders would be - all of the predicted winners in each division finished inside the top 6 of those divisions in the final standings, while the predicted top 5 of myself, Joe Shennan, John Reid, Sam Robinson and Will Beckman all did indeed finish inside the top 5, albeit in a different order. It also correctly predicted that Keir Beales would finish last.

The average predictions also correctly predicted 3 of the 4 actual league winners, though the less said about our collective prediction that Bolton would win the Championship the better. If competing, the average predictions would’ve finished 7th in the Premier League with 68 points, joint 5th in the Championship with 106 points, 9th in League One with 124 points, and joint 6th in League Two with 154 points, giving it a total of 452 points - only John, Joe and myself picked up fewer points over the four leagues.

So with the possibility of there actually being method to the madness, here are this year’s average predictions based on everyone’s selections, and the projected standings that they give - any ties were separated by putting the team someone put the highest in any of the predictions (e.g. Leicester are placed above Aston Villa as their highest prediction was 11th versus Villa’s 13th):

Premier League
1. Chelsea (Avg pos: 1.76)
2. Manchester City (1.88)
3. Arsenal (3.29)
4. Manchester United (3.94)
5. Liverpool (4.18)
6. Tottenham Hotspur (6.12)
7. Everton (6.88)
8. Newcastle United (8.24)
9. Stoke City (9.53)
10. Southampton (10.82)
11. West Ham United (12.29)
12. Swansea City (12.71)
13. Sunderland (13.06)
14. Queens Park Rangers (14.35)
15. Hull City (14.71)
16. Leicester City (16.24)
17. Aston Villa (16.24)
18. Crystal Palace (16.47)
19. West Bromwich Albion (17.88)
20. Burnley (19.41)

Championship
1. Derby County (3.07)
2. Wigan Athletic (4.13)
3. Cardiff City (4.93)
4. Norwich City (5.60)
5. Watford (7.00)
6. Blackburn Rovers (7.27)
7. Fulham (7.87)
8. Reading (8.27)
9. Nottingham Forest (9.53)
10. AFC Bournemouth (9.53)
11. Middlesbrough (9.67)
12. Ipswich Town (10.27)
13. Wolverhampton Wanderers (10.47)
14. Brighton & Hove Albion (12.13)
15. Bolton Wanderers (15.20)
16. Sheffield Wednesday (16.27)
17. Leeds United (18.47)
18. Millwall (18.60)
19. Rotherham United (18.67)
20. Brentford (18.80)
21. Huddersfield Town (19.33)
22. Charlton Athletic (20.40)
23. Birmingham City (21.00)
24. Blackpool (23.53)

League One
1. Sheffield United (2.80)
2. Preston North End (3.13)
3. Bristol City (4.33)
4. Peterborough United (4.53)
5. Doncaster Rovers (5.53)
6. Milton Keynes Dons (6.00)
7. Leyton Orient (7.87)
8. Barnsley (8.47)
9. Swindon Town (10.00)
10. Yeovil Town (10.93)
11. Bradford City (13.53)
12. Chesterfield (13.80)
13. Fleetwood Town (13.93)
14. Coventry City (14.60)
15. Walsall (15.47)
16. Notts County (15.87)
17. Oldham Athletic (16.40)
18. Port Vale (17.60)
19. Crawley Town (18.07)
20. Scunthorpe United (18.20)
21. Rochdale (19.00)
22. Gillingham (19.47)
23. Crewe Alexandra (19.87)
24. Colchester United (20.60)

League Two
1. Burton Albion (3.87)
2. Southend United (4.67)
3. Portsmouth (5.73)
4. Bury (5.80)
5. Shrewsbury Town (6.27)
6. Luton Town (7.47)
7. York City (8.73)
8. Tranmere Rovers (9.13)
9. Plymouth Argyle (9.60)
10. Northampton Town (10.40)
11. Stevenage (10.80)
12. Carlisle United (11.40)
13. Oxford United (12.33)
14. Cambridge United (13.80)
15. AFC Wimbledon (13.93)
16. Cheltenham Town (14.93)
17. Newport County (16.40)
18. Hartlepool United (17.93)
19. Mansfield Town (17.93)
20. Dagenham & Redbridge (18.33)
21. Wycombe Wanderers (18.60)
22. Morecambe (19.87)
23. Accrington Stanley (20.07)
24. Exeter City (22.00)

FA Cup
5 - Chelsea
4 - Manchester United
3 - Manchester City
2 - Arsenal
1 - Liverpool

League Cup
6 - Manchester United
3 - Chelsea
2 - Arsenal
1 - Everton, Liverpool, Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur

Champions League
9 - Real Madrid
3 - Barcelona, Chelsea

Predicting the Results

Premier League

1. Daniel Lipman - 6
2. Joe Shennan - 14
2. Will Beckman - 14
4. Isaac Leigh - 16
4. Sam Robinson - 16
6. Leo Wright - 18
7. Andy Goode - 22
7. Daniel Critchley - 22
7. David Norris - 22
7. Jack Howes - 22
7. James Bennett - 22
12. James Benson - 30
12. Stuart Bennett - 30
14. Nick Hancock - 34
15. Adrian Ward - 36
15. Sam Down - 36
17. Alex Haysler - 38

Championship
1. Joe Shennan - 46
2. Sam Down - 48
3. James Bennett - 52
4. Daniel Critchley - 58
5. Leo Wright - 60
6. Adrian Ward - 64
6. Stuart Bennett - 64
6. Will Beckman - 64
9. Isaac Leigh - 66
10. Nick Hancock - 68
11. Andy Goode - 70
11. Jack Howes - 70
13. Alex Haysler - 74
13. Sam Robinson - 74
15. David Norris - 126

League One
1. Will Beckman - 44
2. Leo Wright - 46
3. James Bennett - 52
4. Joe Shennan - 52
5. Jack Howes - 58
6. Sam Robinson - 60
7. Sam Down - 62
8. Daniel Critchley - 72
9. David Norris - 72
10. Adrian Ward - 80
11. Andy Goode - 84
12. Isaac Leigh - 86
13. Nick Hancock - 90
14. Stuart Bennett - 110
15. Alex Haysler - 118

League Two
1. Daniel Critchley - 54
1. Joe Shennan - 54
3. Leo Wright - 58
4. Sam Robinson - 64
5. Will Beckman - 66
6. David Norris - 70
6. James Bennett - 70
8. Adrian Ward - 76
8. Andy Goode - 76
8. Jack Howes - 76
8. Sam Down - 76
12. Isaac Leigh - 92
13. Stuart Bennett - 108
14. Nick Hancock - 112
15. Alex Haysler - 178

Overall (excluding cups)
1. Joe Shennan - 166
2. Leo Wright - 182
3. Will Beckman - 188
4. James Bennett - 196
5. Daniel Critchley - 206
6. Sam Robinson - 214
7. Sam Down - 222
8. Jack Howes - 226
9. Andy Goode - 252
10. Adrian Ward - 256
11. Isaac Leigh - 260
12. David Norris - 290
13. Nick Hancock - 304
14. Stuart Bennett - 312
15. Alex Haysler - 408

Of course, this is just an experiment. Don’t read much into it, although it’s fair to say my da is going to be closer to the bottom than the top, as is tradition.

The Ultimate Championship 2014-15 - James’ predictions

Premier League
1st Manchester City
2nd Chelsea
3rd Arsenal
4th Manchester United
5th Liverpool
6th Tottenham Hotspur
7th Everton
8th Newcastle United
9th Queens Park Rangers
10th West Ham United
11th Stoke City
12th Swansea City
13th Sunderland
14th Southampton
15th West Bromwich Albion
16th Leicester City
17th Aston Villa
18th Crystal Palace
19th Hull City
20th Burnley

Championship
1st Cardiff City
2nd Norwich City
3rd Wigan Athletic
4th Watford
5th Derby County
6th Ipswich Town
7th Brighton & Hove Albion
8th Fulham
9th Reading
10th Blackburn Rovers
11th Nottingham Forest
12th Bolton Wanderers
13th Wolverhampton Wanderers
14th AFC Bournemouth
15th Middlesbrough
16th Sheffield Wednesday
17th Brentford
18th Rotherham United
19th Leeds United
20th Huddersfield Town
21st Millwall
22nd Charlton Athletic
23rd Birmingham City
24th Blackpool

League One
1st Sheffield United
2nd Peterborough United
3rd Doncaster Rovers
4th Preston North End
5th Bristol City
6th Milton Keynes Dons
7th Barnsley
8th Leyton Orient
9th Swindon Town
10th Scunthorpe United
11th Yeovil Town
12th Fleetwood Town
13th Coventry City
14th Bradford City
15th Walsall
16th Chesterfield
17th Gillingham
18th Notts County
19th Port Vale
20th Rochdale
21st Colchester United
22nd Oldham Athletic
23rd Crewe Alexandra
24th Crawley Town

League Two
1st Burton Albion
2nd Southend United
3rd Shrewsbury Town
4th York City
5th Plymouth Argyle
6th Bury
7th Tranmere Rovers
8th Carlisle United
9th Oxford United
10th Cheltenham Town
11th Northampton Town
12th Luton Town
13th Stevenage
14th Newport County
15th Mansfield Town
16th Portsmouth
17th AFC Wimbledon
18th Cambridge United
19th Dagenham & Redbridge
20th Morecambe
21st Hartlepool United
22nd Accrington Stanley
23rd Wycombe Wanderers
24th Exeter City

Conference
1st Barnet
2nd Gateshead
3rd Wrexham
4th Forest Green Rovers
5th Grimsby Town
6th Eastleigh
7th Bristol Rovers
8th Kidderminster Harriers
9th Aldershot Town
10th Woking
11th FC Halifax Town
12th Torquay United
13th Macclesfield Town
14th Chester
15th Braintree Town
16th Lincoln City
17th Alfreton Town
18th Nuneaton Town
19th Southport
20th Welling United
21st Altrincham
22nd Dartford
23rd Dover Athletic
24th AFC Telford United

FA Cup: Chelsea
League Cup: Manchester United
Champions Lge: Real Madrid

The Ultimate Championship 2014-15 - League Predictions Competition

Welcome to the Ultimate Championship, a completely free predictions competition for the 2014-15 season.

The idea is to predict what you expect to be the final league table come May. I will stick the tables into my spreadsheet, with 1 point added for every position out each team is – at the end of the season, the person with the lowest number of points wins.

In addition to this, you can also select who you think will win three cup competitions, with a chance to bring your total down further – an increasing number of points are deducted for reaching the semi-finals (2 points), reaching the final (5 points) and winning the trophy (10 points).

The four leagues on offer this year are the Premier League and the three Football League divisions. Additionally, a Conference prediction league will be run separately from the main competition.

You can enter as many leagues you want, but there will be overall standings calculated for those that only entered the top four leagues.

You can submit your entries by email to apocalypsefootball@gmail.com. The deadline for all leagues will be 00:00 on 16th August. Any entries submitted after the deadline will be subject to penalty points (2 points for every day late) - I will accept entries for 2 weeks after the deadline.

In case you need reminding, the teams in each league are as follows:

Premier League
Arsenal
Aston Villa
Burnley
Chelsea
Crystal Palace
Everton
Hull City
Leicester City
Liverpool
Manchester City
Manchester United
Newcastle United
Queens Park Rangers
Southampton
Stoke City
Sunderland
Swansea City
Tottenham Hotspur
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United

Football League Championship
AFC Bournemouth
Birmingham City
Blackburn Rovers
Blackpool
Bolton Wanderers
Brentford
Brighton & Hove Albion
Cardiff City
Charlton Athletic
Derby County
Fulham
Huddersfield Town
Ipswich Town
Leeds United
Middlesbrough
Millwall
Norwich City
Nottingham Forest
Reading
Rotherham United
Sheffield Wednesday
Watford
Wigan Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers

Football League One
Barnsley
Bradford City
Bristol City
Chesterfield
Colchester United
Coventry City
Crawley Town
Crewe Alexandra
Doncaster Rovers
Fleetwood Town
Gillingham
Leyton Orient
Milton Keynes Dons
Notts County
Oldham Athletic
Peterborough United
Port Vale
Preston North End
Rochdale
Scunthorpe United
Sheffield United
Swindon Town
Walsall
Yeovil Town


Football League Two
Accrington Stanley
AFC Wimbledon
Burton Albion
Bury
Cambridge United
Carlisle United
Cheltenham Town
Dagenham & Redbridge
Exeter City
Hartlepool United
Luton Town
Mansfield Town
Morecambe
Newport County
Northampton Town
Oxford United
Plymouth Argyle
Portsmouth
Shrewsbury Town
Southend United
Stevenage
Tranmere Rovers
Wycombe Wanderers
York City

Football Conference
AFC Telford United
Aldershot Town
Alfreton Town
Altrincham
Barnet
Braintree Town
Bristol Rovers
Chester
Dartford
Dover Athletic
Eastleigh
FC Halifax Town
Forest Green Rovers
Gateshead
Grimsby Town
Kidderminster Harriers
Lincoln City
Macclesfield Town
Nuneaton Town
Southport
Torquay United
Welling United
Woking
Wrexham


Cup competitions - select the winner only

FA Cup
League Cup
Champions League

Oh and one final tip - make sure that you include every team, and don’t put the same team in twice. Amazing how often this happens.

——————-

Last Year’s Results

Premier League:
Jake Phillips - 60
Will Beckman - 66
Stuart Bennett - 66
Daniel Critchley - 66
David Norris - 66
John Reid - 66
Andrew Harding - 70
Jack Howes - 70
Jake Gibbons - 72
Isaac Leigh - 74
Sam Robinson - 74
Keir Beales - 76
James Bennett - 76
Joe Shennan - 76
Andy Charles - 80
Dean Gripton - 82
Nick Hancock - 82

Championship:
Nick Hancock - 96
John Reid - 98
Daniel Critchley - 100
Joe Shennan - 102
James Bennett - 106
Sam Robinson - 106
Jake Gibbons - 108
Dean Gripton - 108
Stuart Bennett - 122
Andy Charles - 122
Isaac Leigh - 124
David Norris - 126
Andrew Harding - 128
Will Beckman - 130
Jack Howes - 130
Keir Beales - 136

League One:
Joe Shennan - 102
Will Beckman - 108
John Reid - 108
Jack Howes - 116
Dean Gripton - 118
Jake Phillips - 118
James Bennett - 120
Keir Beales - 122
Isaac Leigh - 126
Sam Robinson - 128
Andrew Harding - 130
Andy Charles - 134
Jake Gibbons - 136
Daniel Critchley - 150
Nick Hancock - 150
David Norris - 158
Stuart Bennett - 164

League Two:
James Bennett - 144
John Reid - 148
Sam Robinson - 150
Joe Shennan - 150
Jack Howes - 152
Dean Gripton - 154
Will Beckman - 156
Daniel Critchley - 156
David Norris - 160
Andrew Harding - 168
Andy Charles - 170
Jake Gibbons - 172
Isaac Leigh - 174
Nick Hancock - 176
Stuart Bennett - 182
Keir Beales - 210

Cup Competitions:
Andrew Harding - 12
David Norris - 12
Joe Shennan - 12
Keir Beales - 10
Will Beckman - 10
James Bennett - 10
Jake Gibbons - 10
Sam Robinson - 10
Dean Gripton - 4
Andy Charles - 2
Isaac Leigh - 2
Jack Howes - 2
John Reid - 2
Stuart Bennett - 0
Daniel Critchley - 0
Nick Hancock - 0

Final Overall Standings:
John Reid - 418
Joe Shennan - 418
James Bennett - 436
Sam Robinson - 448
Will Beckman - 450
Dean Gripton - 458
Jake Gibbons - 466
Daniel Critchley - 472
Jack Howes - 478
Andrew Harding - 484
Isaac Leigh - 496
David Norris - 498
Nick Hancock - 504
Andy Charles - 504
Stuart Bennett - 534
Keir Beales - 534

(tiebreaker is the score combined from the leagues only, excluding the cups)

It’s The End Of An Era For Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur is currently a club in chaos. There is a novice manager, no apparent plan on the pitch and in the boardroom as to how they will make progress, no cohesion and perhaps worst of all, no confidence.

The season which started with so much promise is turning into a train wreck. Spurs are out of the League Cup, likely to go out of the FA Cup to rivals Arsenal in early January, unlikely to go much further in the Europa League and are eighth in the Premier League.

Sacking Andre Villas-Boas after the club’s 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool was not in itself a bad decision. The team were underachieving, the style of football was ugly while playing a high defensive line with Michael Dawson in your line up against Luis Suarez was the silliest logic seen on Planet Earth since Baldrick solved the problem of his mother’s low ceiling by lopping her head off. Playing that high line alone was a sackable offence. Daniel Levy evidently agreed, sacking the Portuguese coach the next day.

Where they went wrong in sacking Villas-Boas is not having a good replacement in the wings, ready to take over. They did have a replacement, but in Tim Sherwood, not a competent one. The ‘next Guardiola’ told Spurs TV on his first day in charge that in the upcoming West Ham game, the opponents would look to employ the counter attack. Sherwood promptly fielded an attacking 4-4-2 with no defensive midfielder. Spurs lost 2-1, both West Ham goals duly coming on the break.

A subsequent win at Southampton raised hopes, before a miserable display with an outdated, rigid 4-4-2 which doesn’t suit the players available bore out a 1-1 draw at home to managerless West Brom. How Sherwood managed to become so matey and highly rated by the club’s upper hierarchy in the first place when he has seemingly little clue is in itself very worrying.

Sacking a manager early in the season and desperately scrabbling round for a replacement is not a situation unknown to Spurs. Late in 2003, Glenn ‘disabled people are paying for sins committed in a past life’ Hoddle was sacked four games into the season. Levy couldn’t find a decent replacement. Eventually Director of football David Pleat, notorious for his inability to pronounce names on TV and radio, was given the job till the end of the season. Spurs finished 15th. Step forward to two weeks ago, Hoddle was rumoured to be the one close to landing the Spurs job till the end of the season. You couldn’t make it up.

This farcical state of affairs perhaps means it’s time for Tottenham, as a club, to perhaps realise it’s the end of their most successful era since the mid to late 1980s. Years of top six finishes, fine football, great players and fantastic glory nights in Europe have made it a great few years to support Spurs.

All great periods though have to come to an end. This season may be that time for Tottenham. They may have spent £100m in the summer, but last season they rarely played well, relying on Gareth Bale to cover up weaknesses. Luka Modric and the way he bossed games as a midfield general has never been satisfactorily replaced. Without Bale, their lack of movement, creativity and ability to pass the ball has left them a stodgy, morose side who are often dismal to watch.

On paper, this shouldn’t be the case. Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, even Andros Townsend are exciting players. But somehow, they’re not clicking. What is worrying is how they’ve looked less and less like gelling the longer they’ve been at the club. Against Cardiff and Norwich in September, they played well and looked like a potentially great side. Since then though, they have got progressively worse and worse. They’ve not been scoring goals, and started conceding them in big, ugly lumps. Three at home to West Ham, five at home to Liverpool, six away to Man City. It’s been painful to witness. And with them playing similarly badly with AVB and now with Sherwood, you have to wonder whether it’s tactics to blame or simply the fact that they’re not very good.

Ever since Harry Redknapp was linked with the England job in February 2012, supporting Spurs has been a joyless experience. A massive collapse saw a comfortable third placed finish turn into fourth at the end of the season and non-qualification for the Champions League because of Chelsea’s success.

Even when he left and Andre Villas-Boas came in, there was little enjoyment there. The style of football wasn’t pretty, games were mostly nervy, anxious affairs won by the odd goal. Under Redknapp, even if the game was tight, you had an aesthetically pleasing style of play to look forward to. You’d be entertained regularly. With AVB, you had all the tension but none of the pleasantness on the eye (on the pitch, because in the dugout he was sexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxy).

With Spurs in decline, it may be a good thing for fans. Poor football and the nagging feeling they should be doing better has made watching Tottenham masochistic rather than a pleasure. It’s been an experience in anhedonia, as people whinge even after good results.

Now results are worsening, expectations are slowly declining, folks who expected Champions League qualification now barely expecting making the Europa League. With less expectations, perhaps the fun might return to White Hart Lane. Years of success have left the home crowd with this odd sense of entitlement that makes booing commonplace and is not conducive to good atmospheres. AVB memorably took umbrage at this shortly before his sacking. This might improve if fans expect less, are prepared to tolerate longer periods of mediocre, sub-standard football and hence enjoy more the rare periods when things do go right.

And anyway, with a new stadium on the way and new ownership once the stadium arrives (by all accounts Daniel Levy and ENIC will sell up and make a profit once the new ground is complete), there may only be a few lean years before success returns to Spurs.

Football Footnotes: Everton - Paul Gascoigne

What could possibly be said about Gazza “Paul” Gascoigne that hasn’t been said already? The man is a walking cliché, from the tears of Turin to taking turkey to a gun-wielding murderer, via breaking his own leg trying to tackle Gary Charles, That Goal at Wembley and stints in China and at Kettering Town. You all know the story - the classic fallen hero saga, a sad decline from virtuoso to alcoholism. I don’t need to explain. I don’t need to explain.

I think the best way to write about him is to reduce him to the level of any other player, and explain my own experiences. I remember the back end of Gascoigne’s career, particularly when he returned from Scotland to sign for Division One promotion-chasing northerners Middlesbrough in early 1998, allowing the media to create a nice “prodigal son” narrative. By this point he was already a semi-mythical figure that people were aware, consciously or otherwise, was on the decline - otherwise why would he end up at Middlesbrough?

He played a handful of games as Boro were promoted to the Premier League, playing alongside Paul Merson, who continued his Indian summer on Teesside before moving on to Aston Villa early in the 1998-99 season. But while Merson demonstrated that a footballer could successfully recover from addiction, Gascoigne could not do the same, and his time at the Riverside was marred by off-field issues, including entering Priory Hospital for the first time in 1998 and a divorce in 1999, as well as injuries such as the broken arm he sustained when he elbowed Aston Villa’s George Boateng in early 2000.

At the end of the season, he joined Everton, much to the surprise of the media, who had assumed no Premier League club would rise to his £20,000 a week wage demands until Walter Smith, Gascoigne’s former boss at Rangers, decided to step in. They already had Mark Hughes on their books but evidently they wanted another past-it 90s hero in the squad.

Now while I remember his at Middlesbrough quite well, his stint at Everton only rings a distant bell for me. I have a vague recollection of him signing for them, but I can’t remember ever seeing him play for them. I had to Google it to see a picture of him in an Everton shirt. It just seems completely unfamiliar.

And yet he did play quite a few games for them - 22 starts and 16 substitute appearances, to be exact. Problem is most of these came right at the start, in the first three months of the 2000-01 season, before the inevitable injuries set in - after 13 appearances from the start to 5th November, he made only two more that season, both coming in March. Another trip to rehab followed, before resuming playing in September, after which he had a long run of appearances into early 2002, during which he even done a goal against Bolton.

Now it’s worth remember in this era of Everton’s Moyesian consistency that they weren’t always this good. The latter half of Walter Smith’s reign in particular was a struggle, though that’s no surprise with players like Francis Jeffers (although he was good then), Alex Nyarko (he wasn’t) and Danny Cadamarteri (he certainly wasn’t) in the squad. In 2000-01 Everton finished 16th on 42 points, as the bottom three of Manchester City, Coventry and Bradford were particularly disappointing. The following season was pretty similar, albeit with David Ginola, whose signing was announced on the same day as Gascoigne and unlikely future club legend Lee Carsley, replacing Mark Hughes as the other token shit old guy (NB Ginola’s stint there could equally fit this slot but we’re doing him for another club), and Jesper Blomqvist also inexplicably hanging around.

In March 2002, the inevitable happened - Smith was sacked. In from Preston came He of the Dour Expression, who decided (correctly) that Ginola wasn’t good enough and barely played him. Gascoigne, though, was in for a different fate - unimpressed by Smith’s sacking, Moyes couldn’t guarantee his future there, and so he wanted out of the SS Toffee. Meanwhile Burnley manager Stan Ternant was showing an interest - he had previously taken on Ian Wright in a similar short term deal in 2000, and had already tried to sign Gascoigne on loan, so with Smith out of the way and no transfer window to contend with, the path was cleared for His Geordieness to move to Turf Moor.

Essentially, the Burnley stint was the last of his career as a serious footballer. After 6 appearances in the last couple of months of the season, during which time the Clarets missed out on the play-offs, he was released. He went on trial to DC United before signing for Gansu Tianma in the second tier of Chinese football, a stint that ended prematurely with another period of rehab and the outbreak of the SARS virus. His last playing appearances in professional football were at a very bleak, desolate outpost - he made five appearances for Boston United in League Two in 2004, where he was briefly a player-coach (could you get a more mentally unstable manager-coach combo than Gascoigne and Steve Evans? And I’m not even trying to play that for laughs) until he left over a dispute over his desire to appear on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here - an appropriate conclusion to the career of a man who became a celebrity who just happened to play football rather than a footballer who just happened to be famous.

JB

England will revert to type in 2014

There will be injuries. There will be baffling selection choices. There will be outrage. There will be media hysteria. There will be dodgy World Cup songs. And there will be tedious, turgid football. It’s the England way.

It may begin with modesty, but don’t take this seriously. We also faced this in 2010 - a team that was clearly mediocre to anyone who understands football (and now looks frankly ridiculous in hindsight - Stephen Warnock!?) led to paired down expectations until the group draw had been made, after which The Sun’s famous E.A.S.Y. headline did all the work any cynic needed.

That was perhaps the point the English media lurched into self-parody about their national team - at least in 2002 and 2006 there were reasons for genuine hope; in 2010 it was clear England weren’t going to win, and yet all it took was one draw to change that. The results in that group proved its ridiculousness - England scraped out of the group in 2nd place before finally being demolished by Germany, though even then the media somehow weaselled out of giving the team a deserved caning for terrible selections by Capello and terrible performances by the eleven men on the pitch because of Lampard’s disallowed goal.

Some people wonder why people get so irate at the prospect of international breaks. It’s because for most of the people who get irate, the international break means watching England, and England have been turgid for years. The traditional narrative has been that England have been good in qualifiers before injury/referee-based “bad luck” in the finals. Some might suggest it’s only a recent Hodgson-based phenomenon that England have been poor in qualifying. This isn’t the case, though - actually it’s been like this for most of the last twenty years, but this has been largely ignored in favour of the usual nationalistic tubthumping from the media and their scapegoat-based narratives.

Let’s consider the Euro 2004-era England team, probably the one where England had the most quality in their first choice starting line-up, before Scholes retired, Beckham and Owen declined, and Rooney’s flair was sucked away. Back then England didn’t need gimmicks like Peter Crouch - they were genuine contenders on merit, lacking only in depth in attack and a viable left wing option. Though “what ifs” aren’t convincing ways of discussing this, it’s easy to think how good England could have been if, say, Alan Shearer was still playing for them, or even if (that old chestnut) Ryan Giggs had committed to them instead of Wales.

I’ve already talked here before about the famous night at Old Trafford in 2002 when Artim Sakiri ended any pretence that Sven-Goran Eriksson had intrinsically changed England. As I pointed out in that article, England had just scraped past Slovakia before the draw with Macedonia. In their next match, they put only two goals past minnows Liechtenstein, before a late Darius Vassell-inspired win over Turkey in Sunderland a few days later. They went on to scrape past Slovakia a second time, again after falling behind, while Macedonia also took the lead again in Skopje before Rooney and Beckham dug England out in the second half. This was followed by another disappointing display against Liechtenstein, and a final 0-0 draw in Istanbul which secured qualification.

The point is England were playing within themselves. Despite having a vastly superior side to what they have now, the results weren’t exactly that much more impressive - they scraped past average sides with the decisive result being an uninspiring late win at home against their main challengers. They always did enough, yes, but that was it - nothing special. Go out and smash a team 4-0? Nah, don’t need to, just settle for 2-0. And people criticise Hodgson for being negative - this is under Saint Sven!

England’s qualification record has long been a source of pride, especially when being used to defend Eriksson and (of late) Capello. “We hardly ever lose”, “we beat Germany 5-1”, “we beat Croatia 4-1” etc. People remember the big results, they look at the stats, and they assume the two things must be related. Actually, if you look at the results in detail - and this continues from Euro 2004 qualification through all the phases since - the big results are the anomalies, with the majority of England qualification performances just being “good enough”. We all remember 2008 - we forget scraping through in 2006.

2008 is always portrayed as an extraordinary situation - McClaren is the convenient scapegoat. But to be honest, the only way in which it is extraordinary is in the quality of the teams England faced - on the surface, England’s form is much the same as under Eriksson. A quick analysis of England’s qualification campaigns of the 21st century seems to confirm this:

2002: England edged Germany on goal difference; after a disappointing start under Kevin Keegan, a 5-1 win in Munich under Eriksson sparked a turn-around, although it took a late David Beckham equaliser at home to Greece to secure qualification; meanwhile Germany completely changed their side after the defeat, banishing some of their mediocre players and changing their style of play, leading to them reaching the final

2004: England edged Turkey, securing it with a 0-0 draw in the final game, despite a hiccup against Macedonia; characterised by lots of narrow come-from-behind wins; Turkey would go on to lose to minnows Latvia in the play-offs

2006: England made hard work of a superficially easy group, eventually securing 1st place in the group with a late Frank Lampard goal in a 2-1 home win over nearest rivals Poland; qualification had been secured with a previous turgid 1-0 win over Austria, a team who had already snatched a 2-2 draw in the previous tie; England had also stumbled to a shock defeat against Northern Ireland, and only won by more than two goals once; Poland would be eliminated in the group stages after losing their first two matches against Ecuador and Germany

2008: England finished 3rd behind Croatia (future quarter-finalists) and Russia (future semi-finalists) after losing three games, all to the teams that finished ahead of them; ultimately what cost England, though, was the two 0-0 draws against Macedonia and Israel; even in victory they were occasionally disappointing, as evidenced by a narrow win in Skopje and failing to score in the first half in Andorra; despite this, they did pick up handy 3-0 wins against Israel, Russia and in both matches against Estonia

2010: England won nine games out ten in a poor group, losing only in Ukraine; but even in one of England’s best campaigns of recent years, there was still cause for concern, including once again failing to score against Andorra in the first half, another scoreless first half against Kazakhstan, going in level at half-time against Belarus, and a late win at home to Ukraine; Ukraine and an under-par Croatia took points off each other which prevented either from mounting a serious challenge, with Ukraine also drawing against Belarus; Ukraine would lose to Greece in the play-offs

2012: England once again made hard work of a routine group, drawing in three out of the eight games, including both games against nearest rivals Montenegro; England’s six-point margin of victory in the group flattered them, as neither Montenegro nor Switzerland were consistent, taking points off each other and both being tripped up by a resurgent Wales towards the end of the group

2014: England drew four of their ten games as they edged Ukraine by a single point; despite big wins over the minnows Moldova and San Marino, England had failed to win a game against three of the five teams in the group until the final pair of matches, when they secured home wins against Montenegro and Poland; the three main rivals to England all took points off each other, with Ukraine succumbing to a crucial defeat at home to Montenegro early in the campaign, as well as throwing away a win at Wembley and drawing in Moldova

(and I haven’t even touched on qualifying via the play-offs for Euro 2000, or having qualification handed on a plate by Italy for the 1998 World Cup)

You see, England have been pretty average for at least some of each of the last six qualification campaigns. They have also been pretty good for some of each of these, but these good performances are largely isolated, and are usually followed by some more narrow escapes. The number of turgid 1-0s and 0-0s far outnumbers the number of convincing 4-1 or 5-1 wins against theoretically good (but actually overrated, in most of these cases) opposition.

The evidence suggests England have consistently been fortunate in their enemies. Despite slipping up on numerous occasions, generally they have not being punished by their rivals. The only difference in 2008 was that Russia and Croatia did take advantage of this. Looking at the bigger picture, England’s results in competitive fixtures under McClaren were no better or worse than they had been under Eriksson, or would not be in the 2012 and 2014 qualifiers under Capello and Hodgson; McClaren was just unfortunate that 1) England had two consistent teams in their group and 2) that the English media have a narrative and he’ll forever be pigeon-holed as a failure. Of course, that doesn’t excuse some of his management decisions, as England should have qualified - the point is that Eriksson, Capello and Hodgson weren’t/haven’t been that much better than him.

Being seeded for most of these draws has been crucial - if England’s ranking slump continues, they may find qualifying for future tournaments tougher, although conveniently the expansion of the Euros means that probably won’t happen immediately,

England fans may wonder why England’s performances “drop off” at the major tournaments. I don’t think they do actually drop off. England have played the same way in tournaments as they have done in the bulk of qualification campaigns - within themselves. Occasionally it all clicks and they pull a great performance out of the bag, but this is very rare and often depends on context.

This should be taken into account when looking at England’s wins over Montenegro and Poland - both matches were at home, both teams set up to defend and to play on the counter, and England needed the results. England won’t play with that urgency in their group games in the World Cup - there’s nothing to suggest they will, because it’s the same every two/four years.

In any case, there will be more controversy to come. There will be the usual outrage over selection issues when someone is inexplicably not called up. A key player will get injured just before and will either be ruled out or will be included but won’t be 100% fit. The media will hype it up, slowly at first but by the time of the first match they will be in “England will win” mode, even if it’s by stealth with phrases like “we may do better with low expectations” - there’s no such thing as “low expectations” when it comes to England at a major tournament. Victories will be embellished, embarrassing results will be airbrushed out, and obvious critical deficiencies will be overlooked.

But if this seems like I’m suggesting that this is unique to England, it isn’t. All teams have selection issues going into major tournaments. All teams go into the World Cup with hype and patriotism. And yet one will still win, and others will achieve more than what they expected. The hard luck narratives and “what if” stories will continue to form as ever when England inevitably fail to get out of the group/are knocked out in the second round/are knocked out in the quarter-finals (delete as appropriate), but these are just excuses.

England are not a great team and haven’t been for many years - they have played as a collection of eleven individuals rather than as a unit. They have consistently been playing turgid, uninspiring football in qualifiers and major tournaments for at least the last two decades. There’s no “bottling on the big occasion” mentality here - if anything, England usually rise to the challenge when necessary, but too often play within themselves against teams they should be beating, relying on moments of individual brilliance to get them through rather than a good team performance. The only time there was a genuine difference between performances in the two was in 2010, and even then it’s not as simple as it seems.

Though it’s not true that England’s star players are overrated as some suggest, it’s fair to say that for the last twenty years, England have been an average team blessed with enough outstanding players to just about get them through to major tournaments - think of all the moments that Beckham, Owen, Rooney and Gerrard bailed England out in matches.

England have lived on the edge of not qualifying all this time, partly because qualifying is not easy but mainly because they aren’t that good. 2014 is part of the rule, not the exception. The only thing this suggests is that the next major tournament will also be part of the rule, not the exception - if you’re hoping for a successful World Cup, prepare to once again be disappointed.

JB

Ultimate Championship 2013-14: Update 1

It’s the international break and thus a good time to post the first official update on how the predictions are going.

Premier League
Daniel Critchley - 68
Jack Howes - 74
James Bennett - 74
Stuart Bennett - 76
John Reid - 76
Joe Shennan - 78
Andy Charles - 78
Sam Robinson - 80
Isaac Leigh
Jake Gibbons - 82
Nick Hancock - 82
Jake Phillips - 84
Will Beckman - 84
David Norris - 86
Keir Beales - 86
Dean Gripton - 86
Andrew Harding - 88

Championship
Daniel Critchley - 104
Stuart Bennett - 110
Nick Hancock - 120
Andy Charles - 120
Keir Beales - 122
John Reid - 122
Sam Robinson - 124
Jake Gibbons - 126
Isaac Leigh - 130
James Bennett - 132
Will Beckman - 140
Joe Shennan - 140
Dean Gripton - 144
Jack Howes - 154
David Norris - 156
Andrew Harding - 168

League One
Dean Gripton - 132
Jake Phillips - 150
John Reid - 154
Andrew Harding - 154
Will Beckman - 154
Jack Howes - 156
Joe Shennan - 158
Keir Beales - 160
Andy Charles - 162
Jake Gibbons - 162
James Bennett - 166
Daniel Critchley - 176
Isaac Leigh - 176
Sam Robinson - 182
David Norris - 182
Nick Hancock - 184
Stuart Bennett - 194

League Two
Dean Gripton - 156
Isaac Leigh - 158
James Bennett - 160
Joe Shennan - 160
Daniel Critchley - 160
Jack Howes - 164
Will Beckman - 170
Andrew Harding - 172
John Reid - 174
Jake Gibbons - 176
David Norris - 180
Sam Robinson - 184
Andy Charles - 184
Nick Hancock - 184
Keir Beales - 218
Stuart Bennett - 220

Cup Update
Of the 16 League Cup selections, four have already been eliminated - Daniel Critchley (Liverpool), Jake Gibbons (Aston Villa), Keir Beales (Everton) and Stuart Bennett (Swansea City). This is fairly meaningless at this stage as no one has scored anything in this so far - it just means you won’t get any bonus deductions later on.

Overall Standings
Daniel Critchley - 508
Dean Gripton - 518
John Reid - 526
James Bennett - 532
Joe Shennan - 536
Andy Charles - 544
Isaac Leigh - 544
Jack Howes - 546
Will Beckman - 548
Jake Gibbons - 548
Sam Robinson - 570
Nick Hancock - 570
Andrew Harding - 582
Keir Beales - 586
Stuart Bennett - 600
David Norris - 604

So the youngest entrant leads us all. It’s a young man’s game…though to be fair, I’d not want to be leading at this stage, because there are loads of changes to come. That said, a great starting point.

International Dream Teams, 1993-2013 - Italy

Yes, we’re resorting to that lazy format - but hey, at least we’re giving you some content, which is a rarity these days. Be grateful.

Anyway, the idea is that I’m putting together some dream teams covering the period 1993-2013 - covering the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign right through to the current one. It’s a nice period to narrow down to given that it covers the Premier League/Champions League era and all the World Cups that both of us at Apocalypse Football have been alive for.

Obviously such a thing is inherently problematic (and pretentious - very pretentious, in fact, although you won’t find us doing Romania or Uzbekistan or anything that won’t get us hits), but the benefit of keeping it to a fairly narrow time period is most of the players have either played alongside/against each other or at least will have played alongside/against someone who will have played alongside/against the rest of them. It’s hardly comparing Gordon Banks with Joe Hart - at most there’s two degrees of separation which makes comparison easier. But Banks was better than Hart, obviously.

I’m starting with Italy because I like Italy. I picked the players based on performance at club and international level, particularly at major tournaments, in this case focusing on Italy’s successful campaigns - Euro 2000 and 2012, and the 1994 and 2006 World Cups:

image

http://sharemytactics.com/1351/

GK: Gianluigi Buffon
One of the great goalkeepers of our time - not only a World Cup winner but also one of only two Italians to play in the finals of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012 (the other being Daniele de Rossi). He also has dozens of medals in club football, though no Champions League winners medal. And he shouts a lot, which is important in a goalkeeper.

RB: Gianluca Zambrotta
No great Italian right-backs of recent times sprung to mind immediately, but Zambrotta was converted to this role before the 2006 World Cup, so is good enough for this. I still remember when he was considered to be a midfielder, before being switched to left-back and finally right-back at Juventus, where he was part of a defence that won Serie A fair and square…oh wait.

CB: Alessandro Nesta
One of the greatest centre-backs of all time, Nesta has as close to a complete set of medals as you can realistically get. However, the “Nestavaro” partnership (because this is exactly what hipsters would call it if today was 2006) didn’t actually last in the 2006 World Cup due to his injury in the third group game. Even so, he’s still brilliant and he’s still playing for Montreal Impact.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro
It’s bizarre to think that in the post-Calciopoli world, Cannavaro has officially never won Serie A. Neither did he ever win the Champions League. But he did win the World Cup and the Ballon d’Or in 2006, and also has winners’ medals from La Liga and the UEFA Cup. And he was an outstanding defender. He probably shouldn’t have bothered hanging around until the 2010 World Cup, though. And he might have been on performance-enhancing drugs. But I don’t really care.

LB: Paolo Maldini
All of the players in this team so far are/were great players. Maldini’s in the discussion for the greatest. I’ve always felt it was such a shame in hindsight that he finished playing for Italy in 2002, when he surely would have been good enough to play a part in 2006 and get that World Cup winners’ medal he deserved. He just kept going - he was nearly 41 when he retired, after over 1000 games for Milan. Considering how good you’ve got to be to play 1 game for Milan…

CM: Gennaro Gattuso
I decided to go with the midfield combination from the 2006 team and the Milan team of the 2000s, in what what would no doubt now be termed a “double pivot” by pretentious twats. Of course the idea of having someone to pass and someone to kick people goes back years - why do you think Sir Alf picked Nobby Stiles? But this was a special combination - someone who was really good at passing and someone who could kick people really hard. Gattuso achieved a hell of a lot for someone who Dick Advocaat stuck at right-back when he was at Rangers. And he head-butted Joe Jordan. So for that, he’s great.

CM: Andrea Pirlo
Since growing a beard to presumably make up for the loss of Gattuso and his facial hair, Pirlo has become the elder statesman of Italy’s outfield players (you don’t need a beard for that role but it helps). At 34 he’s still one of the best midfielders in the world, and a key part of the revitalised Juventus team. He is the perfect example of why Milan has been so badly run in recent years - they allowed him to leave for nothing. Since then, Milan have finished 2nd and 3rd, while Juventus have won two titles. And why the hell did Inter get rid of him in 2001? This is why Serie A is so bad now - not match-fixing, but fucking stupid clubs.

AMC: Roberto Baggio
In hindsight, it seems bizarre that Baggio, a wonderful talismanic figure throughout his career, wasn’t called up by Italy between 1999 and his final send-off friendly in 2004. I guess Italy had so many attacking options and Baggio had so many injuries there was just no room for him. No room for Baggio! But he was great, even when he was slogging away at Brescia. It’s scary to think how good he (and Italy) could have been if he had avoided some of those injuries. It’s scary to think how good this team will be with him in it…

AMC: Francesco Totti
Maybe Totti and Baggio together wouldn’t work. Maybe this team is only big enough for one talismanic attacking midfielder/striker/false-9-before-it-was-called-false-9…OK, hipsters, you got me - trequartista. But for now, we’ll work on the assumption that putting them together would not tear apart the space-time continuum and work brilliantly. 37-year-old Totti is still one of the best players in Serie A. He could still be key at international level if he could be bothered. But he isn’t, because he loves Roma. A great man. I just hope Byron Moreno isn’t the referee for any of this team’s games.

AMC: Alessandro del Piero
One of the great things about the team is the number of great free-kick takers in this team - Pirlo, Baggio, Totti and now Del Piero (capital D or not?). The three attacking midfielders would all switch around, and they can all do it because they’re all brilliant - even France’s 1998-based wall is going to have problems stopping them. And I’d have no worries about them giving up, because they all had long careers. Del Piero’s now into his second season at Sydney FC and is still a class act. He might have to fight the other two for the number 10 jersey, though.

ST: Christian Vieri
In 1999, Inter paid £32 million to add Vieri to a strike force that already included Ronaldo, Baggio, Zamorano and Recoba (they signed Adrian Mutu later that season too - and they go on about Man City and Bayern buying too many players…). People forget Vieri was so highly-rated and so good, presumably because of the injuries which interrupted his caeer. He played just 57 league games and scored only 14 goals in the remaining 4 seasons of his career after leaving Inter. He also missed both Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup due to injury. All these injuries definitely had nothing to do with doping. But based on what he did show, he’s still the best Italian out-and-out striker of recent years.

The remainder of the squad:

GK: Gianluca Pagliuca
GK: Francesco Toldo
DR: Christian Panucci
DC: Franco Baresi
DC: Giorgio Chiellini
DL: Fabio Grosso
MC: Daniele de Rossi
MC: Demetrio Albertini
AM: Roberto Donadoni
AM: Mario Balotelli
AM: Gianfranco Zola
ST: Filippo Inzaghi

Manager: Marcello Lippi

Some may question why Baresi, one of the best defenders ever, is sat on the bench here. It’s worth bearing in mind that Baresi was 34 by 1994 and his best days (at least internationally) were behind him. Perhaps that’s harsh, though. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Nesta and Cannavaro were incredible - in 20 years time, we will probably be talking about them both in the same conversations that we talk about Baresi now, especially as winning World Cups and European Cups are considered to be one of the main measurements of greatness (Stephan Guivarc’h and Djimi Traore aside).

Equally, I could have stuck Inzaghi in the team ahead of Vieri, especially as Pippo was in that World Cup-winning squad and Vieri wasn’t. He also single-handedly won a Champions League Final. But I think Vieri was the better player.

Balotelli’s career may be nowhere near over but I think he’s done enough already to be included in something like this. I needed more representation from Euro 2012, and he was considered to be the driving force behind it. He’s also brilliant on his day. He can play wide as well, something that’s lacking a bit in this squad. Di Natale and Cassano were in contention, but Di Natale hasn’t quite done his thing on the big stage and Cassano’s been too inconsistent. Balotelli is as well but I’m doing my bit for diversity, what with Balotelli being black and Cassano being a homophobe.

You could also level some of those criticisms (other than the homophobe one) at Zola, who never replicated his Chelsea from for Italy, to the point that he was frozen out in 1997 at the age of 31. But I buy into the romantic image of Zola. I have a team full of talismen. He fits perfectly. He may not have looked better than he was by coming to a developing Premier League, in the same way that Benito Carbone and Paolo di Canio looked great. But he was an important player in the English context and it was when I was growing up. And he’s not a fascist, which helps. Or a homophobe.

Lastly, I could have put De Rossi in the starting line-up ahead of Gattuso, because he’s probably a better player and history will undoubtedly prove I’m a fool. But De Rossi did this. So fuck him.


JB (obviously, because I come up with all the shit ideas)

The Most Championship Squad of Championship Players

With a bit of help from Twitter, I’ve picked the 23 players who, if you were kind, you could say best represent the Championship, or if you were unkind, you could say best represent the Championship.

Starting XI
GK - Paddy Kenny (Leeds)
DR - Neal Eardley (Birmingham)
DC - Martin Taylor (Sheffield Wed)
DC - Wes Morgan (Leicester)
DL - Clint Hill (QPR)
MR - Wade Elliott (Birmingham)
MC - Andy Reid (Nottm Forest)
MC - Jay Tabb (Ipswich)
ML - Luke Varney (Leeds)
ST - Ross McCormack (Leeds)
ST - Darius Henderson (Nottm Forest)

Subs/Reserves
GK - Stephen Bywater (Millwall)
GK - Lee Grant (Derby)
Def - Chris Gunter (Reading)
Def - Luke Chambers (Ipswich)
Def - Sean St Ledger (Leicester)
Def - Bradley Orr (Blackburn)
Mid - Andrew Crofts (Brighton)
Mid - Chris Cohen (Nottm Forest)
Mid - Carlos Edwards (Ipswich)
Mid - Neil Danns (Leicester)
For - Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough)
For - Jason Scotland (Barnsley)

Manager: Nigel Pearson (Leicester)

Good enough to stay in the Premier League? Probably not. Though having said that, it’s probably better than this year’s Crystal Palace squad.

Ultimate Championship 2013-14: The Average Predictions

I’ve compiled the average predictions from all the entries across the four divisions. This is what Twitter’s finest minds think will happen this season (ha):

Premier League
1. Manchester City (1.53)
2. Chelsea (1.59)
3. Manchester United (2.88)
4. Tottenham Hotspur (4.59)
5. Arsenal (4.82)
6. Liverpool (5.65)
7. Everton (8.29)
8. Swansea City (8.65)
9. Southampton (10.41)
10. West Ham United (10.94)
11. Norwich City (11.12)
12. West Bromwich Albion (12.71)
13. Sunderland (13.24)
14. Aston Villa (13.88)
15. Fulham (14.00)
16. Newcastle United (14.18)
17. Stoke City (16.76)
18. Cardiff City (16.88)
19. Hull City (18.47)
20. Crystal Palace (19.41)

Championship
1. Bolton Wanderers (3.44)
2. Reading (4.00)
3. Watford (4.75)
4. Nottingham Forest (5.00)
5. Leicester City (5.25)
6. Wigan Athletic (6.00)
7. Queens Park Rangers (6.56)
8. Leeds United (7.75)
9. Brighton & Hove Albion (9.69)
10. Ipswich Town (10.00)
11. Derby County (11.63)
12. Blackburn Rovers (11.75)
13. Middlesbrough (12.88)
14. Charlton Athletic (14.25)
15. Birmingham City (14.94)
16. AFC Bournemouth (15.69)
17. Burnley (16.50)
18. Sheffield Wednesday (17.56)
19. Millwall (18.38)
20. Huddersfield Town (18.63)
21. Blackpool (19.25)
22. Barnsley (20.94)
23. Doncaster Rovers (21.94)
24. Yeovil Town (23.25)

League One
1. Wolverhampton Wanderers (1.47)
2. Peterborough United (3.82)
3. Sheffield United (4.65)
4. Bristol City (4.76)
5. Brentford (4.76)
6. Preston North End (5.71)
7. Milton Keynes Dons (7.29)
8. Notts County (10.47)
9. Leyton Orient (11.41)
10. Tranmere Rovers (12.47)
11. Swindon Town (13.12)
12. Rotherham United (13.53)
13. Gillingham (14.00)
14. Crewe Alexandra (14.35)
15. Bradford City (14.71)
16. Carlisle United (16.29)
17. Crawley Town (16.76)
18. Oldham Athletic (16.82)
19. Stevenage (17.41)
20. Walsall (17.47)
21. Port Vale (19.06)
22. Coventry City (19.29)
23. Colchester United (20.12)
24. Shrewsbury Town (20.24)

League Two
1. Chesterfield (3.75)
2. Cheltenham Town (4.00)
3. Fleetwood Town (5.13)
4. Burton Albion (5.50)
5. Northampton Town (6.69)
6. Scunthorpe United (6.81)
7. Bristol Rovers (7.06)
8. Portsmouth (7.13)
9. Oxford United (7.63)
10. Rochdale (9.63)
11. Hartlepool United (11.81)
12. Wycombe Wanderers (13.88)
13. Plymouth Argyle (14.13)
14. Bury (14.31)
15. Southend United (14.31)
16. Exeter City (15.44)
17. York City (15.69)
18. Mansfield Town (16.06)
19. Newport County (18.31)
20. Torquay United (18.38)
21. AFC Wimbledon (19.44)
22. Morecambe (20.38)
23. Accrington Stanley (22.06)
24. Dagenham & Redbridge (22.50)

Predicting the Results
This didn’t work last year but I’ll try it again - if the tables ended up the same as those average predictions, these would be the results of the predictions league, though all this actually proves is who has the most orthodox and unorthodox predictions:

Premier League
1. David Norris - 14
2. Joe Shennan - 16
3. Daniel Critchley - 20
4. Jake Phillips - 24
4. Andy Charles - 24
———
13. Dean Gripton - 30
14. Isaac Leigh - 38
15. Stuart Bennett - 40
16. Nick Hancock - 44
16. Jack Howes - 44

Championship
1. James Bennett - 22
2. Joe Shennan - 38
3. Sam Robinson - 40
4. John Reid - 46
5. Jake Gibbons - 52
———
12. Daniel Critchley - 70
13. Jack Howes - 74
14. Andy Charles - 78
15. Keir Beales - 80
16. Isaac Leigh - 98

League One
1. John Reid - 38
2. James Bennett - 44
3. Jake Phillips - 50
4. Andy Charles - 52
5. Joe Shennan - 54
———
12. Daniel Critchley - 92
12. Dean Gripton - 92
14. Keir Beales - 96
15. Nick Hancock - 100
16. Isaac Leigh - 106
17. Stuart Bennett - 108

League Two
1. James Bennett - 48
2. Joe Shennan - 50
2. Will Beckman - 50
4. Andy Charles - 52
5. Andrew Harding - 54
5. Sam Robinson - 54
———
12. Stuart Bennett - 76
13. Jack Howes - 80
14. Nick Hancock - 82
15. Isaac Leigh - 98
16. Keir Beales - 142

Overall (assuming no points for cup winners)
1. James Bennett - 142
2. Joe Shennan - 158
3. John Reid - 170
4. Sam Robinson - 180
5. Will Beckman - 194
6. Andy Charles - 206
7. Andrew Harding - 214
8. David Norris - 216
9. Jack Howes - 226
10. Dean Gripton - 240
11. Daniel Critchley - 26
12. Jake Gibbons - 268
13. Nick Hancock - 286
14. Stuart Bennett - 288
15. Isaac Leigh - 340
16. Keir Beales - 346

Cup choices
Of the 16 people who have entered every division, these were the choices for the cup winners:

FA Cup
11 - Chelsea 
2 - Manchester City, Manchester United
1 - Tottenham Hotspur

League Cup
3 - Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
2 - Arsenal, Manchester City
1 - Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Norwich City, Swansea City

Champions League
6 - Real Madrid
5 - Bayern Munich
3 - Barcelona
1 - Chelsea, Juventus