Monday, 21 March 2011

#13 One year since Diss Hand In!

At the start of a new week in the year 2011, it is a week that marks an anniversary, brings back memories and it is a week where the rest of my life started!

So what's the anniversary? Monday 23rd March 2010 was the date of 'Sport Dissertation Hand In' at The University of Wolverhampton! The date every third year student looks at at the beginning of the year and thinks 'September, October, November, December, January, February, March' ... 7 months! It's only really at the beginning of the second semester of term where it dawns on you that you have three months of pure hell ahead of you, where your first and last thoughts of the day are about your dissertation! A word that get's used in nearly every conversation you have with friends or family! A word that much is becomes 'the D word' or the word that shall not be spoken!'

Now to me, the Dissertation didn't really mean what it should of! Yes I put my heart and sole into it, moved into the library, carried my laptop and printed out journals around twenty four seven but for what? Three little letters at the end of my name? It's not like I am now addressed as Andrew Leese Bachelor of Science (BSc) is it? Considering I did a Sports Coaching Degree and did my Dissertation on the life of Sport Celebrity in the Media you can tell what my degree really meant to me by the end and what direction I wanted to head once I got that cap and gown! What was really the issue for me about my dissertation was how much it really affected my degree! The dissertation module was only worth 30 credits! So therefore, nothing more than what a 1,500 word essay in First Year meant - a year that means absolutely nothing to anybody completing a degree. The amount of credits given to the Dissertation module has now been addressed, it is now worth 40 credits and every other module is worth 20 - for the simple people of the world your dissertation to a Sports Student now means double than every other module. That is the way it should of been!

Your dissertation should be your pride, your heart and soul of your degree but to me... it meant 'the end'. The end of three years of university, where the first 18 months I destroyed my bank account on alcohol, resulting in knowing everyone worth knowing on Campus in about 6 months, became an owner of a hockey stick and a regular visitor to Selfridges & Co. in the Bullring and where I was converted from 'Pro Evo' (Pro Evolution Soccer) to then FIFA 2010, now FIFA 2011. The second 18 months was where I found my 'calling', a bit of direction in life. One journal on the life of sport celebrity in the media changed everything. But instead of moving universities, or changing my degree after two years I decided to stick it out with Sports Coaching, something I am glad I did because it made me realise how much I actually cared about Sports Coaching (very little) and how much you can really get from life once you know what you want to do with it!

So now on to the memories! It all started with a little gig at the LG Arena - where some guy named Tiesto played with the support of Avicii. My personal opinion on Tiesto then was he just one of those DJ's you have to see in your life! He's been around forever! This little gig that attracted maybe ten thousand people plus to, just happened to be on March 20th - three days before dissertation hand in!!!! To most people completing a dissertation the weekend before hand in is meant to be one of panic, where you read and read and read your work to check mistakes etc etc but to me that weekend set the tone of the hangover that was to come the following Tuesday! This gig with Tiesto was 'Step 1' into the future! Now, you wouldn't find me anywhere near a Tiesto gig, boycotted at Creamfields due to the fact Swedish House Mafia we're going to steal the show and because Tiesto like I said earlier is one of those things you just have to do in life! And that was show was epic! Good enough for me never to go and see Tiesto again due to the fact it could take of the shine, the gloss of what was an immense night - a night that saw the rebirth of a pretty damn good friendship with Jamie Palmer! I won't go into further details due to the fact he will probably read this and we don't need his ego getting any bigger do we! After all, he has a police car to fit in to catch the criminals of Burton-on-Trent! All I will say is if you're ever in Walsall - go to Pizza Hut & get the fantastic deal of "Buy one large pizza and get the other full price".

Other memories from March on wards are the time spent with Charlotte Gibbs and Annabel Hey! With university coming to a close you start to think about who are the people I will keep in touch with and who are the people I really don't care about seeing again. At the time, these two girls were right at the top of the list for who I would keep in touch with! The closing months of my university journey were spent at the house of 25 Redhouse St. enjoying the weather, 'Harvester Dates' along with James Belsey - purchasing gammon with pineapple, dressing up in suits and many many salad bowls. Then there was the dressing up as pirates and Disney characters, wearing Military Boots (Okay, that was just me), lots of pre-drinking, green and purple skittles, the power of a bag of Milky Way Magic Stars (LOL!!!), re-discovering the love for "those orange triangle things" (Colypso Ice Lollies) and celebrating three birthdays in the space of 12 days (with specially made birthday cards :D).

One further point to those who played huge parts in those times - Jessica Henderson, Alice Walters, Abigale Bedford and Roisin Kay Ladden aka Roisinasaurus - thank you very much! :D

"If you're dating a dancer raise your hand, if not... raise your standards!" :-)

Now away from being all emotional and onto more good stuff! My 21st laid the groundwork of things to come, a new Ford Fiesta Zetec (FIONA :D) was purchased (not by me, but from Daddy Leese) and said hello to the future and bye bye to the old - LJO the Corsa may you rest in peace! By August I had left Lindley Catering at The Britannia Stadium and said hello to Alton Towers Conference Centre! Full time hours, away from anything to with the words 'Sports Coaching' and a stepping stone into the world of work! This gave me the opportunity to enjoy life and wages in a week that I would be living off for three months whilst at university - where such places as the Harvester or Pizza Hut buffet's are what heaven in a bowl or on a plate for students too lazy too cook!

August flew by, Creamfields saw the birth of the "CREAMTEAM" and Ibiza Closing parties were booked - Space and DC10 closing and Bora Bora beach!! Do I really need to say anything else???? Dublin soon arrived, miles and miles were walked, The Wright Venue was found and Jamie Palmer found a love for Guinness in a City that you cannot describe in a blog post or do anything you want to possibly do in four days!

Life after university seems scary, but what you find is the life spent at university is purely just a stepping stone to bigger things! The people you might not see again are the memories, the nights out are the highlights - even if you can't remember them and the life of feeling like you are in episodes of Hollyoaks prove many lessons that if learned from will provide the answers to the questions you have not even been asked yet! So far it has been a year, and by next year I will still be Andrew Leese Bachelors of Science but what I won't be is looking back at the last year and thinking where did it go? What I will be doing is writing the same blog post about the new memories and remembering university as the place I found the direction I needed to know what I wanted from the world we live in.

"Don't tell me the sky is the limit, when there are footprints on the moon"

#12 They say it's just a game! Luke Walker on Aston Villa's fight for survival

Been a while since I wrote anything fresh due to trying to develop a few articles I already have written onto In Design and a layout of a magazine so what I thought I would do is post a future addition to my blog called 'They say it's just a game'. Here is the first one from an Aston Villa fan and a good friend Luke Walker.

They say it's just a game!
Luke Walker on Aston Villa's fight for survival

It is absolutely gut wrenching to watch my beloved club perform with such a distinct lack of belief, passion and determination. I look at it from two ways ... the football he is trying to encourage us to play I am all for, patience, fluidity, excitement etc ... yeah great, but to see a guy seem to destroy the team cohesion that we once had and produce a hostility between both players and fans a like is something that absolutely disheartens me as a loyal supporter.

There is nothing better than seeing a MON (Martin O'Neill) character, kicking and heading every single ball, dragging his team through the mud at times of such lows and showing the sort of personality we all want to see from a Villa manager, if only that could be coupled with the sort of style GH (Gerard Houiller) is trying to apply, I think we would be onto a winner. Look, whether I get slated or not, I can not stand the present manager and I surely don't want him in our dugout. I really couldn't care less about him ... but what I do care about is keeping this huge, historic club in the PL and I hope every single Villa supporter out there feels the same. Lets just get behind the team, get them over the finish line, and we will see what occurs in the summer. Villa till I die!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

#11 I think I've finally found some perspective!

After such a really positive finish to 2010 and start to 2011 in Dublin I had a feeling this year would be the year I discovered where Andrew Leese wanted to go. Now I have always known I wanted to do something involving writing about sport but what exactly? I don't see myself a journalist, basically because the majority of the stuff they report on or write is crap and is never believable. Which is my number one pet hate about the whole media scene! How many people actually say it how it is? Too many people cover the basics, say what people 'want to hear' and point out the things people already know instead of going straight to the point, blunt and admitting the truth about the situation. It is almost like they are too many rules now and these rules have to put in place so they don't offend people or get in trouble.

Someone who comes to mind straight away for telling how it is, is Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson! He is your typical cockney who says things how they are, in his own style and he really does cut straight to the truth! He comes across as someone who really does not care what people say about him. Merson was in the studio for the League Cup final between Arsenal v Birmingham and once Arsenal bottled it and again failed on the big stage he did not try and defend the team he supports, he simply said it how it is!

"Don't go scouting around the French and Belgian leagues for young talent who you can get on the cheap and develop. Buy the real deal for £15 million and win the cup"

That is exactly what people outside of the public eye and many supporters who can face the truth would say! They say the truth hurts but I guess that is the point of the truth! Lies cover things up so you are protected and I guess what I am doing to myself at the moment is not facing the harsh truths and protecting myself from putting myself out there to get hurt if things don't go according to plan!

What I started to do with my blog was introduce different things, bring in new ideas and start with baby steps. That was before these last few weeks where whatever I started a few weeks ago I have abandoned, become complacent and thought the baby steps I started were enough. Now, with the push of someone who has experienced the same kind of rut I have experienced in the last few weeks I am starting to see the light at the 'imaginary' tunnel. Everybody has to learn how to walk before they can run and this is exactly the process I am going through! Baby steps eventually become steps and steps eventually become strides as long as you keep trying and working towards what you want.

What I have got to start doing more is 'telling how it is', stop hiding behind truths and pride myself on things I believe in. Sometimes it is necessary to bite your lip and say nothing, but more often than not the truth gets you further than lies, even if it does hurt that little bit more.

Now back to that journalism thing! What I am trying to create is the bases of a magazine, or instead of calling it a magazine, calling it a portfolio. A portfolio of ideas to try and find myself a place in the world! What I want do is learn how to make the idea in my head to something proper, something I can look at as a draft, print it out, scribble over it and start again to make it bigger and better.

I guess that's why the idea was called 'The Bubble' in the first place. Inside my head I live in a world that is full of ways to look at the world in my own unique way and now I'm finally finding ways to put the world in my head into the world I want to live in. If I'm going to do this I'm going to do it my way, not by following the rules of other people who are too scared to go against the norm, but by saying things how they are, by saying things the way it works instead The Bubble I live in! :)

The is a quote or a song lyric that I used to live by and need to start doing so again. A quote that I want tattooed on my left forearm so that when times are tough I can take inspiration from it and start from scratch!

"Don't tell me the sky is the limit, when are foot prints on the moon"

#10 The talk that Arsenal no longer needs Cesc Fabregas now they have Jack Wilshire is utter rubbish!

Arsenal fans may have been gloating last night to everybody involved at Barcelona that ‘they’ve got Cesc Fabregas’ but what they of being should have been singing was ‘we’ve got Jack Wilshire!’

Jack Wilshire is a rising star and at such a young age, to perform like he did Tuesday night against arguably the best midfield in the world was a statement to everybody this kid is no-longer just a fantastic young prospect but a player who is already good enough to mix it with the big names of world football!

With transfer talk apparently ‘dead’ between Barcelona and Arsenal for Fabregas until the summer; some questions are now being asked whether Cesc Fabregas is really needed when you have Jack Wilshire. The answer to that question is - of course they can! To win trophies you need quality players, not a quality player! That is what of course made Manchester United successful and what has made Barcelona successful now. Successful teams are made as teams not as individuals. These teams never just had one quality player they have 12-15 players who would walk into any other team in the league, if not Europe! For Barcelona now, you don’t just have to stop Messi you have to stop Xavi, Iniesta, and David Villa. If you stop those players and think you can relax players like Pedro can pop up and do just what those players can when needed! If it’s not happening for one star; there are 10 other players ready to step up and make themselves a star!

This is why Cesc Fabregas is now just as important as he was before Arsenal as he was last season. If you want to put it in simple terms - Wilshire has the potential to be Barcelona’s Xavi - what I like to call the ‘linchpin’ or the ‘support midfielder’ to the attacking midfield player or advanced playmaker. Again in simple terms ‘Fabregas is Barcelona’s Iniesta’ - he player who gets inbetween the lines of the defence who feed the attacking players ahead of them! In front of these creative players you have three players all with different qualities that carry different treats!

Theo Walcott offers blistering pace who if you give space in behind has the pace to destroy teams and is now developing the end product in both scoring goals and assists. On the left you have either Samri Nasri or Andrei Arshavin who can skip past players for fun, score and create goals. Nasri is also very comfortable playing in the role of the advanced playmaker as he has shown when Fabregas has been out of the side - this is not a reason to think Arsenal can cope without there captain but a positive reason that when Fabregas is not in the side Arsenal have a natural playmaker who can offer the same qualities as Fabregas does without having to change their style of play!

Then we have Robin van Persie - Arsenal’s MVP. Sometimes he can be wasteful but more often than not he’s clinical - especially if the ball falls to his left foot - when it’s hit it stays hit! When Arsenal have these players mentioned fit and firing they can be unstoppable, they can beat anyone on their day as Barcelona found out after dominating and out playing Arsenal for 70 minutes! They do not have to just rely on Fabregas as was sometimes the case last season, they have other big names that can step up and make it count when it matters the most! But just because players may seem replaceable does not mean they are! The saying ‘you only know what you had when it’s gone’ counts in football terms too, Arsenal should enjoy the times while they have such attacking talent and look at ways to improve this and when it comes to mixing with the big names of Xavi and Iniesta they should make sure they have many big names on their side who are not just good enough to stand up the challenge but are good enough to go one better! Because after all that has been Arsene Wenger’s philosophy after all and if there is one person who knows better than anyone else just how important Cesc Fabregas is too Arsenal’s future then it is Arsene Wenger!

Monday, 14 February 2011

#9 A tribute to the greatest striker of my generation!

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima better known as Ronaldo today retired from football at the age 34! In the modern game he may go down as a forgotten man over the last 15 years he was no doubt the greatest forward I've ever seen!

Beginning of his career:

I am too young to say I remember his PSV days but with a goal record of 42 goals in 46 games you can see why he caught the attention of European Giants Barcelona.
What is more impressive is 30 goals came in his first season in 95' with 12 coming in his second season which was cut short with a knee injury that kept him out for the rest of the season.


With a goal record of nearly 1 in every game played it took a then record fee of $17 million from Bobby Robson's Barcelona to prize him away teaming him up with players such as Ivan del la Pena, Hristo Stoichkov and Guillermo Amor!

The season of 1996 - 97 saw Ronaldo better his goal record from PSV scoring 47 goals in 49 games leading Barcelona to the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) and UEFA Cup Winners Cup; scoring the winner.

At the age of twenty, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996 and was runner up for the Ballon d'Or - an honour now held play Lionel Messi and in the past has produced winners such as Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo who are among the great players to win this award.

Here is a link for some of the best goals scored by Ronaldo for Barcelona! Goal three and goal four are prime examples of the attributes of Ronaldo.

Inter Milan:

Ronaldo's spell at Barcelona was brief and Inter Milan paid $19 million to bring him to the San Siro. It was at Inter Milan where he made the most development as a player, retaining his FIFA World Player of the Year status in 1997 and that year going one better and capturing the Ballon d'Or. Ronaldo helped Inter win the UEFA Cup in his first year, defeating Barcelona on the way and scoring the third goal in the Final. There was no doubt in his time at Inter Milan he was the best player on the planet.

On November 21, 1999, during a Serie A match against Lecce, Ronaldo felt his knee buckle and was forced to limp off the pitch. Medical exams confirmed that the striker had ruptured a tendon in his knee and would require surgery.

In April 2000 on his comeback he played only seven minutes against Lazio before injuring his knee for a second time. Ronaldo would require two further operations and months of rehabilitation and did not return until the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan where Brazil would win their fifth World Cup title.

Here are some of the goals Ronaldo scored for Inter Milan.

The goal at 1 minute 15 seconds is my favourite Ronaldo goal where he dummies the keeper not once but twice sending him completely the wrong way before going to the keepers right and sliding the ball home into an empty net.

Three's a charm:

After winning the World Cup in 2002; Ronaldo became the World's Most Expensive Player for the third time in his career as Real Madrid paid $39 million to add him to a form an invisible team named as 'Los Galácticos' including Ronaldo, Figo, Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Madrid's own Raul! Later in 2002 he won the World Player of the Year award for the third time - something only Ronaldo and Zidane have done in their careers.

Real Madrid:

Ronaldo did not feature for Real Madrid until October 2002 but his transfer broke shirt sale records in his first day as a Real Madrid player due to the hype and obsession that surrounded such a high quality name and player. On his debut he scored twice and received a standing ovation at the Bernabeu. An ovation similar followed on the last day of the season when two goals (23 for the season) from Ronaldo against Athletico Bilbao secured Real Madrid the La Liga Championship - something Ronaldo did not win during his time at Barcelona.

Something that will always stay in my mind over the career of Ronaldo is the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarter final against Manchester United, which finished 4-3 on the night where Ronaldo scored a fantastic hat-trick - his third a 20 yard screamer flying past Fabien Barthez. Not only was Ronaldo fantastic but the game was one of the best football games I've ever witnessed and one that is sometimes forgotten as a classic! Interestingly this is also the game where David Beckham was left on the bench by Ferguson after the famous 'hairdryer' incident which led to Beckham being sold to Real Madrid where he did play alongside Ronaldo.

Here's the highlights

Talking of David Beckham and his friendship with Ronaldo here is a Facebook post from David Beckham on Ronaldo's retirement.....

Here's the highlights...

David Beckham Tribute:

Talking of David Beckham and his friendship with Ronaldo here is a Facebook post from David Beckham on Ronaldo's retirement.....

"I just want to say to my friend Ronaldo what an honour it was playing with him and becoming his good friend... He was not just an amazing person but along with Zidane, one of the most talented and gifted players in football history and I was honoured to have been in the same team as him whilst at Real Madrid...Well done my friend..."

Friendship! Beckham celebrates with Ronaldo at Real Madrid

The Decline:

In 2006 was where Ronaldos career really began to decline; one of the reasons that is sometimes forgotten when you make comparisons to such players like Zidane, Figo and Raul for all-time greats to players now such as Messi, Ronaldo and Kaka! Ronaldo under Capello at Real Madrid was frozen out and complaints where Ronaldo refused to train after injuries and claims of him being over-weight shadowed what had been so far a fantastic career.

In January 2007, Ronaldo agreed to sign for AC Milan where he scored 7 goals in 14 appearances including goals against his former club Inter Milan and is one of the few players to have scored for both teams to have scored for both Milan teams in the derby!

In January 2007, Ronaldo agreed to sign for AC Milan where he scored 7 goals in 14 appearances including goals against his former club Inter Milan and is one of the few players to have scored for both teams to have scored for both Milan teams in the derby!

A year later in February 2008 Ronaldo's career at the top came to an end, suffering another ruptured ligament this time in his opposite knee, the third time he suffered this injury in his career. His career at AC Milan was over and was released at the end of the season after his contract was not expired.

Returning home to Brazil:

In 2009 in an attempt to regain fitness and resume his career at the age of 32, Ronaldo trained with Flamengo and was set to join before in a highly conversational move joined rivals Corinthians in a one year deal. Ronaldo helped Corinthians win the Brazil Cup and finished with 12 goals in 20 games; an impressive come back for a man who was thought would never play again. Just over a year later, today in February 2011 Ronaldo announced his retirement after Corinthians was eliminated in the 2011 Copa Libertadores and threats from Corinthians' supporters.

International Career:

At International level Ronaldo represented Brazil 96 times and scored 67 goals, 15 of those coming in World Cup's which is still a record. Ronaldo won two World Cups in 1994 and 2002 and lost in the World Cup final in 98 to France 3 - 0 in a game that was over-shadowed by the performance of Ronaldo who was not fit and should not have played.

At the 2006 World Cup Ronaldo was once again taking the headlines, jeered by his own fans for being over-weight and slow there were claims Ronaldo should of been replaced. Ronaldo became the 20th ever player to score in three World Cups and became the second player ever to score 3 goals in three World Cups after Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann.

In a career that span from 1993 for Cruzeiro and ended in 2011 back in Brazil at Corinthians, Ronaldo scored 420 goals in 620 appearances and ratio-ed a goal every 0.6 games. Ronaldo is one of two players ever to win the FIFA World Player of the Year three times along with Zinedine Zidane, winning two World Cup medals, La Liga and the UEFA Cup at Inter Milan. The only major honour Ronaldo did not win was the UEFA Champions League; an amazing fact considering he represented the four biggest European clubs outside of England!

A tribute to the greatest striker of my generation!

In my short life time of 21 and a half years I have never seen a striker better - Ronaldo was the complete package, the ideal 'number 9' and the king of the step-overs! His pace, power, skill, ball control and finishing qualities made him unstoppable at times and when the ball was at his feet there was simply no-stopping him! It is a great shame such a wonderfully gifted player and career was cut-short due to three serious injuries, you can only ever imagine what his goal record and honours list would of been like if it had not been for injuring his knee twice at Inter Milan keeping him out for nearly two years!

Ronaldo was my first football hero and to me he is the greatest striker to have ever played the game and the only player I can imagine ever going beyond his abilities is Lionel Messi; who already is the winner of the Champions League and two times FIFA Player of the Year winner at the age of 23! Ronaldo is the best player of the last twenty years and to me - the greatest striker of my generation.

Below shows the stats and figures of his career and surely prove my point.

Club Goal Record:

1993 Cruzeiro 14 (12)
1994–1996 PSV 46 (42)
1996–1997 Barcelona 37 (34)
1997–2002 Inter Milan 68 (49)
2002–2007 Real Madrid 127 (83)
2007–2008 AC Milan 20 (9)
2009–2011 Corinthians 31 (18)
Total 343 (247)

International Caps/Goal Record:
1994–2006 Brazil 97 (62)

Professional career totals:

Clubs: 515 (352) 0.683
National Team: 97 (62) 0.639
U-23 National Team: 8 (6) 0.750
Total: 620 (420) 0.677

Friday, 11 February 2011

#8 Premiership Preview Part Two

After focusing on West Ham's achievements and possible failures and at a Manchester derby which promises to thrill it's time to focus on Manchester United's biggest rivals for the title Arsenal and how a double game week of fixtures could well impact not only the title race but the Champions League and League Cup Final! As well in Part Two I will focus on my main priority Stoke City and how midland rivals Birmingham want to turn the heat on teams above them - starting with a weekend fixture against Stoke!

Firstly let's focus on Arsenal and there chances of finally breaking the four year wait for a trophy! Last week at Newcastle everything started better than even Wenger could have imagined! A Theo Walcott goal after 2 minutes which turned into a dream start being four goals up after just 26 minutes played! A start which lead to some Newcastle fans leaving and some people thinking records were going to be broken with ease! But some how it all went wrong after Abou Diaby reacted to a strong tackle by Joey Barton that led to the French international seeing red! After that, Arsenal hit the destruct button and the Newcastle fans and players seemed to start believing the impossible could happen and as everybody knows... it did & Arsenal lost out on a huge opportunity to close the gap.

This week they have another opportunity, Arsenal play there game in hand against Stoke at The Emirates where you would expect them to beat Stoke. Firstly this weekend Arsenal welcome Wolves to The Emirates who you will expect to put up a good fight after last weeks result against title favourites Manchester United! Just like United, this week is about reaction for Wenger, six points and an injury free week would be perfect for when Barcelona come into town just before Arsenal face Birmingham in seek of there first trophy in four years.

Nobody will no how important the month of February is more than Wenger, he has problems in defense with injuries and any slip ups during the next three weeks could see his team follow the path of the last few years - and would be a flashback of last season after being blown away by Lionel Messi and co at the Nou Camp. Wenger will hope to see his team learn from set backs and show the character and maturity he believes his team now has.

"McLeish looking no further than Stoke"

With a cup final looming at the end of the month of February you cannot blame Blues fans for getting a tiny bit distracted from Premiership survival and dreaming about following there team to Wembley! But one man who is remaining focused on one team and one team only is Alex McLeish! Birmingham who take on Midland rivals Stoke this weekend are looking for back-to-back league wins for the first time in over a year. McLeish may be focused on his team only but after admitting Tony Pulis has done a terrific job at Stoke is McLeish recognising Stoke as the bench mark for all teams fighting against relegation? Birmingham could go within 3 points of Stoke this weekend and has made the point that they are not safe yet, despite sitting 9th in the table only five points behind a top six place.

As a Stoke fan we look at the position as a comfortable one and as we look below we only see Aston Villa as a major threat for taking away the possibility of our first ever top 8 finish in the Premiership! The teams below however, as Birmingham are pointing out this weekend is Stoke City are now a target after finishing no lower than 12th in there first ever seasons in the top flight. People used to say if you finish above Manchester United you win the title, Stoke have now made such an impact on the Premiership teams below them are using them as a benchmark "If you finish above Stoke you stay up comfortably".

This may sound like a touch of complacency from a Stoke fan who goes by the motto of "The league table does not lie". I know Stoke City are not the best but we are certainly not the worst but in 9th place may be we are punching above our weight and as long as we are doing so, us fans are going to enjoy every moment of it! One man who knows this better than me and better than anyone in Stoke-on-Trent is the man who deserves all the credit! Manager Tony Pulis this week has vowed not to let complacency become an issue.

Pulis told Sky Sports "there is no way we are letting up until we get there there's no way in a million years I'll be thinking of anything else. Have a look at the teams down there and the clubs who have been relegated in the last four or five years. Nobody in this city should take Premier League football for granted"

Exactly the words of a man who knows Stoke may have achieved great things in the past two seasons but so far Stoke City Football Club has achieved nothing yet this season! Teams may be using Stoke as a bench mark for survival but you can guarantee the man underneath the hat and the Stoke City Adidas tracksuit is doing everything possible to make that bench mark as high as it can possible be at the the end of May!

#7 Premiership Preview Part One

In the first part of the Premiership Preview I will focus on the letters of West Ham United that may spell "The New Stadium" but back in reality there current league position spells "relegation!" My second point focuses on Manchester! Apparently something big is about to go down and what ever it is... I hope it lives up to expectation!

In the second part of the Premiership Preview the focus will be on a Midlands derby where it's Birmingham's quest to make rival's Stoke sweat & Arsenal's double week which could prove vital to three trophies and not just six points.

Let's start with the biggest headline of the week, Friday 11th February saw 'The OPLC' confirm in a news conference that West Ham have won unanimous approval to move into the Stratford venue following the 2012 Games after they were judged to have fulfilled more of the criteria set by the organisation than Tottenham.

To me, it was not a real shock! It's pretty obvious the right decision was made! Not just because West Ham have vowed to keep the running track and the facilities to hold athletics but because of where the stadium is situated. How would it be possible to have Tottenham Hotspur in Stratford and not Tottenham? That would make a North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham situtated in the East of London! There is simply no logic!

Now I'm happy the decision is the correct one, Tottenham were simply using the Olympic Stadium as a way to further the development of there club! They were not thinking anything else other than a fantastic business opportunity. Spurs believe they need a world class stadium in order to compete for years to come! Arsenal and Manchester City are prime examples; both clubs have benefited a great deal financially due to the appeal a top stadium brings! Think about it, where would Manchester City be without the development of the Commonwealth Games stadium in Manchester and turning it into a much larger stadium capable of landing foreign investment like they did! This is exactly what Tottenham wanted and this proved to be Spurs downfall as they were beaten by a much better package offered by West Ham!

However despite the positives it brings to everybody involved with West Ham, with the exception of some proud loyal fans who believe Upton Park is there home, I can find some negative points of West Ham's fortunes! This new stadium is a long way away, football clubs are based on results not stadiums and West Ham United currently sit bottom of the Premiership! Defeat to West Brom this weekend could be a huge reality check for Karen Brady and owners David Sullivan and David Gold who have put so much time and effort into securing a world class home for the future maybe they now need to focus on the present day.

Karen Brady may have shrugged off questions about relegation and purely focused on the positives a new stadium brings but it's now time for the board to take a back seat and let the players and manager do the talking on the pitch! But to me, these board members are ones that like publicity and the spotlight, if West Ham are beaten tomorrow and continue to be in the relegation zone in March... don't expect this board to take a back seat, it's just not how they do things!

Now then, that is my rant over with, let's focus on a weekend of Premiership football! Apparently... something big is happening in Manchester tomorrow?! I looked up FC United's fixture and they play Whitley at home.. that isn't it. Maybe a sale in the Trafford Centre? But that can't be it, January is over, winter wardrobes are a thing of the past and the biggest brands are now introducing Spring and Summer outfits, so that can't be it. Maybe I was close with the word Trafford? Maybe it's something that's gone back many many years! An old rivalry now more fierce than it's ever been! That's right, tomorrow sees the blue of Manchester lock horns with the Red side of Manchester in a game where things could get tighter than ever, or it becomes a two horse race between two giants both in red and leaving the blues behind!

Last week we saw the red side of Manchester who top the table lose there unbeaten record to the team who were bottom of the table.. yeah you read that right - football is a funny old game sometimes!

Now this weekend it just so happens just when Sir Alex Ferguson will want a reaction from his players that the next game see's them face there now multi-million air rivals who are looking to feed on any scraps left behind by a pack of Wolves last week! A team full of talent and lead by a former Manchester United hero who was deemed not worthy enough of £25 million! After a hat-trick last week Carlos Tevez will be seeing red tomorrow and leading his team into battle against a team and manager who just love to rise to a big occasion! I am not going to predict the score, and I am not going to point out where it can be won and lost because as a Stoke City fan I'm struggling to care :D

However, tomorrow I will wake up a neutral and hope to watch this two teams tear each other apart in a full blooded Manchester Derby that really could live up to the hype after last seasons thrilling 4-3 encounter which saw Michael Owen score the winner in injury time!