Several years back I used to frequent a small bar on Third Road right next door to the Castle fetish club and a few steps away from the Buffalo Bar.
Don’t pretend you don’t know where I’m talking about!
It was run by the wife of an Aussie friend of mine called Harry. Harry is an old friend in both senses of the word. I can’t remember the name of the bar – and I’m not sure it still exists as one – but for a few years the company there was good and the beers were cold and easy on the pocket. Who can ask for anything more?
I should point out that neither the Castle or the Buffalo are especially relevant to this article other than to give a little context to the geography and maybe remind a few people of their murky pasts.
While I was drinking in … let’s call it Harry’s Bar (which might have been its real name) … I got friendly with some of the drivers of motorcycle taxis who had a regular pitch in front of the Buffalo.
Because I was always diving out of Harry’s into the bar next door that had football on the TV these drivers got to know my favourite team.
Those who know me, know which one it is; those who don’t … well, I don’t want to lose readers.
On Saturday or Sunday nights the motorcycle taxi drivers would call out to me, asking how I thought my team would fare in their match that day. For a few weeks I told them my thoughts.
Then it suggested to me that the riders might be following my punditry to place illegal bets on the matches involved. I was a tad concerned about the illegality of what they were doing. But I was even more worried that they might be losing big money because of a few throw-away remarks from me.
You see, when it comes to predicting the outcome of football matches, I’m crap. Sad, but true.
Want some proof?
Well, last August I wrote an article for this mag giving some predictions. One of them was that Burnley would finish in the bottom six of the Premier League. Of course, they finished so high they will be playing in Europe next season.
I think that is the most spectacular example of how bad I am, but there are a few more. I also said I thought that Watford would be relegated.
They finished mid-table after a great start to the season. Alongside Watford I declared that newly promoted teams Brighton and Huddersfield would also make the drop.
Neither did. Not the most daring of predictions given that whoever comes up is usually among the favourites to go down again. This was one of only three Premiership years in which all the teams that had been promoted survived.
Although I didn’t commit to it in print, I would certainly have backed West Bromwich Albion to finish mid-table. And Stoke. And Swansea, for that matter.
That’s how good a pundit I am. All three were relegated as we are now aware.
I wrote a lot about how I thought Everton had made some good signings last summer but, in reality, the Toffees struggled to make any impact.
If anyone was going to break into the top six, I thought it would be them.
How wrong can you be?
I only predicted one team to come up from the Championship – Aston Villa. Close, but no cigar in terms of automatic promotion.
They finished fourth, some seven points behind second placed Cardiff, but didn’t make it through the play-offs.
So, how do I reflect on the season?
Well, Arsene Wenger finally said goodbye at Arsenal though I was surprised they did not find a role “upstairs” for him at the club.
There is no doubt that he will be a tough act to follow.
I hope that those who called for his sacking and then turned up to sing his name for the last home game can appreciate how two-faced their actions were. His handling by some – by no means all – of the fans left a bit of a sour taste over the past couple of seasons.
Wenger may well be the last of the long-serving managers in the top flight. Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and Burnley’s Sean Dyche have each notched up more than five years. But 20+ years? Can’t see it being repeated.
For many Dych was the manager of the season and I wouldn’t waste a lot of breath arguing against that.
However, my vote in the Barclays online Manager of the Season poll went to Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace.
When he took over the South Londoners they had no points and no goals in their first four league games. This winless run continued for another three matches. Imagine it, in a “race” of 38 games you give all the other competitors a seven-match start then still catch up and overtake half of them.
Manchester City swept away just about every team in sight, scoring a ridiculous record-setting 100+ goals and 100 points in the process (50 points home and away). Several pundits have been musing about City being the best team English football has seen in the Premiership era.
Perhaps they are. However, I think comparisons with teams from past years are fairly daft because you are not comparing like with like. Arsenal’s Invincibles team was very special.
The Manchester United side that won the treble of league, FA Cup and Champions League before the turn of the millennium were no slouches.
Doubtless some computer whizz will find a way of matching some of these teams up electronically.
Let’s just say that City is a very talented team and certainly one of the best to grace the Premiership.
They absolutely deserved to finish top.
In terms of records, yes! Their true greatness will be judged by their ability to repeat their Premier League form and go on to win the Champions League.
I wouldn’t bet against them doing both.
By Dave Buckley