The motivational skills of Roy Keane will surely be put to the test this season. He proved he could lead a side to winning the Championship and although that team had won the Championship 2 years before it was still a great achievement if you consider the starting position he was given. Many people are labeling him rather prematurely, the successor to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United but winning promotion with Sunderland is hardly enough of a qualification to take over from the 2nd most successful team in England. As for transfer activity, Sunderland havenâ€™t exactly set the world alight with the signings of Kieron Richardson and Michael Chopra but if you look at the 3 promoted sides theyâ€™ve all decided to take the Reading model and try to re-work it as opposed to over spending and having to renegotiate contracts if they get relegated. Apparently Sunderland have beaten Aston Villa to the signing of highly rated keeper Craig Gordon and although itâ€™s a great coup for Roy Keane, a great keeper isnâ€™t guaranteed to keep you up, just ask Watford and Charlton last season.
Prediction: Another team that will be battling the drop. As with most clubs who gain promotion itâ€™s a bit of a lottery sometimes as to whether theyâ€™ll have early success and manage to stave off relegation and with Sunderland it wonâ€™t be any different. Finishing 4th from bottom this season should be considered a success for Roy Keane.
Having spoken to a few Spurs fans Iâ€™ve been given the impression by the majority that theyâ€™d be happy with 5th place this season. Now of course thereâ€™s room for optimism and there will always be those fans who will expect their team to improve on last year. Theyâ€™ve made the right moves in the transfer market with the acquisition of Darren Bent and promising Welshman Gareth Bale along with their already promising squad, some consistency will go a long way in helping them improve on last season. The teams they hope to catch, Arsenal and Liverpool if we are to look at last seasonâ€™s table had relatively average seasons last time out and will also be looking to improve. Arsenal will no longer have to contend with playing home matches at a new stadium and Liverpool have bolstered their squad so Martin Jolâ€™s job of breaking into the top 4 has been made a lot harder. Itâ€™ll be refreshing to see Spurs not lose to Arsenal and not act like theyâ€™ve won the league next season if they manage it.
Prediction: 5th place. Although they need to be wary of challenges from Newcastle, Everton and Blackburn I think Spurs have too much quality not to finish 5th. I just think theyâ€™ll come up short when it comes to breaking into the the top 4. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with consistency.
As if Alan Curbishleyâ€™s job wasnâ€™t hard enough, heâ€™s only gone and made it harder by putting Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer into the same squad. He has made some handy signings though and if their egos can all fit into the dressing room then Bellamy and Ljungberg could make a useful attacking unit for the Hammers. I think their most important transfer of the summer has been the arrival of Scott Parker from Newcastle as heâ€™s bound to galvanize the centre of the park with Mark Noble, something Reo-Coker and Mullins didnâ€™t really manage to do at the beginning of last year. Iâ€™m sure a lot of West Ham fans will be confident their side will do well this season but after losing Tevez, who almost single-handedly saved them, things wonâ€™t be so easy. They seem to have replaced like for like in most positions, with Ljungberg coming in for Benayoun, Bellamy in for Harewood and Parker in for Reo-Coker but will they all gel together quick enough to prevent another torrid start to the season.
Prediction: West Ham will do well to finish in the top half of the table. They should manage it as they have a good mix of young and experienced players, they just need to prevent what happened last season from happening again.
You really have to worry for the future of Wigan Athletic. Not only did they sign Titus â€˜Shamblesâ€™ Bramble but they also made the exact same mistake Bradford City did by appointing Chris Hutchings are the successor to Paul Jewell right after Jewellâ€™s resignation on the final day of the season. The signs arenâ€™t great at the JJB as Dave Whelan doesnâ€™t strike me as the most level-headed of chairmen and although Jewell survived, I donâ€™t think Hutchings will be given too much time if things start going wrong. It remains to be seen if Jason Koumas is Premier League quality but if he can shake the shakes that seem to have shrouded his first few seasons at West Brom in controversy then he could do well for himself and Wigan.Prediction: Theyâ€™ll be lucky to avoid the drop. If anyone has any of their defenders in their team I suggest you get rid of them now. Leighton Baines was a good points earner last season but heâ€™s gone off to Everton.
Prediction: Another team whoâ€™s aim will be to avoid the drop and Wigan will be mightily lucky if they do avoid the drop. It seems the gulf between the top and the bottom gets larger and larger each season with a lot of teams looking to survive and then build on that.