1) Sunderland Soar
As Roy Keane was no doubt walking his dog, his former charges were busy running riot against a hapless West Brom side. Yes, Albion are poor, but Sunderland showed that they have got a lot of quality in their ranks by really taking them to pieces, which few teams have managed so far this season. While I must admit I thought Keane might have given up a bit too easily, it seems in retrospect that an unhealthy atmosphere must have taken over at the club and the players are clearly enjoying their football again now that he’s gone. Sunderland must learn their lesson and make sure that their new manager is one who will allow the team to enjoy themselves, or their revival could be far too temporary.
2) “You take it.”, “No, I don’t want it, you have it”, “Eurgh, no!” etc. etc.
For years we have bemoaned the bland predictability of the title race, with the ‘big four’ (or a selection of them) always way out ahead of the rest of the pack, and the title often being decided by the games between the main contenders, as their incredible consistency meant they beat almost everyone else. This season though finally sees the ‘big four’ struggling to maintain their elite, as all of them seem determined to slip on every banana skin in their path. All in turn this weekend, they failed to finish off teams who they really should have been beating, yet even Chelsea, with the prospect of returning to the top of the table, couldn’t away an out of sorts West Ham. If they carry on at this rate, O’Neill’s in form Villa may do more than challenge for a top four spot, they could even make the big guns sweat on the title. I for one hope their inconsistency continues, as an Everton fan I’d love for us to get in and about them, and if someone else was to get even slightly close to the title, it’d be a very welcome breath of fresh air for the League as a whole.
3) Blackburn Plummet
On the first day of the season, and Everton team picked from half a squad faced a resilient and well organised Blackburn team and eventually lost 3-2 to a last gasp goal (a bit like against Villa). I thought then that Ince looked like being a man who was capable of keeping up Hughes’ famous fighting spirit and perhaps continuing the Welshman’s good work at the the Lancashire club. That just goes to show how inaccurate first impressions can be. Although much of the team is the same as the one that looked so impressive under Hughes, the real worry for Rovers fans must surely be the lack of spirit, fight and confidence their players are showing. If one would expect anything of Ince as a manager based on his playing days, it would be that his team would be well up for a fight, 100% committed, even to a fault. But that is simply not the case. The squad seems to lack motivation and though they have obvious talent, the so called Guv’nor can’t seem to inspire them to ‘want it’ enough. That bodes ill indeed for Rovers, as the one trait that is absolutely essential in an English relegation battle is commitment and hard work, but the side look as weak and pathetic as Ince does in his post match interviews. I’m not normally one for being rash with the axe, but the Rovers board should think very seriously about appointing someone with the balls for a fight if they want to remain part of the Premiership.
4) The transfer window approaches…
… and Michael Owen starts scoring. In my book this is a sure sign that Owen isn’t happy on Tyneside. For months Owen has been in and out of the side, getting niggling injuries and being left on the bench, with rumours circulating about his happiness at the club, but questions also asked about the future of his career, especially as he is left out of Capello’s England squads. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Michael Owen, miraculously free of injury, bursts into Necastle’s team and starts scoring goals for fun. Newcastle fans must be beside themselves, because he has now shown them exactly what he is capable of, all the while cementing his move away from St. James’ Park.
5) Premiership Predictions
Well I must say I didn’t do very well with my predictions this week! I had all of the top four winning, and Portsmouth to ease past Newcastle. A couple of results were right (Everton, Sunderland, Stoke, Villa) but no correct scores, and in some cases I was way off. Still, I’m not complaining. I’m not pretending to be any sort of guru and I usually try and base my predictions in some common sense analysis of the teams turning up, but if anything it simply goes to show the unpredictability of this season in the world’s premier domestic league. So I for one hope I continue to be wrong (except where Everton are concerned of course!) because that will mean that the fixtures continue to throw up a good measure of surprise and excitement, and of course, that’s what football is ultimately all about.
Thanks for reading everyone – let me know what you thought of the weekends action.