Stuart Hall on the Premier League battle

RT’s sports reporter gives his predictions for the 2011-2012 football season

Charlie has decamped to Villa. N’nnnnogbia of that ilk, the most exciting talent in the league, has passed under Wenger’s radar and is now on Alex’s leash.


Once upon a yesteryear Ron Greenwood was my mentor, the oracle of West Ham. We sat together analysing the footie. “What do you think of Martin Peters?” he asked. “Excellent footballer,” I replied. “No, he’s a genius. Don’t watch the play, watch Martin, the nuances, the subtlety of his play, his pace, his brain.” Thus I obeyed.

I emulated this with Charlie at the People’s Republic of Wigan. T’were their one – whose fire true genius kindles and fair game inspires (A. Pope, ex-Millwall).

I shall assess Sergio Aguero in the same frame. As Tevez frets and fumes, Aguero, with David Silva, will play the Beautiful Game, Manchester City will thus win the league. Parsimonious clubs consumed by jealousy can only mutter “Etihad” in their sleep.

In second place will be Manchester United. Rob Roy knows that his Golden Generation of Giggs, Scholes, Neville and Van der Sar cannot be replaced. Rob’s sporran, ever a-twitch, will twirl as Rooney (another genius) seeks to shoehorn Phil Jones and co into United’s passing game.

Chelsea will finish third. There were times last season when age required not easing balm, but Zimmer frames. Angst was prevalent, Lampard’s surging runs devolving to a mere trickle. I remember spotting Lampard in West Ham’s youth team, and Michael Owen in Liverpool’s. Where is the English talent? Where is the production line that the Spanish and the French have fine-tuned? Does the answer lie in Senegal? Some diamonds have been unearthed there that require some serious prospecting. At the moment, I’m still sniffing round Wythenshawe.

Fourth place again for the Arsenal. Rumbles of discontent at the Emirates. Arsène staunchly refusenik in signing world-class players and, to his chagrin, luminaries wishing to leave. To look back at Arsenal’s great teams, he would never have relied on Jack Wilshere, a mere stripling, to inspire. Arsène could have signed the entire Dutch midfield, but spurned them for lesser lights. Footie lovers wish, as ever, the Arsenal to entertain; the Gooners wish for silverware.

Spurs and Liverpool will jostle for fifth place. Modric has rocked ’Arry’s whelk stall pursuing fool’s gold. ’Arry will wheel and deal and emerge, as always, smelling of beluga caviar. Kenny Dalglish has the visage of a Cherokee chief. I propose a full headdress of feathers, plus a quiver of arrows.

Now the middle bunch. Everton need fresh blood. David Moyes is a fine manager, one ear cocked for the call from Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Everton must not become a selling club. Lescott, Pienaar, now probably Jagielka. The buck must stop. Largesse must be found. Abandon hopes of a new stadium, the cost in these days of recession prohibitive. Moyes will nurture talent, it’s a proven.

Aston Villa will be a presence. Alex McLeish will give them a cutting edge, and he has Charlie!

Wolves will prosper. Mick McCarthy, the Beau Brummel of footie, has survived, learnt, applied. Steve Morgan, his club chairman, is a man of integrity, and smart. He and Mick make a great double act.

Bolton play QPR, and Owen Coyle, having had a barnstorming first season, will need to light the fuse early. First he tutored Wilshere, then Daniel Sturridge; he needs another wunderkind to inspire. Eddie Davies, another amazing chairman (with five university degrees) is a staunch back-up. Stoke and Sunderland, Newcastle and West Brom will feature flittingly and stay up.

Finally, the drop beckons for Blackburn, QPR, Fulham, Norwich, Swansea and Wigan. Resources are thin, the money trees ain’t fruiting. It’s beg, borrow or steal. Spare a thought for Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, fine coach, cultured gentleman, spurned Villa for loyalty. Does loyalty deserve reward? Watch this space.


The new Premier League season kicks off with Newcastle United v Arsenal on Saturday (5.30pm ESPN), with Stoke City v Chelsea and Manchester United v West Brom on Sunday (1.30pm/4.00pm Sky Sports 1, HD). Highlights on Match of the Day (Saturday 10.15pm BBC1) and Match of the Day 2 (Sunday 10.25pm BBC1)