WSC readers and fanzine editors weight up the coming season

BLACKPOOL

David Blundell

How will your team do this season?
Had Gary Megson stayed as manager I would have tipped us for automatic promotion, but with the unwelcome changes in the summer I would say a play-off place would be a very good result for the new man, Nigel Worthington.

Who is going to be the most important figure at the club this season?
Fans would have preferred a diehard Tangerine at the helm, so Nigel Worthington must convince them that he has the club at heart and is not, like Megson, simply looking for another entry on his CV.

If you had to come up with a new piece of merchandise to sell at the club shop what would it be?
Our proposed ‘super stadium’ has gone through more changes (over a number of years) than Man United kits, with movable roofs, dual pitches, floating pitches, 20,000 seats, 40,000 seats etc,etc. There could be small replicas of each version for fans to collect, but they’d need a huge amount of shelf space.

Which element of the matchday environment would you most like to change?
Any change to the half time entertainment would be welcome – I remember a recent Autoglass Trophy tie when two fans from each side had to remove and replace a car windscreen. Worse, a couple of seasons ago, we bought four of the giants from It’s A Knockout, which would race the full length of the pitch and try to score a goal. The hilarity began to pale thirtieth time around. Thankfully someone broke into the ground and reputedly vandalised them beyond repair, although I am convinced one of them has made occasional appearances for Birmingham City.

BOURNEMOUTH

Rob Trent

How will your team do?
Despite our well publicised financial problems, culminating in becoming “Europe’s First Community Club ”, we had a very strong finish to last season. Our main problem has been a lack of goals, and if the club can put that right before 9th August then a play-off place would be hoped for.

Most important figure at the club?
Previously it’s always been Lloyds Bank, but now it’s Trevor Watkins, the new chairman. He’s promised greater accountability, less secrecy and, cor blimey, the chance for the manager to bring in new players. The supporters fought bloody hard to save our club, and given the previous years of mismanagement, Trevor will have a high profile.

New piece of merchandise?
Anything that doesn’t have a cherry on it. Alternatively, one of our supporters came up with the suggestion of shirts with a line from our new chairman at the takeover announcement: “At 4.30pm the assets of AFC Bournemouth were transferred into the hands of the community.” That has a strong significance at present.

Which player most divides the support?
Winger (aren’t they always?) Jason Brissett. Some see him as the flair player antidote to Mel Machin’s defensive tendencies, others as a luxury who turns it on only very occasionally.

Change to matchday environment?
Introduction of a pre-match slug-out between both teams’ mascots with the winner gaining his/her side a goal start; a half-time ritual humiliation for the previous directors who nearly got the club closed down.

BRENTFORD

Mansley Allen

How will your team do?
Unless there is a drastic rethink on the dismal quality of football played in the second half of the season we’ll do well to avoid relegation. After the sale of Nick Forster, one of the best strikers in the division, to Birmingham we scored just four goals in the final fifteen home games.

Most important figure?
New chairman, Tony Swaisland, who has just completed a rather covert takeover, with David Webb moving up to chief executive and a mystery man about to be appointed as manager.

Which player most divides the support?
Marcus Bent. Naturally gifted but still raw. The most substituted player of the year, clearly a favourite of the manager but hopelessly inconsistent.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d like to see Brentford show some respect to the cheerleaders who turned out in all weathers. They came to Wembley for the play-off final but couldn’t get in because the club wanted them to pay towards their tickets: a massive PR screw up that pretty much set the tone for the whole day. The club will be fortunate if these kids bother to turn up this year.

BRISTOL CITY

Matt Nation

How will your team do?
Narrowly miss out on promotion (hopefully via dreadful start and then an unbeaten run from December to March; there’s nothing more unoriginal than a mid-season collapse).

Most important figure?
The player unfortunate enough to be chosen as whipping boy (and given the fickle nature of City fans, it could be anybody or everybody). He will give people something to talk about after dull games in winter and will provide a scrap of comfort when everybody is desperately seeking reasons for having narrowly missed out on promotion.

New piece of merchandise?
One of those wind-up-and-play children’s TV sets showing images of particularly painful defeats. This will reduce the likelihood of the next crop of fans growing up with the delusions of grandeur which afflict their father’s generation. I would also welcome Chubby Brown-style pilot’s helmets – a godsend for cyclists in windy weather and almost impossible to get hold of elsewhere.

Which player most divides the support?
The joy experienced by a number of fans when Brian Tinnion strikes the occasional forty-yard ball is matched only by the rage of those others who are frustrated by his tendency to demonstrate all the get up and go of Arthur Askey.

Change to matchday environment?
City could do worse than to include lemon curd tarts – cheap, a cinch to make and what Saturday teatime is all about – on the catering menu. Furthermore, the lads who dap down the divots at half-time should be allowed, or even forced, to wear snow shoes in order to make their job easier.

BRISTOL ROVERS

Jeremy Coley

How will your team do?
Just scraping into the play-offs is the best we can manage.

Most important figure?
Some might say Barry Hayles – if he scores enough goals we’ll do well, but things are rarely that simple. Very few teams in this division can afford to buy in talent – a team which plays well together is more important than any individual player. The manager, Ian Holloway, must try and instil some spirit in the team, a quality which was sadly lacking last season.

Which player most divides the support?
Peter Beadle – revered goalscoring hero or just a lazy git?

Change to matchday environment?
The return of our infamously deranged tannoy announcer, Keith Valle.

BURNLEY


Simon Evans


How will your team do?
After the signings Waddle has made, promotion is a realistic goal.

Most important figure?
It has to be Waddle. While his appointment was universally welcomed, he has no experience in management and so how he copes while be the determining factor in the coming campaign. His performances on the field will also have a major impact.

New piece of merchandise?
A real Burnley shirt – that means claret body and blue sleeves not the disgraceful quartered shirt Adidas have produced. Also official Burnley FC weighing scales to balance Chris Waddle’s England caps against Roy Hodgson’s.

Which player most divides the support?
Paul Weller – a lot of the crowd got on his back last season but like Paul Smith he seems to be winning them over. Thankfully most of the hate figures disappeared with Jimmy Mullen. I think we are going to miss having a Nick Pickering figure to laugh at.

Change to matchday environment ?
The tannoy has been sorted out at last and there is even a rumour that someone found meat in the meat and potato pie last season. It might be worth moving away fans to another part of the ground as the Cricket Field Stand is far too big an area to give to Wycombe fans and moving the home support back in there would improve the atmosphere.

CARLISLE

Mark Graham

How will your team do?
We’ll comfortably stay up and consolidate for the following season’s promotion campaign.

Most important figure?
Carlisle have lacked an authentic goal poacher since the days of Malcolm Poskett in the early 80s. New signing Ian Stevens must pull on the Cumbrian shorts of Damocles and do well if we are to avoid a repeat of 1995-96, when even a half season of scuffed shots and misdirected headers from the great David Reeves couldn’t keep us in Division 2.

New piece of merchandise?
A couple of years ago, a local cemetery advertising ecologically sound funerals produced a cardboard coffin in Carlisle’s colours complete with club badge. I’ve wanted one ever since.

Which player most divides the support?
Allan Smart. Amongst the younger teenage girls who stand at the front of the Paddock, he’s a prodigious talent on the verge of stardom. Amongst the elderly, flat-capped male farmers at the back of the Paddock he’s a lazy Scottish pansy. Needs a few more goals, as the farmers currently have it by half a tractor length.

Change to matchday environment?
Our Norman Collier tannoy system. The fans of other clubs dream about league titles and trips to Wembley. We dream about hearing the half-times from around the country without a five minute interlude of crackles and silence between “Arsenal nil...” and “...Dumbarton three”.

CHESTERFIELD


Craig Thomas

How will your team do?
Between eighth and 12th. The huge windfall from the Cup run and transfers is not being invested by the chairman in sufficiently talented players. Bet you haven’t heard that before.

Most important figure?
Chairman Mao-Tse Norton-Lea. He has all the money and has to decide whether to redevelop Saltergate or go looking for another new ground (bet you haven’t...).

New piece of merchandise?
The classic Chesterfield harrington jacket tastefully embroidered and made of quality material. Saw a Millwall one last season and immediately fell into a dream. This could make a difference to a man’s life, I thought.

Which player most divides the support?
Jonathan Howard, goalscoring ‘success’ or fat kid in the playground with crap hair that nobody talks to. Why? Because people are nuts, aren’t they?

Change to matchday environment?
People who think that John Duncan has a lot to do with our ‘success’ who stand anywhere near me.

FULHAM

Neil Hurden

How will your team do?
We could finish close to a play-off place if recent team spirit is maintained and we don’t get carried away with our apparent new financial status. More realistically, I’d be happy if we stayed up and didn’t lose too embarrassingly to Bristol Rovers or Brentford.

Most important figure?
I’d like to say a player or manager Micky Adams, but somehow I think our new chairman will get the most attention.

New piece of merchandise?
Cut price Harrods food hampers for season ticket holders only (with plenty of Belgian chocolate and no tinned meat).

Which player most divides the support?
Since the departure of Gary Brazil (never has a footballer had a more inappropriate surname) we haven’t had a player assume this role. However, striker Darren Freeman, with his alarming tendency to switch from inspired brilliance to hysterical incompetence, may be about to take over the part.

Change to matchday environment?
I never want to see Sue Pollard as a half-time ‘celebrity’ again.

GILLINGHAM

Simon Baker


How will your team do?
Storm to promotion on a tide of goals, entertainment and swearing.

Most important figure?
Manager Tony Pulis – within two years he’s transformed a team of no-hopers into one capable of scaling new heights.

New piece of merchandise?
Condoms with ‘Score With The Gills’ printed on them.

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Butler. He lacks pace and sometimes looks too laid back but he set up more goals than any other player last season.

GRIMSBY

Ian Rodwell


How will your team do?
Automatic promotion.

Most important figure at the club?
Alan Buckley, the manager. He walked out on Grimsby to take the West Brom job, subsequently signed half our team and the backroom staff, then rushed back as soon as he got the boot from the Hawthorns. Not wholly popular with the home fans.

New piece of merchandise?
Black and white fish fingers.

Which player most divides the support ?
Paul Groves who joined Buckley at West Brom, where he was a reserve, then returned to be made club captain. When he was announced to the crowd at a recent pre-season game, half the fans booed, the rest just muttered. Like Buckley, he may win people over in time.

Change to matchday experience?
Pre-match or half-time entertainment of any kind would be nice. At present we have to amuse ourselves, not always easy to do at Blundell Park.

LUTON

John Earls

How will your team do?
I’m staggered that we’re favourites – it must be by default. We’ve not bought anyone and our only decent midfielder Ceri Hughes has been sold. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t make the play-offs, but wouldn’t be surprised if we flopped in them like last year.

Most important figure?
Purely for club morale, our keeper Ian Feuer. That he’s not been sold is wonderful, as he is the club’s biggest hero since Mick Harford. But, as Feuer’s deputy Kelvin Davis should be a fine replacement, the loss of centre half Steve Davis would be a real blow...

New piece of merchandise?
You can’t beat the club’s inspired life-size height chart of the 6’ 7” Ian Feuer.

Which player most divides the support?
Kim Grant. When we played Preston last season, a fight broke out between two fans as to Grant’s merits. Luton were winning 5-1 at the time... Grant is extremely talented but all too often looks like he doesn’t care.

Change to matchday environment?
We had the country’s first electronic scoreboard, introduced in 1982. But it’s still there and only works one game in three now.

MILLWALL

Lance Bellers


How will your team do?
Although we’re hoping Billy Bonds will bring them down to earth this year (note to Millwall staff: no, we’re not on the brink of the Premiership, just check the League tables), I can’t see anything better than the dull pain of a mid-table position.

Most important figure?
Theo Paphitis, the new chief executive, has some very businesslike ideas, making him Important Figure Number One. We’re all hoping he will help drag us out of the unseemly mess that we find ourselves in.

New piece of merchandise?
It would have to be a brittle model of the ground that you could smash with a heavy mallet.

Which player most divides the support?
Keeper Tim Carter is the subject of lively debate – overweight sloth or points-saving hero?

Change to matchday environment?
Smash the new ground with one of those huge heavy ball things on the end of a chain and then build a cosy new one with some nice characterful features (fireplaces, picture rails, proper corner for away fans behind a floodlight pylon etc).

NORTHAMPTON


Richard Sharman


How will your team do?
Promotion last season came more through hard work than inspiration. The defence remains solid and with the addition of striker Carl Heggs and Paul Conway in midfield, we can stay out of the relegation battle – just.

Most important figure at the club?
Manager Ian Atkins, the Mr Motivator of the lower divisions. He rescued a club destined for Palookaville and invested them with spirit and self belief. With Atkins at the helm a team of journeymen could just lay the foundation for life outside the bottom flight.

New piece of merchandise?
Furry cobblers – effigies of a man repairing boots – to be hung from car mirrors.

Which player most divides the support?
Forward Jason White. Is he a big donkey out of his depth or a target man of some subtlety and vision? The latter opinion is confined largely to White’s family and people on peyote.

Change to matchday environment?
Half time entertainment is not thematic enough. Stalls could be erected on the pitch for shoe repairs and giant inflatable boots could be released while the tannoy plays ‘shoe music’.

OLDHAM

Pete Mason

How will your team do?
As we’re heading into the great unknown after 23 years in the top divisions, who can tell? A lot will depend on Neil Warnock’s ability to fire the players up. My careful hedged bet is third place.

Most important figure?
Warnock without any doubt. There are others at boardroom level who should have the interests of Oldham at heart, but frankly they don’t have the backing of any of the supporters.

New piece of merchandise?
A replica kit that resembled the traditional blue and white strip that we’re supposed to play in. The dog’s dinner we currently sport is more suited to the rugby field.

Which player most divides the support?
Sean McCarthy, whose talent borders between average and abysmal. If he can’t score goals in the Second Division he should seriously consider another career.

Change to matchday environment?
Admission prices are still way too high. Some sort of monthly season ticket would help but I don’t hold out much hope.

PLYMOUTH

Andrew Savage

How will your team do?
With apparently no money available for new signings (but we did find a vital £100,000 for Jon Sheffield – otherwise we’d have had no keeper) all was doom, gloom and despair and everyone reckoned we’d go down... until we beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 pre-season and the existing squad look to be doing quite well, thank you very much. Promotion is now being discussed.

Most important figure?
Our (ahem) ‘extrovert’ chairman, Dan McCauley. This is the man who gave Peter Shilton his break in management, claimed Neil Warnock to be the best thing since sliced bread, gave him the money to rescue us from the 3rd Division via the play-offs and then denied any further access to the club coffers. There is a popular campaign to oust McCauley, who blows hot and cold more often than a Pifco hairdryer and combines the tact of Ian Paisley with the man-management skills of Joseph Stalin.

New piece of merchandise?
A dartboard bearing the image of Dan McCauley.

Which player most divides the support?
Since Chris Billy finally hit form, it would probably have to be Big Mick Heathcote – is he a big-hearted stopper or just a simple artisan with a good head and no feet?

Change to matchday environment?
I’ve always harboured a secret wish for the traditional ‘Semper Fidelis’ to be followed by Gary Glitter’s ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang’ before the start of matches. Also, if we had to close temporarily either the Devonport End or the Lyndhurst for redevelopment this could do us the world of good, as all the vocal support would then be in the same place.

PRESTON

Steve Brennan


How will your team do?
It all hinges on the away form – last season only Brighton finished up with a worse record on the road than us. Even if we only manage six or seven wins away this season, our form at Fortress Deepdale will be enough to lift us into the top six.

Most important figure?
Midfielder Sean Gregan could be the man. Signed from Darlington for £300,000 midway through last season, his form was such that Aston Villa offered £600,000 after just three months at Deepdale. Sensibly, the manager rejected the bid, and Gregan’s value now has an ‘m’ after it.

New piece of merchandise?
An all-singing, all-dancing scale model of the Town End. No club in Britain can boast a terrace with such an atmosphere – plenty of singing, a troupe of drummers, fancy dress and painted faces every week etc. Mind you it’d look a bit funny on t’ mantlepiece.

Which player most divides the support?
Lee Cartwright, a product of our youth system, destined for bigger things until an horrific ankle injury sidelined him for almost a year. Since he returned in January half the crowd think he’s just regaining match fitness, the other half are convinced he’s lost it for good. I suppose we’ll find out this season.

Change to matchday environment?
Maybe they could segregate the terrace – short people at the front, tallies at the back then you’d never have to stand on tip-toes to see what’s happening in the goalmouth in front of the Town End.

SOUTHEND

Steven Heath

How will your team do?
Those who thought that last season’s preparations were a nightmare must now look upon them as halcyon days compared to this season. New manager Alvin Martin (yet another idiosyncratic choice by our chairman) inherited a squad of only eight recognized first team players. With no money available and the underachievers of last season still at the club, the prospects are bleak. Relegation beckons.

Most important figure?
Our Machiavellian chairman, Vic Jobson, will continue to be the most important presence at the club. Most people agree the Shrimpers will continue to flounder in the shallows as long as he remains unable to work successfully with his management, until he provides hard cash instead of vague promises and “new stadium” pipe dreams or until he does the decent thing and sells up!

New piece of merchandise?
A brand of washing powder that will remove the unsightly vomit stain that currently smears the home shirts, probably the most nauseating concoctions ever worn by man.

Which player most divides the support?
Most of them at the moment. Most think Keith Dublin out of his depth, yet he was voted last season’s player of the year. Some fans deify Mike Marsh, yet he rarely looks like he’s breaking sweat and his general demeanour suggests that he’s doing us all a big favour by just turning up.

Change to matchday environment?
The final score.

WALSALL


Pete Holland


How will your team do?
Given that one of the best strikers in the lower divisions (Kyle Lightbourne) has moved to Coventry, and that we still persist in testing triallists (a bit like trying to replace a BMW with a Hillman Imp) then I see goals, ergo points, ergo success, beyond us. Lower mid-table mediocrity may well characterise our season.

Most important figure?
Probably the new manager, Jan Sorensen. For the last few years he’s been selling timeshares on the Algarve or some such, so at least he may have the savvy to stitch up Barry Fry and wreak revenge for the fat one’s plundering of two of our best players last Summer.

New piece of merchandise?
Would have to be something Danish in the light of the new manager’s appointment. Bacon is a bit boring. The club is committed to Banks’s so Carlsberg’s a non starter. I guess all that leaves us is some filthy porn, hidden discreetly behind the matchday programmes.

Which player most divides the support?
It was Darren Bradley. Free kick expert who could drop the ball on a smartie from one area to the other, but being a tubby couldn’t open a gap of more than three inches between his legs while running. He’s in Malta now, so it would have to be Chris Marsh – loads of potential but ten years of under-achievement apart from a glorious 94-95.

Change to the matchday environment?
The pre-match cheerleaders who make Billy Bescot (strange rubber mascot from several moons ago, dismembered by popular demand) look talented.

WATFORD

Kevin Wright


How will your team do?
Play-offs.

Most important figure?
Elton John. It remains to be seen whether he’s just going to be a figurehead in a forlorn attempt to recreate past glories.

New piece of merchandise?
Prozac or rose-coloured spectacles.

Which player most divides the support?
Last season’s notorious pair, David Connolly and Craig Ramage, left on free transfers. Jason Lee has already provoked arguments before kicking a ball.

Change to matchday environment?
Bring back the ball boys. Graham Taylor did away with them when he came back. Currently stray balls are retrieved by two elderly gentleman who take an age.

WIGAN

Mark Dean


How will your team do?
Four years in Division Three has seemed a very long time, especially as at one stage it appeared that we might face the ignominy of relegation from the League. Today, though, with most of the current squad having First Division or Premiership experience, the play-offs or better seem a realistic expectation.

Most important figure?
Graeme Jones, the country’s top scorer last year. He sometimes looked overweight but claims to have lost the extra pounds, and as one local paper put it, is “looking as sleek and streamlined as his sponsored car”. His form ought to be helped by his move to the Wigan area, as he has said that if he lived a few minutes from the ground he could score twenty goals in the Premiership. Twenty in the Second would do for now.

New piece of merchandise?
The Latics do not have a club shop to speak of. Club shirts are available in the town but not at the ground. It is a ridiculous oversight as the club could make a packet out of souvenirs. An inflatable replica of the club mascot Springy, for example, would be sure to go down a storm.

Which player most divides the support?
Scott Green and David Lee, because they’ve been signed from traditional local rivals Bolton Wanderers. One unfortunate loan signing from Bolton last season was virtually hounded out of the club by constant abuse. Most Latics fans will just hope that Green and Lee have blinding seasons, along with the rest of the players.

Change to matchday environment?
Springy the mascot should be rehabilitated. His penalty shootouts were abandoned during last season and he was left in what appeared to be a secure pen, let out only to parade the pitch at half-time with a chalk board containing the numbers of the club draw winners. Hopefully he’ll play a more active role in the higher division.

WREXHAM

Gavin Evans

How will your team do?
We’ve finished 8th for the last three seasons, let down by a lack of consistency. Last season the defence was sorted but we didn’t score enough. New faces up front should put that right, so I think we’ll do pretty well.

New piece of merchandise?
A Manchester United fanzine once said “Wrexham have got the trendiest hooligans I’ve ever seen”. If that’s the case the average Wrexham fan is probably pretty well dressed, too. If only the club shop would realize this and stock up on some trendy gear, preferably including the club badge. Failing that, how about the return of the small fluffy carrot with ‘Wrexham’ written on it, briefly a cult item among home fans.

Which player most divides the support?
We don’t really seem to give individual players a hard time at Wrexham. Either the whole team gets it or no-one does. If I had to name someone it would be midfielder Kevin ‘Rooster’ Russell who has his moments but can also be a lazy bugger.

Change to matchday environment?
As we all greatly enjoyed their relegation last season, the tannoy ought to provide us with regular updates from Shrewsbury Town’s matches.

WYCOMBE

Jon Dickinson

How will your team do?
After taking over from the dreadful Alan Smith, Wycombe boss John Gregory has put together a pretty decent outfit. So a top 10 place is certainly achievable. However, with our star player Micky Bell running off to Bristol City – purely for a fatter wage cheque – you have to question the dedication of some of the ‘better’ players at this level.

Most important figure?
Steve McGavin, a playmaker behind the front two, has flourished under John Gregory who, unlike our previous manager, has total faith in him. We expect Merlin-like wizardry from a man once so bloated and unfit he was nicknamed McPasty.

New piece of merchandise?
An Alan Smith dartboard would be a top seller for sure. The range could also include other hated figures such as fat winger Rick Holden and balding softie Steve McMahon.

Which player most divides the support?
John Cornforth, a snip at £50,000 from Birmingham last season. Touted as a flair player, he seem unable to run, shoot or pass well. “He’s played for Wales,” some protest. Yeah, but so has Clayton Blackmore.

Change to matchday environment?
I believe it’s possible to have a family atmosphere at football without a tacky mascot which kids are embarrassed by (Bluey the Swan in our case) and awful tannoy music (Tina Turner, Queen etc). If we could dump both my day would improve no end.

YORK CITY

Chris Forth


How will your team do?
Coca Cola Cup Second Round giantkillers (à la Everton and Man Utd) then disappointing Third Round defeat and downhill all the way from there, punctuated by regular “Little Out!” and “Craig Out!” chants if the last two seasons are anything to go by.

Most important figure?
Our thirty goal a season striker. Until we sign him, though, it will be Douglas Craig, our chairman-with-a-vision. Unfortunately many supporters don’t agree with his business principles.

New piece of merchandise?
Anti-apathy tablets to get people to go to matches.

Which player most divides the support?
Paul Stephenson. Either a wing wizard or a waste of space. He’s had three transfers, each for a smaller amount than the previous one.

Change to matchday environment?
Half-time entertainment. Our club mascot, Shippo the Lion, has gone from being hyper-active to very respectable. He used to drop his shorts when in goal during the half-time shootout – now he just hands out Lion bars. ❍

From WSC 127 September 1997. What was happening this month

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