About This Site

This site hosts some of my multimedia sports journalism content, featuring work published between my first steps to break into the industry in Summer 2019 and the present day.

I’m a South East London-based NCTJ-trained journalist, whose most regular work has been helping Southwark News newspaper to cover Dulwich Hamlet FC since September. Articles available @ https://www.southwarknews.co.uk/sport/ 

Links to latest editions of YE1 Spurs, a Tottenham Hotspur podcast I produce, are also posted on this website.
Podbean @ http://ye1spurs.podbean.com/
Apple Podcasts @ https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ye1-spurs/id1474531217
Available too on Spotify and other recognised podcast providers

I also began participating in a new podcast entitled Drink It In in June, with a couple of other sports journalist who I studied at PA Training with between August and December 2019:

Podbean @ https://drinkitin.podbean.com/
Apple Podcasts @ https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/drink-it-in-podcast/id1518570165#episodeGuid=drinkitin.podbean.com%2Fa5f3f5ed-ce06-5251-8733-e6998efaade5
YouTube @ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP3QtPE-n35WZSQfC8xY6QQ
And Spotify…



Other Published Work


East Dulwich Men’s Book Club:

A three-minute video news package produced as part of my NCTJ diploma portfolio, which briefly explains what the club is, and includes interviews with members to gauge an understanding of how much the monthly sessions mean to them.


Andy Murray: Queen’s Club hope five-time champion is fit to play:

A piece I was able to write and publish during work experience at Sky Sports News.


Dulwich Hamlet vs Carlisle United, fans prepare for historic FA Cup first round tie:

This 90-second video fulfilled the mobile journalism requirement of my NCTJ diploma portfolio, and features fans of Dulwich Hamlet and Carlisle United speaking ahead of the Hamlet’s first FA Cup first round match for 21 years.

YE1 Spurs podcast

YE1 Spurs banner

Six regular pundits, aged between 12 and 62, who still believe it is lucky for Spurs when TheYearEndsIn1.

YE1 Spurs is a daily podcast, currently working its way back through the annals of Tottenham time in descending chronological order, to review a different season each day until the Coronavirus pandemic is under control, and the Spurs are back playing football.

Hosted by Podbean @ http://ye1spurs.podbean.com/
Available on Apple Podcasts @ https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ye1-spurs/id1474531217, and other regular podcast providers.


Covid-19 and the non-league: Cray Wanderers expect challenging times

Cray CEO talks postponement of football, the team’s great form before this break, and George Taylor’s special day, as London’s oldest football club honoured its centenarian goalkeeper this month.

George Taylor, Cray Wanderers
Centenerian ex-Cray keeper George Taylor was honoured at Hayes Lane this month (photo: @PaulMat51794654)

Cray Wanderers CEO Sam Wright has joined a host of other non-league officials in expressing deep concern for the English football pyramid, if Coronavirus is to close turnstiles indefinitely.

The Isthmian League confirmed the postponement on Friday of weekend and midweek fixtures, with clubs expecting further news regarding this Saturday’s league programme.

Wright, whose side play in the league’s Premier Division, backs the measures, but at the same time fears the highly damaging affect that months without matches could have on the game at that level.

“You can’t be disappointed because ultimately it’s about safety. Most of our fans are older, so is it a risk for them guys going to watch the game, more so than the players who are young, fit and will probably recover OK if they get it [the virus].” Wright said.

“A lot of people who watch non-league football are in their sixties and above. So maybe they looked at it from that perspective.

“But it’s hard. I’m now trying to work out what we’re going to do if we don’t play again this season. It’s a big chunk of income we’re going to lose. What do we do about paying players? It’s a bit of a headache.”

The Isthmian League’s approach mirrored that of the Premier League and EFL, which both suspended fixtures until the beginning of April at the earliest. However, the National League, one step above Cray, went ahead with its schedule, which did surprise Wright.

“I presumed that the National League was also off, because I heard that all of the top end of the pyramid; National League, Isthmian, and all that, were meeting together to consider what we do as the top-end of the non-league pyramid. But we [the clubs] don’t get a say at all really.

“They’re buying themselves a bit of time I think. They’ll make a decision middle of next week, but I think it’s [Covid-19] probably only going to worse over the few weeks and months.

“The big question is going to be what do they do; Premier League, EFL, all of them, if it does get worse as they’re saying and there’s no football till June, mid-June, late-June? You can’t roll this season into the next.”

The inevitable break comes at a particularly inopportune time for The Wands, who sit second in their league following an unbeaten run stretching back to Boxing Day.

Cray, whose, next scheduled home game is not until 29th March charge adults £10 admission, and regularly draw crowds of around 200, with 621 against Enfield Town in October being the season-high.

Wright added: “One thing we were gutted about is that we’re on such a run, and have really got some momentum going: won nine and drawn three since Christmas; unbeaten in 2020. We were raring to go again.”

“If we don’t play this week and next week we’ll probably be alright. It’s if we don’t play the rest of the season that’s the worry, and how that would work out for the non-league pyramid, at our level.

“A lot of clubs work to a really really tight budget line. Will it put a few non-league clubs to the wall? If suddenly for the next few weeks there’s no football at all.”

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate across the UK and abroad, it has already been a March nobody is likely to forget. But at Cray, the month did begin with a special event, when ex-goalkeeper George Taylor, who turned 100 years old in January, was honoured at Hayes Lane.

Taylor’s football career was cut short by World War II, though he has clearly not been forgotten by Cray Wanderers, who he played his last match for in 1938. Wright reflects on the memorable occasion.

“George had the most amazing day. He’s an unbelievable guy, for 100 years old, everyone was going ‘I can’t believe it!’ He walked onto the pitch on his own, he booted the ball, he lives on his own, he shops still for himself, cooks for himself, and he’s 100 years old!”

“We got a lot of exposure that week which is good for club. We were on talkSPORT, BBC Radio, Sky Sports News. We got quite a few interviews out there.

“We had a little bit of interest from a TV company on the back of it as well, about a possible documentary around London’s oldest football club [Cray Wanderers], the new stadium and that kind of stuff.”

Mourinho Likely Revising Judgement on Spurs Squad

Mourinho applauds Spurs fans after first game against West Ham in November

Now, with top four hopes fading fast and no FA Cup to compete for, next Tuesday’s second leg in Germany looks astronomically important, as Spurs seemingly have one game to extend their season by another two.

After a fourth straight defeat last night, beaten by Norwich to end Tottenham’s FA Cup hopes, Jose Mourinho is probably now realising that his Spurs squad is not as good as he thought it was.

When appointed head coach in November, following Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, Mourinho was brimming with praise for the playing staff that he would be inheriting at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

But fast forward two-and-a-half months, and a combination of injuries and several disappointing results against immediate rivals, both domestically and in Europe, will surely have the Portuguese re-assessing what he has at his disposal.

“I would love to be on the first of July, but I am not”, Mourinho said last month after defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16 first leg, the first loss of Spurs’ current slump. Stark contrast to his sentiments right at the beginning of his reign.

On 21st November 2019, Mourinho said: “Players… the best gift are the ones that are here. I don’t need players, I am happy with the players that I have. I just need time to understand them better to know everything about them.”

Of course he has lost Harry Kane. Son Heung-Min is also a huge miss, plus Moussa Sissoko, who Mourinho named as a particular loss within those post-Lepizig comments. But when appointing a so-called super coach like him, a club and its supporters do expect such problems to be navigated slightly better.

That is what he is paid so handsomely to do after all.

The truth is the slide at Tottenham started long before this season. Form has been no more than satisfactory for at least 12 months, as alluded to in The Year Ends in 1 (YE1) podcast prior to the Leipzig match (https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ye1-on-location-spurs-vs-rb-leipzig/id1474531217?i=1000466284995).

The YE1 team all but agreed that the 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, at the same stage of the Champions League last season, was in fact the last truly convincing Spurs display.

It is another discussion altogether whether or not Pochettino was afforded due backing for his achievements in N17, but what should not be levelled at Mourinho is any kind of suggestion that the poor results of late are a new phenomenon.

Pochettino lost 13 Premier League matches last season, and won just three games from the middle of February. Form which has translated into this campaign under both bosses.

However, that is not to say that Mourinho could or should not be doing better. Why has the defence not improved? Why can he not adapt and find a way of playing without a recognised striker? Especially when he said what he did in November about the quality of the squad.

No manager can ever afford to walk into a club and believe that he cannot do more than the previous guy. But Pochettino also had periods without both Kane and Son. Not so much the double blow, but did nonetheless have to negotiate key absences.

Dele Alli too from last August to October.

Without Kane, there is no guarantee of goals. Not even when Son is available. Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela, Son, Alli and now Steven Bergwijn; they are all extremely talented, yet highly inconsistent players who excite supporters when their names appear on a team sheet.

But by half-time, fans in the stands, their armchairs and on Twitter are calling for changes, and whomever has not started is suddenly the answer; forgetting that they had not delivered from the beginning the previous week.

The loyal Tottenham fan base will have hoped that Mourinho’s side, clearly in transition, could limp over the line into next season’s Champions League, perhaps scooping a trophy too.

But in reality, the current campaign is sadly looking more and more like a write-off, and that serious attacking reinforcements are required, while stalwartly defensive assets like Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Danny Rose (out on loan at Newcastle) in fact do not have the second wind in them that they might have had.

Also, forget not that Christian Eriksen has gone, whose stats throughout his six-and-a-half years at Spurs are not to be scoffed at…

On Eriksen, I do have my own theory as to why he wanted to leave England, which goes beyond football. Feel free to DM me @SimRJWright on Twitter to find out what that is.

Now, with top four hopes fading fast and no FA Cup to compete for, next Tuesday’s second leg in Germany looks astronomically important, as Spurs seemingly have one game to extend their season by another two.

AFC Bournemouth Face Pivotal Howe Decision

Cherries fans visit new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for first time

The emotional aspect that Mr Mostyn will be forced to consider is something he simply does not need to get caught up in; this is not about Eddie Howe, this is about AFC Bournemouth and its identity.

For the first time since promotion to the Premier League, AFC Bournemouth have a decision to make over Eddie Howe’s future.

Having begun 2020 with three Premier League defeats, no goals, and with just one league victory since the beginning of November, The Cherries have slipped to 19th and are in serious relegation danger.

The club is relatively unique in modern terms as a top-flight side boasting a manager, Howe, whose tenure now stretches seven years, not to mention his previous 2008-2011 spell.

But even beside that, it has defied a club of its stature’s customary ceiling in maintaining Premier League status for half a decade, in spite of residing a stadium which would have the second smallest capacity (11,329) in the Championship, plus a modest and understated fanbase.

Notwithstanding all of this, Chairman Jeff Mostyn must make a call which is regular practice for Bournemouth’s largest Premier League compatriots: sack an underperforming manager, or back him to turn fortunes around?

Sentiment will of course be a major factor in this case; you do not need me to regurgitate the Dorset club’s story and Howe’s spearheading role in it, but the emotional aspect that Mr Mostyn will be forced to consider is something he simply does not need to get caught up in. Why?

Firstly, though it is a cliché that no individual is bigger than the club, that is just as much the case here as anywhere else.

Forget loyalty to Eddie Howe. He left them once before, he will get another job. This is not about Eddie Howe, this is about AFC Bournemouth, which will exist (provided it does not mismanage finances again) for generations after this unusually long managerial reign.

However, that is not to say that dismissing Howe is the answer. To reiterate that the club is top priority here, not the manager, it is the identity that Howe has instilled which allows it to operate as it does in the world’s foremost football league; something which sacking Howe could compromise.

Sceptics of the Bournemouth fairy-tale point sharply to Maxim Denim’s significant investment since becoming majority shareholder in 2011, claiming the rise from League Two to the Premier League as just another instance of ‘bought-success’ in English football.

But beyond that, Howe has kept a remarkable core of playing staff from the League One and Championship days, and coached the likes of Simon Francis, Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels to step-up through the pyramid and be competitive whichever division they contest within.

Assistant boss Jason Tindall, coach Steve Fletcher and technical director Richard Hughes the same. The trio are all former teammates of Howe’s there.

Moreover, by virtue of Howe’s positive philosophy, Bournemouth have consistently attracted talented young attackers who are either not making the grade in bigger sides or are plotting to further their development at a Premier League outfit.

In terms of the latter, injured Wales star David Brooks excelled in his first Vitality Stadium season, earning himself interest from the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

But if the club was to dispense with its ethos and switch to a direct or pragmatic style in order to stay with the elite, would it still be that same appealing stepping-stone?

Even a defender like Nathan Aké, hardly propping up a watertight Cherries defence, is continuously scouted by Champions League clubs, as his quality on the ball and place alongside over-the-hill central colleagues or attack-first full-backs allow him to develop comfortably and unscrutinised.

AFC Bournemouth is therefore structured unlike any other Premier League club, so it is not an option for Mr Mostyn to hire a firefighter replacement for Howe to stay up this season.

If Howe has lost his drive to succeed, then that is the only justification to part ways. Not because the club owes him for his work, but because of the identity that the club has under him.

Though that is not to say that another head coach could not replicate this. Indeed, despite all probabilities being that Howe would remain at Bournemouth if the club were to be relegated, there are hungry coaches out there ready to permeate a new voice over the established structure.

For example, Swansea City’s appointments of, first, Graham Potter then Steve Cooper has the 2018-relegated Welsh outfit knocking at the door of the Premier League once again. Comparatively, Bournemouth, still backed by Denim, is a club on an even better footing to rebuild than the Swans.

The best decision AFC Bournemouth can make is to back Eddie Howe to ride out this injury-ravaged campaign, whatever the outcome may be.

Howe must right now pursue results by all means necessary. But long-term, the fairy-tale will be forgotten if Mr Mostyn changes gear at this stage. Indeed, Ian Holloway’s Blackpool side, and the captivating, narrowly-unsuccessful, football it played in 2010/11 is now but a blurry memory for English football fans.

Charlton Athletic 3-1 Stoke City (Saturday 10th August 2019)

Williams rallies Valley after Aneke puts Addicks back in front

Charlton continued their perfect return to the Championship with a 3-1 victory against out of form Stoke at The Valley on Saturday.

Following relatively surprising opening day results for both sides (Charlton enjoying a 2-1 triumph at Blackburn, Stoke succumbing to a slack defeat of the same score line at home to QPR), Saturday saw divergent spirits surrounding the two clubs polarise further, with Potters boss Nathan Jones’ record, since January appointment, worryingly still reading a poor three wins.

Jones remains frustrated

By contrast, it’s now an impressive 14 successes from 18 games for Lee Bowyer’s Addicks, a sensational run encompassing the final three months of last season (including the trilogy of play-off fixtures) and a step-up in division.

Another great result for Bowyer

Jones set up again with the same midfield diamond which laboured to loss against QPR (a performance which “lacked tempo” according to the Welshman), adjusting personnel slightly by replacing Jordan Cousins with Ryan Woods at the base, as well as handing first starts to Liam Lindsay, Stephen Ward, Lee Gregory and on-loan Aston Villa striker Scott Hogan.

Jones’ philosophy, championing forward-thinking full-backs, dominance of possession and nomadic strike duos is clear enough to see, though his Potters sides have so far proven way too easy to defend against, infamously playing out four successive goalless draws in March.

Still, they looked to start sharply: Tom Ince striding straight forward from kick-off, immediately finding left wing-back Ward, who whipped in a dangerous cross which was eventually dealt with by a slightly shaken Charlton backline.

But it was the home side who struck first: Lyle Taylor working an opening on the left-hand corner of the box, before unleashing a powerful strike into the right of Jack Butland’s goal (25’).

A fine hit by Ince to level on 37’, beating Dillon Phillips from outside the box not long after Hogan had struck the bar, may have pointed to improvement from the visitors, who, like on matchday one, hogged much of the ball throughout (54%) without being able to dispense of a generally ponderous tempo.

On the flipside, Bowyer structured his team superbly, opting for two strong banks of four (with attacking midfielder Conor Gallagher dropping, in the turnover, to compose a five in front of defence) to nullify City’s endeavours to utilise width.

Just simply man-marking Stoke seems to cancel out the multitude of their threat, as Athletic wide-men Jonny Williams (left) and on-loan (West Brom) debutant Jonathan Leko (right) tracked Tommy Smith and Ward respectively.

Whilst, going the other way, by committing their (Stoke) full-backs so high up the field, the two mentioned Charlton players (Leko possessing a significant turn of pace) were pivotal in counter-attacking springs, as Addicks transitions embodied an effective directness.

Returning to analysis of Stoke’s impotence, Darren Pratley, returning West Ham loan star Josh Cullen and the aforementioned Gallagher (also on loan, Chelsea) alternated in regard to monitoring of Ince’s runs into the eighteen-yard area, meaning that with each visiting player marked (including strikers Gregory and Hogan, touch-tight throughout the first-half to Tom Lockyer and Jason Pearce), the Potters’ midfield appeared overtaxed for creativity.

Gregory did also hit the woodwork before the break, though it was a Bowyer change in the last twenty minutes that made all the difference: Gallagher moved out to the left, Williams switched to the right and Chuks Aneke came on (69’), replacing an duly worn out Leko, for his debut; and to partner Taylor up top.

Six minutes later, Charlton retook the lead: Aneke coolly finishing just in front of the penalty spot (75′).

Aneke after debut goal

Meanwhile, Jones’ changes, opting for further attacking width with the introductions of Mark Duffy (69’) and Thibaud Verlinden (78’), operating either side of lone forward Tyrese Campbell (brought on 61’), did not trouble the home side.

On 83’ it was 3-1, with industrious yet classy midfielder Gallagher finding the net for his first professional goal. Again, for Charlton, one dispatched from within the box.

An extremely encouraging start for Charlton
All in all, Charlton’s high energy approach, enhanced by a particular directness on the break, yet aided too by an effective mix of pace, creativity (notably through Williams) and, crucially, ruthlessness will give them a great chance in the majority of Championship games this season.

There’s a good 20+ goals in Taylor, and starts to a season like these really build early momentum; the kind which, in a number of the division’s previous years, including on a handful of occasions for promoted sides sustaining their previous campaign’s spirit, can initiate top-six or even top-two charges. Compatible with this, Bowyer said afterwards that “the lads are gaining confidence from these results”.

The loss of Anfernee Dijksteel to Middlesbrough in the final days of the transfer window may however prove damaging, with long-serving right-back Chris Solly, as reliable as he is and has been, now the only orthodox option in the position.

Moreover, in trying to play out from defence, the Addicks do occasionally get caught out. Namely, goalkeeper Phillips (jointly left red-faced with Naby Sarr for similar reasons at Wembley during the play-off final in May) being pressed right the way back to his byline at one point on Saturday. Solly did also seem to have been identified by Stoke for potential weakness on the ball.

An overriding positive though for Charlton is the remarkable spirit around The Valley, an atmosphere which has not always been forthcoming in recent years:

Having been relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2015/16 season, following a turbulent campaign consisting of three managers, supporters’ much publicised discontent with owner Roland Duchatelet reached toxic levels, with many holding the Belgian owner accountable for upsetting the club’s harmony and progress at the time of his January 2014 takeover: first sacking club legend Chris Powell, then proceeding to rather haphazardly appoint a string of managers with no English football experience (including three Belgian compatriots and Israeli Guy Luzon), all whilst providing little to no explanation as to any measured strategy.

Today however, though Duchatelet’s poor communication with the fanbase continues to bitterly frustrate the loyal Addicks following, the feel-good factor around manager Lee Bowyer is, for the time being, seemingly numbing widespread desperation for a change of ownership.

Yet more disappointment for Jones
For Stoke, it’s been a difficult period since relegation from the Premier League in May 2018, and having replaced Gary Rowett in January, Nathan Jones’ waves at Luton (notably League Two promotion in 2018, responsibility for the first half of the club’s 2019 League One championship, and a points per game ratio of 1.8, the highest of any Hatters boss) have not followed through into The Potteries. Indeed, the Welshman’s revolution has yet to take shape, and looks a long way off doing so based on Saturday’s toothless display.

Speaking to BBC Radio Stoke on Saturday evening, Jones maintained that his side are “creating enough chances”, but conceded that “goals win games” and “that’s what we’re [they’re] not doing”.

View From RowZ’s 2019/20 Premier League Preview

Where your team will finish and why, how many points they’ll achieve and who’ll top your goalscoring charts.

1st- Manchester City
They will become the first team since arch-rivals Manchester United in 2009 to secure three successive Premier League titles.
With a squad so lavishly stacked, a manager [Pep Guardiola] unrivalled in the art of interchanging countless individuals into his unequivocal philosophy and the combination of Guardiola’s ability to keep players unwaveringly motivated, along with recognition from these superb footballers that they couldn’t be in a better place, I’m expecting another ridiculous tally of points from City.
99 points
Top goal scorer- Raheem Sterling (24 goals)

2nd- Tottenham Hotspur
Having limped through a wretched obstacle course last season, in the form of a campaign which effectively rolled on from 2017/18 and the World Cup (by virtue of extreme involvement from Spurs players in the latter stages), Mauricio Pochettino’s side have finally had time to refresh, aided even more duly by three exciting transfer additions.
Now entering phase two of the Pochettino era, as well as full season No.1 in the glorious Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs look ready to at least sustain conversation with City this year.
89 points
Top goal scorer- Harry Kane (25 goals)

3rd- Liverpool
Ending last campaign as Champions of Europe and the runners-up that people will remember, Liverpool’s mentality will be fascinating to assess: That is, will they proceed with the swagger that their continental title attributes them? Or will the disappointment of cashing 97 points in exchange for a runners-up medal harm their capacity to start, from scratch, another lung-busting pursuit of City?
Like Spurs last season, summer tournament participation from some key players and a lack of marquee investment is likely to hinder the potential for significant improvement.
88 points
Top goal scorer- Sadio Mané (24 goals)

4th- Arsenal
Unai Emery is a top-class manager and is without doubt the man to reshape what had become a stale regime at the Emirates Stadium.
Crucially, the defence will undoubtedly be better, bolstered by two winners in Kieran Tierney (albeit in Scottish football) and David Luiz, to assist the impressive Sokratis and stalwart Nacho Monreal.
Whilst at the top end, they look one of the Premier League’s most potent outfits, leading me to back them for a return to the Champions League, after what will have been a three-year absence.
80 points
Top goal scorer- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (27 goals)

5th- Manchester United
Like Arsenal, gapingly clear defensive deficiencies have been largely addressed. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire look like fine moves, whilst you’d firmly expect David de Gea, off the back of a restful summer (both physically and mentally, the latter in relation to some fierce Spanish national team scrutiny), to rediscover masterful form.
Going forward, United possess a satisfactory cavalry as far as goals are concerned, but there’s still question marks surrounding Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s capacities to meet the lofty demands. Whilst Paul Pogba, last season’s top marksman with thirteen, likely to stay beyond the European transfer deadline (31st August for Spain, France and Germany) will be expected to contribute again from midfield.
76 points
Top goal scorer- Marcus Rashford (18 goals)

6th- Chelsea
They’ve lost Eden Hazard, been unable to sign anybody this summer (bar Christian Pulisic’s switch, confirmed in January) and welcome into the hotseat an ultimate club legend [Frank Lampard] with just one year of management experience.
That said, Chelsea’s squad is laden with know-how, crisp with young hungry talent and the club, from staff to supporters, is bursting with positivity.
I do believe that a top-four finish is beyond them this term, particularly due to involvement in this season’s Champions League and no guaranteed beacon in the way of goals, though am convinced that Lampard will be afforded the allusive commodity of time to build on a constrained first campaign.
73 points
Top goal scorer- Olivier Giroud (14 goals)

7th- Newcastle United
Troubled, toxic… please insert your description of the summer’s atmosphere on Tyneside.
However, amid Newcastle supporters’ untenable relationship with owner Mike Ashley, footballing mourning of Rafa Benítez’ departure and underwhelmed sentiments towards Steve Bruce’s appointment, it is my honest projection that Newcastle will do very well.
Having lost Salomón Rondón, Brazilian striker Joelinton has arrived from Hoffenheim for a hefty £40m. Described by South American football expert Tim Vickery to be “good with both feet, mobile and [a player with] some physical presence about him”, I’m expecting to see an effective Toon side, steered by a reliable and organised stalwart of English football in Bruce.
Whilst alongside Bruce, there’s a strong local contingent about the place, notably in the form of future England star Sean Longstaff and the returning Andy Carroll; who, if managed correctly, will be a huge asset.
The backline is strong, there’s some class in midfield and the personnel is suitable for a productive, direct approach, utilising pace, dynamism and physical presence.
54 points
Top goal scorer- Joelinton (16 goals)

8th- West Ham United
A fledgling team entering its second campaign under the stewardship of Manuel Pellegrini, the Hammers have recruited positively, dispensed of the disruptive Marko Arnautovic and are looking increasingly comfortable at the London Stadium.
Goals will be no bother, aided by the arrivals of Sébastien Haller and Albian Ajeti, and creativity is rife in the shape of Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals and long-missed fan favourite Manuel Lanzini.
It’ll be close between them and Newcastle for 7th, though I think, despite Lukasz Fabianski and Issa Diop’s strong performances last season, that their openness will entail a sizeable goals against column.
53 points
Top goal scorer- Sébastien Haller (14 goals)

9th- AFC Bournemouth
Always a top-heavy outfit, yet one which, since promotion to the Premier League in 2015, has never become embroiled in a relegation battle, Bournemouth, having kept hold of key players in Callum Wilson and David Brooks, meanwhile strengthening late-on loaning Harry Wilson from Liverpool, should plough along with vitality (true to their stadium’s title) once again.
49 points
Top goal scorer- Callum Wilson (17 goals)

10th- Leicester City
The Foxes’ summer had been going swimmingly until star defender Harry Maguire’s switch to Old Trafford. And though £80m embodies a hugely healthy financial windfall, there’s no doubt that the side looks weaker now than it did a week ago.
Brendan Rodgers’ team is youthful, emancipated and full of promise, displaying adequate clarity of direction for the fans to give the project time.
Youri Tielemans (as exemplified in my July article Tielemans: The Ace Fox in Leicester’s Skulk) is a young footballer I love, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury will progress and I can see Leicester enjoying a rollercoaster campaign that’ll renew optimism for the future at the King Power Stadium.
49 points
Top goal scorer- Jamie Vardy (15 goals)

11th- Everton
I anticipate what will be a damaging marginal trailing of Bournemouth and Leicester for Toffees boss Marco Silva.
Superficially, Everton’s business has been good within the transfer window just gone. However, I can still point to cavernous defensive shortcomings, aided not by the losses of Kurt Zouma in defence and Idrissa Gueye at the base of the midfield.
They certainly won’t struggle but will fall well short of the club’s coveted top-six challenge. Something the Goodison Park faithful are unlikely to accept with a smile.
48 points
Top goal scorer- Richarlison (11 goals)

12th- Wolverhampton Wanderers
Again, will not struggle, but are set to find themselves circumstantially constrained to repeat last season’s league form.
It’s easy to forget that Wolves are embarking on just their second season back in the Premier League, after a terrific 7th-place finish (securing Europa League qualification) and an (in the end heart-breaking) FA Cup semi-final.
Commendably, Nuno Espírito Santo pays upmost respect to each competition his team enters, leading me to project another FA or League Cup run and a strong showing in Europe. The latter meaning, of course, the age-old Thursday-Sunday curse.
46 points
Top goal scorer- Raúl Jiménez (14 goals)

13th- Burnley
From last year’s Europa League-qualifying overachievers to 2017/18’s, Burnley, though knocked out of Europe in late-August, began last season on the backfoot, having embarked on the first of an eventual six European ties in July and set themselves an unsurpassable final league position of 7th in May 2018.
With just three wins to their name by the final days of December, Sean Dyche succeeded in reinstalling Burnley’s renowned solidity, in the wake of Boxing Day’s crushing 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Everton.
Retaining James Tarkowski, a late transfer target of Leicester’s, was a key summer victory, whilst homegrown winger Dwight McNeil, duly creditable for 2019’s upturn in results, should shine again.
45 points
Top goal scorer- Jay Rodriguez (9 goals)

14th- Watford
A smartly run club with a smartly managed team, Watford will again renew their Premier League stay with no trouble at all.
Like Wolves, the side they dramatically dispatched to reach what was, unfortunately, a procession of an FA Cup Final against Man City, the Hornet’s have a manager in Javi Gracia who seems keen on a cup run, professing, ahead of the big day in May, that “as soon as I [he] arrived in England, I [he] felt how special The FA Cup is”. So another FA or League Cup run would not be a surprise.
Whilst squad-wise, keeping hold of Abdoulaye Doucouré, a fine player, and attaining the services of Danny Welbeck (fitness pending) to supplement an already potent attack containing Gerard Deulofeu, still only 25 and someone I believe has it in him to explode Mahrez-like, bodes well for another refreshing season at Vicarage Road.
45 points
Top goal scorer- Gerard Deulofeu (13 goals)

15th- Brighton & Hove Albion
Another club with a robust sense of direction, Brighton are foundationally secure both on and off the pitch: Off it in regard to the bonny AMEX Stadium, savvy owner Tony Bloom, reputed technical director Dan Ashworth (recruited from the England setup) and nomadic head coach Graham Potter; whilst on it in relation to former boss Chris Hughton’s solid footballing implementations, notably centre-halves Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, in front of Aussie stopper Mathew Ryan.
Pascal Groß has impressed since arriving in English football, whilst Aaron Mooy, Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard could be inspired acquisitions. Variables pointing towards a relatively worry-free campaign for the Seagulls.
43 points
Top goal scorer- Neal Maupay (14 goals)

16th- Aston Villa
Poked for much of the summer with comparisons to Fulham’s transfer activity a year ago, after their promotion (also, like Villa’s) via the play-offs, everybody is intrigued to see how Dean Smith’s team get on.
Having spent over £100m on no fewer than twelve players, nine of whom are untested in the Premier League, Smith leads his boyhood club back into the top-flight with an arsenal of reinforcements behind him.
As with many promotions, loan players played a massive role last term for Villa, who’ve been able to reobtain Tyrone Mings, Anwar El Ghazi and Kortney Hause. Though not Tammy Abraham or Axel Tuanzebe, who return to Chelsea and Man United respectively.
New striker Wesley is a relatively unknown quantity up top, however goals should materialise sufficiently across midfield and attack to ensure survival.
41 points
Top goal scorer- Wesley (13 goals)

17th- Crystal Palace
Presuming Wilfried Zaha does stay beyond the European transfer deadline, so much, in regard to Palace’s success this season, will depend on whether or not their talisman’s focus will be affected by a summer’s worth of uncertainty surrounding his future. And, indeed, dependent on no January transfer for the Ivorian.
Palace are often a wildcard, registering a large quantity of goals from alternative sources: namely penalties (won by Zaha, converted by Luka Milivojevic), left-back Patrick van Aanholt and ridiculously spectacular wonderstrikes (none more so than Andros Townsend’s stunning volley against Man City).
Bosses don’t come more seasoned this campaign than 72-year-old Croydon-born Roy Hodgson, whilst almost everybody in the Eagles’ squad looks capable of scoring. They’ll just have enough.
40 points
Top goal scorer- Wilfried Zaha (14 goals)

18th- Southampton
The Saints certainly got a bounce from Ralph Hasenhüttl’s appointment last December, though by no means danced to safety.
This campaign, they’ll be looking to finally extract some consistency from the ever-promising Nathan Redmond and will harbour high hopes for 22-goal Championship man Che Adams. Always an encouraging outfit on paper, Southampton have underachieved for two seasons now, leading me to fear for them should they have a rocky start.
Hasenhüttl, in spite of some positive results, was unable to wholesomely transform them into his full throttle approach, and I’m not convinced they’ve reinforced the squad enough to aid the process.
38 points
Top goal scorer- Che Adams (8 goals)

19th- Sheffield United
A similar proposition to that of Cardiff City last season, yet with slightly more about them in my view, Sheffield United have recruited sparingly and predominantly from the league they’ve recently vacated.
Managed, like Villa, by a boyhood fan [Chris Wilder], United (led from the Championship as runners-up by a Yorkshireman, again like Cardiff) will be a fascinating watch, and a side most away from the blue half of Sheffield will wish all the best.
Wilder’s 5-3-2 system is to give the Blades the greatest possible chance of survival, allowing for a firm base (commanded by returning hero Phil Jagielka, see On the Move Like Jaga: Sheff Utd re-sign Jagielka), ample width and a combination of energy and presence (respectively) up front with Callum Robinson and Oliver McBurnie.
36 points
Top goal scorer- Oliver McBurnie (7 goals)

20th- Norwich City
Harsh considering they won the Championship, but Norwich just wreak of a club setting up to yo-yo: in that, relegation followed by promotion the season after this would not shock me.
They won’t disgrace themselves, but it’s just unrealistic to envisage near enough the same squad repeating last year’s freescoring exploits. An incredible 93 league goals were bagged by the champions in 2018/19, but, this time around, even 40 will be a massive challenge.
At the other end, it was far from an unflappable Canaries defence in the title winning campaign, and I anticipate a steep learning curve of a first Premier League season for highly touted young full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.
35 points
Top goal scorer- Teemu Pukki (9 goals)

When Did Popular Perception of Rooney Change?

Rooney’s unveiling to the press at Pride Park got me thinking as to whether or not the popular perception of him as a footballer has somehow altered during his professional career.

Yesterday, Wayne Rooney joined Derby County on an 18-month player-coach deal which will begin in January 2020.

The move, seeing England’s record goal scorer leave MLS side DC United, progressed rapidly after Derby manager Phillip Cocu declined to deny the rumours. This in the immediate aftermath of the new boss’ first game in charge, as the Rams claimed a 2-1 victory at Huddersfield in their Monday night Championship opener.

Rooney has somewhat rediscovered himself in Washington, scoring 25 goals in 45 appearances in total, albeit in a largely inferior league, however much the MLS and its endorsers may postulate its undeniable growth.

A deal kept impeccably under wraps by Derby owner Mel Morris, we’ve scarcely had time to reflect on neither the rumour nor completion of transfer, as Monday’s noises were subsequently validated and soon after confirmed: first as Rooney arrived at Heathrow early Tuesday, then when announced as a Derby County player-coach in the early afternoon.

Rooney’s unveiling to the press at Pride Park however got me thinking as to whether or not the popular perception of him as a footballer has somehow altered during his professional career, 17 years and counting.
Indeed, this consideration was evoked by the following question from a journalist during the press conference:
“You have won 16 major trophies, England’s all-time leading goal scorer and yet here you are talking about the appetite to play in England’s second tier. Where do you still get that desire from?”
To which Rooney replied:
“That is football. It is what I have done my whole life, it is what I love and until my body says that you cannot do it no more, I will keep doing it.”

Whether, traditionally, described as a ‘street footballer’, a ‘working-class lad living his dream’ or something else of a similar distinction, the Wayne Rooney of 2002-2010 (a period incorporating his Everton breakthrough and foremost spell of Manchester United success) was roundly perceived to possess the ultimate hunger for the game. Epitomised within 2015 documentary Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals, which reveals that the Everton hero, “too young to celebrate with his teammates” (narration by Gary Lineker) after scoring the winner and his first professional goal against Arsenal, “went back to Croxteth for his second game that day”.

My main question, therefore, is do we still look at Rooney as that same young man who, above all (bar of course family commitments), wants to be out on concrete, grass or glass kicking a ball? Or has something changed? To the point that somebody may question, for whatever reason, why, having achieved what he has in the game, his enthusiasm to grace the field remains undiminished. And if so, when did the shift begin?

An uncomfortable reality within the modern game, yet one we’re pretty comfortable discussing. Speculating about it too, and the ways in which astronomical figures modify the priorities of today’s footballer (as, dually, a generalised conception and human commodity).

In regard to Rooney, it was in the Autumn of 2010 when contractually concerned reports first began to taint his conventional identity. This beginning in the August, when he told Man United chiefs that he would not be renewing his deal with the club. According to Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, the striker’s rationale for refusing to commit was insufficient ambition, though Ferguson proceeds to insinuate that “he’d been programmed [by agent Paul Stretford] in what he was trying to say”, during a meeting over the matter with Fergie. The narrative of the greedy agent and questionably represented footballer is one at the very forefront of the current transfer sphere (rearing countlessly this summer, namely surrounding Gareth Bale, agent Jonathan Barnett and the Welshman’s Chinese transfer saga). Rooney eventually signed on for five years in October 2010, with the deal netting him £180,000 a week.

The affair did not sit well with many, mostly for reasons concerning money. Not only due to his extraordinary new wage (later plunged into perspective by the extension signed in 2014), but also his rather unfounded assertions about the club’s inadequate ambition, despite three Premier League titles in four years, two Champions League finals (victorious in 2008) in three and a League Cup that year. United’s neighbours Manchester City, then two years into their Abu Dhabi financial splurge, therefore acted as leverage for Stretford, who, knowing he could cite them as potentially improved suitors for Rooney (particularly following Carlos Tevez’ move across town the previous summer), rather forced the Old Trafford side’s hand in caving to player and (perhaps more pertinently) agent demands. All whilst, on the pitch, City had yet to end their 34-year trophy drought or qualify for the Champions League. Somewhat justifying scattered belief that football had become a secondary concern of the England strikers’.

Rooney’s next contract extension, signed in February 2014 to earn him up to £300,000 a week, left people similarly unsettled. Indeed, having been embroiled in another transfer saga (this time with Chelsea being the most profoundly uttered destination) from Ferguson’s exit to the beginning of the 2013/14 season, the end result was again a hugely improved monetary package. Staying a United player allowed him to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record, entrenching the football-loving lad from humble beginnings’ place in English football folklore. But perhaps it’s the various transfer bluffs, which could have compromised the aforementioned achievement, that have caused people to propose a slip in footballing hunger.

Personal Life, Lifestyle and Ronaldo
Be it tabloid revelations of infidelity, or the recurrent idea that his lifestyle has been far from conducive to optimal performance and longevity (admittedly supported, intermittently, by seemingly below-par outward physical condition), public respect for Rooney has at times been hindered by some of his conduct. Bluntly, nobody likes a ‘cheat’, whilst many harbour frustrations as to how much better he could have been with such prodigious talent, had he simply looked after himself better. At which point, the inevitable Cristiano Ronaldo comparisons emerge. Unfairly in my view.

Returning to the journalist to player exchange at Pride Park yesterday, any indirect implication that Rooney’s “appetite” or “desire” might have waned can be attributed to the divergent career trajectories of himself and Ronaldo. Arguably on a parallel straight in the era before and immediately after the 2006 World Cup, Rooney, whilst advancing to become a superb player, undeniably became the inferior one out of the duo:Rooney vs Ronaldo

Credited for an unequivocal eagerness to play, willingness to line-up out of position for tactical reasons (often filling in out wide in Champions League ties) and even a tendency to ‘play angry’ (a trait numerously landing him in petulant bother early on in his career, though recognised as a sometimes regrettable by-product of Rooney’s positively fervent nature), the original conception of the forward depicts a young man who, as reiterated by himself yesterday, has spent his life playing football and intends to do so for as long as physically possible. In which case, could Ronaldo’s unwavering exploits be a factor for the perception change?

For all the recurring cliché’s uttered above about Rooney, one which rarely, if ever, features is the old stays behind after training notion. The phrase effectively follows players noted for exceptional work ethic and constant desire to better themselves. Where Ronaldo famously does not drink alcohol (one major reason being substance abuse suffered by his late Father), is fabled to tirelessly nurture his technique and (clearly) looks after his body both nutritionally and practically, Rooney could certainly have made some more bodily enhancing choices

Much, therefore, makes him a victim of once being on a par with Ronaldo. Alas, regardless of subjective judgements on levels of natural talent, nobody can indisputably argue that Rooney could ever have either genetically or applicably (via extreme, Ronaldo-esque dedication) sustain his counterpart’s achievements. Thus, at 33 (one-year Ronaldo’s junior) he finds himself, for a multitude of physiological explanations beyond his control, a world away from the Portuguese legend’s renewed Champions League and league title winning triumphs.

The bottom line here, a change of perception born out of an unfortunately premature decline as a top top-level footballer.

Beckham: A Culmination of Both the Above
As a final cross-section of the central question surrounding Rooney, David Beckham is evocative of much previously outlined in this article.

Contrastingly to Rooney’s narrative of exceptional natural ability, Beckham has been traditionally labelled as a lad just as hungry to play, but supplemented by a work ethic comparable to that of Ronaldo. Yes, the aforementioned training ground adage has indeed stuck to him. Be it crossing, set-pieces, long-range passing or maximisation of limited pace, Beckham has been noted, from stories of drills with his Father in Ridgeway Park to many additional hours spent at Carrington, to have optimised his ability through utter perseverance towards his childhood dream.

But like Rooney, intensification of fame and money appeared to conceive a myth that he had lost his edge in regard to the game. Admittedly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s substantially believable account of Beckham’s latter United years conveys diminishment of footballing focus, as he, like Rooney, has filled many tabloid columns over the years. Plus the various sponsorships stacked on top of sizable professional footballers’ wages.

Beckham, as Rooney did, won it all at Old Trafford, yet fell victim to the same change in perception, advanced, to a fair degree, by the same factors. Again unjustly, considering he played until the age of 38, tested himself in four top European leagues (as well as in the MLS) and never retired from International football. He’s also arguably, like Ronaldo, at a genetic advantage to Rooney, who, though ready to enter an extremely demanding league just a tier below the Premier League, has a lot of work to do to achieve another five years in the higher reaches as a player. Hence, perhaps the player-coach angle, due possibly, if his Derby contract is seen out, to see him bow out as a player at the age of 35.

Tuesday’s development is nothing less than enthralling, piling another layer of intrigue onto the Championship.

The question posed to Rooney at Pride Park, I must stress, was absolutely apt and very evocative. Everybody of course is different, and the enormous sums of footballing honours and economic rewards swept by Rooney over 17 years may indeed adversely affect some footballers’ appetite for the game. It was simply, however, a shock, remembering the orthodox perception of Wayne Rooney, to entertain the possibility that he would ever lose that explosive desire. I suppose as much as it has been, over the last 6 years or so, for many to watch his game slow down to the extent that it has.

*Podcast* The Year Ends in 1: Episode 1 Part 1


Recorded Saturday 13th July 2019:

Chaired by a Tottenham supporter Ian Wallis, 5 fellow Spurs fans (Casper Wallis, 11, Simeon Wright, 21, Rikki Swarbrick, 41, Rob White, son of Spurs legend John White and co-author of The Ghost: In Search of My Father the Football Legend, and Peter Wright, 61, discuss a broad agenda of matters concerning Tottenham Hotspur.
Spanning several generations, the inaugrual edition delves into why we came to support the club (and what subsequently hooked us), our differential expectations, appraisals of the club’s current position (for example, whether or not 2 trophies in 28 years is acceptable).

Part 2 assesses each individual’s favourite era of watching Spurs, best and worst moments and projections as to what the future holds for Spurs.

Our 61-year-old participant symbolises Tottenham’s last league title success (1961😱), whilst our 11-year-old supporter was born in 2008 (the year of our very last trophy).
Furthermore, the 1-year-old son of another participant represents the many promising years ahead for the club.

Tielemans: The Ace Fox in Leicester’s Skulk

Leicester City have broken their transfer record for the second time in less than a week to complete the signing of 22-year-old Belgium international midfielder Youri Tielemans, for a reported £40m.

Having spent spent the second-half of last season on loan at the King Power Stadium, the Foxes were successful in chasing off apparent interest from the likes of Manchester United to finalise a permanent deal for the exciting young playmaker (widely regarded as one the brightest talents in European football), enhancing the air of optimism around the city, as the new Premier League season draws closer.

The move follows the £30m acquisition of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle on Thursday, and speaking today about the capture, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has expressed his delight: “I’m delighted that Youri has chosen to be part of Leicester City’s journey. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this football club and to be able to bring players of Youri’s quality here is an indication of the hunger for success we have”.

A player at the right end of his 20s, with experience in the World Cup, Champions League and three top-flight European leagues, Leicester have secured a player who could, without doubt, play for any side in the Premier League. That said, the 2016 champions, at £40m, have perhaps paid a fee substantially beneath that which Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and even Spurs (in light of their £63m paid to another French club [Lyon] for a similarly touted midfield starlet [Tanguy Ndombele, also 22]) would’ve been charged for Tielemans’ services.

Indeed, the fairy tale of three years ago may have reverberated around football world, but without forthcoming involvement in European competition, opportunistic recognition from other clubs of any such desperation to fix their squad (much like Leicester themselves’ rather extortionate demands to ‘crisis-ridden’ United for Harry Maguire) or any frivolous examples of Leicester waving wads of cash around, they’ve sealed a bargain deal for somebody whose value will almost certainly increase; and swiftly too.

Moreover, in expansion to the factor of no European football at the King Power, Rodgers’ young, liberated regime has the ideal mix of realistic league ambition (that being to, at least, challenge the monopoly of the top 6), a fresh feel-good factor and a clear footballing philosophy; without the derailing proposition of the Europa League.

The addition of Tielemans may well prove to be the most influential of any made by Leicester this summer, as he is perfect for a plethora of in-game scenarios: likely to excel again (this time to an even greater degree) as the more advanced midfield force alongside the ever-maturing tenacious pair of Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhury, the Belgian has the ability to orchestrate a front-footed possession game, as well as utilise that same technical adeptness in the form of ball retention to conserve results and also serve the ever-green explosiveness of Jamie Vardy during matches suiting a counter-attacking approach.

In light of Tielemans’ permanent arrival, a signature of such pedigree both justifies the excitement ahead of Rodgers’ first full season and emphasises the statement and view to progression required to convince the likes of Ben Chilwell and much sought-after Harry Maguire to remain part of the venture. Tielemans’ performances towards the back end of the season, notably an authoritative display in the 3-0 victory over Arsenal in April, were certainly worthy of other potential suitors. However, his readiness to return to the East Midlands, with such a way still to go in the window, epitomises the infectious spirit and anticipation surrounding the club, spanning the gateway period from May to imminent August.

Having scored 3 times in his 13 Premier League appearances last term, Tielemans also has 23 caps and a single international goal to his name. Goals are certainly a commodity he’ll be looking to add more regularly to his game, though it’s something he’s in a fantastic position to do, playing for attack-minded club and international [Roberto Martínez] coaches; whilst training and lining up, several times a year, alongside one of the world’s foremost goalscoring midfield players: Kevin De Bruyne. Of course, there’s much more too for him to learn from the Man City star.

Furthermore, though he scored just once for Monaco in 2017/18, struggling also with the team during the first-half of their chaotic 2018/19 campaign, an excellent tally of 18 goals from midfield during his final season at Anderlecht (before moving to France for €25m in May 2017) reminds us that that particular trait is there.

In the name of team development, the buy represents the continuation of a project at Leicester which is very much in its infancy. Initially loaned back in January by Frenchman Claude Puel to fit into his patient and retentive style of play, it took a month for Tielemans to hit his capable stride, amid turmoil and swelling toxicity surrounding the aforementioned manager. Though in the weeks following Puel’s February sacking, he would become instrumental in a run of 5 wins (and just 2 losses) from the Foxes’ final 9 league fixtures; much accreditable to Rodgers’ more emancipated incarnation of the Frenchman’s possession-based football. The Belgian started every game of the run-in, impressing too as Leicester held Man City for 70 minutes at the Etihad in May, frustrating the free-scoring (eventual) champions until Vincent Kompany’s iconic piledriver.

All in all, Leicester have pulled off a major coup. The Foxes face 5 of last season’s the top 7 in their opening 8 league games, including a trip to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on matchday 2. Indeed, with such a tricky start, optimism could quickly turn to pressure, so it will be interesting to see how Tielemans, as promising and classy as he is, may react to an adverse run of results. Particularly in light of his involvement in Monaco’s capitulation from last season’s outset. That said, he and this dangerous, yet foundationally robust (allowing the likes of the Belgian to express himself) Leicester side will no doubt revel in the prospect of quieting what will be a euphoric Stamford Bridge during Lampard’s homecoming.

So all things considered, this is how Leicester, by virtue of their squad today, may line-up against Wolves on 11th August:

Leicester lineup