August 6, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Football, Sport

Men Who Know Nothing: Our Premier League Predictions

In a shameless rip off of the experts at the Guardian, we fancied having a go at predicting how this new Premiership season will go.

Bearing in mind that we know nothing about anything, here are our 2015-16 Premier League predictions…

Beau

  • Title winners – My heart’s saying Arsenal buy my head’s saying Manchester City, so I’ll go with City. It will be very, very close though this season, especially with Man United and Liverpool splashing some serious dollar.
  • Relegated – I can see Norwich really struggling and Watford not fairing much better. There are half a dozen other teams who could well join them but I think it will be Leicester City who take the plunge.
  • Player of the season – The likely candidates (Hazard, Aguero, Costa) will leave a mark but I think this will be the season we finally see the real Mesut Ozil step up and show everyone what a talent he is.
  • Surprise of the season – Bournemouth finishing in the top half of the table. You heard it here first.
  • Signing of the season – A lot has been made of City’s signing of Sterling, but signing Memphis Depay could be exactly what Man United need. Like Di Maria, but with balls and hunger.
  • Young player of the season – After a lacklustre season last year, Luke Shaw should cement his place in the Man United and England first XI.
  • Least excited about – Watching Chelsea and listening to the river of drivel come out of Alan Shearer‘s mouth on Match of the Day.
  • Most excited about – Seeing Walcott get played in his preferred central striker role for a run of games, and the sheer joy if LVG crumbles in his second season.

Tom

  • Title winners – As much as I’d love to see Arsenal finally mount a serious challenge, it probably has to be Chelsea. The only slight hitch might come if 45-year-old Diego Costa (there’s no way that guy is in his mid-twenties) gets injured, as Falcao’s dodgy year in Manchester doesn’t inspire huge amounts of confidence.
  • Relegated – Leicester, as Ranieri seems a bit too all over the place; Sunderland, as they were terrible last year and I can’t see them improving; and Watford, as a promoted team has to go down, surely?
  • Player of the season – A close call between Petr Cech, who will transform the Gunners and ensure the title race is the closest in ages, and Harry Kane, who will prove he is no one-season wonder.
  • Surprise of the season – I think (and hope) that Bournemouth will bring their swashbuckling style of attacking to the top division and achieve a comfortable mid-table finish.
  • Signing of the season – As per my previous answer, Cech will prove the greatest bit of business Arsene Wenger could have hoped to do this summer, but for the sake of variation I’ll say Nathaniel Clyne. He’s a vast improvement on Glen Johnson and should bring some much needed attacking flair to Liverpool’s defence.
  • Young player of the season – If (and it’s a very big if) he stays at Everton and plays every week, John Stones will shine and cement a starting place for England at the Euros next summer. If he goes to Chelsea, he’ll be one of their standout performers in the League Cup and make about 9 league appearances (6 as a substitute).
  • Least excited about – Seeing Man United start to be good again.
  • Most excited about – Apart from seeing an Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook-inspired Leeds finally make their return to the big time, I can’t wait to watch Arsenal‘s attacking options in full flow. Oh, and seeing a wide selection of expressions from Phil Jones.

Rich

  • Title winners: Chelsea – like a sober guest at a boozy dinner party, relentlessly banging on about kale and their new cycling helmet whilst everyone else drowns in an orgy of camembert and merlot, they have the staying power.
  • Relegated: Leicester, Norwich, Watford – Leicester had a funny old season with some amazing highs (remember the 5-3 win over Man United), but this time round I think they will be heading Championshipwards alongside Norwich and Watford, both of whom will struggle.
  • Player of the Season: Mesut Ozil – with his first proper pre-season under his belt, I’m backing the German to really shine this campaign.
  • Surprise of the Season – Bournemouth to finish in the top ten.
  • Signing of the Season: Raheem Sterling – now he’s been at the honey & lemon he’s miraculously recovered from the illness that stopped him training with Liverpool pre-season. If he can recapture his most scintillating form he’s a sure bet for a hatful of goals and assists.
  • Young player of the Season: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – his goal against Chelsea in the Community shield showed what he’s capable of. If he can stay fit and get ahead of the glut of Gunners’ midfield talent then he could really prove his worth.
  • Least excited about – The torrent of bullshit that is Transfer Deadline Day, as Jim White tries to pretend Stoke signing a 37-year-old right-back on loan from Sporting Dildo is the most exciting thing he’s ever heard.
  • Most excited about – The continuation of Brendan Rodgers’ hilarious, David Brent-esque philosophising.

Check back at the end of the season to see how wrong we were!

November 5, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Culture, Football, Sport

CROSSING THE LINE by Luis Suarez – an exclusive extract

Luis Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line: My Story, is out now, and with Barcelona in the same Champions League group as Ajax, we thought it was the perfect time to share this extract from Luis as he discusses his time with the Dutch club…

Through everything that happened in my three-and-a-half years at the club the fans at Ajax never turned their back on me. As captain, the standard-bearer of the club, I had let them down with the biting incident. Yet, they had also seen that I played to win to the extent that I felt this tremendous responsibility to transmit that desire to win to the rest of my team-mates. There was no excuse for what I had done, but they appreciated that I always gave everything and many felt that I had instilled that winning mentality into the team. They liked me precisely because I was not what they were used to. I had supporters writing to me to congratulate me on how I had played as their captain and I will always carry that in my heart. They sang my name from my first game, and they even sang it after I had left the club. When Ajax were drawn to play Manchester United in a Europa League game in February 2012, I had just come back from my eight-game ban at Liverpool. Around 4,000 Ajax supporters sang ‘There’s only one Luis Suárez’ throughout the game at Old Trafford. When people told me about it I was overwhelmed; it’s something I will never forget.

Another reason why the club will always be special to me is because of the way they treated my family. We loved living in Amsterdam. It was a big change from Groningen; it is a much more international city, and one that had a lot of tourists and much more going on. The club advised us that we should be careful when we were out and about – the sort of warning locals might give any young wide-eyed tourists in a big city – but we had a wonderful time. Sofi and I picked out a loft apartment in a converted warehouse on Amsterdam’s IJ lake waterfront and, as busy capital cities go, it was a relaxing place to live. Above all, that was because of the attitude of the people. For a player it’s perfect because you are at a top European club but away from the pitch there is maximum respect for your personal space. No one bothers you for pictures or autographs if they see that you’re with your family. It couldn’t have been better.

The Amsterdam Arena is probably the best stadium I have played in. It has all the benefits of a modern stadium, but because of the supporters you can feel the history of the club when you play there. It makes me very proud to think that if those supporters were asked today about the top players that have played for the club they would include my name. In fact, just having been part of Dutch football is incredibly special to me. If my Uruguayan roots taught me to never stop fighting on the pitch, then my Dutch education taught me to never stop thinking.

Crossing the Line is out now in hardback and ebook. Get your copy here.

And you can read more from Luis about his time at Liverpool in this Guardian extract.

suarez

October 7, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Football, Sport

The genius of Football Cliches

If you follow us on Twitter (curse you if you don’t, fools), you’ll have noticed that quite often on a Saturday afternoon we can be found retweeting @FootballCliches, Adam Hurrey’s glorious analysis of the often absurd language, mannerisms, opinions and iconography that define the beautiful game. Crackers such as these…


Well, this 24 karat Twitter gold has now been made into an equally superb book, the perfectly titled Football Cliches. Deconstructing the ridiculous things that pundits, players, managers and fans say, it’s an absolutely screamer. We loved it so much that we placed it right in the top corner of our rundown of the best sport books of 2014. Here are a few little snippets from this shiny, yellowy, beautiful beast…

The Dictionary

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The Disciplinary Tightrope

Footballers’ perpetual sense of injustice means that almost any type of foul is subject to appeal. Here are just a few:

The cynical foul: Cynical is used by co-commentators to describe any foul that looks even slightly deliberate. For the perpetrator, there is a hands-up acceptance of his fate, like entering a guilty plea in court. Despite claiming the mitigation of it being his first foul in the match (there’s that forefinger again), a yellow card is likely to be forthcoming. If it halts a promising opposition counterattack, the co-commentator will use his playing experience to confirm that the booked player will quite happily take that.

Welcome to the Premier League: The standard English top-flight welcome pack for new foreign signings consists of three items: a pair of oversized headphones, a designer washbag and an agricultural challenge from an old-fashioned centre-half.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other: A coming-together or wrestling match that lacks a clear instigator may be referred to as six of one (this particular cliché is established enough to be left incomplete) or, if the co-commentator is sufficiently leftfield, six and two threes. Further TV replays will confirm that the two players were, indeed, both at it.

5 of the 101 Ways to Score a Goal’

  • 4. Thundered: Suitable for describing shots travelling above the ground, which either go in or strike against the woodwork.
  • 14. Thumped: If a thumping takes place from close-range and/or thanks to a goalkeeping howler, it may well be gleefully undertaken. As with a hammering, this act of blunt trauma can also be applied to an entire scoreline, should the margin of victory be sufficiently comprehensive.
  • 42. Stroked: Like passing it in, this requires the sort of composure traditionally found on the Continent. Stroking the ball home is also an option from the penalty spot.
  • 66. Trickled: That heartbreaking way that a ball crosses the line after a defensive mix-up between a hapless goalkeeper and one of his Keystone Cops defenders.
  • 97. Went for power over placement: Related to, if anything, hitting the ball almost too well. Opting for power over placement often results in merely stinging the palms of the goalkeeper.

The Alan Hansen Defending Continuum

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That’s just a brief look at some of the ruddy great stuff packed into Football Cliches by Adam Hurrey, published Thursday 9th October. Order your own copy here. You won’t regret it (unless you’re Andy Townsend, in which case you might feel a little… disheartened).

cliches

August 8, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Football, Sport

Bend It Like Bullard: Read with Jimmy

With his ruddy hilarious book Bend It Like Bullard out now, former Wigan/Hull City/Fulham hero Jimmy Bullard reads a few tales and tells us the stories behind them. Oh, and scroll all the way down for his outtakes video. You don’t want to miss it…

Read with Jimmy part 1: ‘The power cut

Read with Jimmy part 2: ‘The Extinguisher

And Jimmy is a true pro. As these outtakes show…

Bend It Like Bullard by the one and only Jimmy Bullard is out now. Order your copy HERE

9780755365500

5 new Premier League stars we can’t wait to watch in 2014-15

August 5, 2014, Posted by Tom in Football, Sport

5 new Premier League stars we can’t wait to watch in 2014-15

With the new Premier League season rapidly approaching, we pick 5 of the best new imports we can’t wait to see take to the pitch in 2014-15…

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We’ve missed a fair few big names there (Ospina, Markovic, Cabella etc) but we wanted to be quite selective. So chances are you disagree with us. So go on then, who are YOU looking forward to seeing? Let us know on Twitter: @StareAtBooks

July 24, 2014, Posted by Tom in Football, Sport

Join the 2014/15 Men Who Stare At Books Fantasy Football League

Wenger is past it, van Gaal doesn’t know the English game and Rodgers blew it last year. Oh, and Pelligrini has disappeared into his own hoodie like a little feathered turtle. A new championship-winning manager is needed.

So once again we want to put your football knowledge to the test by offering you the chance to manage in the toughest league in the world. Nope, not the Bundesliga, but the world-famous and snappily-titled Men Who Stare At Books Fantasy Football League.

We’ve set up our own league on the official Barclays Premier League Fantasy Football Game and would love as many authors, bloggers, reviewers, readers and general football fans to join. Last year it was one of our own (ahem, me) who won the league by just 4 points. Can you go one better this year and steal my imaginary crown?

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All you need to do is head HERE to create your team, and use this PIN number to join our league: 365937-96843 

It’s free to play, all scoring is handled by the Premier League, and you get £100 million to play with (not in real money, clearly). At the end of the season, the player who comes out on top will win nothing. It’s about the honour, not the rewards.

The season kicks off on the 15th August so get your squad together now!

Full terms and conditions of the game, as set out by the Barclays Premier League, can be seen HERE.

And a few little Ts &Cs of our own, please read carefully:

  1. The winner of our league will be the player with the most points at the end of the Premier League season, based on the official Fantasy Football rules and scoring system. Men Who Stare At Books have no control over who wins the league.
  2. Men Who Stare At Books reserves the right cancel our league without notice.
  3. There is no purchase necessary to enter.
  4. Men Who Stare at Books and our league are in no way endorsed by or associated with the Barclays Premier League.
  5. Participants may see their name and team names posted on the Men Who Stare At Books website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  6. Only one entry per person please.
  7. Full game rules and scoring system can be seen by visiting: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  8. The game is open to all ages, however if you are under 18 please see rules 35-40 in the official games rules: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  9. It is free to create a fantasy football team, and it is free to join our league.
  10. Only players who have joined our league using our PIN (365937-96843) will be entered in to our league.
  11. No rude or offensive team names please. You’ll be blocked and disqualified by the Premier League.
  12. By entering the private our league, each entrant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions, and by the terms and conditions set out by the Premier League: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  13. These terms and conditions and any disputes or claims (including non-contractual disputes or claims) arising out of these terms and Conditions shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of England, whose courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

May 12, 2014, Posted by Tom in Football, Sport

Our Barclays Premier League Team of the Season 2013/14

The Premier League season is over, and after 380 games, over 1050 goals and the crowning of Manchester City as the new champions, it’s time to reflect on who has stood out this year. We’ve picked our team of the season, playing a good old-fashioned 442 (with subs too, naturally), so have a look and see if you agree with us…

GK: Tim Howard (Everton)

RB: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
CB: John Terry (Chelsea)
CB: José Fonte (Southampton)
LB: Leighton Baines (Everton)

RM: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
CM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
CM: Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
LM: Adam Lallana (Southampton)

FW: Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
FW: Luis Suárez (Liverpool)

Subs: David Marshall (Cardiff City), Curtis Davies (Hull City), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Ross Barkley (Everton), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

Manager of the Year: Brendan Rodgers

Why this team? Everton have been brilliant this year, and this success has been built on a rock solid defence featuring full backs who are superb at going forward in Baines and Coleman. Tim Howard has been immense too between the sticks. John Terry has had his best season in years, and alongside him is one of Southampton’s unsung heroes.

In midfield, Stevie G has powered Liverpool ever so close to the title (let’s ignore that slip), Hazard has provided Chelsea with real flair, Yaya has been a beast and scored a ridiculous amount of goals for a midfielder, and Adam Lallana deserves to start for England in Brazil on this basis of his performances this season.

And up top, can anyone really argue with that selection?

A couple of honourable mentions for players who didn’t make the bench. Aaron Ramsey could have been the player of the season if it wasn’t for such bad luck with injuries, Jordan Henderson has finally shown himself to the the midfielder we all thought he could never be, and Wayne Rooney has battled admirably to try and rescue any kind of success for Man Utd this term.

We also asked our intern Matt to put his team together, to provide a bit of contrast and expose our lack of footballing knowledge. Here’s who he went for…

GK:  David Marshall (Cardiff)

RB: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
CB: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
CB: Martin Skrtel  (Liverpool)
LB: Luke Shaw (Southampton)

RM: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
CM: Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
CM: David Silva (Manchester City)
LM: Adam Lallana (Southampton)

FW: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
FW: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Subs: Petr Cech (Chelsea), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), John Terry (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Raheem Stirling (Liverpool)

Manager of the Year: Tony Pulis

Why did I pick this team?

This season has had a whole lot of goals and I feel as though this is partly because full-backs are getting much further forward than in previous years. Two prime examples are Seamus Coleman and Luke Shaw, who have contributed massively to their club’s good performances this year.  Cardiff have had a terrible season but David Marshall’s form never seems to fluctuate. The top two clubs (Liverpool and Man City) have also been very solid in defence due to the solidity of their main centre-backs, Vincent Kompany and Martin Skrtel.

On either side of midfield I have chosen Adam Lallana and Eden Hazard. Hazard’s magical feet have been perfection and torn teams apart. Manchester City are possibly the best attacking force in the Premier League and Yaya Touré and David Silva have been the core strength of this, providing a huge number of goals and assists between them.

Up front I have firstly gone for the obvious player, Luis Suarez, who has been the best Premier League player by far this year. Secondly I have gone for Wayne Rooney. Manchester United have had a dreadful season yet Rooney still has 12 assists and 17 goals, which shows his sheer talent.

 

Still hungry for more football? Of course you are. The World Cup is just a few weeks away, and the genius that is Football Clichés has written a free ebook guide to the tournament, which you can pre-order now. It’s the perfect accompaniment to watching the tournament this summer, as we navigate the treacherous terrain of Dutch in-fighting and the dreaded Group of Death:

cliches world cup

And don’t forget that the one and only Jimmy Bullard’s first book is also out later this month. You don’t want to miss BEND IT LIKE BULLARD! Order here.

9780755365500

Images: Tim Howard [© Photo Works / Shutterstock.com] / Luis Suarez [© mooinblack / Shutterstock.com] / John Terry [© mooinblack / Shutterstock.com] / Vincent Kompany [© Photo Works / Shutterstock.com]

May 9, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Football, Sport

Jimmy Bullard answers your questions

A few weeks ago we sat down with former Premier League hero Jimmy Bullard to ask him your questions. Here’s what he had to say…

And here’s part 2…

And a lovely part 3…

 

BEND IT LIKE BULLARD by Jimmy Bullard is out now. Order your copy HERE

9780755365500

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