Big moves this week in preparation for next season's Champions League. Man U have declared that Real Madrid have agreed to pay £80m for Ronaldo. He is the best player in the world and fits with MU's image, although in my opinion he's a bit too shiney. It is a lot of money though and seems irresistable.
On the other hand the Premier League was tight at the top and the Champions League is tough at the semi-final stage. So how much is that top place and final worth taking all into account.
I've often felt that Rooney wasn't being showed to his best because he played second fiddle to Ronaldo so maybe that will change. British clubs shouldn't pay over the odds for players so I hope that no ridiculous offers are made for people like Ribery. Who is he anyway, did he make a big difference to Munich? Is Tevez worth £25m, he's a likeable player but hasn't been awesome.
Hard to believe that Burnley have leapt out ahead of Preston and into the Premier League. Well done to them though, another club in the north west up there. I once heard a West Ham fan complaining about all the journeys he had to make to the north west. Well done to Graham Alexander.
Just add that PNE will be playing Newcastle next year which is a big game because of the fans, even though their team isn't very good. Hull stayed up as well.
On the 11th May, a noble end to a fine season. Well done!
Drawing the first leg at Deepdale 1-1 gave PNE a great chance in the second leg. It wasn't to be and most people said Sheffield did better. I saw the Deepdale game in full on TV overseas, much to my surprise. PNE did well but never really looked fluent. Sheffield United came out after the break with real fire and for that brief spell alone looked worthy of a result. It still seemed that North End could make it to the final. Sheffield had a cocky sort of air like they were enjoying their game and felt fairly confident of winning.
I also watched Reading v Burnley in full overseas and although it sticks a bit, Burnley did well and might pull off a result against Sheff U. Graham Alexander is doing a great job and I could see his PNE play-off experience keeping the Burnley players excitement in control.
Who would have thought the relegated 3 would be Charlton, Southampton and Norwich. All 3 would have been considered for promotion and too big to go down. The Championship is full of teams that on paper seem too good. Yet not many are good enough to stay in the Premier league. Stoke being one who have finished fairly well, well done to them.
Looking down a league, Leeds have failed again. Leicester are coming straight back. Leeds must worry about when their turn will come with the 3 relegated clubs maybe providing strong opposition, although sometimes a fall is terminal.
Crewe have been relegated to League 2 after they had quite a good run a few years ago. Chester have been relegated out the league and Northwich out of Conference Division 1 so it's not a good week for Cheshire.
A bit closer Accrington and Morecambe have had reasonable seasons in League 2. Rochdale and Bury also being in the play-offs. Shrewsbury managed by Paul Simpson, ex-PNE, got to the play-off final from position 6 and almost scraped through, so without knowing much about it, well done to Paul. Maybe he's good at that level as Carlisle did well but are now struggling. Maybe he needs a bit more experience. Talking of ex-PNE managers Billy Davies pulled Notts Forest out the mire and maybe next year they'll be challenging for bigger things.
In the Premier league, Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan as well as the Manchester and Liverpool clubs continue to provide local interest. Stoke isn't too far away either. Will Burnley make it 9 Premier clubs not too far away?
Beating Cardiff 6-0 and then Birmingham 2-1 away put PNE into a great position but it didn't seem enough until Cardiff lost and PNE won their last game. Then the extra goals scored against Cardiff were the only thing separating the teams in the league.
Home - Away league data.
P40, W17, D10, L13, F53, A50, Pts61. Position 7th.
Five points out of 15, gets a little less each month and the result is slipping out of the play-off positions. Four more points wasn't too much to ask this month.Two players out on load to Colchester - Hawley and Trotman, and one in from Watford - Williamson a 26yrs old defender.
6 games to go, 3 at home. Bristol, Blackpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster, QPR. Out of the 79 points available if PNE get their usual 5 a month then 69pts are likely which would see them 7th or 8th.
It is said the PNE squad is the smallest in the championship with only 18 players available due to injuries.
At the start of the season I wouldn't have thought that Charlton and Southampton were likely for relegation but 9 clubs have not got 50pts and 5 look like they'll struggle to get there. The above 2 plus Plymouth seem most likely although Norwich and Barnsley aren't out of the woods.
P35, W16, D8, L11, F48, A44, Pts56. Position 4th.
Eight points out of 15 isn't very good really. Luckily the teams around them are spluttering as well. Only Sheffield United can win games in hand to knock PNE out of a play-off position. So PNE move up to 4th on the last day of the month with a good win 3-2, at home to Ipswich. A good game with both teams doing well I hear. It was a 6 pointer as Ipswich would have moved above PNE if they'd won and they were on a bit of a run.
Worst result was 3-0 defeat at Southampton who had hardly won to that day. The way it's going PNE could be in the play-offs. There is no consistency with any team, even the top 2. So any of the top half could be in the Premier League next year and I can't help but think it will be a make up the numbers experience for who-ever it is. Although the TV money will enable some strengthening and the £30m parachute will be useful if the worst happens.
PNE team on against Ipswich: Lonergan, Jones, Mawene, St. Ledger (Nolan 39), Davidson, Whaley, Chaplow, McKenna, Wallace, Parkin (Brown 58), Elliott. Subs Not Used: Neal, Nicholson, Mellor.
P30, W14, D6, L10, F42, A38, Pts48. Position 6th.
Seven points out of 12 and clinging on to that 6th spot. Lost to Liverpool 0-2 in the cup. Quite a few injuries and moved on a few players during the transfer window. Rob Wallace signed from Sunderland. To me it seems middling, there is no-one setting the world alight but the results are good, they've been in the top 7 for a few months now. Alan Irvine seems to be doing a good job but it always seems a struggle, it probably is, with limited funds and a small squad available at this time.
Saw David Nugent on Match of the Day last night and he looked sharp, scoring for Portsmouth. Yet somehow he doesn't seem quite sharp enough, although I think he would in the Championship.
Been some debate about moving the Football Museum to Wembley. Don't see why. Wembley gets big crowds for the few games it holds but is miles out of the centre. I only see it when travelling at 100mph on a train and it takes ages to get into Euston even at that speed. They say people can't be bothered to travel a couple of miles off the motorway on fairly straight roads but they will rattle about in a tube for an hour taking most of day out of a 3 day London break to see it. I don't think so. They say Wembley has history and catchment, so has Preston - 8 premier league grounds within an hours travel of the museum door, the oldest ground in the country.
January football highlights; Kaka doesn't sign for Man C, interesting while it lasted although personally I think Man C will be better with 4 very good players for the same money and they can sign a Kaka later. Rafael Benitez commenting on Alex Ferguson - I'd recommend speak softly and carry a big stick (not literally, nowadays you might be accused of inciting violence so maybe the phrase should be speak softly and be the best).
P26, W12, D5, L9, F36, A32, Pts41. Position 7th.
Doing quite well, just a bit better will make quite a difference. Looking at the table a few more away goals and a bit less conceding is the main difference for teams in that area.
Parkin got a couple of crucial goals this month and alone made 4 extra points. Although PNE are doing quite well there isn't a clear pattern. There is a lot of up and down, different people doing well for a while. Keeps others guessing though. Wallace on loan from Sunderland is making a mark and there is some worry that Sunderland might change their mind about a transfer. Also, from comments noted, the manager is still learning and might be able to do more. Interesting to see if any changes come in the transfer window.
January has some tough games and Liverpool in the cup. The 10th team is 6 points behind but with a better goal average so North End won't fall too far even if they only get 3 points.
Looking around the area;
Blackpool have lost their manager to Leeds. Seems that having a big club like Leeds lurking in the lower divisions is like a vulture sucking away anyone who shows any promise in the locality; e.g. Healy, Cresswell, Lewis from Preston although it did them no good. Noted that Jimmy Armfield said good managers like Billy Davies are looking for a job, that would be interesting as he's had immediate effect at every club he's been to. Seems like chairmen are reluctant to take him on. You mean he wins matches! (Spoke too soon as Notts Forest have snapped him up.)
Blackburn have taken Sam Allardyce on board to replace Paul Ince. More tellingly is the statement that the Jack Walker Trust money has run out. Maybe that puts Blackburn on borrowed time in the Premier League, although hopefully not as we need to get Preston, Burnley and Blackpool up there with them to make 10 north west clubs in the Premier League.
The economic downturn is now about 6 months old and might have an effect on the income of football. The TV subscriptions, high entrance costs, wealthy sponsors. Will they continue? Also pound is low against the Euro and has effectively made overseas clubs 30% wealthier with respect to UK clubs - how will that effect wage demands and transfer fees. 2009 could be interesting but lets hope for a recovery.
Twelve months ago PNE were 23rd and by the 11st Dec were 24th and a change of management was underway.
This month the team got back to full strength after a period of injuries and suspensions. After a bad start November went well. Losing at home against strugglers Southampton, then beating Blackpool away. So it's 11 points out of the last 15. Not only that but at least 2 goals scored in each of the last 7 games. The goals have been scored by quite a range of players so no-one is looking like the natural strike solution, although Mellor is getting some praise. The defence has let in a few but the last game was 2-0 so maybe that's improving.
Team: Lonergan, Jones, Mawene, St. Ledger, Davidson, Sedgwick, Chaplow, McKenna, Wallace, Chris Brown, Mellor. Substitutes: Elliott, Neal, Nicholson, Nolan, Parkin.
Six games in December with Birmingham being one of note. Wouldn't say you can bank on any results in this division, Doncaster maybe, but Cardiff, QPR, Derby, Barnsley could be anything. 26 games to go, possible points 109.
Loan player Brown went back to Hull.
Cup Draw today, 3rd round: Preston North End v Liverpool. They'll be fighting to play in that one.
Burnley are 4th and Blackpool 18th. 10 pts separate 7th and 21st position.
A bit of a middling month really with 2 wins at home and 3 defeats away. Signed a defender on loan from Hull. Usual stuff about injuries and should have come away with something. Probably should have but a team not scoring goals doesn't deserve much in my opinion. 32 games to go, 116 points possible.
September ended with 3 straight defeats with a scoreline of 2 - 8. Started off OK with 4 points from Notts F and Coventry but then Wolves got a Midland revenge followed by Burnley and Swansea.
A few injuries but not scoring isn't a new thing. The papers all said Wolves deserved their win and even so it looked like PNE could have got a few with a bit of luck. An early goal against Burnley was countered and Davidson got sent off.
Loaned the Derby defender Jay McEveley who played against Swansea as Hart and Davidson are out.
Five games in October, 2 against Watford who are struggling. Mid-table seems a natural place.
During the month Alan Irvine said he has discovered man management is more important than coaching. I'm not sure whether that's obvious or if it becomes so if you're better at one than the other.
The season got underway on August 9th with a good away win at fortress Ipswich. By the end of August PNE are 2nd with 10pts out of 12 but have been knocked out of the League Cup.
It didn't seem too promising with defenders scoring the goals and then not scoring in the cup game against Derby at home. People are saying the home win against Charlton was a good performance and Mellor got on the scoring list. Chaplow and Nicholson have scored 2 each. A new forward, Parkin, has been bought from Stoke and he is a giant in physique we are told and played within hours of signing. The gate of 12,000 wasn't up to much although it's still holiday time and the general economic situation isn't so good.
September is a midlands month with Coventry, Notts F, Wolves plus Burnley and Swansea. Wolves are top at the moment but its early days.
At the moment things are looking promising. 136 points possible out of 138.
PNE 14-1 for promotion. 4-1 to be relegated. Forecast 20th place. A big change from last year. Personally I'd place them around mid-table.
QPR favourites to be top. I find that surprising as they havn't made any significant signings and never seemed more than ordinary. But then I've never seen them.
So it's QPR, Birmingham, Reading, Sheff U, Crystal Palace at the top.
Barnsley (bottom), Blackpool, Doncaster, Preston, Plymouth, Southampton, Burnley at the bottom. That's it then! Why bother playing?
Watch this space for 2008/9 - opening day 9th August - Ipswich v Preston. Last season it was Norwich so why East Anglia in August?
Countdown Week Number: -1 August 2nd, -2 July 26th, -3 July 19th, -4 July 12th, -5 July 5th.