Saturday 16 August ~
With the Premier League kicking off today, we take a look back at how our correspondents thought their team might do last season. It’s been a decade since any contributor to the pre-season survey suggested that the title would be one by a team outside the current top four. Blackburn Rovers were the last such team to be tipped, in 1997-98, and they ended up getting relegated. It’s understandable that the big four followers were expecting a repeat performance, though no one came right out and said they’d be champions. Liverpool fan Robert Fordham was wrong for once in thinking that "we’ll probably reach a cup final or two" while Arsenal supporter Jon Spurling correctly predicted a fourth-place finish, though he also saw Spurs "nudging us close". Spurs’ Matt Stone also thought they’d be fifth but was at least right about their getting to a cup final. Portsmouth’s Steve Morgan saw the Intertoto as his only chance of “tell to my grandchildren about when we played in Europe” but was spot on about a seventh-place finish.
At the bottom, Derby fan Peter Gutteridge knew what was coming and faced last season with happy resignation – “We’ll settle for finishing in the top 20”. Birmingham fan Ken Jones thought that staying up was the realistic aim of last season and a target that should be “achievable”. Roger Titford was worried that “year after year” he underestimated his club Reading, but was correct in doing so again last season: “It’s eight seasons since we finished in the bottom half of any table and long overdue.” This tuned out to be true, but “expect to be safe” was somewhat overestimating Reading’s performance.
Some clubs who spent last season round the bottom of the table will have surprised their supporters. Fulham’s Neil Hurden was overly optimistic – “In my wildest dreams, I can even see passing to feet. So what the hell, let’s say 12th” – while Newcastle’s John Bourn was a little over-confident, possibly due to the arrival of Sam Allardyce: “Top half, possibly a UEFA Cup spot. Maybe a cup semi-final.” Other fans, notably of Newcastle’s north-east neighbours, were ready for a season of struggle. Middlesbrough’s Harry Pearson had low expectations: “A general sense of mounting unrest doesn’t bode well. If we can finish in the low to mid-teens, I’d take that at the moment”. And Sunderland supporter Joe Boyle made the most accurate, though fairly safe, prediction that his club would finish “Below Spurs, above Reading”.