Championship season review – Rotherham, Sheff Wed, Wigan, Wolves

Rotherham United: 24th (relegated) It is difficult to know where to start with Rotherham. This was simply a season to forget; one which saw the club relegated pretty much before it had even begun. Not for many a year has a side finished with so few points, as a squad packed full of journeymen and loan players found itself truly incapable of competing at Championship level. Having pulled off a magnificent escape from the drop in 2015-16, the following summer was actually sprinkled with hints of optimism, with Alan Stubbs having…

Read More

Championship season review: Nottingham Forest, Preston, QPR, Reading

Nottingham Forest: 21st Yet again, there was a new manager in situ at Nottingham Forest heading into a new season, this time in the shape of Frenchman Philippe Montanier, whose aim was to arrest the club’s downward trend of recent years. It was an unforgiving role that was not made any easier by a lack of summer signings and discontent from the fans towards owner Fawaz Al Hasawi. The team got off to a mixed start, and soon developed a Jekyll and Hyde tendency to win at home – where the…

Read More

Championship season review – Ipswich, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich

Ipswich Town: 16th There is a very strong argument to suggest that Ipswich have overachieved during Mick McCarthy’s reign as manager, which has lasted since October 2012. Despite a continued lack of investment from the top, play-off challenges had been mounted in each of the previous three seasons, in which a very workmanlike squad probably achieved more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, as few changes were made to the playing staff once again over the summer of 2016, it was reasonable to assume that standards could slip, and there…

Read More

Juventus vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final Preview

The Champions League final of 2017 is a massively exciting prospect, as Real Madrid look to retain their crown in the face of a fierce challenge from Juventus, who are hoping to rule Europe for the first time since 1996. Since it was renamed and restructured in 1992, no team has managed to retain the trophy, so a considerable achievement awaits for Real Madrid, who with victory here will also stretch their already sizeable advantage as the most successful team in the history of this competition. It would be their…

Read More

Championship season review – Cardiff, Derby, Fulham, Huddersfield

Cardiff City: 12th Few managers thrive in the Championship more than Neil Warnock. Taking over at Cardiff in October with the club seemingly headed for a serious fight to stay in the division, he drew upon his vast experience to lift them well clear of danger and an eventual top half finish, an achievement which looked way beyond them at the outset. With previous boss Russell Slade having been moved aside in the summer and then choosing to leave his new role as Head of Football, Paul Trollope led the Bluebirds…

Read More

Championship season review – Brentford, Brighton & HA, Bristol City, Burton

Brentford: 10th Although there were never any seriously realistic hopes of reaching the play-offs, or any concern about possibly being drawn into a relegation scrap, it was far from a dull season from Brentford. The reflection of stability, a young side full of technically gifted individuals proved as entertaining as they were inconsistent, in the process doing enough to suggest that promising times lie ahead. One thing that was fairly constant throughout was their strong home form, only dropping two points from their first five outings at Griffin Park in a…

Read More

Championship season review: Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackburn

Aston Villa: 13th After sinking from the Premier League without trace in 2015-16, a summer of transition inevitably ensued at Aston Villa as this illustrious club aimed to lift itself off the floor. Taken over by the Chinese businessman Tony Xia, former Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo was appointed the new manager and although a surprisingly high number of the existing squad remained, hefty sums of money were spent on strikers Ross McCormack and Jonathan Kodjia. Expectations were high, but there was clearly a weak mentality within the squad which showed…

Read More

League Two season review

This was a season that, above all, demonstrated powers of recovery. Three clubs that have undergone some extremely testing times in the recent past emerged from the gloom and disappointment to gain automatic promotion to League One as reward for showing by far the greatest degree of consistency in a highly competitive fourth tier. As recently as 2010, Portsmouth were in the Premier League and participating in the FA Cup final, but a series of financial woes and frequent changes of ownership led to the club suffering a demoralising three…

Read More

Arsenal vs Chelsea – FA Cup Final Preview

An all-London duel awaits in the FA Cup final on Saturday as Chelsea go in search of the double against an Arsenal side that is aiming to win the competition for a record 13th time. Indeed, these are the two clubs to have dominated the FA Cup since the turn of the century, with five successes each since 2000. They last met in the final in 2002, when terrific second half goals from Ray Parlour and Fredrik Ljungberg sealed victory for Arsenal. That was the second of six triumphs for…

Read More

Ajax vs Man Utd – Europa League Final Preview

A place in the Champions League group stage is up for grabs as Manchester United aim to salvage a second trophy from their season when they come up against Ajax, who are after their first European triumph in 22 years. The pressure is undoubtedly on United. Along with the weight of expectation that comes with being the favourites, they have openly and unashamedly prioritised the Europa League for many weeks, effectively putting aside any attempts to finish in the top four of the Premier League in order to pursue, what…

Read More

League One season review

After five years of seeing pre-season optimism fade away into increasing depths of mediocrity, supporters of Sheffield United awaited 2016-17 with bated breath as their side again approached a campaign as favourites for promotion under another highly regarded new manager. This time it was self-confessed Blades fan Chris Wilder who took over the reins following the bitterly disappointing tenure of Nigel Adkins. Fresh from leading Northampton Town to a storming League Two title success, Wilder soon introduced a 3-4-3 formation, which would eventually turn out to be the most effective…

Read More

Man Utd vs Southampton – EFL Cup Final Preview

An intriguing match-up in the EFL Cup final at Wembley sees two managers appointed last summer aim to secure the first trophy of their respective tenures, as Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United take on Claude Puel’s Southampton. It is a meeting that brings about recollections of when the sides met in the 1976 FA Cup final, where a Bobby Stokes goal gave the then Second Division Saints the proudest moment of their history. And although victory here would not be quite as much of an upset, the South coast club are…

Read More

Analysis – Bilic comments call Payet’s commitment into question

On Thursday morning, West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic confirmed the suspicions of many by revealing that star man Dimitri Payet is intent on leaving the club, a fact which reflects badly on the player himself, as well as representing yet another setback in what has been a frustrating campaign for the Londoners up until now. Last term the Frenchman lit up the Premier League, delivering a number of starring contributions as West Ham finished an excellent seventh place and were among the division’s great entertainers. Some of what he…

Read More

Portugal vs France – Euro 2016 Final Preview

A proud host nation will be expecting to salute an emotional and famous triumph on Sunday evening, as France contest the final of Euro 2016 against a Portugal team that is aiming to upset the odds and win a major tournament for the first time in their footballing history. There is no question that France are heavy favourites to collect their third European Championship crown, not only for the strength of their squad and sheer volume of quality attacking options, but due to the manner in which both sides have…

Read More

Germany vs France – Euro 2016 Semi-Final Preview

The second Euro 2016 semi-final sees Germany aim to move to within 90 minutes of becoming the third nation this century to hold both major tournament titles simultaneously, but opponents France have home advantage and are coming on strong. This is a massively anticipated clash, and the winner will be the favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday. It is likely to be tight and could go right to the wire, with Germany’s experience and know-how potentially giving them a slight psychological edge, although France arguably have more flair in…

Read More

Portugal vs Wales – Euro 2016 Semi-Final Preview

Portugal have failed to win a game in 90 minutes en route to reaching the last four of Euro 2016, and now only they stand in the way of a Wales side that is on the cusp on sensationally sealing a place in the final. This will be a lot more than just a battle between the world’s two most expensive footballers, Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, but a meeting of two sides intent on defying the odds and becoming kings of Europe. And it has to…

Read More

France vs Iceland – Euro 2016 Quarter-Final Preview

After an unbeaten run which has taken them all the way to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Iceland now have the biggest game in their footballing history to look forward to as they plot to sensationally end the challenge of hosts France. Despite a superb qualifying campaign which only tailed off once a place in the finals had been secured, many expected Iceland to be among the rank outsiders for this tournament given their lack of pedigree, and the fact that it is a country with a tiny population in…

Read More

Germany vs Italy – Euro 2016 Quarter-Final Preview

The standout quarter-final encounter of Euro 2016 takes place in Bordeaux as world champions Germany aim to reach the last four for the sixth major tournament in succession, although opponents Italy have thwarted them on many occasions in the past. It was the Italians who extinguished Germany’s hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil in 2006, winning a thrilling match 2-0 after extra time, and more recently it was Mario Balotelli who proved the difference in the semi-finals of Euro 2012; so although they are the underdogs, Italy…

Read More

Wales vs Belgium – Euro 2016 Quarter-Final Preview

Wales will be intent on taking their epic journey through Euro 2016 all the way into the semi-finals when they head to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy to meet Belgium, who have now begun to spread their wings and look capable of fulfilling their considerable potential. It is a clash that carries great significance for both sides, and one that sees the renewal of a rivalry that developed during qualifying for this tournament. Belgium emerged as group winners, but could not find a way past Chris Coleman’s side home or away, with…

Read More

Poland vs Portugal – Euro 2016 Quarter-Final Preview

The opening Euro 2016 quarter-final encounter takes place on Thursday evening as Poland attempt to plough deeper into uncharted territory by defeating a Portugal side that will be determined to raise its game after labouring to this stage. Whatever happens, this tournament can be looked back on as a success for Poland, but the feeling is that there is still more to come from them. Leading striker and captain Robert Lewandowski is still yet to live up to his billing and has rarely looked like getting on the scoresheet, while…

Read More

Euro 2016 – England look to end Iceland’s famous run

There were several teams during the group stage of Euro 2016 that caused a surprise by being much more competitive than anticipated, and of those, Iceland will surely rank among the highest. Written off by many a pundit in the lead up to the tournament, they went through with an unbeaten record and will now feel that they belong at this level. The dramatic win against Austria on Wednesday will go down as a definitive moment in their footballing history, and it ensured that they would face England in the…

Read More

Euro 2016 – Revenge on Irish minds as they take on France

Coming into the final round of group matches, it looked an extremely tough ask for the Republic of Ireland to beat Italy and qualify for the knockout stages of Euro 2016, particularly on the evidence of their previous outing against Belgium. However, a terrific display and a late headed goal from Robbie Brady saw them do just that, securing a berth as one of the four best third-placed teams. It sets up a rather enticing encounter with hosts France, which immediately evokes memories of the two-legged play-off these sides contested…

Read More

Euro 2016 – Croatia favourites to topple Ronaldo and Portugal

Although not exactly full of goals, the group stage of Euro 2016 provided its fair share of entertainment and did not produce any of the heavy winning margins that many would have expected. All of the heavyweights made it through whether in convincing or inauspicious fashion, but there were some surprises as some of the competitions least fancied nations advanced to the last 16. The knockout drama begins on Saturday, where the standout fixture comes in the evening as a very impressive Croatia side come up against Portugal, who laboured…

Read More

Euro 2016 Group E – Belgium back on track

The manner in which Belgium began Euro 2016 in losing comfortably at the hands of Italy left them with a huge point to prove, and they responded ideally by breezing past the Republic of Ireland on Saturday. It now means that only a draw against Sweden will be enough to send them through to the knockout stages in second place. Coach Marc Wilmots had no option but to make changes to his starting line-up after that opening performance, bringing in the excellent Mousa Dembele in midfield and replacing square peg…

Read More

Euro 2016 Group F – Frustrated Portugal face crucial Hungary clash

Of the 24 teams taking part at Euro 2016, Portugal must be the most frustrated of all. Countless attempts at goal, and overwhelming dominance in terms of possession and territory has only yielded two points from as many matches. They are now faced with the prospect of having to win against Hungary in order to make sure of qualification for the last 16. Saturday evening was a rare one to forget for Cristiano Ronaldo, who struck the post with a second half penalty and shortly afterwards saw a goal ruled…

Read More