Premier League 2016/17 Preview & Predictions


So, a new season is upon us quicker than you could say “Gary Lineker in his underpants”. How will your team get on? Here’s your definitive probable guide to this season’s Premier League…

  1. Manchester United


My choice for the title is Mourinho’s new men. Much has been made of United’s transfer dealings, and the arrivals of Pogba, Zlatan and Mkhitaryan stand them in much better attacking stead than under LVG. Mourinho is a winner, he’ll have them whipped into shape and fighting for the title extremely quickly. Conte and Guardiola have harder tasks to get the title.


Key Player: Wayne Rooney


2. Manchester City


City’s biggest signing of the transfer window is Guardiola, a man who’d turn any other team in any other league into the best almost immediately, but this is the Premier League. If Pep has them playing exquisite tiki taka well enough by November then Mourinho should watch out. Aguero should be top-scorer under Pep’s tactics and that should be enough to make them United’s closest challengers.


Key Player: Sergio Aguero


3. Chelsea


The big question for me is ‘why haven’t Chelsea bought a defender yet?’. They were woeful at the back at times last season but yet they’ve not spent a penny on their defence as the new season rolls into town. Even more bizarre when you consider that new boss Conte loves 3-5-2. Their saving grace for me is the lack of European football; this should leave no excuses for a title challenge. N’Golo Kante is, for me, signing of the summer, he’ll win you 15-20 points a season alone.


Key Player: Eden Hazard


4. Arsenal


Much like Chelsea a world-class centre-half is still needed, something that should’ve been targeted before injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel. Olivier Giroud is often a scapegoat for Arsenal’s shortcomings, but the need for, at the very least, someone to actually challenge him is far too obvious to any onlooker. Granit Xhaka is a good piece of business and someone who should flourish in the Prem. Currently not title challengers on balance, but with 2-3 more signings they could threaten higher.


Key Player: Alexis Sanchez


5. Liverpool


Liverpool are probably the hardest team to predict. Every year their fans are filled with optimism about what they could achieve, this season is no different. Klopp should have found his feet by now, and Mane is a top signing. They’ve addressed the problem with Mignolet, only for Karius to get crocked, so they’ll be in for an interesting start. They should push on this season, but I’m sticking my neck on the line placing them above Spurs.


Key Player: Phillipe Coutinho


6. Spurs


Mauricio Pochettino should be nothing but delighted right now. At time of writing Spurs have lost none of last season’s key players and picked up too very handy footballers in Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen. The only concerns are a potential hangover from their collapse after the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ and how the squad will deal with the added pressure of the Champion’s League. I’m predicting a big season for Erik Lamela and a strong attitude could see them into 5th.


Key Player: Christian Eriksen


7. West Ham


West Ham have done arguably the best transfer business, and more should be expected with the Olympic Stadium move. They’re probably still one step away from moving to the next level of the league table. Another solid season.


Key Player: Dimitri Payet


8. Leicester


Leicester fans can’t (and won’t) expect the same highs as last season’s title winning campaign. If they keep Mahrez they’ll have a good platform to build on. With Kante the only major name out the door at the King Power they should claim a top-half place.


Key Player: Jamie Vardy


9. Everton


Ronald Koeman has taken quite a risk, in taking this job and leaving Southampton, but a man willing to gamble like that could be exactly what Everton need. Have to keep hold of Lukaku or they’re stuck in a worrying rut.


Key Player: Romelu Lukaku


10. Stoke


Stoke are a team on the up. A team on the up who realistically won’t go anywhere further up the table. They’ve no hope of keeping up with the mega-money above them in the table, but they’re now far too good to go down. Stuck in mid-table forever?


Key Player: Xherdan Shaqiri


11. Southampton


Losing Koeman, and Mane, is a big blow for the Saints and they’ll struggle to live up to last season’s highs. As previously mentioned their former gaffer could live to regret it. Puel seems a safe, but uninspired choice as manager. Hojberg is a good signing. Probably looking down rather than up this time around.


Key Player: Shane Long


12. Sunderland


Moyes has probably found himself the perfect Everton-esque job and he should serve them well. They’ll just be hoping to be safe well before their usual end of season great escape would finish. They should manage that. Should make a couple more additions by the end of the window too.


Key Player: Jan Kirchhoff


13. Middlesbrough


My surprise package, they’ve signed plenty of players, but they’ve bought well and their manager is superb. They’ll easily out perform the other two promoted sides, and they look in much better shape to take on the rest of the Premier League’s bottom half.


Key Player: Daniel Ayala


14. Swansea


Losing Ashley Williams is a huge loss, and one that could easily send Swansea into turmoil. They’re a club going backwards and they’ve got to be careful not to fall out of the top-flight. New owners could help. They should have enough to keep them up and they’ll be praying Fernando Llorente produces his form of old.


Key Player: Gylfi Sigurddson


15. Crystal Palace


My outside bet for relegation. Poor Alan Pardew mustn’t know what he’s doing wrong, luckily for Palace their emphatic start to last season saved them from their second-half plummet. If that form carries over they’ll be gone. With Pardew you never know. Easily stronger than the bottom 4 and should be aiming to finish higher than this.


Key Player: Yannick Bolasie



16. West Brom


Baggies fans will probably be hoping their opposition haven’t been looking at their woeful pre-season results. Chinese investment is yet to surface any fruitful transfer dealings. Pulis’ record is good, but their squad looks woefully weak this year. Relegation battle ahead.


Key Player: Saido Berahino


17. Bournemouth


Eddie Howe is a superb young manager and he did exceptionally well to keep them in this division. They’ve signed some young players which shows their willingness to build for the future and will stand them in good stead if they do drop down. It’ll be close, but they’re youthful confidence should pay off.


Key Player: Callum Wilson


18. Watford


Once Ighalo and Deeney’s goals had dried up toward the end of last season their struggles were clear for all to see. Why they’ve let Quique Sanchez Flores go is beyond me and Walter Mazzarri is likely to have a long season ahead.


Key Players: Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo


19. Burnley


Every time Burnley get promoted they seem to be preparing for the following season back in the Championship. Signing players from Charlton is hardy going to inspire the fans. They’re too small a club to cope straight away, if they can manage to keep their heads above water they have to be more ambitious next time around.


Key Player: Andre Gray


20. Hull


Doomed. No hope. Give up now. I’m yet to read one of these prediction type pieces that doesn’t place Hull rock bottom. At time of writing they have no chance. The only surprise is that more haven’t jumped ship. They need to turn things around at the club very quickly or you worry this could be a record-breaking season… for all the wrong reasons.


Key Player: Abel Hernandez

City cruise through to the next FA Trophy round


City eased to a 3-0 victory in Kingston to go a step further in the FA Trophy. City dominated the game, against a side a step further down the pyramid, and were rewarded for their efforts through Dan Green, Matt Wright and Isaac Vassell.


Kingstonian 0:

Truro 3: Green (9), Wright (26), Vassell (84)


Kingstonian: Tolfrey (gk), Goode, Wells, O’Leary, Hogg, Inns (c), Bennett, Odametey, Beckles (off 81), Pico Gomez, Hudson (off 63).

Subs: Page, Smith, Sappleton (on 63), Murphy-McVey (on 81), Di Bonito.


Truro: Rice (gk), White, Riley-Lowe, Ash (c), Richards, Pugh (y)(off 45), Knowles, Green, Wright, Brett (off 51), Cooke (off 67).

Subs: Duff, Vassell (on 67), Mitchell, Afful (on 45), Barrow (on 51).


Officials: Referee: Justin Amey. Assistant Referees: Marcus Carmichael and Jason Connolly.


Both sides started the game brightly, Kingstonian having a couple of right wing free-kick chances, but it only took City nine minutes to find the back of the net. A whipped left-wing cross wasn’t dealt with by two home defenders and Dan Green had a simple finish to make it 1-0.

Truro continued to have the better of the game, Matt Wright’s lob landing on the roof of the net. City’s second was forthcoming, in the 26th minute Ryan Brett fired a shot at goal, Kingstonian ‘keeper Tolfrey saved, but only parried to Matt Wright, who tapped home to make it 2-0.

The second goal seemed to spur the home side on considerably, and Reece Beckles saw his close shot well-saved by Martin Rice. Neither side however, could find another way through before the break.


City were the better side after the restart, being the better side in possession and when the long balls came. Despite this no chances came about for either side, only Kingstonian managed a couple of soft shots that were easily claimed by Rice.

The Tigers took 30 second half minutes to muster their first real effort at goal, good play from Les Afful teeing up Green to hit a half-volley against the post.

Truro though continued to attack with pace, and they were rewarded in the 84th minute, Matt Wright playing a perfect through-ball to sub Isaac Vassell to kill off any late hopes the hosts may have had.

3-0 would be the way the game stayed, and City are now one step further along the road to an FA Trophy final at Wembley.




Watmore could you want?!


England 3-1 Switzerland

England: Ward-Prowse (82 pen), Watmore (85), Akpom (90)

Switzerland: Tarashaj (45)


Man of the Match: Duncan Watmore




Pickford (gk), Iorfa, Targett, Baker, Chambers, Chalobah, Swift, Ward-Prowse ©, Solanke (off 85), Loftus-Cheek (off 73), March (off 57).


Subs: Aina, Walton (gk), Cargill, Forster-Caskey (on 85), Watmore (on 73), Akpom (on 57), Woodrow.




Nganoma (gk) ©, Hadergjonaj, Angha, Akanji, Gulen, Bertone, Garcia, Zakaria (off 89), Tabakovic, Araz (off 62), Tarashaj (off 45).


Subs: Salvi (gk), Wuthrich, Untersee (on 45), Custodio (on 62), Follonier, Khelfi, Ajeti (on 89).

The teams line up at the AmEx.

The teams line up at the AmEx.


England’s under 21s secured a dominant 3-1 victory over Switzerland, but it took the introduction of Sunderland’s Duncan Watmore to get things going.

Watmore’s 73rd minute introduction gave England the end to their means as the attacker produced a man of the match display, despite his short time on the pitch. He won the penalty that led to England’s first, scored the second and laid the third for Chuba Akpom on a plate.

Incredibly, England were behind at half-time and remained so until the 82nd minute, with the Swiss scoring just before half-time against the run of play.

But Gareth Southgate’s sides game-long dominance continued and the end result reflected that.


England started the brighter of the two sides and had the games first chance when some tidy play on the edge of the box resulted in Brighton man Solly March firing just over at his home stadium.

Lewis Baker had a decent effort saved and another long-range shot sailed over, but for all their possession, and dominance, England struggled to find the opening they needed.

Switzerland defended well and their stern defence paid off just before half time. With the board for added time about to go up, a long ball all too easily breached England’s backline, Shani Tarashaj was there to capitalise for the Swiss as he lifted the ball over the onrushing Jordan Pickford to give the Swiss the advantage. The winger, who plays his club football for Grasshoppers Zurich, picked up a serious looking injury in the scoring of the goal, Pickford clattering him on his outward charge, and the wide-man was subsequently stretchered off the field as the half closed.


The second half continued in similar vein to the first, England starting brightly and Lewis Baker hit the side netting with an ambitious volley just two minutes after the restart.

Reuben Loftus-Cheek showed glimpses of the form that saw him break into the Chelsea first team, using his quick feet to skip past two Swiss defenders only for his cross/shot to be cleared behind before John Swift could get on the end of it.

England again pushed forward and Dominic Iorfa’s cross found Loftus-Cheek, via a deflection, but the midfielder’s poke at goal was too easily blocked.

Owing much to England’s dominance, it took the Swiss nearly thirty minutes of the second period to even reach England’s box, and even then Calum Chambers was easily able to shield the ball through to Pickford.

England withdrew Loftus-Cheek and threw Duncan Watmore into the action for the final fifteen minutes. The Sunderland attacker had a golden opportunity to draw England level but fired the ball over from twelve yards.

What was a drab game momentarily came to life in the seventy-eighth minute, England refusing to kick the ball out for striker Tabakovic to receive attention. When the ball eventually went out several red shirts stormed up to England skipper James Ward-Prowse and some pushing and shoving ensued, with Nathaniel Chalobah going into the book as a result.

Just moments later England were awarded a penalty, Dominic Solanke recaptured the ball for England as Bertone dwindled on the ball. It ricocheted through to Duncan Watmore who got there before Swiss ‘keeper Nganoma who brought him down and referee Andreas Ekberg pointed to the spot. Captain Ward-Prowse took the kick, tucking it away to the ‘keeper’s left and England finally had a deserved goal, in the eighty-second minute of asking.

It didn’t take long for England to find their second and go ahead either. Iorfa, marauding down the right found Matty Targett with a cross, Targett laid off super-sub Watmore who let fly from the edge of the area. His deflection-aided shot beat Nganoma all ends up and England had what was a deserved 2-1 lead.

The Swiss got lively. With the game no longer in their favour some feisty challenges ensued and both Baker and Targett squared up to Swiss counterparts as late tempers flared.

England sealed the win in the final minute of normal time, Watmore, winning man of the match for a breathtaking seventeen minutes from the bench, surged from the left-side and into the box, teeing up Arsenal and Hull striker Chuba Akpom to ease the ball into the bottom corner.


Pakistan Review: with Chris Tremlett


England’s 2-0 defeat to Pakistan in the UAE sent the hope of a cricket-loving nation to two extremes over the course of three test matches. We talk to Ashes-winning pace bowler Chris Tremlett to get his views on England’s new star, spin issues and the prospect of making test matches ‘fairer’.


After a first test where England almost pulled off one of the most unexpected and exhilarating victories, it was something of a damp squib to see the side outplayed in the final two tests and to be convincingly beaten. James Taylor though provided some reason to be hopeful for England fans, notching a score of 76, in the first innings of the final test, suggesting his long-awaited call up could be more than useful. Tremlett is positive towards Taylor’s chances at test level: “for me he is a solid, gutsy player. He is a small compact batsman who has his own method of scoring and has tried to adapt his game (with success) by trying to get stronger in the gym.” But of course as an inexperienced player there will be tougher moments to come: “For me he will be tested more when the ball is flying through his chest and shoulder level on bouncier pitches. He has to prove himself in tougher conditions at test level. I hope he gets a fair run to do so.”


Tremlett is clear on why he feels England struggled, a lack of ability against, and to produce, spin: “Not having a front-line spinner in those conditions hasn’t helped. Our batsmen have always struggled with these conditions throughout the decades and I think this will continue. Those conditions are so foreign to our players and always will be. Our batsmen don’t ever come across quality spin [either] unless the odd [county] team has a quality overseas player for a short time.”


To tackle the perceived difficulty for touring sides, playing on pitches manufactured to benefit the home team, it has been suggested that the ICC should perhaps take charge of the pitches to make things fairer, Tremlett disagrees and says he supports an alternative solution: “ I think home sides should be in charge of pitches like they always have. That’s the whole point of foreign conditions and [it’s how] people are tested around the world. I would just scrap the toss and the opposition captain should get to choose whether to bat or bowl first. This way I think the pitches would be a bit more consistent.”


England’s next big test is take on South Africa, the world’s number one ranked test nation, in their own backyard. A test that will be a much sterner one than the one handed out by Pakistan.

Truro make it nine unbeaten with victory at Chelmsford.


Chelmsford 1-2 Truro


Chelmsford: Dibble (gk), Girdlestone, Palmer, Hughes (c), Ekpiteta, McAuley, Marlow, Sawyer, Thalassitis, Whichelow, Skepelhorn.

Subs: Morgan, Graham on 68, Haines on 68, Brown, Daley on 69.


Truro: Rice (gk), Mitchell, Riley-Lowe, Brett, Richards, Pugh (c), Knowles, Green, Duff, Reid, Cooke.

Subs: Wright, Vassell on 64, White on 85, Afful on 81 , Barrow.


Goals: Skepelhorn (5); Reid (20), Brett (29).


Attendance 636


City made it nine games unbeaten in the Vanarama National League South with a 2-1 win at Chelmsford City on a windy day in Essex.


It was clear even from the games opening moments that the wind was always going to play a part. Chelmsford kicked off with the wind behind their backs and had the better of the opening exchanges. 5 minutes in and the lead was theirs, some poor Truro defending as centre-halves Richards and Pugh were left looking foolish as a simple through-ball split the two, leaving Clarets’ Hugo Skepelhorn one-on-one with Martin Rice. Rice saved the first attempt but the ball landed straight back at the feet of the striker who tucked it home.


The driving wind continued to hamper City’s forward progress with Chelmsford dominating the game. But the Tigers were determined not to let the dominance continue, easing back into the game with a spell of good possession. The first big chance for City came in the 20th minute, a free kick on the edge of the ‘D’ was to be struck by Jamie Reid and the striker’s effort flew into the top corner with Chelmsford’s keeper stranded, leveling the game at 1-1.


City’s dominance continued, and after a brief scare, as a stray Chelmsford cross hit the bar, it was 2-1 City a lovely flick and through-ball from Cody Cooke sent Ryan Brett through and the left-sider coolly passed the ball through Chelmsford ‘keeper Christian Dibble’s legs and gave Truro the lead in the 29th minute.


Steve Tully’s boys continued to have the better of the half and were unlucky not to make it 3-1 just before the break, a corner dropping to Jamie Richards on the half-volley, but the centre-half lent back and sent his shot over the bar.


As the sides came out for the second half the clouds that had lined the sky above began to clear and the wind calmed, leaving City with less of a brisk advantage than the home side had had before the break. It was Chelmsford who started the second half brightest too, they surged down their left but goalscorer Skepelhorn couldn’t grab an equaliser.


Chelmsford continued to have the better of the game, but chances were few and far between, defender Rory McAuley had a low shot saved by Martin Rice. The Tigers didn’t really have much to show for their 30 minutes of second half efforts though and the score remained at 1-2.


City wasted a golden opportunity to clinch victory just three minutes later. Dan Green played in Craig Duff and the flag stayed down, the Chelmsford defence recovered, but Duff turned his man, but ballooned the effort high over the bar.


Truro were left with only ten men for the last 5 minutes as the enthusiastic Skepelhorn skipped past Arran Pugh who brought the striker down and picked up his second yellow, his first picked up in extremely similar first-half circumstances. Matty Whichelow hit the resulting freekick, but Martin Rice saw it over the bar.


The Tigers had the chance to make it 3-1 late on but the chance was lost and the game remained 2-1, as Chelmsford captain Mark Hughes missed a great opportunity to claim a last minute equaliser, and Truro held on to make it nine league games unbeaten.

How good are England?


Following England’s 2-0 series defeat to Pakistan, in the UAE, we try to find out just how good this England team is, and how good it can be.


After the hugely unexpected Ashes victory things were looking up again for an England side whom were written off by almost everyone pre-the Aussies tour. The way England had fought against all odds finally showed that the side had some backbone, and some genuine firepower to yet again take on the world’s best. Fast-forward to the next tour and suddenly it’s all a bit melancholy again, with Pakistan relatively easing to victory.


So how good actually are England? England’s strengths are obvious: Joe Root (The world’s no.1 batsman), James Anderson (England’s leading wicket taker of all-time) and the ever dependable skipper Alistair Cook. But why is there so much inconsistency in the rest of the squad? Pre-the 8-15 Stuart Broad’s place in the squad was under intense scrutiny as the team under-performed. Broad was one of England’s leading lights and his place in the team was untouchable but as England struggled the calls for his head came. But on the back of these Broad has proven that this England side is good enough to win series home and away, taking plenty of wickets during the Ashes and snaring key players in the UAE this tour, it leads you to really believe if the problems are as bad as some make out.


England’s key aim must be to build a settled side, the chopping and changing of Alastair Cook’s opening partner and the in one minute out the next Jonny Bairstow needs to be given the gloves and have a solid spot in the team. This would mean Jos Buttler drops out, a man with undoubted talent, and the ability to entertain few others in the current test side can, but a man who has struggled on the biggest stage. His replacement (as has been for the third Pakistan test) should be James Taylor, a man whose chance at test level has been long in coming.


Ashes-winning pace bowler, Chris Tremlett is a fan of Taylor’s: “[He] is a solid, gutsy player. He is a small compact batsman who has his own method of scoring and has tried to adapt his game by trying to get stronger in the gym and he has shown he has the ability to hit the ball over the ropes on occasions. For me he will be tested more when the ball is flying through his chest and shoulder level on bouncier pitches facing the likes of Morne Morkel etc. I think he is a good player on slow pitches but has to prove himself in tougher conditions on quicker pitches at test level. I hope he gets a fair run to prove himself.” A line up including Taylor would help England’s scores increase no-end and will begin to show just how good England can be. Some would even like to see the selection spread wider, with local cricketer Tom Jacobson saying: “[They’re all] from the centre of the country… they are more than likely going to select players from their own club, meaning that players from Somerset etc. don’t get a look in”.


Paceman Tremlett thinks England’s touring problems are almost entirely spin-related: “Well not having a front line spinner in those conditions obviously hasn’t helped the situation but saying that last time we toured there and lost 3-0, we had Swann and Panesar and still struggled. Our batsman have always struggled with these conditions throughout the decades and I think this will continue as those conditions are so foreign to our players, and always will be, as we don’t have the heat in this country and our pitches are produced in a different way. Saying that, our batsman don’t ever come across quality spin, unless the odd [county] team has a quality overseas player for a short period of time.” This is a definite criticism of England but one that it is difficult to prepare for you can’t change the pitches in England, and you can’t force county players to sign the world’s best spinners, so maybe this is the peak? Maybe any England side can’t be any better unless a crop of top spinners and class spin playing batsmen all arrive at once.


But what if it’s not the fault of England’s players? Well, many of England’s problems have come whilst on tour, suggesting their problems lie on the pitches away from home. Plenty has been said recently about the way pitches are maintained, with some accusing teams of producing a pitch designed to play too much toward their strengths. England were one of the teams accused of this during the Ashes, with Stuart Broad’s 8-15 potentially explaining just how a pitch could be manipulated to the home team’s advantage.


The pitches in the UAE are of the same ilk as those Tremlett mentioned with regards to James Taylor. Pitches are very dry and favour the spinner, a top class player-type that England are missing. So, with the pitch being manipulated to thoroughly exploit England’s spin weakness it was no surprise defeat was the outcome. With weaknesses being exploited through one-sided pitches, some have begun to suggest that maybe the ICC should have control of the preparation of pitches, this is something Tremlett and Jason Ratcliffe, Assistant Chief Executive of the PCA, disagree with. On the issue Ratcliffe said: “Home advantage with regard to preparing pitches has long been a point of discussion and many options to counter this have been put forward over the years. It’s arguable whether there should be a home advantage but regardless of the pro’s and cons, the game is far more interesting to watch and play where conditions differ around the world and Test cricket is often described as a ‘test’, for this very reason, challenging yourself against the best in every possible condition.” Tremlett’s view was very similar: “I think the home side should be in charge of pitches like they always have. That’s the whole point of foreign conditions and where people are tested around the world.” So that idea isn’t for everyone, but is something that could end up gaining more likability if home wins continue to dominate.


There is no doubt England’s national side are a talented bunch, but how good are they? Very, but with our limitations on climate and pitches, it’s very debatable as to whether England could actually be much better. Chris Tremlett is a supporter of another idea that could level the playing field for the touring side: “I would just scrap the toss and the opposition captain gets to choose on the decision to bat or bowl first. This way I think pitches would be a bit more consistent.” The ‘scrap the toss’ idea is one gaining more support and could genuinely be introduced sooner rather than later, and then, who knows, maybe we’ll see England play to their full ability.

The Darts Wonderkid


Darts. It’s a game for the beer-guzzling 50 something looking to spend as much time in the pub as possible, right? Not for sixteen year old Kieran Heard. Having become Cornwall’s youngest ever county representative, the pressure is well and truly on a boy who has already embarrassed a couple of big names in the darts world. And he’s still in his teens!

“I used to be practising stood on a beer crate”

“My mum played darts from a young age and also worked in a pub so when she was working I used to be practising stood on a beer crate.” Heard’s rise to become one of the South-West’s most promising darts players is quite clearly an unconventional one. Most would expect to find a son and father out in the shed lobbing arrows, but he cites his mum as one of his biggest influences. Growing up in a pub provides the breeding ground for many darts players and for this youngster that was his route into the sport. Heard does also give much credit to his step-dad for teaching him the technique that has made him the player he is today.

For a lad that started so young it’s no surprise darts is becoming a way of life for the 16 year old: “As I play so often it means a lot to me. In the winter I play four of the five weekdays around the local area. During the summer two nights a week, and county youth matches occur once a month on a Sunday.” This is the commitment you’d expect from the sort of player who aims to reach the highest level within his sport: “In the long-term I hope to be on the BDO tour travelling the world”. It’s obvious Heard believes he has what it takes. His passion for the game is something kids trying to make it in other sports could learn a lot from.

“My biggest achievement is making and winning for the county men’s team”

The call up to the Cornwall men’s squad at such a young age, the youngest ever at senior level for the county, didn’t even come as much of a surprise to the then fifteen year old: “That Superleague season I won 19 out of 22 games to make the squad.” Without the want of overhyping his achievements, it reminds of a young Lionel Messi teaching the older boys how to play football. “It felt like it was a great achievement to become the youngest player for Cornwall seniors.” Not only this but he went one better, winning on his second appearance to also become the youngest ever to do that for the county.

He’s made it look easy, anyone who’s thrown a dart in anger will tell you that scoring big and winning matches at the poorest of levels isn’t even a simple feat, but Heard continues to threaten the South-West’s best youth and senior players on a regular basis. He’s even made it look easy against some of the best. At only 10 he was victorious against one of the BDO’s finest, Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams. Adams, currently the BDO’s second best player, was a three-time world champion when the teenager beat him, an unbelievable achievement for someone of such inexperience. Imagine being Andy Murray, turning up at your local tennis courts for an exhibition and getting bulldozed by a lad with a tennis racquet his mum bought him! Despite all this at a young age, Heard ranks his county call up as the greater achievement: “Although it was good at the time my biggest achievement is making and winning for the county men’s team.” Even as a very young man he’s still beginning to develop some of the swagger made famous by some of darts biggest names, dropping in as if just a side note: “Also in exhibitions I beat Jamie Caven hitting the double on one knee.” It’s that sort of arrogance that is needed to succeed in what is a fiercely competitive sport. To embarrass a darts professional like Caven at such a young-age is something that should not be understated and it shows just how promising a player Heard is.

“I feel I have got to impress more because of what I have done in the past especially at such a young age”

With all this success there’s always going to be worries of too much too young. Although there’s no doubt that calling him up to the Cornwall senior squad was justified by the performance, there should also be worries that it could’ve come too soon. The immediate confidence boost can often be followed by complacency and a loss of form. This doesn’t appear to be the case with Heard, although he is without a place in the Cornwall squad currently, it’s obvious to him that he has to work hard to avoid being the wonderkid who never made it. His immediate aim? To get back in the county men’s squad. Whilst he’s not involved youth darts remains a focus: “Next season I hope to have a more successful season for the county youth team,” he says. This shows that even with the developing swagger the teenage innocence and modesty is still there, he knows the stereotypes and knows it takes a long time to get to the top, hence the BDO being purely a long-term aim.

With each impressive achievement comes more pressure and sometimes a lot of it: “I think about it most of the time when I’m playing or before I play, which can affect my performance.” It’s difficult being the next big thing, even at the regional level Hearn currently plays. Being of such young age and being told you’ve got what it takes to play at a high level and be successful isn’t easy to take in. You can contextualise his achievements with other much higher profile sports and sports stars but darts is this much longer process, a darts career is for most just during a p*** up at the pub, and those who have genuine talent can be playing for years and years before they reach the top, and can then be playing on for years after that. “I feel I have got to impress more because of what I have done in the past especially at such a young age”, Kieran says through seemingly gritted teeth. For those who succeed this pressure is like water off a duck’s back and Heard hasn’t shown too many signs of his process flailing, continuing to fire for his Superleague side, Lucky Kiss in Bude.

” Travelling is a problem living in this area. Most of the big tournaments for youth players are several hours away. The cost is also something that impacts on the chances to enter the tournaments.” This is a major issue that’s blighted a lot of sport in this area, but also shows just how committed Heard is, despite travelling times meaning early starts and late finishes for county matches, he remains unfazed and is very bright about his future within the sport: “I have enjoyed playing from a young age and hope to enjoy playing for years to come.”

Will Kieran Heard be the next big thing in darts? Only time will tell. But the South-West’s darts wonderkid shows no sign of slowing his own rise. He remains grounded, whilst also continuing to hold his high ambitions; a mix that many would agree is needed to see you through to the next level, and onwards. For now Kieran is taking every game as it comes, remaining in with a shout at making the next county squad, and he is clearly on the radar of those in charge.

Does football need the Rooney Rule?


The Rooney Rule requires American Football teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and senior figure roles within franchises. The outcry for this has well and truly begun from sections of British football. PFA chief Gordon Taylor saying there was “a hidden resistance” to hiring black managers, and Garth Crooks also laying into the Football League for the lack of black managers. The implementation of the rule used in America, or similar, would mean more chances for ethnic minority candidates to be interviewed for football’s biggest jobs. The Guardian reported in December that of 552 senior coaching positions in English football, only 19 of them were held by black or ethnic minority men. But why is this and could the Rooney rule really help to increase those figures into favour for minority candidates?

To ask could it work gives a simple answer, yes. Following the rules introduction in America the percentage of coaches from a minority background had leapt up from 6% to 22% of NFL head coaches, in 2006. This is quite clearly a significant increase and the Rule definitely had impacted on the process of hiring a new head coach in NFL. Sanctions were also imposed in America, Detroit Lions were fined $200,000 in 2003 for failing to interview a minority candidate. Would the Rule in English football have the same impact is a much trickier scenario. The Football League’s current minority managers can be counted on one hand, and out of a possible 92 it becomes quite clear that the number is significantly low.

Of those currently in charge at a Football League club Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is arguably having the best of the success. Having taken charge of Burton, following Gary Rowett’s move to Birmingham, the Brewers have continued to pose a threat to all in their League Two path and look set to reach the third tier of English football for the first time in the clubs history. Following his appointment Hasselbaink was only one of three minority managers in the Football League, and in an interview stated that he would not want to be interviewed because of the Rooney Rule and would only want to be interviewed on merit.

Hasselbaink’s comment is a fair one, regardless of whether a minority candidate is interviewed for the job, if a board feels a different candidate is better they’ll still be the one handed the job. It can also not be said that there are many black managers who have a particularly great record as manager in English football. Paul Ince, as an example, lasted only six months as the Premier League’s first black manager, winning only three games as Blackburn boss. Ince didn’t even do that well in his first spell in charge of MK Dons, in fact his achievements were pretty routine for a side of that quality (winning the FL Trophy and cruising to the League Two title with a side who were comfortably expected to go up). Chris Hughton, currently managing at Brighton is arguably the only black manager to have had ‘success’ at more than one club. Hughton took Newcastle back to the Premier League in record time in 2010, winning the Championship and remaining unbeaten at home all season. This can be labelled as a success but in reality it was more than expected with the quality Newcastle had. Hughton’s other ‘success’ lies in guiding Norwich to an 11th place finish in his first season in charge, in the Premier League. Hughton’s reputation though lacks sustained success with the manager losing his job as Newcastle and Norwich regressed in the following seasons. This all deems the Rooney Rule pointless as minority candidates could, as Hasselbaink suggested, be only interviewed to fulfil criteria and not with an actual view to offering them the job.

Gordon Taylor’s view that there is a ‘hidden resistance’ is an interpretation that can easily be viewed as a correct one, it cannot be doubted as numbers are low, but does the ‘resistance’ really exist? Taylor’s views have undertones suggesting racism amongst football’s bosses and the previous paragraph would suggest that these views are unfair. As with any managerial appointment, the chairmen and women and the football clubs board are going to pick the manager they believe to be the best for the job, regardless of ethnicity (you would hope anyway). It should be said that until an ethnic minority manager overachieves at a club it’s unlikely that managers who share their ethnical status will be viewed differently to the way they are. The success is just not there and the resistance of hiring a manager with a poor track record will remain.

For all the negatives it must be said though that the Rooney Rule could be a positive thing for British football and ethnic minority managers. If a rule can be implemented on a non-patronising, merit-driven basis then it could work. No manager is going to be happy about being interviewed because there has to be an interviewee from their ethnical background. It would just seem a bit of a pat on the head. It’s a difficult balance, it should not be said that football is racist, football is not racist, merely idiots within it; and it should not be suggested that black managers would suddenly be filling every senior position in English football if a rule was implemented. However the introduction of a rule could undoubtedly provide opportunities.

It’s a fine balance. As with any legislation its introduction would be welcomed by some and ridiculed by others. Opportunities provided for some, patronising interviews for others. The Rooney Rule could be great, yet the boost ethnic minority managers really need is for one or two to hit the big time and have success and that ‘hidden resistance’ could soon be reversed.



Norwich’s youngsters eclipsed by Plumain


Fulham U21 2: Plumain (21,31); Hyndman sent off (90) Norwich U21 1: McGrandles (78)

On a day where a solar eclipse dominated the news, a game similar to the morning’s viewing, was played out at Craven Cottage. It was a poor game to watch with neither side showing much flair or purpose and without the three goals would’ve put most to sleep. Fulham ran out deserved 2-1 winners however, having the better of possession and taking their chances.

Fulham, with many players pushing for first team places, were taking on a Norwich side who contained several members of their FA Youth Cup winning side. The notable names in each line up were Emerson Hyndman for Fulham, an American midfielder who’s already made nine first XI starts for the Cottagers and for Norwich, Connor McGrandles and Carlton Morris who have both made appearances for the first team squad from the bench. Also playing for the Canaries was defender Ryan Bennett, a feature in the Premier League side that was relegated last season, but he’s rarely featured this campaign.

Fulham were gifted their first opportunity, on six minutes, when a loose Ryan Bennett pass was played through to Ange-Freddy Plumain who could only hit at Canaries keeper Remi Matthews. Norwich were left furious with referee Simon Knapp just two minutes later when McGrandles ran through and appeared to be fouled, but the ref was unmoved. Fulham eventually sparked the game into life on 21 minutes, Buomesca Tue Na Bangna playing the ball through to striker Plumain who rolled past the keeper to make it 1-0.

Fulham continued to have the best of the game but on 26 minutes Dexter Peter was poor in his efforts to keep a header from a corner down and saw it sail over the bar. Fulham’s possession based dominance told again in the 31st minute when a quick up of the tempo saw Solomon Sambou find Plumain who swiftly turned and passed the ball into the keepers bottom left corner.

Fulham saw it through to half time but came back out looking second best, although Norwich could only muster a couple of long range efforts in the first 10 minutes of the second half. It took these wake up calls to get Fulham back in the swing of things, Plumain having a couple of chances in quick succession, but they came to nothing. An already drab affair turned into a desperately boring one during the third quarter of the game, both sides seemingly preferring to play aimless long balls down the oppositions throat until someone found some passing time.

On 77 minutes a low cross by Cameron Norman was almost turned into his own net by Jonathan Buatu. From the resulting cleared corner the ball found its way back toward the box and a poor attempt at a header by substitute Della Verde left McGrandles through and the midfielder made no mistake, slotting home to halve Norwich’s deficit.

Both sides found little inspiration in the latter stages of the game, both sides restricted to more direct passing that rarely came to anything of note. A late red card for Emerson Hyndman became the only blot on the Fulham record, as he picked up a second yellow late on.

Idiots Abroad?


Ditching the British game for a life abroad. Those making, and trying to make, a name for themselves overseas.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Bradley Wright-Phillips began his career with huge boots to fill, being the son of Arsenal legend Ian Wright and younger brother to, then hot prospect, Shaun Wright-Phillips. He made his debut as a 19 year old for Manchester City, scoring 4 minutes after coming on as a sub. Moves to Southampton, Plymouth, Charlton and a loan spell at Brentford followed with little goal scoring form other than a couple of prolific spells for Argyle and Charlton. A move to the MLS and New York has given BWP a new lease of life, the striker banging in 27 goals in the MLS regular season to equal the record for most goals in a regular season. Having partnered Thierry Henry during the previous campaign, BWP has become a designated Red Bulls’ player (meaning his salary isn’t counted in the wage cap) following Henry’s retirement, something that represents a large wage rise.

Ryan Gauld

The man nicknamed ‘Baby Messi’ opted for a £3million move to Sporting Lisbon in the summer after impressing for Dundee United, is he living up to his hyped nickname? It’s early days for Gauld in Portugal playing largely for Sporting’s ‘B’ team in the Portuguese Second Division in his first season abroad, but the attacking midfielder was recently handed his first team debut. The Scot played his twenty-five minutes in Portugal’s top division as a second half sub in a 4-2 against Rio Ave, and impressed in doing so. The 19 year old didn’t look out of place and was calm and composed in Sporting’s build up play. The performance earned the youngster a third straight start for the first team in the League Cup, and he didn’t disappoint, scoring twice in a 3-2 defeat to Belenenses. On the nickname, Gauld recently said it’s “obviously flattering”, here’s to hoping we’ll be hearing his name in years to come.

Tom Hateley

The son of former England, Portsmouth, AC Milan, Rangers and Monaco striker, Mark Hateley, Tom is aiming to seek a different route to stardom. Having made a successful start to his career, as a defensive midfielder, at Motherwell and an eight game spell at Tranmere, Tom moved to Poland in February 2014 to play for top division side Slask Wroclaw. Tom has helped push Slask to second in the Polish Ekstraklasa, only three points behind leaders Legia Warsaw. Tom recently spoke to the Daily Mail about his move to Poland: “‘I’ve always wanted to play abroad,’ he says. ‘I felt if I was to go to play in Europe I could improve the technical side of my game by playing centre midfield and getting on the ball all the time. It would make me a better person and a better footballer. ‘If I can integrate the typical fighting English centre midfielder with the tiki-taka of European football then it would be a good combination to have. ‘I would 100 per cent recommend young English players to go abroad. It develops you as a player and a person. I’ve been there a year, but I’ve definitely matured.”

John Bostock

Bostock burst onto the scene as a fresh faced 15 year old in October 2007. Having made his league debut for Crystal Palace at such a young age he instantly became labeled a wonderkid. Sadly for Bostock he has since become the ‘Whatever happened to…?’ type wonderkid as opposed to the world beater they hope to become. Having been released by Tottenham, following a £700,000 plus add-ons move from Palace and many failed subsequent loan spells, the Englishman made a shock move to the Belgian Second Division, where he would play for Royal Antwerp. He was persuaded to join by then-manager, now Burton boss, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the Englishman claims the move has suited him well. This summer he made the switch to OH Leuven also in the Belgian second tier, and Bostock appears to be settling in at his new club, scoring nine goals in twenty appearances this season, at the time of writing, perhaps this could be the first sign of Bostock living up to that potential all those years ago.
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