After a summer that seems to have flown-by, the league that everyone wants a part of is almost upon us. With just 14 days until the start of the 2011/12 Premier League season, CalvinAyre.com is giving you the low-down on every team in the top flight as we ready ourselves for what could be the most exciting season yet. Well. That would be one where conceivably one of four can win the title and the rest play catch-up. We’ve even sought the viewpoint of the fans from some of the teams in the top flight. So sit back and enjoy the ride as we meet two of the promoted sides in our first installment.
Norwich City (Last season: Championship runners-up)
The lowdown: Waking up from a two-year long coma as a Norwich fan you would be forgiven for dozing back off if someone told you they are now back in the big time. To say that the East Anglian side’s ascent to the Premier League is a remarkable one would be an understatement even before the season has started. Manager Paul Lambert is the team’s star and without him they may not have got out of League One two seasons ago. Keeping him is critical.
In terms of players, there are huge question marks against the ‘keeper and much of the back four. Between them they have played six Premier League matches ever and could leak goals if the confidence goes early in the season. There’s not a massive amount of top-flight experience as you go through the side but Blackpool almost survived in a similar predicament last term. A lot will be on the shoulders of captain Grant Holt who scored 21 goals last season.
Expected finish: 18th after a long-fight against relegation.
Line-up (4-1-2-1-2): Ruddy; Martin, Ward, De Laet, Naughton; Fox; Crofts, Surman; Hoolahan; Holt, Vaughan.
The fan: George Webster, long-suffering season ticket holder.
Expectations: I expect us to survive as long as Lambert stays for the season. A lot will depend on how quickly the seven new additions along with the players from last season gel and adjust to the style of the Premier League.
That vital player: Grant Holt – Many questioned whether he would be able to step up to the Championship last season. Expect him to prove people wrong and have a strong season.
Unsung hero: Russell Martin put in consistent performances week-in week-out after being written off by may fans. A lot must also be said for Simeon Jackson who scored a number of critical goals after being signed from the lower leagues only last summer.
Final position? I will go for 16th position.
Queens Park Rangers (Last Season: Championship winners)
The lowdown: If you want boardroom turmoil then you can’t go wrong with the West Londoners. The summer has been filled with reports that gaffer Neil Warnock would be sacked and that the club’s one mercurial player would be sold. Now that it’s all been settled the champions of the second tier can get on with preparing for the new season.
Winning the Championship last year was one thing but like Norwich their defence could do with refreshing. They’ve added two new signings in unproven target-man Jay Bothroyd and oft-injured Kieron Dyer. If the former-England internationals can stay fit and link up well with Adel Taarabt then this could give them a huge push towards staying in the top-flight. A lot may depend on whether they decide to keep Warnock or not as he will fight tooth-and-nail to keep them in the division.
Expected position: Again it will be a struggle and they will likely go down without buying some new blood at the back. 19th.
Line-up (4-2-3-1): Kenny; Orr, Connolly, Gorkss, Hill; Derry, Faurlin; Mackie, Taarabt, Dyer; Bothroyd.
The fan: Tony Incenzo, reporter for talkSPORT.
Expectations: After 15 years of misery, it is just nice to see Rangers back where they belong in the Premier League. I would love the team to establish themselves in the top ten and push on from there.
That vital player: Adel Taarabt – The pre-season news that he’s staying at Loftus Road is a huge boost as he is the talisman who can swing games in an instant.
Unsung hero: Shaun Derry. He got my vote as Player Of The Year last season. Derry was given a special role by boss Neil Warnock – to sit deep in midfield and mop up the pieces when Taarabt lost the ball.
Final position? A top ten finish has to be the aim for Rangers. We are also long overdue a good cup run.