Football: NOW Sport's Fearless Predictions

24 May 2001 23:00 GMT

Missing your football fix already? NOW Sport's Andy McKenzie dusts off his crystal ball and sees a busy time ahead.

A Crazy Pre-season

1 July
Aston Villa are first back in training in preparation for an onslaught on the Inter Toto Cup. Manager John Gregory unveils Villa's answer to their scoring problems - a 6ft 3in local lad called Victor Stanley Collymore.

"I discovered him kicking a coke can down the street," Gregory says. "He told me he's had a few problems but he's promised me he'll give the club 110 percent."

5 July
Gregory says he plans to give Collymore a chance to shine on their tour of Scandinavia. "He promised me he's always been a big hit with the Swedes," the manager added.

Ferguson: Big send-off
Ferguson: Big send-off
©Graham Chadwick

12 July
Manchester United are back in training and planning big things in Sir Alex Ferguson's last season with the club.

"We thought a disco with some sausage rolls, and maybe a barbecue if the weather is nice," said chief executive Peter Kenyon, when asked how they'd like to celebrate.

14 July
Juan Pablo Angel hits the post in training.

17 July
The football world is shocked when Sir Alex is sacked as United manager after a surprise defeat in a five-a-side game against commercial partners the New York Yankees.

"We can't tolerate results like this. It's clear Alex's heart just wasn't in it anymore," a club spokesman said.

"We've had serious doubts about his commitment to the club since he turned down our offer to look after the overseas development of the club when he stands down."

"Transporting shirts to Malaysia was not what I had in mind," Ferguson responded.

The news of Fergie's departure, however, is overshadowed by even more astonishing news from Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea announce the signing of the first Englishman in the club's history.

Claudio Ranieri unveils midfielder Muzzy Izzet and declares he would like to fill his side full of home-grown players.

18 July
Things go from bad to worse for managerless United when they are beaten 15-4 in the return leg in New York.

Roy Keane is hit in the face by a curveball from Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens and is ruled out for the season. David Beckham is also out for three months when he comes away with a cut lip in the dugout-clearing brawl which followed Keane's injury.

Angel: Keep it up
Angel: Keep it up
©Ross Kinnaird
19 July
Aston Villa play their first game of the pre-season, drawing 0-0 away to Torquay. Victor Collymore misses the match due to a dentist appointment, while Juan Pablo Angel has a quiet game.

21 July
Newcastle boss Bobby Robson puts in a 15 million (US$21.4 million) bid for Keiron Dyer.

"The lad is a smashing, smashing player," Robson says. "Ken (Keiron) could really improve our side."

A United official then informs Robson that Dyer already plays for Newcastle and the manager is taken away for his afternoon nap.

Strachan: Transfer activity
Strachan: Transfer activity
©Mike Finn-Kelcey
24 July
Coventry manager Gordon Strachan starts his spending as the Sky Blues prepare for their first season without a relegation fight for 34 years.

Strachan brings back crowd favorite Peter Ndlovu from Sheffield United and signs former Newcastle misfit Silvio Maric.

"I've got high expectations for Ndlovu and Maric," says Strachan. "I'm sure they'll go together like a horse and carriage."

25 July
Villa's hopes of a place in the UEFA Cup come to an end when they're knocked out by Portuguese third division giants FC Desperacion. Collymore is again missing, this time with a troublesome fingernail, while Juan Pablo Angel almost gets on the end of a Steve Stone cross.

28 July
The fixtures come out with Premiership new boys Fulham kicking off their campaign against Middlesbrough, managed by Kevin Keegan after his spell at Manchester City ended after only 34 days. Keegan is delighted with drawing his old club, saying: "I'd love it if we beat them, love it."

29 July
A slimline Paul Gascoigne is unveiled as Manchester City's new signing as they attempt to bounce straight back up. "The club is a sleeping giant," says the trim Geordie, who revealed the weight fell off after he cut down to two kebabs a day.

"At this stage of my career, I'm starting to look at my future and the added responsibility the club offered me by becoming their social secretary was a huge bonus."

30 July
After their Inter Toto disaster, Villa are back home with a friendly against Kidderminster. Juan Pablo Angel is just off target with a point-blank header.

1 August
Tottenham assistant manager Eileen Drewery uses her powers of persuasion to convince the FA to hold the FA Cup final before Christmas to avoid end-of-season fixture congestion.

Glenn Hoddle is delighted, prophesizing: "I predict a Tottenham cup win this year. The year does end in a one after all."

2 August
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier is rewarded for the club's treble-winning season by being handed the Freedom of the City. He's given a shopping trolley and two minutes to grab as much as he can.

Davids: Wicked man
Davids: Wicked man
©Stuart Franklin
3 August
Juan Pablo Angel almost gets his name on the scoresheet, but David James prevents an own goal with a smart save.

4 August
Southampton open their new stadium, which includes a revolutionary new surface designed to help the Saints' free-flowing football.

They announce the double swoop of Edgar Davids and Frank De Boer, who were clearly impressed with the new pitch. "One of the main things that attracted me here was the grass," says Davids. "It's wicked, man."

11 August
Manchester United commence the season without a manager or their two best players. Bookmakers predict they will only win the title by 15 points.

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