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An alternative look at the Premier League season ahead
WITH the new Premier League season beginning tomorrow, here's a few predictions of what might lie in store over the next nine months.
Sunderland's season begins in controversial fashion as Paolo Di Canio pledges to only pick players who are as good as he was during his playing career. A one-man Black Cats line up slumps to a 3-0 defeat to Fulham, with that one man – a certain P Di Canio – being sent off in the 33rd minute following a furious argument with his own shadow.
There is further controversy during Manchester United's opening home game against Chelsea as Sir Alex Ferguson's new role at Old Trafford is revealed as the man who is in charge of pre-programming the fourth official's board. The development only comes to light when no matter what the fourth official tries, 25 minutes of added time are displayed with United trailing 1-0.
Sky's coverage of the transfer window is ruined when cost-cutting at QPR means Harry Redknapp has to buy a Range Rover without electric windows. There is deadline-day drama at Stamford Bridge though as Wayne Rooney's proposed transfer from Manchester United is not processed in time. “We gave him five hours to print his name and write the correct date, but sadly he just couldn't manage it,” say Chelsea officials.
Newcastle's search for a new striker also goes down to the wire, but Shefki Kuqi's mobile diverts straight to answer phone and they're left empty-handed.
Stung by criticism of his deadline-day failure, Newcastle director of football Joe Kinnear reacts furiously to news of another blow when he is controversially overlooked for the Nobel Peace Prize. “I genuinely can't believe it,” says Kinnear. “My track record speaks for itself when it comes to sorting out intractable political problems, and there's not a single world leader I can't call up on the phone when I need something sorting. Still, as I said to Desmond Tutu when he was talking about his Nobel Prize the other day, you still need two more of them to catch me up me old mucker.”
Buoyed by Rickie Lambert's impact against Scotland, Roy Hodgson turns to experience again for England's crucial final World Cup qualifier against Poland.
“This is a guy who's been there, and while he's not exactly done it, he's always given it a good try. Forget youngsters like Welbeck and Sturridge, this guy will take us to Brazil.” Sadly, Emile Heskey misses two open goals as England crash into the play-offs.
With his side rooted to the foot of the Premier League, Steve Bruce is sacked from Hull. However, the former Sunderland boss doesn't feel he was given a fair crack of the whip at the KC Stadium.
“I walked into the staff canteen after a match the other week and someone had put Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway on the TV – they've just never been able to get over my Geordie roots,” he explains.
“And the expectation levels here are completely unrealistic. I was speaking to a couple of fans the other night, and they said they expected me to win a couple of Premier League matches. I mean, come on, have they not seen my record from Sunderland?”
The Premier League is forced to abandon its trial of new goalmouth technology when a succession of goals are awarded during a Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge. “It was Ashley Cole standing on the post,” admits a Premier League spokesman. “The technology just couldn't cope with the size of his head.”
Luis Suarez hits the headlines again when he decapitates a mascot during the pre-match warm up at Anfield.
“It's just another media witch hunt,” says the striker, after he is handed a ten-match ban. “They're always out to get me for the smallest of things. It's an unfortunate incident, but it's another example of things just being lost in translation. The mascot said he was going to head off to the tunnel – I thought he said he wanted me to rip his head off and throw it in the tunnel. It's an easy mistake to make.”
Up at Newcastle, Joe Kinnear launches into another tirade after he is controversially overlooked for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. “It's unbelievable,” says Kinnear. “I mean I've won three league titles, two FA Cups, had six number one singles and won Britain's Got Talent this year, but they still didn't pick me. Still, as I said to Andy Murray, you still need two more of them to catch me up sunshine.”
Having kept relatively quiet in the first half of the season, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley drops another one of his bombshells when he changes his club's colours from black-and-white to red-and-blue.
“The old black-and-white strip was tired and dated,” says an official club press release. “No one has black-and-white televisions any more, and when you saw the old strip it said, 'Boring'.
“Red-and-blue is very different. It says, 'Fresh, dynamic and exciting – and coincidentally it's also the same colours as Sports Direct, where this week you can get two pairs of Lonsdale sports socks for £1.50, or a pair of Dunlop tracksuit bottoms for a fiver. Head to your nearest store now while stocks last, or log on to sportsdirect.com”
Further drama at Sunderland, where Paolo Di Canio's attempts to micro-manage his players' diet and nutritional intake are taken a step too far.
“From now on, I take a daily look inside my players' fridge,” says Di Canio. “Last night, I go to Connor Wickham's flat and ask him to open up. No cucumber. No radish. Just Fruit Corner and Dairylea.
“I tell my players, 'Cucumber, yes. Dairylea, no'. Is simple. Why they not listen to Paolo Di Canio? Do they think Paolo Di Canio stupid?
“No more Dairylea. You do not become top player like that. Gorgonzola? Maybe. But Dairylea? Is not possible.”
With Arsenal out of the FA Cup and Champions League and lying fourth in the table, Arsene Wenger is forced to deflect more criticism about his lack of trophies.
“Winning is a somewhat abstract concept,” opines the Frenchman. “What is winning, what is losing, why are we here anyway? People talk about our lack of goals, but there is an existential beauty to the pursuit of victory without recourse to a stereotypical concept of attack and defence. And anyway, we're skint, has anyone got a number for Thierry Henry?”
A Premier League board meeting is thrown into chaos when someone makes an even more far-fetched suggestion than the '39th game' idea. “Someone mentioned playing matches at 3pm on a Saturday, with English players in the team and with clubs owned by English owners,” says chief executive Richard Scudamore. “It was thrown out before the vote.”
Impressed with Hull City's switch to the Hull City Tigers, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley decides to get in on the act. However, some claim the adoption of the name Newcastle SportsDirecters is a step too far.
“It's a perfect blend of the old and new,” says an official club statement. “People know the name Newcastle, but United didn't really mean anything did it? When people in Asia hear the word 'United' they think of Manchester, and that was a problem.
“Now, when they hear the word 'SportsDirecters' they'll think of Kangol T-shirts at £8.99 or Umbro training tops for a tenner. That's much more on message.”
The Metropolitan Police are placed on red alert after residents on the King's Road report that a blonde-haired man has been wandering around aimlessly for the last eight months, disappearing down blind alleys and achieving very little. Detailed investigation eventually reveals it is Fernando Torres trying to locate the goal.
The title race comes to a thrilling conclusion as Manchester United overhaul a two-goal deficit on the final day to beat Southampton 3-2. In his post-match press conference, David Moyes rips off his face mask to reveal that he has actually been Sir Alex Ferguson in disguise all along. “You didn't think I'd go that easily, did you,” he says.
Chelsea are FA Cup winners, Hull, Crystal Palace and Fulham are relegated, while Barcelona reclaim the Champions League as Lionel Messi scores his 275th goal of the season in the final against Real Madrid.
Sunderland finish tenth, with Newcastle a place below them in 11th. “That's my 14th league title in the bag and I'm obviously pretty happy about that,” says Joe Kinnear in response to the Magpies' mid-table finish. “It's a major career achievement, although possibly not quite on a par with my eight Olympic gold medals.”
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