Pacitto Predictions – Week Seven

Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal: ManchesterCity have been just far too formidable at home to ignore. Arsenal will go two games without a win for the first time this season, and lose grip at the top.

Cardiff 1-2 West Brom: Nobody has really picked up on Cardiff’s slide down the table, but they lay a mere point above Palace and Fulham. Their problems to become more noticeable with a home defeat.

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace: Easy as you like for Chelsea, they can beat the Eagles at a canter. Tony Pulis will not be focusing on games like this to get them out of trouble; it’s a damage limitation exercise.

Tottenham 3-1 Liverpool: Tottenham to come out like an absolute steam train and punish Liverpool in the first half, even Suarez is kept quiet. I’m still expecting the Uruguayan to score, but it won’t be enough.

Dembele (if he starts) and Lucas could be a key battle; who will come out on top?

Everton 2-2 Fulham: A rejuvenated Fulham go to Goodison Park and play out a cracker of a game, nabbing a point along the way. Meulensteen needs this honeymoon to last.

Newcastle 2-1 Southampton: Despite an excellent performance, the longest away trip in the League for the Saints should just prove too much for a Newcastle side in fine form.

West Ham 1-1 Sunderland: The Hammers & The Black Cats play out a six-pointer where nobody takes home more than one for themselves. A dreary game with a couple of tap-ins for goals, not what either manager needs.

Hull 1-0 Stoke: Two very mid-table sides, and Steve Bruce’s profile is rising all the time. Another efficient win here and I can’t see the Humberside club falling into trouble.

Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United: Goals only seem to get scored in Manchester United’s away games. They’ll pick up a win here against a Villa side that only have 6 home goals themselves this season.

Norwich 2-0 Swansea: Swansea, with their well-documented travel problems with getting to Switzerland, will suffer preparing for this game more than St Gallen. Easy enough win for Norwich.

Calling Time on Ex-Footballers Turning To Crime

98% of 16-18 year old that sign scholarships are either released or dropped out of the game by the age of 21.

Set up by Michael Kinsella who hails from Liverpool, OnSIDE Academy is the United Kingdom’s first football based academy of its kind. It was established to assist released academy players, ex-footballers and disadvantaged young adults to receive adult education, along with the opportunity to return to the world of work. OnSIDE take a pragmatic approach, helping these young men reintegrate into society through apprenticeships courses such as plumbing, electricians and carpentry.

‘‘Onside is a training company in education, and supporting young people’s search for employment after falling into hard times when left behind by football. It’s based at Hope University in Liverpool. It has been running for one year, though in my head for six behind bars’’, said Michael. While OnSIDE began as solely based on helping ex-footballers it has recently began spreading its hand of help to the boxing community too. ‘‘We have boxing going in the city also giving young boxers apprenticeships and a course to get on.

Once a promising talent, Michael Kinsella, like thousands of other young men once dreamed of playing football for his beloved Everton. Sadly, things didn’t turn out like he had once dreamed. Michael’s career led him through the lower leagues and beyond to the semi-professional game for clubs such as Bury, Tranmere and Stranraer. ‘‘What I realised was that I had no real life skills to gain proper employment. I missed an opportunity to get an apprenticeship because that passes you by when you’re trying to get a career in football.

While Michael’s career faded away into obscurity like so many others before – and indeed after him, one thing remained: the need to survive. Lacking formal education finding employment served a thankless task, options were scarce. Nevertheless while Michael may have been lacking the certificates to find proper employment, he certainly knew about one way to make money – drugs. ‘‘I had to survive; I ended up turning to drugs because I knew people from that world growing up in a council estate.

Since Michael’s release from prison earlier this year his schedule has been hectic. Various partnerships have been set up with league clubs across the country, including Blackburn Rovers and even Premier League giants Liverpool. While OnSIDE is finally an established organisation with connections to many clubs its beginnings stem from humbling stories of broken dreams for many young men. ‘‘Seeing lads and families destroyed by the belief they were going to be a professional footballer and didn’t know what else to do in life, falling into crime, and then seeing my brother fail through injuries and depression”, Michael said with a brutal honesty.

Currently there are 135 ex-professional footballers in English prisons. A subject rarely covered in the media, football’s glamour tag disguises the game’s true colours hiding behind the fame in which we are all engrossed. The road to crime and prison is one well-travelled by Michael, in his relatively short life he’s found himself in prison all too often, by his own account. ‘‘I’ve done four prison sentences, one in Spain, one in Holland, and two small stints in England.

OnSIDE has been in the pipeline for some time, although Michael is only out of prison since the beginning of this year he has been working on the project while still in prison. ‘‘It (OnSIDE Academy) has been running for 1 year but in my head for 6 behind bars.

When a friend of mine first spoke to Michael in May as part of a radio documentary we were conducting, Michael said by September they planned to have 25 people signed up to OnSIDE Academy, though it seems things have since escalated quicker than expected. ‘‘There are 50 kids (signed up to OnSIDE) at present – also we currently have 5 full time staff. By year three we plan to have 10 sites set up across the country, because the issue is massive. The help provided by clubs is nominal, they might get them a sports course which considering the overcrowded industry is madness really.

Since Michael’s release from prison, the work with OnSIDE has been hectic: there have been interviews with various national newspapers and even a special feature for the BBC on the Saturday morning football show – Football Focus. Michael has been campaigning for football clubs to set up better ways to prevent so many young men fall through the net into a life of crime. ‘‘For now we’re doing our best to act as a safety net for these players.

OnSIDE has received much support recently, notably from now ex-Liverpool player and current Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Carragher, who grew up in Bootle, Liverpool, knows too well that many who don’t make it in football find themselves in a life of crime. ‘‘I was one of the fortunate ones. But the statistics will show you that it doesn’t always happen.’’ Carragher said it was hard for senior player to offer advice to youngsters about considering their options without hurting their feelings. ‘‘It’s difficult talking about that type of thing because you don’t want them to think that you think they’re not going to make it.”

Michael’s problems with crime after football are not alone to him, but a family issue too. Michael’s brother, Gerard, 21, started to go down the wrong path when he was released by Everton, though with the help of OnSIDE he is rebuilding his life at Fleetwood Town.

Based in Liverpool Hope University OnSIDE have received support from the Player Football Association (PFA). OnSIDE aims to help young ex-footballers re-enter education and/or employment while retaining their love the game.

Kevin Kelly

Steady Suarez and Co. // Liverpool F.C. – November

An unusual aura of belief surrounded Anfield at the end of October. Going into November, Liverpool supporters strongly felt that their team had enough quality to finish in the top-four. Talk about Liverpool’s title credentials were picking up pace and Liverpool looked set to prove to the footballing world that they were back to their best…

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool:

Liverpool’s first opponents were Arsenal, at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had been outstanding thus far in the league but many people were questioning Arsenal’s capability of beating the “stronger” sides in the league. Having just come off the back of a loss against Chelsea in the League Cup, people were left pondering as to whether Arsenal were equipped to beat the mighty Reds.

I for one was worried about Arsenal and their midfield. Liverpool had looked lack-lustre in the middle, and the presence of Lucas and Gerrard continued to stress me out. The problem for me was the lack of energy in the midfield. Without Jordan Henderson in there, I believe Liverpool’s team wouldn’t have functioned the way it had so far. Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, scared me and this was with good reason too.

Liverpool began the game well and were pressing high up the pitch; it all fell down on 19 minutes when Santi Cazorla found the net to put the Gunners 1-0 up. Ramsey doubled their advantage on 59 minutes and Liverpool never looked like getting back in it from there. This left Liverpool sitting third in the table which was still a very healthy position for The Reds.

Performance rating: Grade C-; poor result against a very good Arsenal side, wasn’t unexpected if I’m honest, still sitting third in the table.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

Fulham paid a visit to Anfield next, and I’m sure they wished they hadn’t once it was finished. Pressure was mounting on Fulham boss Martin Jol, and Fulham fans had very little optimism leading up to this game. They knew Liverpool’s tails would be up after losing to the Gunners the previous week. I was very pleased with Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson returning to the starting line-up.

In truth, Fulham didn’t have a prayer in my view. When Fernando Amorebieta put the ball in his own net, I knew it was going to be a rout! It was 2-0 just three minutes later when Martin Skrtel scored a header off his 50p shaped head. From here I could see nothing going wrong for Liverpool. Then it was 3-0 when Luis Suarez scored his seventh of the season after a clever pass from Jordan Henderson.

Further punishment was to be felt by Fulham as Suarez doubled his tally for the night and scored what was to be the last goal of a very one-sided game. After such domination, I felt like a top-four spot really was achievable this year. Liverpool used to have a tendency to only perform in big games but not against lesser sides and this looked to be changing.

Performance rating: Grade A*; excellent win, excellent performance. Delighted to bounce back and dominate like we did.

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison...

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison…

Everton 3-3 Liverpool:

Going into an international break is made easier when your team performs the way they did against Fulham. Everton were up next and as every Red fan knows, going to Goodison and getting three points is usually easier said than done. Everton themselves were in a rich vein of form and since their shaky start to the season, have really kicked on and were only a few points behind Liverpool. Lukaku was on fire and Liverpool fans know too well what he is capable of in front of goal. Despite this, I felt we would beat Everton and needless to say I was gutted about not picking up three points.

It was a dream start for Liverpool and it was 1-0 after five minutes. Kevin Mirallas scored just three minutes later to draw the game level, and I was so frustrated to concede from a set-piece. When Suarez got us back in front on 19 minutes, I felt that we would kick on but Everton continued to pose a threat. Joe Allen missed an absolute sitter from only a few yards out and this turned the game in my opinion.

It was then that Everton kicked on; McCarthy and Barry in particular impressed me in midfield as did, young Ross Barkley. It wasn’t long after this that Romelu Lukaku scored to level the game. This was the second set piece of the game that Liverpool had failed to deal with, which resulted in a goal. Then in the 82nd minute, Lukaku found the net again with a powerful heading from a corner. Our lack of ability to defend against set-pieces worries, and annoys me. Teams challenging for a top-four spot, cannot keep conceding goals in that fashion. Sturridge came off the bench and got Liverpool a point by scoring in the 89th minute. Overall, a disappointing result in my opinion.

Performance rating: Grade C; okay point, tough opponents, sad to throw away two leads, happy to score late on to equalise.

Overall Rating: Grade B+; the month of November was relatively successful for the Reds. Everton and Arsenal proved to be stern tests and we were unfortunate not to pick up three points at Goodison Park. I believe Liverpool’s strong start to the season will continue and I know that with the quality we have, we should definitely continue pushing for a top four finish.

Jamie Connor

Mystic Mawky – Week Six

It’s a busy one this week, as the Christmas fixture list starts to kick in. Who will triumph, Pacitto Predictions or Mystic Mawky?…

Arsenal 3-1 Hull: Arsenal will beat Hull comfortably at the Emirates, Hull will have given everything in their win over Liverpool at the weekend and getting a result away at Arsenal will just be a bridge too far.

Liverpool 4-1 Norwich: Liverpool will get back to winning ways a Anfield by turning over an average Norwich side, they will just have too much firepower for the Norwich defence.

Even without Sturridge, Liverpool could have too much for Norwich.

Even without Sturridge, Liverpool could have too much for Norwich.

Manchester United 2-1 Everton: David Moyes’ old club visit Old Trafford and have surprised quite a few people with their performances in the league this season. Having said that I expect United have a bit too much and grind out an unspectacular win here.

Southampton 1-0 Aston Villa: High flying Southampton will just about edge a tight game at St Mary’s against mid table Villa. Southampton’s aggressive defending style of pressing teams high up the pitch will see them through here.

Stoke 0-0 Cardiff: Two of the league’s average sides take on each other at the Britannia stadium and I can see a very boring game with few chances and goals being unlikely.

Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea: Sunderland have beaten Manchester City and Newcastle at home in the league this season but I expect them to come unstuck here against a Chelsea side who have too much firepower up top.

Swansea 1-1 Newcastle: Four straight wins on the bounce for Newcastle now but we all know that winning runs don’t last forever. However, I expect them to get a point in South Wales in an evenly matched contest.

Fulham 1-2 Tottenham: Fulham’s poor run of form will continue at home and they will be beaten by Spur’s side who will show a much greater threat going forward than they have this season against one of the league’s poorer sides.

West Brom 1-2 Manchester City: Standard victory for City, who should win this one at a canter despite their away form being very poor by their high standards so far this season.

Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle: Newcastle’s unbeaten run will come to an end at Old Trafford, in one of those away performances, where they just don’t seem to show up.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Cardiff: Tony Pulis will continue the Palace revival by taking a point at home to Cardiff who are faring slightly better than there opponents this season. Will it be enough at the end of the season? Time will tell!

Liverpool 3-1 West Ham: Another game where Suarez will get Liverpool over the line, West Ham have been poor this season and really seem to be missing Andy Carroll. Just can’t see them getting a result at Anfield.

Southampton 1-1 Manchester City: City’s suspect away form will continue this season against a Southampton side that just look unstoppable at home. I think City’s away form will be what lets them down this season and their title challenge will falter as a result.

Stoke 0-2 Chelsea: Stoke are poor and I really don’t rate Mark Hughes as a manager, Chelsea will just have too much quality for them, even away from home.

West Brom 1-1 Norwich: Just can’t separate these two sides and think they will cancel each other out at the Hawthorns in one of those games.

Sunderland 1-1 Tottenham: Struggling Sunderland will take a point away from this game against a Tottenham side that will turn out another of their indifferent performances that have become an all too regular occurance this season.

Fulham 1-1 Aston Villa: Fulham and Villa will play out an entertaining draw at Craven Cottage that will see Fulham claim another point towards survival and Villa consolidate their place in the mid table.

Arsenal 1-1 Everton Everton will claim an unlikely point at the Emirates as Arsenal put in a uncharacteristically poor performance at home, Everton will play an excellent team game a miss a couple of vital chances to win the game.

Pacitto Predictions – Week Six

It’s a busy one this week, as the Christmas fixture list starts to kick in. Who will triumph, Pacitto Predictions or Mystic Mawky?…

Arsenal 2-0 Hull: Easy as you like for Arsenal, another win chalked up; a Hull side that put a lot of energy into beating Liverpool won’t have enough for this trip to North London.

Liverpool 2-1 Norwich: Luis Suarez could make history by being the first Liverpool player to score three hat-tricks against the same side. I think he’ll push that with a brace, which will be enough for Liverpool to get the points.

Manchester United 1-1 Everton: David Moyes has a mixed night, at home to his former side Everton. Martinez’s men will come with a point to prove, and end up leaving Old Trafford with a Premier League point to boot.

Southampton 1-0 Aston Villa: A non-entity of a game, but the Saints get back to winning ways with a victory over a below-par Villa, Benteke blowing cold once again.

Christian Benteke has struggled to find his form recently.

Christian Benteke has struggled to find his form recently.

Stoke 2-2 Cardiff: Stoke City’s fans are beginning to grumble, and a performance like the one I expect them to have here will give Mark Hughes time; a stirring second-half reaction from The Potters after falling behind twice.

Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea: Not a classic by any means, but a result for Chelsea on a tricky away day. Sunderland will find themselves back in the mire with another pointless, scoreless game for them.

Swansea 0-2 Newcastle: Newcastle makes it five out of five against a Swansea side without Bony and Michu. The Swans will not have enough firepower required to hurt the Toon.

Fulham 2-2 Tottenham: New manager syndrome at the Cottage, a battling performance from the hosts will catch Spurs by surprise; a massively disappointing result for AVB’s men.

West Brom 1-3 Manchester City: Those little injuries strike again for West Brom, and Manchester City finally begin to kick into some away form.

Manchester United 2-0 Newcastle: Newcastle’s great form comes to an end against Moyes boys, who get a much-needed victory to keep them in the Champions League hunt.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Cardiff: Pulis will be relying on his home form to get Palace out of trouble, and a decent point at home to a fellow promoted side will do them some favours.

Liverpool 3-1 West Ham: The second Anfield win in a week for Liverpool. They’ll cast aside West Ham with relative ease, putting some more pressure on Sam Allardyce.

Southampton 2-1 Manchester City: Just as Manchester City think they’re getting over their away day troubles, Southampton bring their title credentials back to Earth with a stunning performance against the league’s top scorers.

Stoke 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea will also be dropping points this weekend, making it far too difficult for themselves against Stoke. Mark Hughes will take a point against his former side.

West Brom 0-0 Norwich: I find it impossible to separate these two, in some ways they are both as bad as one another. A tepid, bore draw, we might get a red card if we’re lucky.

Sunderland 1-3 Tottenham: A crucial win for Spurs, that unbelievably puts them back in the hunt for Champions League football. More slip-ups at home that Sunderland really cannot afford.

Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa: Rene’s honeymoon period continues, with a massive three points picked up at home. Aston Villa go another game without a win or decent performance.

Arsenal 2-2 Everton: Everton give Arsenal a real test at the Emirates, clinging onto a draw that brings the chasing pack closer to the league leaders.

Swansea 2-1 Hull: Solid win for Swansea; they end up making the score-line look more comfortable than it should have been, though Hull will have been expecting more from this fixture.

Pacitto Predictions – Week Four

Everton 0-1 Liverpool: A scrappy game with at least one red card, I expect Liverpool to just have enough firepower to secure them the three points.

Arsenal 2-2 Southampton: The proverbial game of two halves. Southampton to go out and grab a lead in their dominant first-half, before a stirring Arsenal comeback.

Fulham 2-1 Swansea: Fulham to show their potential, especially in the first-half, a late Swansea fight-back not enough to deny the Cottagers.

Hull 2-0 Crystal Palace: Easy enough for Hull, who will identify this as a vital three points, and grind out a not, particularly pretty victory.

Newcastle 1-0 Norwich: Another game to go past with little incident, but I can’t see the Norwich defence denying Loic Remy.

Stoke 1-1 Sunderland: Stoke’s stuttering home form to let them down again, Poyet’s side will view this as an excellent point at the Britannia.

West Ham 0-2 Chelsea: Zero firepower against a Chelsea side always means you’re in trouble, Allardyce to be found out tactically wanting in this fixture.

Without a recognisable striker, West Ham have relied on Morrison for goals.

Without a recognisable striker, West Ham have relied on Morrison for goals.

Man City 1-1 Tottenham: The big pitch should help Spurs, but Manchester City should have enough to cancel them out. The result neither side needs.

Cardiff 2-2 Man Utd: An end-to-end game that Manchester United will struggle to see out, letting Cardiff equalise more than once.

West Brom 2-3 Aston Villa: A more entertaining derby than the Merseyside one, with a topsy-turvy game ending in a late, late winner for Villa.

Mystic Mawky – Week Four

Everton 1-1 Liverpool: A closely-fought game at Goodison Park with both teams cancelling each other out in the end, Everton are pretty solid at home and despite Liverpool’s recent good form I just can’t pick a winner!

Arsenal 2-1 Southampton: A good game at the Emirates, which will be close but in the end, Arsenals quality will prevail. Southampton will run them close though and give them a game.

Fulham 1-1 Swansea: Fulham will take a point at home against an average Swansea side. An uneventful draw between two team’s struggling for form. Should Fulham lose, I don’t see how Martin Jol can keep his job.

Martin Jol will be praying star striker Berbatov can dig him out of trouble.

Martin Jol will be praying star striker Berbatov can dig him out of trouble.

Hull 2-1 Crystal Palace: Palace’s woes will continue with their trip to the recently crowned UK City of Culture, Hull will comfortably beat them but they will manage a consolation.

Newcastle 3-1 Norwich: Newcastle will take all three points at St. James’ Park against an underperforming Norwich side who could be in serious trouble if they don’t start picking up points from somewhere.

Stoke 1-1 Sunderland: Two struggling sides meet at the Britannia Stadium and as usual with any game involving Stoke, it won’t be pretty. Forgettable 1-1 draw.

West Ham 1-3 Chelsea: Mourinho’s Chelsea team haven’t set the Premier League alight as many expected, and the honeymoon period for Jose’s second spell in charge is most definitely over. Abramovich is a chairman who demands results but Chelsea should get one here, winning comfortably at Upton Park against a West Ham side who are only above the relegation zone on goal difference.

Manchester City 3-1 Tottenham: Two teams who aren’t quite performing to expectations this season. Having said that City’s forward line is formidable and that will be too much for a Spurs side that have been terrible to watch this season.

Cardiff 0-2 Manchester United: United continue their revival with a tricky trip to South Wales, that being said, I think they will have too much for Cardiff and should win reasonably comfortable with two second half goals.

West Brom 0-0 Aston Villa: One of those mid-table games where both teams cancel each other out and it fizzles into a draw. 0-0 snorefest.