As the English Premier League prepares to kick off, Mark Spence speaks to former Man United star Andrew Cole about what the new season has in store for football fans.
Andrew Cole knows a thing or two about the beautiful game. He played in the top flight for (deep breath) Arsenal, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Sunderland but it’s his deadly accuracy in front of goal in the red of Manchester United that he’s most fondly remembered for. Indeed, the former England international still holds the record for being the second highest goal-scorer in Premier League history (just behind Alan Shearer) with a staggering 187 goals. Given his pedigree there’s nobody better placed to talk about the upcoming English Premier League season (starting August 17) so we sat the man himself down for a chat during his recent visit to Abu Dhabi for SportsFest.
Who do you see as the main contenders for the Premier League title this year?
I don’t think the Premier League ever really changes, so I expect the usual suspects to be up there trying to win it. We may get a team coming up from the back of the pack like Tottenham but I don’t think this season will be too different to previous seasons.
Do you expect the title race to be more open this year than it has been previously?
I think last season was actually quite open and even the season before that as well when you consider how topsy turvy it all was. Also the top three teams have all changed managers with José Mourinho going back to Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini is at Manchester City now and obviously David Moyes has gone to Manchester United too – so that’s three new guys who are going to try to work their magic to win the Premier League.
How do you think Moyes will get on at Man United? If he isn’t successful right away do you think he will he be given time to get things right?
I think so because he’s been given a six-year contract so that shows just how much time they’re prepared to give him. Following Sir Alex Ferguson is a tough job at the best of times but I think the club will give him time. Moyes did a sterling job at Everton for 11 years so I’d imagine he’ll do a good job at United as well.
Obviously José Mourinho is back at Chelsea as well, but is that a good idea?
Well, Chelsea think so, otherwise they wouldn’t ask him to go back. He’s done a great job wherever he’s gone and I like him. I like his charisma and I like what he brings to football. I think he’ll do a top job at Chelsea again.
Aside from the battle for the title there’s another separate fight for that fourth Champions League spot every year. Who do you fancy to take it this season?
It’s a tough one and I’m not sure who’ll take it this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if a dark horse came from nowhere to take that final spot, and that’s what makes football such a great game.
Who do you think has bought well in the transfer window so far?
At this point it’s only really Man City who have done big business but Chelsea have got a couple of new faces and Manchester United haven’t bought anybody yet. We’ll only really be able to judge when the transfer window closes.
Every year the teams that have been promoted from the Championship tend to be favourites to go straight back down. Who do you think might be relegation contenders?
It’ll always be hard for the promoted teams to stay in the Premier League and it’s difficult for them to buy the right kind of players that fit into their budget. Southampton have done it extremely well and the new boys like Crystal Palace and Hull City are going to find it tough but that’s why those guys have worked so hard to get where they are – they want to play at the highest level.
Last season the top players were the likes of Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie and so on, but who do you think will be the player or players to watch this year?
I think it will be the same guys you’ve already mentioned, because everyone will be looking to see if they can replicate what they did last year. You know, everybody wants to see if Van Persie can hit 30 goals this season. Well I do! Gareth Bale at Tottenham, can he put in the same sort of performances he did last season? What makes a top player a top player is whether or not they can repeat what they do season in and season out.
And moving away from the Premier League for a second, do you believe an English club will succeed in the Champions League this year?
Who knows? Bayern Munich have set the benchmark in the way that they’ve got to the final two years running so I expect them and the other German teams to be very strong again, as will the Spanish teams. But Bayern have set the benchmark again with the players they’ve bought this summer as well.
Andrew Cole was speaking to us on behalf of SportsFest 2013.