Press Watch: I Predict Predictions…

Welcome to Press Watch by Brendan Hobbs, TheWashbag’s sideways glance at all things Town related in the media. If you see anything remotely concerning Swindon Town in the worlds media get in contact with me via Twitter @mrbraindown

Well, I didn’t think I’d ever write this again, but Press Watch is back, again. No sooner had I finished burying it in a shallow grave in local woodlands it miraculously rose from the dead, kicked in my back door and demanding what was for its tea.

No one could’ve predicted that, which is apt as this entire Press Watch special is entirely about that – predictions.

As a species we’re obsessed with predicting stuff, we do it all the time, at work, at home watching the TV. It’s impossible to escape, particularly whilst watching a live match on Sky Sports, especially when the disembodied head of Ray Winstone continually looms into view during halftime ads – exclaiming random mockney platitudes about being some kind of daddy before offering up predictions of the next goal scorer (odds as accurate as five seconds ago).

I have no idea where the obsession comes from, I know the animal world does it, but maybe in not such a banal, pointless way, for example cows happily predict it’s going to rain by having a nice lie down – this behaviour is solely driven by nature and instinct. (I think, well I’m sure I saw it once on Countryfile.)

When my dog happens upon another canine he doesn’t lean up against a gate and idly chew the fat with his friend, predicting the weather for the weekend and whether Hodgson is the main for the job. No, his tiny brain is overloading with base info and animal longings – he’s deciding whether to attempt to nail the other dog behind the bushes (if it’s a girl) or rip its throat out (if it’s a boy).

It happens so often we sometimes don’t even know we’re doing it, I bet half of you whilst clicking on this article link were already making a prediction of what it was going to be like.

It really doesn’t help when there is so much to predict in and around the club this year – we’re completely spoilt, what with the obvious lack of manager, its only natural for the predictions to fly left, right and centre about who is going to settle into the feted Swindon managers seat.

Also with the perceived shadiness of the current board, we seem to be constantly trying to predict the board’s intentions; this has definitely dominated my social media timeline recently. It’s full up of wild accusations of ‘asset stripping’ and debates surrounding the clubs efforts to single handedly keep the local Mercedes dealerships in business.

These assorted flavours of the month seem to have dissipated recently, along with the prediction of an imminent arrival of an artificial pitch at the County Ground – but I guarantee these thorny subjects will reappear quicker than it takes to dig out an orange woolly hat if things start going downhill on the pitch.

I cannot predict what the owners are going to do, or second guess their intentions good or bad. From my own perspective and following conversations with some club employees I know, I strongly believe that they do have the best intentions for the club. I fully understand why  some fans don’t see them as ideal owners but believe me, there are plenty of horrendous candidates out there bidding for the ‘worse owner’ trophy, as illustrated beautifully in this excellent David Squires cartoon. Synergy!

So for the sake of my own sanity, I will reserve judgement on the new owners until the season kicks off in anger, or if things angrily kick-off following the sale of Wes, or if I see the huge letters P, A, E, D, O, L, N, D, A resting against the Town End exterior ready to be put up.

Let’s move onto the hard-core business of League One predictions, who will be promoted? Who will suffer playoff heartbreak? Who will be relegated? I boldly predict that Swindon will not fall into any of the categories, BOOM! You can have that, right it down, you heard it here first.

No, I think we will be expelled from the League for breaking the newly created but not yet communicated ‘Rule 46.3x – Lets shit all over Swindon somehow or other (again)’ which will probably involve punishing professional football sides who don’t have a letter that appears in the word mackerel in their name.

And yes, Swindon are the only team that fits that rule, as pointed out in the When Saturday Comes 2013-14 Season Guide, where Town fan Craig Gurney states that this is Swindon’s greatest contribution to Football History. In my mind it nestles neatly alongside the tremendous feat of thrusting the words ‘illegal payments’ into common football parlance.

When Saturday Comes Front Cover

Swindon Pred

Craig predicts a turgid season ahead, when asked the staple “How will you do?” question he states that “relegation is likely”. He qualifies such a statement brilliantly and accurately when talking about the current squad strength:

“This leaves us with a handful of old heads who no one else could afford to take off our hands and a bunch of youngsters from Spurs’ youth team”.

No one in the guide predicts relegation for Town – or promotion for that matter, in the final prediction table we end up a creditable 8th, I’d be happy with that.

The guide asks a representative from each club for their ‘liked and disliked’ – everyone seemed to like Yeovil and dislike Franchise, who’s manager Karl Robinson particularly gets a pounding – described as an ‘arrogant tool’ by a Stevenage fan.

We appear as a dislike from the Walsall representative, mainly for our flagrant disregard of the financial fair play rules, Bournemouth also disliked us because of PDC, but quite liked our fans – and also our cut-price, clear out bargains as well I’d imagine.

Portsmouth also disliked us, mentioning us in the same breath as Franchise “for obvious reasons” whatever that means.

Portsmouth

The Preston fan interviewed inadvertently summed up their god-awful season by saying that his standout ‘best moment of the season’ was PDC’s antics in the home game which of course cumulated in the Fod-gate affair. Others tended to mention fantastic wins, ding-dong battles, cup triumphs – I take it PNE didn’t get many of them.

To sum up the WSC guide, they predictably plump for Wolves to finish top, Sheffield United as runners up, followed by Brentford, Saturday’s opponents Peterborough and Bristol City rounding up the top five.

The WSC website also provides a post-mortem on the predictions made last year, which I suppose should act as a warning to those Wolves fans with ambitions of a stroll in the park as Sheffield United were the predicted runaway winners, Franchise were runners up, Coventry were to fall just outside of the automatics therefore joining Swindon, Preston and Notts County in the playoffs

For info, Bournemouth were predicted 11th, Donnie 8th and Yeovil 20th.

Moving onto The Two Unfortunates website, where a whole week of prediction-based articles have been strutting their stuff.

A League One club-by-club guide has been assembled, where Swindon are far from assured of League One status next year. None of this lofty 8th place confidence bestowed on us courtesy of When Saturday Comes. Apparently, and whisper this to save a riot breaking out on the Adver comments section, we’re going to spend next season ‘looking over our shoulders’!

two unfortunates - Swindon

At what is not entirely clear, has the Oxford juggernaut finally found some speed, are the Gas about to pick up steam, are Cheltenham going to shrug and ‘meh’ their way to promotion? Who knows, but if we keep looking over our shoulders all will become clear.

Apparently when PDC was in charge, Swindon were the ‘Apple of the public eye’, which counters the more popular theory that we became the most hated team in the land the moment the Italian was appointed.

Although the contributor did acknowledge that there is now an ‘idiot vacuum’ now Di Canio has flown the nest to the ivory towers of the Premier League. He sportingly puts Gillingham’s gaffer Martin Allen forward to fill such a void.

Last year Paolo Di Canio filled League 1’s cynical, manipulative, media-savvy arsehattery quotient, and this year that role will fall to perennial berk, Martin Allen. For someone with an uncanny resemblance to Emmerdale mope Bob Hope, the camera seems to love this man who, lest we forget, is self-styled as ‘Mad Dog’. With him around literally anything could happen!”

After digesting all the vague team verdicts, it appears that again Wolves are nailed on for promotion with Preston grabbing the other automatic spot leaving Brentford, Bristol, Leyton Orient and Peterborough grubbing about in the playoff mud bath, preferably without wearing bikini’s.

The Daily Mail trumpets that their guide is ‘here to tell you everything you need to know about League One’ – this from a rag who carried a photo on their website last year of a celebrating Raffa De Vita with the caption “Collins: Hatrick hero” underneath it.

Under the bold, capitalised headline PROMOTION CONTENDERS Wolves are hailed as champions in waiting, leaving Peterborough, Bristol City and the Blades squabbling over the final automatic spot like a bunch teenage girls fighting over some toe-rag in a body-kitted Citroen Saxo.

Our promotion credentials are dismissed out of hand, after we ‘limped from one crisis to another since Paolo Di Canio’ and according to their published promotion odds we’re good value for an 11th place finish – again I’d be happy with that.

At least we didn’t appear under the equally big headline RELEGATION CANDIDATES. Is there a convention that if you’re up for promotion then you are a contender, but if you’re tipped for relegation then you’re a candidate? I need clarity on this, so instead of answering the same banal coffee machine work chat with a colleague who clearly knows nothing about football (‘I’m a Rugger man actually’) I’ll simply inform him that this year we’re ‘candidates’ and just leave it at that.

I prefer the term fodder myself, it conveys a certain helplessness, it brings happy images of cannons and other vicious weaponry dancing around in the forefront of your brain – RELEGATION FODDER! And yes, you can’t help putting the exclamation mark at the end.

The poor unfortunate clubs caught up in all this unpleasantness are Colchester, Gillingham, Walsall, Tranmere, Shrewsbury and Stevenage. I’m pretty sure Yeovil would’ve featured in such a prediction last year, so chin up guys.

The Mirror can’t be bothered to do a league by league preview just yet, they decided to cut pointless editorial guff and lump everyone together in one article. There are no shocks in the League One predictions for Champions though, where every hack goes for Wolves, with one vote for Brentford, Sheffield United and oddly Crewe Alexandra. No explanations given  unfortunately, perhaps the journalist in question used the same method I employ for choosing the champions, all you need is a blackboard and a willing volunteer (my son in this case) observe:

Wolves! And doesn’t the Little Tykes Cosy Coupe pedal car look chuffed about it in the background.

Although I should apologise at this point to fans of Colchester and Oldham, because if all had gone well during the first take, one of you could’ve been champions… but now you’re not. Soz.

So, as my son sits down, disconsolate and gently weeping on the hallowed turf of my back garden I think this is a good place to leave my prediction review.

It’s hard not to see Wolves going up as champions this year  and it’s hard not see one of City or Peterborough joining them, but you never know, someone might do a ‘Yeovil’ and surprise us all. Do I think it will be us, no, but I honestly reckon we’ll have enough about us to keep us afloat, both on the field and off it – unless that pesky 46.3x rule gets us of course!

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