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Rae's say: Unpredictable

One of the many refreshing things about football is that the so-called experts frequently get it wrong.

The fact is, the fruit salesman on a street corner in the East End of London with a West Ham scarf around his neck has as much chance of making a correct prediction as a television pundit or even a top-level manager.

If football soothsaying were related to football knowledge, then Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger would doubtless be regular recipients of the considerable weekly cash pay-out from the pools coupon compilers.

Instead, the pot of money is far more likely to go to Doris, a retired grandmother from Morecambe who chooses her score draws based on the same lucky numbers every time.

Forecasting the outcome of anything, let alone a football match is a mug's game. I remember watching the noble Lord Oaksey's racing tips on ITV's World of Sport back in the seventies and wondering if he ever actually managed to pick a winner. Eventually, everything was reduced to a 'good each way bet.' Sometimes, hedging is the only way!

I now know what the poor old chap was going through. A few of my own predictions over the course of recent months have missed by several furlongs!

Paul Sturrock seemed to me to be the perfect man for the Southampton job but we all know how long that marriage lasted. I fancied Arsenal to beat Chelsea in the Champions League and then Chelsea to defeat Monaco. Wrong on both counts there! France would go on to erase the painful memories of Korea 02 by winning Euro 2004, as I saw it. In self-defence, I wasn't the only one!

In football as in life, timing is everything. Why is it that praise for a particular team in this column on a Friday is often a portent of bad things to come?

Last week, I waxed lyrical about the dazzling qualities of the Barcelona players, who clearly let it go to their heads a couple of days later, losing their first league match of the season, away to Betis in Seville.

Aberdeen, the team of my youth, repaid this column's faith in them by following a cracking 3-2 victory at Celtic Park with a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing at Rangers.

Then there were the Super Eagles. Enthused by their sparkling play at the Unity Cup in London during the summer, I penned a piece, arguing that there was much cause for optimism with the World Cup qualifying campaign about to begin. Everything was going smoothly until Nigeria lost to Angola, prompting a flood of mail from Lagos, accusing this commentator of having inadvertently put a curse on the entire team. I was kindly instructed to keep quiet about the Super Eagles henceforth, as I evidently didn't have their interests at heart.

In response, I must point out that if I did have the power to influence football results, Aberdeen wouldn't have gone twelve years without a win at Ibrox and Scotland would qualify for every major international tournament as group winners. While we're at it, Uri Geller certainly wouldn't have got away with empowering the ball to move, a fraction of a second before Gary McAllister's ill-fated penalty against England at Euro 96.

At the start of this season, I made but two predictions and both involved the two big London clubs. Chelsea, I reasoned would win the Premiership. Having come close last time around and with a superior squad in place this term, a master tactician at the helm and still more silly money available, the notion that it was Chelsea's turn seemed a reasonable one.

Arsenal, I reckoned, would be there until the very end but their emphasis would surely be placed on that elusive Champions League crown. Having won two of the last three Premier League titles, while under-performing in Europe, it was reasonable to assume that proving themselves on a wider stage represented the main priority.

At the start of this season, I made but two predictions and both involved the two big London clubs. Chelsea, I reasoned would win the Premiership.
So, how are we doing so far? The older the season gets, the more it looks as though Chelsea have the capacity to win England's top division for only the second time in their history and for the first time since 1955. The London derby at Highbury in the middle of December will tell us a lot.

As for Arsenal, I don't think anyone can claim to have found their UEFA Champions League displays dazzling so far but it's still early. Next week's match in Eindhoven looms as their most important test of the campaign to date. Defeat is simply unthinkable.

Suffice to say, at this stage, I have a little bit more confidence in my Chelsea selection than that of Arsenal.

Oh and in case, Chelsea fans are reading this prognostication with trepidation, Doris in Morecambe says she backs me all the way.

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