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Football League ready for kick-off

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Dan Walker | 22:00 UK time, Wednesday, 3 August 2011

This is a very strange situation. I'm currently sitting in a snazzy gaff in Manchester's Northern Quarter waiting for Pele and Eric Cantona. Not a bad way to kick off the new season!

Summer always drags a little with no major football tournament.

Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and England's cricketers have all done their bit to keep us smiling but it's nice to finally think about that bit of pig skin preparing to nestle in the onion bag (first cliche of the season).

This weekend is a special one for all Football League fans, where the Championship and other lower leagues rightly take centre stage. We're in the thick of it right from the start, presenting our first live Football Focus show of the season from the Amex Stadium in Brighton on BBC1 at 12.15pm on Saturday.

It's a great story to cover and we've got the blue-and-white big guns with us to reflect on an emotional day for all Seagulls fans.

Des Lynam sets the scene, Fat Boy Slim will be in town too and we'll have a good nose around the new stadium, which is said to be one of the most accommodating for away fans.

Doncaster supporters will be the best to put that to the test - they were also the last opponents at the old Goldstone Ground. There is an abundance of sentiment wherever you look.

Sam Allardyce returns to football as manager of West Ham United

AFC Wimbledon fans are also looking forward to a shot at redemption, and this weekend we have the first in a series of in-depth pieces on the Football League new boys. We've been granted special behind-the-scenes access this season with Terry Brown's side.

There's live football on the BBC this weekend as well, with two new managers going toe to toe at Upton Park. It's West Ham versus Cardiff, Big Sam up against the ample-sized Malky Mackay on Sunday and we've spoken to West Ham's Kevin Nolan and Mr Allardyce to see whether the mood has improved this season among the not-so-happy Hammers.

My summer move to Sheffield hasn't influenced our editorial plans, but the Steel City features highly in League One this time round and the meetings between United and Wednesday will be as tasty as ever.

The face of the Football League, Mark Clemmit, is back with a bite-size guide to all three divisions and some quirky facts that you may have missed over the summer.

And we're not completely ignoring the Premier League. We'll assess the way things stand with a week to go and hear from Ashley Cole, who spent part of the summer in New York opening a restaurant with Jay-Z.

All this and the prospect of pundits Mark Lawrenson and Robbie Savage returning to their former club Brighton to take in the nostalgia. There won't be a dry eye in the house...

Robbie and Lawro will also be giving their predictions for the season so feel free to stick your necks out and say who you think will win the top four leagues. If anyone gets them all nailed at the end of the season, I'll organise some fig rolls.

Right. Pele is "on his way". More from him on next week's show but as far as Saturday is concerned we'll see you on BBC1 at 12.15pm for the return of Football Focus.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Is anybody genuinely looking forward to the season starting this early, or is it just the people relying on it for an income? Genuine question - but I am avid football fan but just cannot get enthusiastic in the first week of August. Wake me up for the football in the Autumn i.e. October.

  • Comment number 2.

    Brave man Dan -nice try, but no cigar! - hasn't quite got the feel for it yet has it?

    Still waiting for my season ticket to come, another week's holiday still to get in and even though its raining now, it still feels like its all 'friendlies' and spectacular transfer stories!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Nice to have you back Dan, looking forward to the start of the season and also looking forward to the new studio up in Salford next week. I hope it goes for a new look rather than just replicating the old one but up North, and also that you avoid going down the abandoned warehouse look of the Football League Show.

    I would make some predictions for the Championship but I'm not that stupid, other than to say what we always hear before every season - there's no easy games and it's the most competitive the league has ever been.

    I will say that I don't think my team Forest will be up there with West Ham and Leicester, definitely not in the spending stakes anyway (I'm hoping a bit of reverse psychology will get me through the season with a nice surprise at the end).

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Dan,

    My predictions for the 4 leagues are as follows -

    Prem - Man Utd
    Champ - West Ham
    Lg 1 - Sheffield Utd
    Lg 2 - Dag and Red

    As I am not a lover of Fig Rolls I would appreciate a 6 pack of Cherry Bakewells if my predictions are correct!

  • Comment number 5.

    Love the start of the season, best day of the season for me, also love fa cup third round day
    As for the predictions, Chelsea for the prem titlle, Leicester to win the championship, Huddersfield for lea 1 and Swindon to win lea 2

  • Comment number 6.

    Good article. Have to fear for Allardyce at West Ham. An increasingly demanding board with diminishing resources. (sinking ship syndrome)

  • Comment number 7.

    Great to hear another footy post from you Dan - don't want to come across as stalkerish but God how I have missed football news!

    Guess that answers your question DelbertWilkins - I have absolutely missed it and cannot wait for this weekend. As Dan pointed out, Summer's without football tournaments draaaaaaaag. Guess the upside of all that is that now have this season, then the 2012 European Championships, then straight into next season! God I love this game!

    Looking forward to the football league - if only cause that is where my beloved Toon are bloody well heading, cheers Ashley, Llambias and Pardew you muppets. Appreciate the game on Sunday too - I'm glad Allardyce has got a job again, he's far too good a manager not to have a job, but actually bloody glad I won't have to see interviews with him every week (soooo arrogant) but pretty sure Neil Warnock will be the new Allardyce/Holloway/Seemingly wise yet not-shutting-up idiot.

    Any toon fans as generally pissed off at the management of this club as me?

  • Comment number 8.

    You've got the best job in the world Dan. Hope Lawro's predictions improve this year so I can recouperate some of the dosh he helped me hand over to William(t- leaf) Hill. On second thoughts I think I'll give Alan Sugar a bell.

  • Comment number 9.

    re:Mike. I couldn't agree more, as a Toon fan I have been utterly disappointed with the running of our club.

    We have gone from a team aiming high to a team that's constantly looking over our shoulders.

    Just hope that we can hang on in the league.

    Yohan Cabaye looks good though, and am looking forward to him forming a partnership with Tiote in the absence of Nolan and Barton.

  • Comment number 10.

    This weekend is a special one for all Football League fans, where the Championship and other lower leagues rightly take centre stage.
    Why can't you spread your coverage all the time? You can't say because the Premiership has the bigger stories, because it is people like you that make them the bigger stories?

    Also, I hope the relevant prominence is given to competitive matches rather than the endless screening of big clubs friendlies that seems to have caught on in recent years. If they want to play for some X Cup just for a sponsor, that is there business. Why BBC Sport has to [selectively] cover it, I do not know.

  • Comment number 11.

    p.s. Bring back 606!

  • Comment number 12.

    Damn, so could've been first but the chance of fig rolls made me research my league finishers a bit more, so.... u
    c/ship.....west ham
    lge 1....charlton
    lge 2.....swindon

    and dilbert, this has been the hardest summer in a while, i even resorted to following the singapore s league this summer (for a bonus jammie dodger i'll go tampines rovers to win that one)

  • Comment number 13.

    With how the weather is today, it kind of feels like Autumn a bit... ideal for the football season, and all the better for a football tournament free summer I think. Football is so dominant anyway that it's been good for the English National Summer sport, cricket, to have some column inches devoted to it, particularly with England doing so well.

    Premier League: Chelsea
    Championship: Nottingham Forest
    League 1: Huddersfield
    League 2: Swindon

    I think anybody who does manage to correctly guess all four winners, and who maybe puts a few pounds down could probably afford to pay for the fig rolls themselves! Wouldn't be my personal choice of celebratory snack though...

    Mr Kipling

  • Comment number 14.

    second mr blueburns

  • Comment number 15.

    I think you also forgot to mention Mark Cavendish and his excellent ride in the Tour De France as well especially as he's the first British rider to win the green jersey.

    Also the Amex Stadium is in Falmer and not Brighton!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I predict Sven will lead Leicester to glory and West Ham will be a close 2nd. Birmingham to fall away early and recover for a mid table finish. I think Brighton will be the dark horses and nick the final playoff spot and go up by spanking Paul Jewells tractor boys in the final. Derby to go down with the Posh and Bristol City.

    Tord Gripp

  • Comment number 17.

    #15 Nick_Hove_Actually

    Firstly, the BBC's coverage of Le Tour was pretty poor but I suppose that's what happens (wrongly) when they don't have coverage.

    Secondly, didn't have you down as a pedant? Sounds like you could well qualify as one of the 'massive' 120 people who live in Falmer and their gripes! ;-)

  • Comment number 18.

    Premier League: Manchester City
    Championship: Leicester
    League 1: Preston North End
    League 2: Crawley Town (as there your team can I have the Fig rolls anyway?)

    And why am I the only one doing the name thing? Is everyone else new or has this become uncool?

    Fabrizio Ravanelli

  • Comment number 19.

    Apologies to Eric Morecambe who has indeed signed off.

    Joey Barton

  • Comment number 20.

    # 17. MrBlueBurns.

    I thought that other professional sports people did just as well if not better and could also be mentioned.

    Also as my name suggests I have nothing to do with Falmer as it's on the wrong side of Brighton & Hove City. I would have thought you would have seen that.

  • Comment number 21.

    Personally I am looking forward to the start of the new season, but must admit it does seem to have come early. Would LOVE to see those (un named) big spending weve got a sugar daddy, clubs do very badly. Cant for the life of me see what the attraction of watching a team that has been put together at any cost, just so some billionaire can cross off another one of his "things to do" list....Would much rather watch a team develope over the season and challenge for titles/ cups/ stave off relegation as a team, than watch a bunch of 'thorough bred mercenaries' who only have loyalty until someone offers them more money.
    Support your local club, you know the one thats not in the premiership, you have driven past the stadium so many times, try popping in, they need and value your support.........

  • Comment number 22.

    #20 Nick_Hove_Actually

    I know where you live, I think we've discussed it before. I live 4 miles from the new stadium! I was just having a cheeky dig at your pedantry about the location of the stadium. :-)

  • Comment number 23.

    I think if West Ham get off to a slow start they will struggle. The fans will start to think its the wrong appointment and some of the players that have hung on will want to be off in January. As for McClaren, it remains to be seen if he can manage a side with a tight budget. I fancy Hull to a be a bit stronger this year. Possibly Ipswich as well...

    Premier League: Couldn't care less but probably Manure again.
    Champo: West 'am.
    League 1: Sheff U
    League 2: Crawley

    John O'Shea

  • Comment number 24.

    Screw it, Brighton to win the Championship!

    Gus Poyet

  • Comment number 25.

    #19 makes an excellent point!

    I think we should be strict on the sign offs this season - any post not completed with either an obscure, long forgotten or favourite footballer, a humorous and thought provoking character or topical name should be deleted, or at the very least ignored!

    Gus Poyet

  • Comment number 26.

    4.At 11:11 4th Aug 2011, RealMagpies1862 wrote:
    Hi Dan,

    My predictions for the 4 leagues are as follows -

    Prem - Man Utd
    Champ - West Ham
    Lg 1 - Sheffield Utd
    Lg 2 - Dag and Red

    As I am not a lover of Fig Rolls I would appreciate a 6 pack of Cherry Bakewells if my predictions are correct!
    As a Daggers fan, I can safely say Cherry Bakewells nor Fig Rolls will be making their way to you on the back of those predictions!
    Play-offs for us at a push but Champions? Not a chance.

    Early or not, I can't wait for that first whistle of the new season!

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Dan,

    Sounds like a great start to the season focusing on Brighton's new stadium - definately worth a look. How many Cristiano Ronaldo or Carlos Tevez's did it cost ;)

    The Prem Lq is becoming a 3 horse race for the oligarchs, sheiks and not-so-rich yanks it's becoming way out of touch with most footie fans so it's nice to see some money being put into infrastructure lower down the leagues. Are yo planning a visit to St.George's Park this year or haven't the diggers moved in yet?

    Has Focus switched it's base to Manchester yet and if so how's the commute from Sheffield?

  • Comment number 28.

    I suppose it will be the same old teams featured, and my team will be the last team to feature again unless we happen to play the editorial team's favourite and half of our tiny coverage will show the opposition getting off the bus.
    the football league show is here again!

  • Comment number 29.

    I sencerely apologise for not attaching a forgotten or favourite footballer in my comments.

    Pierre Van Hooijdonk

  • Comment number 30.

    27. At 12:23 4th Aug 2011, JoC wrote:
    Hi Dan,

    Sounds like a great start to the season focusing on Brighton's new stadium - definately worth a look. How many Cristiano Ronaldo or Carlos Tevez's did it cost ;)

    Er 1 and an seventh-ish of a Cristiano Ronaldo and about 2 and a half of Carlos Tevez :) Worth it though

    Tony Bloom

  • Comment number 31.

    #27 JoC

    Isn't Nick Bloom and his funding of the AMEX just a lower league equivalent of an oligarch anyway and may give the sort of imbalance that you don't like?

    Mark Robinson

  • Comment number 32.

    1.Man U
    2. Leicester
    3.Sheffield United
    4. Crawley! (always buying the league crawley)

    Roberto Baggio

  • Comment number 33.

    can people stop requesting a different prize, no-one wins the league cup and asks if they can have the champions league instead, its fig rolls and thats that. try and wangle a bonus like i did.........

    Bruci - the sir- Forsyth

  • Comment number 34.

    Best of luck for the season Dan. I'm sure you and your well travelled team will do a great job.
    Be warned, if you do too well you may end up sharing coverage with Sky!

    Prem - Man City
    Champ - Leicester
    Lg 1 - Sheffield Utd
    Lg 2 - Swindon

    Temuri Ketsbaia

  • Comment number 35.

    All predictions point to Bury having a wonderful season, and beating off tough competition in the race to be promoted from League One.

    Roberto Baggio.

  • Comment number 36.

    #34 MyVoiceinYrHead

    Be warned, if you do too well you may end up sharing coverage with Sky!
    Well made point. At the same time, it does sort of make me laugh that people don't seem to understand that deal.

  • Comment number 37.

    My predictions for the 4 leagues are as follows -

    Prem - Man Utd
    Champ - Leicester City
    Lg 1 - Huddersfield Town
    Lg 2 - Southend United

  • Comment number 38.

    15.At 11:42 4th Aug 2011, Nick_Hove_Actually wrote:
    I think you also forgot to mention Mark Cavendish and his excellent ride in the Tour De France as well especially as he's the first British rider to win the green jersey.

    Also the Amex Stadium is in Falmer and not Brighton!!

    It is technically in Brighton as it is inside the A27 and B2123 that forms the outer boundary of Brighton. For postal purposes Falmer is regarded as a suburb of Brighton not as a seperate town in its own right

  • Comment number 39.

    I have been lost without football this summer, cannot wait until next weekend to see it all kick off once again!

    Also been keen to see the return of this blog, welcome back!

    Thats enough procrastination done, back to work.

    Junichi Inamoto

  • Comment number 40.

    Prem - Chelsea
    Champ - Blackpool
    League 1 - Charlton
    League 2 - Bristol Rovers


    Ramon Vega

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh and sorry to double post, forgot my predictions!

    Chelski for the prem
    Leicester for the chamionship
    Charlton For lg 1
    Swindon for lg 2


    Barry white

  • Comment number 42.

    #38 PSB

    Not sure that's true actually. I live very close, eastwards, and I've never heard of Brighton as a suburb of Brighton. Sure, it's part of the same conurbation nowadays and a layman may think it is part of the same place (by the way, does your example mean that everything inside the M25 is in fact London?) but I'm pretty sure that it is outside of the city limits.

  • Comment number 43.

    My prediction is that whatever Mark Lawrenson and Pele predict will be totally wrong! I can't ever remember Pele making a correct prediction and Lawro is little better!

    Yordan Letchkov

  • Comment number 44.

    Opening day of the season, no form guides to go on, just hope your team gets a good start :D ...not to say a bad start means you can't win the league :P

    Looking forward to the new stadium :D got my first tickets for next weeks Carling Cup match against Gillingham, the first team I saw at the old Withdean. I've never seen Brighton at a proper stadium so really looking forward to it!

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree with JamTay1 about Lawro's prediction's. I hoping he'll pick Chelski.

    My predictions

    Citeh for the Prem
    Leicester for the chamionship
    Sheffield Utd for league 1
    Crawley for leaugue 2

    Vassili Rats

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Dan,

    pleased to finally see some decent football back on the agenda. Good luck for the coming BBC season. Some teams in the Premiership are expecting improvements on last year in the league such as Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland and West Brom...their fans are rightly optimistic. However some clubs are looking over their shoulders at a potentially worse season like Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton and Newcastle.

    My predictions are:

    Prem: Winners - Man City.
    Down - Blackburn, Swansea and Newcastle.
    Champ: Up - Leicester, West Ham and Burnley.
    Down - Doncaster, Barnsley and Coventry
    League One: Up - Huddersfield, Colchester and Carlisle
    Down - Sheff Wed, Oldham, Hartlepool and Walsall
    League Two: Up - Crawley, Shrewsbury, Swindon and Bristol Rovers
    Down - Macclesfield and Cheltenham
    Conference: Up - Luton and Cambridge

    John Inman

  • Comment number 47.

    Championship Thoughts and Predictions

    Every season this division seems to get stronger. No fewer than 18 of the 24 have competed in the Premier League since its inception in 1992. Quite an impressive figure considering many of the same teams appear to yo-yo between the two. Considering it's the second tier of the English game, the stadia is impressive enough to grace the top flight of any league around the world. The likes of the newly named King Power Stadium, Leicester, Elland Road, Leeds and St Mary's Stadium, Southampton amongst the most eye catching but not forgetting the Riverside, Pride Park, Madejski, KC Stadium, City Ground, The Boleyn or the brand spanking new American Express Stadium!

    The Amex Stadium is extremely impressive. It's the much awaited and much needed new home of Brighton & Hove Albion. Having won promotion last season blitzing through some very talented League One opposition in the process you have to look at them as the potential dark horses. A few new players, a very passionate and keen manager in Gus Poyet and a 12th man (namely the fans) should help see them into a top half finish and possibly a play off berth.

    Southampton, another newcomer, will be in contention come May. For similar reasons to Brighton. They have a very strong team and a prolific goalscorer in Rickie Lambert. They also ran Manchester United close in the cup last year. And not an understrength United either.

    Of the teams that came down from the Prem, both Birmingham and West Ham have enough quality to take the two automatic spots for me. West Ham may have lost a few players and will almost certainly say a fond farewell to the current Footballer of the Year, Scott Parker before the August deadline, but the arrival of Kevin Nolan with numb the pain and help the loss of any goals throughout the team. Birmingham have earnt a fair amount of money from players exiting St Andrews and have bought shrewdly in my opinion with very little money leaving the wallet of the much criticised chairman.

    Leicester City will threaten again this campaign. They started coming good under the guidance of Sven Goran Eriksson last season and with the new stadium sponsorship deal together with the arrival of Gelson Fernandes, John Pantsil, Paul Konchesky, Dave Nugent and Michael Johnson on a year long loan from Manchester City, you have to expect them to be a very tough team to beat. A play off spot is almost a guarantee with a real push to challenge the top two expected.

    The loss of Charlie Adam will hurt Blackpool and that for me will be the main reason why they wont challenge for a play off place this time out. However, I do expect the likes of Nottingham Forest, Millwall, Leeds United, Cardiff and Reading to be in the tope half and there could be a minimal amount of points seperating a lot of teams come May. Every point will be vital this season for all promotion chasing sides.

    Predictions -

    Winner - West Ham United
    Runners Up - Birmingham City
    Play Offs - Leicester City
    Play Offs - Reading
    Play Offs - Cardiff City
    Play Offs - Southampton
    Relegation - Doncaster
    Relegation - Barnsley
    Relegation - Peterborough

  • Comment number 48.

    League One Thoughts and Predictions

    A division full of potential promotion contenders for all kinds of reasons also finds itself pegged as the division of over and under achievers. Very few of the 24 strong line up are content at this level. All clubs have ambition, fans have even higher ambitions but most people involved with a team in League One have a realistic expectation and they tend to know the level that their club belongs at. Only 3 or 4 clubs would fit into the 3rd tier bracket when looking at the teams involved. But as a result we could easily see a number of surprises again once 46 games have been played and the dusts settled.

    One of last seasons over achievers was Rochdale. A compact ground with a small but loyal fan base helped propel the side into a top 10 finish in what was the clubs first appearance in any division other than the Fourth tier of the English game. Unfortunately, with no strong signings of note and very little money around the club they could well find themselves standing over a trap door in 9 months time.

    Looking at teams expected to challenge for the title, there isn't a stand out favourite.

    Sheffield United and Preston North End will be up there. That's for sure. Both have large average attendances along with tremendous facilities. The playing squads haven't depleted in the way that most do following relegation and as a result they should have enough quality to challenge for the two automatic places. Huddersfield have been going from strength to strength but I expect them to miss out on the automatics again this season, instead settling for a play off berth. The same goes for MK Dons.

    Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic are always tipped to be up toward the top but there's a worrying decline running throughout those two clubs and I really hope they both manage to turn things around soon. Both have tremendous stadiums and Sheffield Wednesday still have one of the largest fan bases in the UK. An amazing stat considering they've been absent from the Premier League for more that 10 years now.

    Chesterfield are one of the new boys and moving very much in the right direction. The new B2Net stadium has given them a home to be proud of and obviously given the players a real boost. Attendances rose last season by 76% on the previous campaign. The highest marked rise of any team in England by more than 200%. Having visited recently and seen the facilities throughout the stadium up close and personal, I have to say, it's a good place to be right now. A team to watch.

    The home of the £100 season ticket! That's right £100 for 23 home league games. Just over £4 per game! This unbelievable offer from Hartlepool United was snapped up within days. If you want to go and watch them this season you'll need to be prepared to stand as every seat is now sold out. A fantastic idea and one that will boost them from relegation candidates to mid-table hopefuls in my opinion.


    Winner - Sheffield United
    Runners Up - Preston North End
    Play Offs - Huddersfield Town
    Play Offs - MK Dons
    Play Offs - Charlton Athletic
    Play Offs - Chesterfield
    Relegation - Rochdale
    Relegation - Walsall
    Relegation - Stevenage
    Relegation - Leyton Orient

  • Comment number 49.

    Well, whether our beautiful new stadium is within the conurbation of Brighton or just outside I really don't care. We at last have a permanent home and the fact that other fans are obviously jealous is both petty and disappointing. If those "fans" had any grasp of history they would realise the struggles we have had since being evicted from The Goldstone Ground by Archer and Belotti et al.

    Most opposition fans I met last season on our march to the title were fulsome in praise of our club and plans.

    This Saturday's game at Donny will be incredibly emotional and I can't wait!

  • Comment number 50.

    Hate to be picky, but I would appreciate a large treacle tart rather than some fig rolls if I am correct in saying:

    Man United


  • Comment number 51.

    #47 tothe92

    Considering it's the second tier of the English game, the stadia is impressive enough to grace the top flight of any league around the world. The likes of the newly named King Power Stadium, Leicester, Elland Road, Leeds and St Mary's Stadium, Southampton amongst the most eye catching but not forgetting the Riverside, Pride Park, Madejski, KC Stadium, City Ground, The Boleyn or the brand spanking new American Express Stadium!
    Just as an aside (and not actually relevant to Brighton's circumstances) how many of the clubs you mention that have had new grounds, have also then had massive financial problems, much of which was written off and the club emerges from the other side with, in effect, a cheap new stadium?

  • Comment number 52.

    Aarrrrghh! Help! How do I change my username? I haven't been on here since the fall of 606. Anyone?

  • Comment number 53.

    The most interesting thing at this time of the season, apart from how your own team starts, is how the new teams in your division do. Hopefully the new teams in the Premier League will give the big boys a run for their money, and hopefully those relegated who spent too big (West Ham) will learn to be a bit more prudent.

    Premier League: Manchester City
    Championship: Leicester City
    League One: Brentford
    League Two: Crawley Town

    Apollo Creed

  • Comment number 54.

    Good to see you back Dan and I hope you will give the Football League more coverage and aren't simply using the earlier start as an excuse to cover it this week.

    Premier League: Man Utd
    Championship: Birmingham
    League One: Preston
    League Two: Swindon by an absolute mile of course

  • Comment number 55.

    #52 click on settings at the top of the page.

    David Brent

  • Comment number 56.

    League Two - Thoughts and predictions

    I get the feeling that this could be one of the closest League Two promotion races for many a year.

    Swindon will undoubtedly be a force. Di Canio simply wont let his team fail. At this level, with the players he's brought in and the determination of the whole squad to impress the new boss, it's difficult to see how they can fail to get promotion straight back up to League One.

    Crawley have had huge amounts of money pumped into them over the last couple of seasons and with work underway on redeveloping at least one side of their stadium already, you have to feel that the money bag owners are in it for the long haul and not just for a 3 month, Sven Goran Eriksson & Sol Campbell signing exposé like Notts County.

    My own hopes for Gillingham's promotion back to a slightly more glamarous league took a turn for the worse last week when Adam Birchall (our new 45 goal a season man) injured his cruciate knee ligaments on just his second substitute appearance and will be out for 6 months.. That said, we've made some excellent signings in Whelpdale & Lee from Peterborough and striker Danny Kedwell from AFC Wimbledon. If we're around the play off places by February/March when we hope to have Birchall back I think we could even make automatic promotion.

    Speaking of AFC Wimbledon, many are tipping them to have a long hard season with relelgation a very realistic conclusion. I hope this isn't the case come May. I, along with many others, have followed closely the trials and tribulations of the new Wimbledon's rise back into the public eye and I was delighted to see them overcome a very determined Luton Town at the home of Manchster City in the Conference play off final last year. I think they'll finish mid table.

    Bradford have massively under achieved over the past 4 seasons and it's a real shame to see a team of their stature with such an impressive stadium languishing around the lower echelons of the Football League. I dont see them challenging for automatic promotion this year but I fancy them to sneak into the play offs along with Shrewsbury and Torquay. The Shrews being the most dangerous of the three.

    Southend have signed a large number of players over the summer and with a very talented (although personality lacking) manager, Paul Sturrock, at the helm I think a head of steam could see them storm up the table and clinch either a play off berth or, depending on the consistancy of the other front runners, maybe even a top 3 finish.

    But who knows? I read every article, watch every live game and go to as many as I can but I can't guarantee a winner. No one can. And that's why we all love this game.


    Winner - Swindon Town
    Runner Up - Crawley Town
    Third Place - Gillingham
    Play Offs - Southend United
    Play Offs - Bradford City
    Play Offs - Shrewsbury Town
    Play Offs - Torquay United
    Relegation - Macclesfield Town
    Relegation - Barnet

  • Comment number 57.

    Well Well Well.. its been while! Cannot wait for the big Kick Off!

    Looking forward to Championship.. Notably because my Home Town SOUTHAMPTON are back up and looking like serious contenders, and because most of the fam are LEICESTER supporters so you can understand their excitment!

    I dont think I could predict just ONE team to win each division, bloody hard work.

    Prem - Winners:- United or City or Chelsea
    Dark Horses:- Liverpool or Sunderland
    Fall from grace:- Spurs or Villa

    Championship - Winners:- Leicester or Cardiff or Forest
    Dark Horses:- Saints or Westham
    Fall from grace:- Birmingham or Blackpool

    League One - Winners:- Sheff Weds or Preston or Huddersfield
    Dark Horses:- Sheff Utd or Charlton
    Fall from grace:- Colchester or Scunthorpe

    League Two - Winners:- Plymouth or Swindon or Rotherham
    Dark Horses:- Gillingham or Crawley Town
    Fall from grace:- Bradford or Northampton

    There you go - im going to be so wrong!


  • Comment number 58.

    Premier League: Chelsea
    Championship: Leicester (after Sven resigning in January to spend more time with his dishwasher)
    League 1: Huddersfield
    League 2: Swindon

    Jonnie Marbles

  • Comment number 59.

    Prem: Manchester United
    Cham: Reading
    Lg1: Preston NE
    Lg2: Shrewsbury

    First Managerial Casualty - Alan Pardew, Newcastle.

    Lord Winston

  • Comment number 60.

    42.At 13:19 4th Aug 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    #38 PSB

    Not sure that's true actually. I live very close, eastwards, and I've never heard of Brighton as a suburb of Brighton. Sure, it's part of the same conurbation nowadays and a layman may think it is part of the same place (by the way, does your example mean that everything inside the M25 is in fact London?) but I'm pretty sure that it is outside of the city limits.

    No but a better example would be Newvastle where the boundaries are marked by the River Tyne, the A1 and A1056

  • Comment number 61.

    For those who care, Brighton's new stadium is at Falmer which is just in Lewes District, East Sussex, and not actually in Brighton. The original Goldstone Ground was firmly in Hove, at the time a separate town from Brighton. I can remember paying 1s to get in (5p in decimal currency). I expect it costs more now!

    But then Man U's ground was not in the City of Manchester, until the urban area of Greater Manchester was created. Any other League grounds not in their true town or city?

    Apart from the Albion, good wishes go to Wimbledon AFC, where true fans really have achieved something!

    Jim Langley

  • Comment number 62.

    Apologies, forgot my predictions

    Prem - Man Utd
    Champ - Leicester
    L1 - Sheff Utd
    L2 - Swindon

    and to go a step further.....

    Scots Prem - Celtic
    Scots D1 - Dundee (or Livingston fingers crossed!!!!)
    Scots D2 - Airdrie Utd
    Scots D3 - Clyde

    Andy Roxburgh

  • Comment number 63.

    #61 glittergreenandred

    Stamford Bridge is in Fulham!

    p.s. I know where the AMEX is. Some of my council tax was used to oppose it, thank you very much Norman Baker!

  • Comment number 64.

    #59. I agree, but as a Newcastle fan, I hope they git rid of him early and don't leave it too late, as we have all seen before. This does nothing but leave the new guy to take the fall.

    George Weah

  • Comment number 65.

    #61 glittergreenandred

    Nottingham Forest was technically in West Bridgford, being south of the Trent, although that may have all changed over the years with redrawing of boundaries.

    And Grimsby Town - late lamented of League 2 and residents of the Blue Square Premier proudly sit in Cleethorpes, as above with the proviso of redrawn boundaries.

    And Bolton Wanderers' Reebok stadium sits in Horwich methinks.

  • Comment number 66.

    I can't believe so many people on here believe that City will win the Prem this season...really?? I mean many a multi-million pound signing does not a TEAM make, expecially with the disruptive influences of messers Tevez and Balotelli - Chelsea will be Uniteds closest rivals again I feel.

    Prem - United
    Champ - Hammers
    Lg 1 - Preston
    Lg 2 - Swindon

    Marc Vivien Foe - RIP big man

  • Comment number 67.

    All you posters missing football over the summer -- what about the Copa America? Eh? Eh?

    Ronnie Whelan

  • Comment number 68.

    From Sheffield, best friend is a Brighton fan, he hasn't missed a game for the past 5 seasons home and away. Ive have to pleasure of visiting the Withdean stadium and have to say it was a unique experience, however, I will not be one jumping on the jealousy band wagon. After all your club out of the 72 leagues deserve your new stadium after the fight your supporters have put up throughout the years. The BBCs insight into your new stadium and your chairmans vision of how the game should be played and watched makes me very sad that I am a Sheffield Wednesday fan and will probably not get the chance to witness my team play there for a long time.

    Alot has been made about how the top 6 of league 1 will finish, although i may be biased in my dislike for Sheffield United, I think both teams will struggle. Granted Sheffield United probably have the better of the two squads, but seemingly going to lose there biggest goal threat at this level in Ched Evans due to money, and they maybe left hoping that the younger squad can cope with the pressure of first team duties. Although I was impressed by Semedo and Pruttons performance against Leeds on the other side of the city two weeks back, by releasing Tommy Miller (maybe injury prone) and keeping on James o'Connor baffles me, we are also missing the 20goal a season man that we had last year in the form of Neil Mellor, who is now back at a promotion rival. For all of CLinton Morrions exploits at a higher level, sometimes scoring goals for fun, he hasn't lived up to the hype and sadly looks slightly lost when he makes it on to the pittch.

    The league is certainly at its most competitive in a long time, there are alot of quality teams who may call themselves sleeping giants, the likes of PNE, both Sheffield teams and of course the great experience of Hudds at this leve, but teams such as high scoring Chesterfield and Bury may prove suprise packages along with the llikes of Rochdale, Exeter and Leyton Orient who now have valuable experience at this level.

    League 1
    Champions: Huddersfield
    Runners Up: Charlton
    Playoffs: PNE, Rochdale, Colchester, MK Dons.

    Peter Atherton

  • Comment number 69.

    prem - Man Utd
    champ - Leicester
    lg 1 - Huddersfield Town
    lg 2 - Crawley

  • Comment number 70.

    My predo's (better than lawro's but then that applies to everyone)

    Prem: Chelsea
    Championship: Leicester
    League 1: MK Dons
    League 2: Swindon

    Florent Sinama Pongolle

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    Dan & 'Tothe92',

    Greetings brother from a sultry CT.
    Good to have you back blogging.
    Hope you are relatively settled in Sheffield; don't imagine everything is out of boxes yet. It took us 3 years, but that was a transatlantic move.
    I thought you did a solid job of trying to whip up enthusiasm for the first week of August. I feel as if it is still 2nd week of July but that's because I lost two weeks after going under the knife.
    Interesting to read the various predictions, especially from 'Tothe92'. Mr. Tothe92, are you in the sports industry? Or is it an extra employment obsession? Your detail is impressive.

    I'm still frustrated by the farce that was CCFC last spring & summer. If the bluebirds beat the Hammers on Sunday I'd still be frustrated by last year's dog's breakfast. Still there has been much rebuilding, new broom and all that, so we will see what happens.

    Talking about what happens, what has happened at Arsenal this summer? Not that many players have actually been sold, just names mentioned, and not that many have been bought. Mousier Wenger told us to wait until the end of July... I'm still waiting. If CCFC lapsed farcically at the end of last season what happened to the blessed gooners? More this time round please.

  • Comment number 73.

    #71 can't you do anything other than post links to potentially dubious websites? Why should anyone take the risk of clicking on your link? What's even more bizarre is that it seems to be allowed by the moderators!

    Barry Took

  • Comment number 74.

    Hate myself for even typing this given what it reveals about the way to win in this game, but then we all know what talks (as it relates to the Prem and Championship) so here goes:

    Prem: Manchester City
    Champ: Leicester City
    Lge 1: Sheffield United
    Lge 2: Swindon

    Lest we forget the BSQB as well:
    Barrow (as that was where I was born)

    Barry Endean

  • Comment number 75.

    I am rubbish at this prediction game and I have no cause to think that these predictions will be any better, but here goes.

    Premier League: Man City(champs), Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs
    Relegated - Wigan, QPR, Villa

    Promoted - Nottm For, Leicester, Leeds Dark horses: Hull
    Relegated - Doncaster, Barnsley, Millwall

    League One:
    Promoted - Sheff Utd, Huddersfield, MK Dons Dark horses: Preston
    Relegated - Bury, Yeovil, Wycombe, Scunthorpe

    League Two:
    Promoted - Crawley, Bristol Rovers, Gillingham, Aldershot Dark horses: Accrington
    Relegated - Barnet, Morecambe

    Sorry to those I have predicted to do well!

  • Comment number 76.

    Prem: Manchester City; Northern Premier League Division 1 North: Mossley; South League Division 1 Midlands: Aylesbury FC.

  • Comment number 77.

    Welcome back Danny boy. Looking forward to the season getting under way again. My predicitons...

    Prem: Liverpool (I am biased, I know)
    Champ: Nott Forest
    League 1: Carlisle Utd
    League 2: Dag & Red

    Love to have a pack of fig rolls, but didn`t they used to make them bigger in the old days. Wagon wheels went the same way too...they became smaller. Life is so unfair.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.

  • Comment number 78.

    premier league : man utd

    championship : west ham and leicester...playoffs birmingham, leeds, brighton and cardiff

    league 1 : sheff utd and preston ...playoffs huddersfield, brentford, hartlepool and charlton

    league 2 : swindon, shrewsbury and gillingham...playoffs bristol rovers, rotherham, southend and plymouth

    nolberto solano the deal of league 1.....hartlepool united are going to be the dark horses this season with over 5800 season tickets sold. They have sole more than the boro the sunderland the middlesbourgh and of course the scum (DARLO).

  • Comment number 79.

    Glad to see you back Dan! The lunchtime hour has been rather bleak without Football Focus. The Copa America can't compare with good ol' competitive English football at any rate!

    PL - United (unfortunately)
    Ch'ship - Leicester
    Lg 1 - Huddersfield
    Lg 2 - Swindon

    Milan Baros

  • Comment number 80.

    Damn my friend for getting married on the start of the season, and from what I can see Brightons stadium is in Brighton :p

    can't wait for it all to start, anyway here's my predictions

    Prem: Chelsea
    Champs: Reading
    Brighton will go up 2nd or playoffs (I hope)
    Lge1: Bournemouth
    Lge2: Torquay

    Dick Van Dyke

  • Comment number 81.

    All I can say is that, at this moment in time, everyone's club is in a promotion spot. The down side is that they are also all in a relegation spot!!!!

    Predictions for 2011/12:-

    Prem:- My beloved Man City (Before you all give it the 'blah, blah, blah', we have had 43 title-less years & plenty of downers. We will enjoy it for however long it lasts!! You would too!!)

    Champ: Leicester City

    Lge 1:- Huddersfield

    Lge 2:- Crawley Town

    Unlike the rest of you, I am going to sign off with my real name, okay?!

    Edison "Edson" Arantes do Nascimento KBE
    a.k.a. Pele

  • Comment number 82.

    Hello there comrades

    Thanks for all your comments. Good to see the regular mix of light-hearted banter, deep insight, factual analysis, mild anger and pedantry. I particularly enjoyed the string about the A27 boundary and whether Brighton's ground is in Brighton, Falmer or Russia!

    Anyway. Glad you are all loosened up for the new season. We've got some interesting stuff planned for Focus. The new studio is a beauty and we shall try and keep you entertained between now and next May.

    Keep those comments coming. It's good to be back.

    Grand Moff Tarkin

  • Comment number 83.

    Regarding the ongoing saga of the location Brighton and Honved Albion's new stadium, as I recall the planning process made it quite clear that the stadium is in Brighton and Hove but the coach park is in Falmer (Lewes council). It was only the location of the coach park that allowed the NIMBYs on Lewes council to try to block the planning permission for the stadium (to their eternal shame).

    John Crumplin, FG

  • Comment number 84.

    Oh how I've missed football, but also the latter part of the week and Dans blog. And as interesting as it is the comments just add to it. Back to being late for work on a Friday as I read away while getting ready for work and keep thinking I'll just read one more......!

    Graham Turner

  • Comment number 85.

    Looking forward to tomorrow. Disappointing that it an away trip to Stevenage who are charging us an horrendous £21!

    Will be good that the Football League can have all the attention, though no doubt the media will still ignore us in favour of the boring Premier League - and why I don't bother with a Sunday paper any more.

    46 games to go, and we can all dream of winning promotion and a glorious cup run. However, its not just tomorrow's result that counts, its the 45 that follow!

  • Comment number 86.

    Prem League - Man Utd (with 2 games remaining. MCFC, LFC, CFC)
    Champ: Nottingham Forrest
    L1: Huddersfield
    L2: Bradford City

    Simo Valakari

  • Comment number 87.

    My bets on the Handicap coupon,
    Forest +9 (they'll win the league anyway)
    MK Dons +12
    Wimbledon +16

  • Comment number 88.

    Football is back, but I agree with earlier poster shouldn’t be this early. I long for the days when it used to start in the first week in September.

    Anyway I think this season will finally be the most competitive yet in the boring and predictable premier league. The rest of the divisions will see a range of un-fancied teams near the top and fancied teams dangling at the bottom, it’s what makes the football league the real football product not the artificial one.

    For what it’s worth:

    Division 1 Liverpool
    Division 2 Ipswich
    Division 3 Chesterfield
    Division 4 Torquay

    Mary Poppins Bag Man

  • Comment number 89.

    Regarding the ongoing saga of the location Brighton and Honved Albion's new stadium, as I recall the planning process made it quite clear that the stadium is in Brighton and Hove but the coach park is in Falmer (Lewes council). It was only the location of the coach park that allowed the NIMBYs on Lewes council to try to block the planning permission for the stadium (to their eternal shame).

    John Crumplin, FG


    Thanks for posting this-you saved me the trouble. Clearly there are still some local people who still don't know that the stadium itself is in Brighton. The delays were all down to the misinformed believing a couple of rich NIMBYs-doesn't matter now, we're home! In Brighton.

    Back to the football-there are a lot of people predicting Doncaster to be relegated. I'm normally useless at predictions but I'm sure that Doncaster will be comfortably mid-table or higher come the end of the season.

    Thanks to all fans of other clubs who supported us during the 12 years or whatever it was as we were fighting to get planning permission. Hope you enjoy your visits there. Apologies also for the 12 years we welcomed you to Withdean-it was ruddy awful but without it we'd have no BHAFC. We had no other option and hated it more than you-we were there every other week for 12 years...

  • Comment number 90.

    Went last week to the game at the AMEX Stadium, it's looking great!

    Have also been having a nose round the virtual stadium, you can check that out here -

  • Comment number 91.

    Good to see another post Dan.

    Looking forward to the new season, there's been a real buzz around my club this year (Hartlepool) was half hoping you'd do a piece on the season ticket offer we've had/Nolberto Solano joining/our mascot's advertising campaign:

    But we are just a little club up north. Haven't felt a buzz like this about a season for a long while. (I heard we were even outselling Middlesbrough for season tickets at one point!)

    Good to see the football league getting plenty of coverage though, as much as I love watching the Premier League I much prefer it when the smaller clubs get the main billing!

  • Comment number 92.

    Welcome back Dan,

    Hope you are finding Manchester more to your tastes than Mr Balotelli. Cantona likes the place so we can't be all bad.

    One request (and the purists will kill me for this...): Can we have Liam Gallagher on again this season? Please?

    It's shaping up to be quite a tasty season... let the games begin!


    John Prescott

  • Comment number 93.

    Championship- West Ham
    League 1- Huddersfield
    League 2- Crawley

    I'm from Sheffield and I'm very surprised that United are the favourites among the comments to win league 1. Granted I'm Wednesday fan, but I think both teams will have a tough time unless both make a few signings. If you ask most realistic fans from both teams neither would be particularly optimistic. Frankly if Huddersfield don't win the League or at least get promoted it will be terrible for them they on the whole have a very good squad.
    Wednesday clearly aren't peoples favourites, we have a strong back 4 now and will probably be tough to beat but we lack goals and pace so we'll probably be in a lot of 1-0, 0-0, 1-1 results, but if we sign some good attacking players we'll have a good shot.
    The division is low on quality and on current squad basis the top 2 should be Huddersfield and Charlton in my opinion.

  • Comment number 94.

    Prem: M City
    Champs: Ipswich
    Lge 1: Hartlepool
    Lge 2: Aldershot
    I'll take a packet of pink wafers if they come in.

    Dennis Bailey

  • Comment number 95.

    #55 Cheers

  • Comment number 96.

    Prem: Man City
    Championship: West Ham
    League 1: Huddersfield
    League 2: Crawley

    and hopefully my team Fleetwood Town to win the Conference!;)

  • Comment number 97.

    Moving to Sheffield - Brave choice! :) Home of football & all that of course.
    Speaking of which, does the BBC have any plans to have one of the Sheffield Derbies as a live game? It'd make sense as they'll be the biggest games outside the premiership, likely to be bigger crowds than most premiership games. Particularly if both teams are doing well. And being in the 3rd division, much cheaper for the BBC - great value for the license fee payer. And it'd be a nice, local day for you now.
    Come on, you KNOW you want to.

  • Comment number 98.

    Excellent result for Southampton this weekend - only 45 more games to go.

    Marian Pahars

  • Comment number 99.

    Dan -Just had Football Focus on as normal on a Saturday morn - my sons are football fans (I'm a massive rugby fan myself), they are Liverpool n Man Utd fans but I was then saying to them even as Cardiffians we need to support Swansea as well now (not that we didn't before). However my youngest son then asked then why does football always get referred to as English Football? Will it be British now that Swansea are in the Premiership?

    Dan - this is a 100% genuine non-provoking qn but could football be referred on the BBC as British please? Or is that not technically correct? There are, aren't there many British (Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English) that play for teams, premier and non-premier throughout. We think that it should be recognised as what it is which is British and not one country England. Could be wrong but would welcome an explanation if it couldn't. Thanks.

  • Comment number 100.

    What do Hillingdon Borough FC, Hull City, Everton and QPR have in common?? They have each recently won the Wooden Spoon in the FA Cup, ie they lost their first tie to a club who then lost, to a club who then lost, all the way to the FA Cup Final. Applies to only one club each season, and in 2008 it was Everton. In 2010, Hull City got an unnoticed "double" - they got relegated AND got the Wooden Spoon in the FA Cup!

    Current holders are Hillingdon Borough FC. Football Focus (Dan? Producers?) could do an interesting 5 minutes on it next Sat, looking forward to HBFC's first tie in the start of the 2011/2 FA Cup trail that day - will they "retain" their Wooden Spoon? Or beat Kidlington to avoid it. Could be a nice grass-rootsy antidote to 99% premiership coverage, (like the Brighton feature), since it links humble Hillingdon Borough with the likes of Everton for interest.

    You could have the cup I made ... a cup with a wooden spoon run through it .... The FA Cup "starts" on 20th August for the little clubs ...


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