The telegraph wires hum as I tap this out on a cool/warm sunny Saturday morning. The wind gives the blinds in my office a little shake, startling Sophie, our little Pekinese/Shih Tzu pup (actually not a pup…fully grown and almost 4 years old). She packs it in, and returns to her bowl of kibble (pronounced kee-bo around this house/train station/interlocking tower). I return to my telegraphy and keep tapping this out. Train orders for the English Premier League’s relegation train which is already starting it’s journey a week early since the English Premier League 2014 season doesn’t start until next Saturday, August 16 at 6:30AM CDT with Manchester United ((ManU(re) heh heh)) hosting Swansea City at Old Trafford.
Unlike Amtrak 8, the westbound Empire Builder which, at this writing, has just departed St. Cloud, Minnesota 4 hours and 19 minutes late, the English Premier League 2014 Relegation Train is not merely on time, it’s running early. So early, in fact, that I’m even considering running an extra for the Championship (one level down from the Prem), the Bundesliga, and quite likely a quick little shooter for the J-League. Yes, now that would be a first here….something about Japanese soccer. And considering the all anime references stuck in here like lardoons in a slow cooked 10 pound chuck roast, it’s about bloody time.
The first stop on the Relegation Train will be Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal, The New Lord Ferg With The Pet Ferret On His Head® will lead his charges out against Gary Monk’s Swans, and despite the Swan Lake references I might have used to describe Swansea in the past, this match will be no ballet. No relegation will be involved with either of these two, but Swansea faces a troubling season all the same. Their hero of the past two-three historic seasons in the Prem, Michu, is off to Napoli on loan. Yes, on LOAN. And their other hero, prolific scoring Wilfried Bony (17 goals last season, tying him with Sergio-kun and ROONEY for 4th in EPL scoring) might be off to somewhere by the time the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month. Swansea made history in 2011 be becoming the first Welsh club to play in the Prem. They finished a surprising 11th that season. The avoided the second-season syndrome the following campaign by improving to 9th. Last year they finished 12th and this season, well….I see them dropping even lower, which I’ll get to in a bit.
So The New Lord Ferg With The Pet Ferret On His Head® will have a reasonably easy go of it in his home opener. But eventually, I see reality settling in as the thrill of having The New Lord Ferg With The Pet Ferret On His Head® wears off….Chelsea, Liverpool, City, Arseanal (pun intended) notwithstanding….the strain on the squad will come from within. Is Luke Shaw really worth £33m at such a young, inexperienced age? And when vanPersie returns to the fold, I can almost see Rooney go into a pout/funk and Mata turning into a whirling top of bewilderment. Yes, I can almost see that, and no Mr. Manchester, it’s not wishful thinking.
So….the Relegation Train is making good time.
Amtrak 8, not so much.
It’s not Amtrak 8’s fault, though. They been at the mercy of the BNSF ((Burlington Northern Santa Fe to owner Warren Buffett — “Bun-Sniff” to us railfans)) who’ve been rebuilding their mainline from Williston ND to the Twin Cities to accommodate the fockload of freight traffic they’ve been saddled with to and from the Bakken oil fields in NW North Dakota. Amtrak 8 has be running 3-9 hours late everyday for the past year and half to 2 years. Hopefully the work will be done before Chelsea trots up to Liverpool to beat the Kop 1-2 at Anfield, or the snow flies, whichever comes first.
Yesterday’s 8 took 5 hours and 5 minutes to make the 68 miles trek from St. Cloud to the newly renovated Union Station in downtown St Paul. Your average bicycle fascist could have made that journey more swiftly. Freight congestion, track work and all that… BLOODY HELL anyway!!
I’ll keep you posted in the progress of Amtrak 8.
But now, here comes the relegation train. And while I hoop the orders up, you can on board and ride for free.
As I mentioned, the English Premier League tees off at Old Trafford next Saturday the 16th. NBC will be carrying all the games on their various affiliates.
If you haven’t picked a favourite team to root for yet, pin a map of England and Wales to the wall and throw a dart and hope it doesn’t land in Leeds, for if it does, you’ll be shit out of luck, especially if anything about you involves the number 17, or if you were born on the 17th of the month….and besides, Leeds plies its trade down in the Championship. You get to throw again ((or just say fuck it and root for Burnley)).
If you like wine, instead of beer, well….there are options for you as well since several Premier League teams wear claret-coloured jerseys. West Ham United, Aston Villa (who wear claret shirts with sky-blue sleeves and are owned by American Randy Lerner), & the newly promoted Burnley who are nicknamed The Clarets. As we proceed, you will notice a similarity between these three teams that goes beyond the pleasures of the grape.
Y’all know by now who I root for in the Prem. Or should. I picked my team to win it all last season, but they finished third….a confounding, but ultimately acceptable result given the minor imbalances in the squad that Mourinho inherited. I had thought last year that simply having Mourinho back would propel them to the top…and it almost did. Chelsea pretty well demolished their elite competition, but it was against the tenacious small-fry of the Prem, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Aston Villa and the like that they had trouble. But this season holds a different story.
The additions of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas ((who’s no longer the pretty boy he was when he was at Arseanal….he now looks more like former French president Nicolas Sarkozy!! YIKES!!)), Felipe Luis, and return of Theobold Courtois from his loan stint at Atletico helps balance out the squad. Also, our hero, Didier Drogba has returned for one final victory lap before retiring to the manager’s bench. David Luiz has departed to Paris St. Germaine for a mere £50 million — some, no make that many, feel that PSG is overpaying on that deal. Demba Ba has departed for Beşiktaş in the Turkish Super Lig. Just to mention a few of the reasons why Chelsea will win the Prem.
Now mind you, if I felt Chelsea really sucked or had no freaking chance, I would tell you that and still root for them anyway through thick and thin. My blood run blue and I will always keep the blue flag flying high no matter what. But this season, that blue flag will be flying high atop the Prem.
Last year, as I’ve mentioned, none of the teams finished in the position I predicted them to finish. And also, none of the teams I predicted to be relegated were relegated. This year, I’m bit more confident, but…..I wouldn’t bet any of my mother-in-law’s money on it, and neither should you. Also, my selections from 8th on down are bit more confounding for me this time since once we’re past the 7 elite teams, there’s 6 or 7 teams mired in mid-table mediocrity, and them 6 0r 7 that could all be relegated though only three of them will. I’ll give it my best shot, so here goes:
1. CHELSEA — Chelsea will win the Premier League
The other elite teams in the Prem, for various lines of reasoning that I might or might not dwell upon at length, will finish as follows:
2. Manchester City
3. Arseanal (pun intended)
7. Tootenham (heh heh)
There are the elite 7 in the Premier League, and while there might be a thought in my head that Everton could finish above the Suarez-less Liverpool….the emergence of Raheem Sterling might make up for that if Studge’s selfishness can be reigned in. So I’ll run with that for now.
And now, we drop preciously down the ladder in the mediocre abyss. Now mind, you, the dropoff in the Prem is naught as steep as the dropoff in, say La Liga, but if any of the remaining 13 teams step up into the elite 7 territory, well I hang a picture of Margeret Thatcher on my wall and NOT throw a dart at it.
It’s not bloody likely to happen, however.
So here’s the next 6 teams, all tied for 8th in my book, but finishing in this order:
8. Newcastle United
10. Stoke City
11. Crystal Palace
12. Hull City
This one was tough to figure on one or two levels. Stoke could leapfrog Sunderland for 9th. I put Crystal Palace right where they finished last season, 11th. I put Hull up about 4 notches above least season’s 16th place finish. Though they finished on bad run of form last season, Steve Bruce has strengthened the squad with the addition of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavić. If not for their Europa League foray, I might have ranked them over Crystal Palace. As for Southampton, well….they’ve lost most of their great players. Lallana, Lambert, Shaw, Lovren are all gone. Had they stayed, I would have had no trouble picking them to tumble Tootenham out of the Elite 7. Instead, I have them tumbling down the table.
15. Queens Park Rangers
16. Leicester City
17. West Bromwich Albion
18. Aston Villa
19. West Ham United
There’s English Premier League 2014 Relegation Hell for ya. The train could wind up it’s trip at any one of those stations. Burnley being the most likely final stop.
One thing you will note is that if all goes according this master plan, there will NO teams in the Prem in the 2015/16 season who will be wearing claret shirts ((unless a claret-wearing team gets promoted up, of course—-but since the most likely promotees in Championship don’t wear claret, well it will be a wine-free league in 2015/16)).
Hopefully, Randy Lerner can sell Aston Villa before that happens. I sort of feel sorry for him since he’s been a decent owner of a historic team (and no, I’m not referring to the Cleveland Browns). But I don’t feel sorry for gaffer Paul Lambert….he abandoned my Norwich City Canaries for supposedly greener pastures ((ie. more £££)) at Villa Park. He should have stayed at Carrow Road — we’d still be up in the Prem if he had. Well…they’ll be ships passing in the night at the end of the line as Norwich is one of the 3 teams I’m tabbing to be promoted to the Prem this upcoming season.
Norwich’s opening tilt in the Championship tees off at 10:00AM CDT tomorrow at the Molineux against Wolverhampton ((newly promoted back up to the Championship)). The astute railfan will note that that’s 11 minutes before Amtrak 8 is due out of Winona MN. The Builder will be lucky to be out of Staples or St. Cloud by then. As much as I’d love to Norwich open their Championship account with a clean sheet, I’m figuring the final to be a 1-2 Norwich win. More on that later.
The Relegation Train will always run on time. Might even arrive early. The Empire Builder, not so much. A padded schedule helped it leave the new St. Paul Union Depot a mere 3 hours and 17 minutes late. We’ll see how that plays out once BNSF hands it off to the CP.
Take a drink.
While the scoreline looks respectably close, the MLS All-Stars gave the German champs a good hiding at Providence Park ((home of the MLS Portland Timbers)) last Wednesday night. Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern with a smooth strike on 8 minutes, but seeing Lewandowski in Bayern red instead of Dortmund yellow made me want to puke. Since it was a friendly, MLS coach (and Portland Timbers coach) Caleb Porter switched out all 11 at half-time and brought on Landon Donovan for his final All Star appearance. And true to his greatness, it was Donovan who scored the winner at the 70th minute.
Bayern coach, Pep Guadiola proved himself to be a prize #1 twat, however. After the match he refused to shake hands with Caleb Porter ((and act which even Bill Belichek thinks is rather classless)). Pep was drubbed over a couple of tackles late the 2nd half, but hey, it’s football. Tackles happen. They weren’t ruthless, or as the English pundits would call it, cynical. So why be a twat about it, and so?
Well….I’ll tell you why. Bayern was losing 2-1 to the ((in Pep’s eyes I’m sure)) motley collection of MLS players. And I’m figuring he was thinking that since this was a friendly, that it meant that Bayern was entitled to a win over this lowly squad from this lowly league. Pep figured wrong.
And despite the great heroes of Germany’s World Cup winning squad on display, albeit for the last 10 minutes or so, I’m glad they went down. This is club, not country after all. And in the Budesliga, I root for Borussia Dortmund, and like with ManU(re) in the Prem, I take delight in any Bayern loss.
So Pep can just go fock himself.
Two funny, but predictable 2-0 scorelines played out in the Championship opening day.
Millwall toppled Leeds 2-0 at The Den, in London, in front of 16,205 of their skinhead racist hooligan faithful. Mark Deevers opened the Lions account at the 8th minute ((and in I didn’t make it clear, Lewandowski’s 8th minute goal on Wednesday made me want to puke)) and Stuart Williams smacked a pelanty home at the 88th minute to lend a bit of fearful Dale Earnhardt Jr. symmetry to the occasion. There is probably no truth to the rumour that Leeds had an opportunity to peg one back at the 17th minute, but declined it because owner Massimo Cellino’s unlucky number is 17.
Laughs all around.
Next up is Nottingham Forest toppling Blackpool by a surprisingly benign 2-0 at The City Ground. I would have figured a 5-0 scoreline or something similar would have been the result. Robin Hood didn’t score ((although there is no truth to the rumour that Blackpool was considering tapping up the Forest mascot to join their depleted squad)). Michail Antonio opened Forest’s account on 25 minutes with Chris Burke adding an insurance goal at the half hour mark. To Blackpool’s credit, they somehow managed to find 15 players to bring down to Nottingham. Take a drink.
Laughs all around.
This final funny 2-0 scoreline is made of both irony AND fail. The game was the return leg of the UEFA CHampions League 3rd round qualifiers between Celtic and Legia Warsaw. Warsaw took the home opener 4-1, and then trotted up to Murrayfield stadium in Edinburg ((not sure why there and not Celtic hallowed home at Celtic Park in Glasgow)) for the return which they won by an easy 0-2 scoreline. As it stood at the final whistle, Celtic as thoroughly booted out of the Champions League down to the Europa League playoff rounds. BUT…..
It turns out that Legia Warsaw had been using a suspended player who was inelegible for both European or domestic competition. Thus, UEFA threw out the results of Wednesday’s match and Celtic, despite losing 0-2, were awarded with a 3-0 win. That put the aggregate scoreline at 4-4, and since Celtic scored away at Warsaw, they move on to the Champions League playoff round and Warsaw dropped down to the Europa League.
Bloody Hell anyway.
Take a drink. No….take TWO drinks.
Laughs all around.
I’ll make this quick. BELIEVE IT!!!
I’ve wondered myself why I’ve never written about J-League football before since my love of anime and manga and my general interest in Japan should be obvious to anyone who’s been brave enough to read the blog for any length of time over 1 minute and 17 seconds up to a period of years dating back to 2001.
Well, that oversight ends today, right now.
The 2014 J-League season is currently at the halfway point. So no pre-season predictions sure to go wrong at this stage. Sagan Tosu and the Urawa Reds top the table at 37 points a piece, with Kawasaki Frontale in 3rd at 36 points. And if it stays that way, then those three qualify for the Asian Champions League.
But I not here to predict winners, I’m here to pick the losers. THE loser to be exact.
You can almost put all of your mother-in-law’s money on this one. Here goes:
Tokushima Vortis will be relegated. They are going down down down!!
Halfway in, they are in 18th place. Bottom of the table on 9 points. Above them in 17th, Omiya Ardija (which has a squirrel on their badge, btw) is at a nearly insurmountable 16 points.
So Tokushima Vortis, who play their matches at the Pocari Sweat Stadium ((Fock Gatorade, y’all better drink Pocari Sweat from now on!!)) in Naruto ((BELIEVE IT!! I couldn’t possibly make this up…)) Japan, will be on the next bullet train back to the J2 at season’s end.
And in case you’re wondering, the Empire Builder, Amtrak 8 just departed Winona 7 minutes ago, 3 hours and 3o minutes late.
And now, in keeping with the tenor and irony of this missive, here’s Burnley’s very own: