What with my renowned reputation for sporting predictions, many a Premier League manager has already sought my profound insights into the rocky road that lies before them. I have been fortunate enough to record my discussions with each supremo, but in the interest of confidentiality, I must of course refrain from imparting their names to the general public.
So, while basking in the glory of a currently pristine 2011/12 record, it is with great (ahem) horror that I sit down to present to you my first peering into the mysterious and clouded future of football…
The first to enter my tent on a blustery, British summer evening, his windswept ginger hair clinging limply across his ample forehead, asked in his thick Scottish accent as to whether his new set of fans would grow to love him.
I replied, ‘It is true that one must learn to love one’s neighbour. But, in the case of football, thy neighbour is thy mortal enemy, and through thy footballing roots, forever shalt ye be known as outsider. However, stick to thy beliefs and ye will bestow faith and stability to even those that now turn their backs upon ye’. Or words to that effect.
The next man was of Irish origin, although he led a team from the coastal regions of the Valley-dwellers. His question was simple: will I survive the coming year?
I told him, ‘The season will bring you hardships that you know you must prepare for. And prepare well you shall… but even preparation is not a guaranteed precursor to the march through the gates of success. I am sorry’.
Soon after, another Scot presented himself and boldly asked: will I make it to 19? I looked him coolly in the face and said, ‘No. And despite your fans’ old, persistent, irritating claims to the throne, I know that deep inside, you too feel this to be beyond your reach. Nonetheless, I see great strength in your team and an unrivalled pride in their eyes that will lead them to former glory on the continent next year’.
Coincidentally, another man entered soon after with a similar ambition to the Scot. To him I whispered, ‘You are hungry for more of that which you first tasted last year. But sometimes, when we take a step forward, we must then take a leap further and spend millions and millions to ensure we stay where we are. Millions, you do not have, and so consolidation amongst those whom you one day aspire towards is all the fates can offer’. He never seemed all that optimistic, mind.
Several days later, a Yorkshireman with a crooked nose, accompanied by yet another Scot (they really know about this managing malarkey don’t they), stepped into the tent. They wished for me to settle their debate as to who would fall this season. The Yorkshireman claimed his team to have the experience and the Scot’s new boys wouldn’t know a pudding from a pie. The Scot retorted the fresh challenge would see his team reinvigorated and discover their true potential.
So which of us is going down? they asked. I stood to my fullest, most imposing height of a tad short of 6ft and cried, ‘I can promise not ONE of you shall fail’. They both seemed surprised, but altogether relieved with my answer. Until I added, ‘BOTH of you shall!’
The first foreigner to ask for my wisdom wore a cashmere suit, stuffed with wads of every currency you could think of. Despite the stuffy stillness in the tent, he also wore a scarf. Before he even asked his question, I intoned, ‘You are here to question the validity of your challenge for the crown. And you are right to do so. For although an embarrassment of riches can buy you that which you most desire, it cannot buy you happiness. Happiness leads to harmony and without harmony, you cannot prevail my impeccably stylish friend’. He shrugged and said he was looking for the pizzeria.
The next foreigner was young… much, much younger than those who had passed my way before. Unlike the others, it was not domestic matters with which he was concerned, but the European Cup. I replied, ‘Tis not the cup you should be worried about, little fellow. Tis the can’.
Finally, just yesterday, a man with an impressive, purple nose and a dour looking (and sounding) Frenchman came in side-by-side. They too seemed to be arguing as to who would claim authority over the other. The purple nosed man said he had no time for the Frenchman (and this, I can tell you, is a man who always has PLENTY of time), while the Frenchman retorted he had not SEEN such insolence.
I thought it best to quell their bickering and said, ‘Oh Great Purple-Nosed One, your legions remain the strongest in the land. Though many will stand against you, should you keep to the course you have set then there is no force this side of Catalonia that can halt your progress’. He shook his fists triumphantly.
But what of I?! pleaded the Frenchman.
‘You’re gonna get the sack, mate’.
The man with the purple nose seemed rather smug. The Frenchman threw his water bottle at me.
It’s a new season. The managers are fit and ready, the players inevitably aren’t, the fans are hopeful, but most importantly, my prediction success rate has been reset.
Let’s get the show on the road.