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Ten things to look out for this season

With a new campaign upon us and pre-season awash with information, we have provided a handy ten-point plan of what to look out for this term.

Ian Holloway's post-match interviews

In an era when far too many managers hit the 'personality off' switch as soon as a TV camera appears in front of them, Blackpool boss Ian Holloway keeps alive the art of colourful post-match analogies.

Not everybody is fan of his extended metaphors and the man himself has lamented that his approach sometimes means he is not taken seriously by people outside his club.

However, he'll certainly be taken seriously following his club's unexpected ascension to the Premier League, during which he rebuked his side in inimitable style after a 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.

"If you're a burglar, it's no good poncing about outside somebody's house, looking good with your swag bag ready. Just get in there, burgle them and come out," he said before adding: "I don't advocate that obviously, it's just an analogy."

Goal-line controversy

The additional assistant referees that lingered behind the goal and largely went unused and unnoticed in the Europa League last season will mix it with the big boys this year in the UEFA Champions League.

In theory, the extra two officials are there to help the referee make tough decisions involving action in and around the box, but last term their role largely consisted of standing around day-dreaming in places like Zaqatala (it's in Azerbaijan) and then shirking any decision that happened to come their way.

But those days are over. The high-profile refereeing gaffes at this summer's World Cup and the media coverage they attracted means the spotlight will be shining brightly upon their decision/non-decision making and there will be no hiding place in Europe's flagship tournament.

Unfortunately for UEFA's under-employed guinea pigs, the penalty box is where the really crucial decisions are made and it will only be matter of time before the previously unheralded helpers find themselves at the centre of a media storm.

'Arry's new mantra

Every term Harry Redknapp serves up an oft repeated phrase with which to play the card of perennial underdog and he needs a new one for the 2010/11 campaign.

"We had two points from eight games when I took over," is over two season's old and last terms "It's my first full season at the club" is no longer true.

Tottenham's participation in the Champions League this season is sure to provide the basis for 'Arry's new mantra and the favourites at Soccernet Towers involve the phrase "they've spent millions", "bare bones" and "top, top players".

England boo boys

It doesn't take much to become a target for England's boo boys these days but the complete shambles that passed for a World Cup campaign this summer means every member of Fabio Capello's squad can expect to be castigated this term.

There is only one rule to the baiting game: Never boo your own players. This dictum was handily demonstrated during Sunday's Community Shield when the Manchester United faithful revelled in lambasting Chelsea's England trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole and the Blues retorted by abusing Wayne Rooney.

England colleague Rob Green, whose goalkeeping blunder handed USA a 1-1 draw in South Africa, has already prepared for the barrage of abuse he expects to receive by getting his West Ham United colleagues to hurl insults at him in training.

25-man squad confusion

The only thing that's clear about this piece of new legislation from the Premier League is that nobody seems to know what it actually means. It could be "disastrous", to quote Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, for the new season.

The UK press has been awash with stories about club's desperately trying to lay their hands on the eight 'home-grown' players that are the cornerstone of the quota or hastily trimming their squad to meet the numerical limitations.

The panic basically boils down to confusion over the definition of a home-grown player; which is a player who has been registered in England or Wales for three years prior to turning 21. Those players do not have to be English, Arsenal's home-grown contingent are almost all foreign, don't have to have been at the same club for three years, Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge would qualify, and don't still have to be under 21 - United veteran Paul Scholes would qualify.

In addition to this, clubs will be able to supplement their squads with unlimited additional players under the age of 21, irrespective of their home-grown or foreign status. So it would be feasible for a club to name a 25-man squad and then use another 25 players who are under 21.

Not clear? Well you can see where the confusion comes from. We reckon there will be a mis-informed complaint about eligibility by the end of the first weekend's action.

Manchester derby with meaning

It fair to say that big-spending Manchester City have arrived at the party and are annoying the neighbours, even if they haven't run off with any silverware as yet.

Last term, City's double headed clash with Manchester United in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup set pulses races across the City with something other than just bragging rights finally at stake.

Another £80 million-plus spending spree (and counting) this summer prompted manager Roberto Mancini to publicly state his belief that City can challenge for the Premier League title this term and so for the first time in recent memory City's league clashes with United will carry that same weight.

City have traditionally been a laughing stock over at Old Trafford but they are now a source of real concern. The "noisy neighbours" are eager to prove that the power-base can switch from red to blue in Manchester and United won't stand by and let it happen.

Knives come out for Capello

Last term, England manager Fabio Capello was an untouchable and peerless authoritarian whose strict regime kicked England's pampered stars into shape and booked a place at the 2010 World Cup.

But following a hugely disappointing campaign in South Africa Capello's polite relationship with the press is at an end. He can expect the same harsh treatment suffered by Graham 'Turnip' Taylor, Steve 'Wally with the brolly' McLaren and almost all incumbents before him.

Expect any slip-up against Bulgaria, Switzerland, Wales or Montenegro during qualification for Euro 2012 to be greeted with page upon page of criticism and his squad selection to come under increasing scrutiny after a number of perceived managerial errors in South Africa.

In fact, it's already started, with the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter tweeting about the England manager's pre-season get together: Fabio Capello meltdown deepens..."I don't know what to do" about players" minds. That'll go down well with #ENG players.

Hodgson's standing on Merseyside

In keeping star duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at Liverpool for the foreseeable future, new manager Roy Hodgson has already achieved more than many fans expected he would.

And if hated owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks depart on his watch, which seems very likely now that the club are officially up for sale, he'll enjoy instant hero status in the red half of Liverpool. And maybe even boost his chances of returning the club back into the top four with new investment from new owners.

With Manchester City splashing money around, Tottenham distracted by the Champions League and Aston Villa rebuilding in the wake of Martin O'Neill's exit, the race for a place in the top four will be one of the more fascinating battles this season.

If Hodgson can improve Liverpool as much as he improved Fulham, then the Reds might quietly creep into the reckoning.

Don't believe the hype

Every season at least one player hits a streak of form that temporarily elevates him to star status before he fizzles out and sinks back to the anonymity from whence he came.

Remember Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson? He was even compared to City legend Colin Bell when he burst on the scene at Eastlands in 2007 but was last seen outside an unnamed pie shop on Deansgate.

And what of Michael Ricketts? The former Bolton striker, who earned himself an England cap following one particularly hot-streak but quickly sank without trace and is now without a club after leaving Tranmere Rovers.

This season's great new hope will invariably be English and will be quickly dubbed "the answer to England's problem position". Beware and exercise caution before extolling their virtues down the pub.

The Cook report

Manchester City's megalomaniac chief executive Garry Cook may have been temporarily gagged by owner Sheikh Mansour following a season of public gaffes but you just can't keep a good man down.

With City expected to be challenge for honours this season it's going to be particularly hard for the man The Guardian branded "mesmerically ghastly" treats us to another great moment.

Last season he delivered such delights as inducting former City striker Uwe Rosler to the "Manchester United Hall of Fame" and boasting to supporters that City would get to Wembley "not if, but when, we beat United again", before losing their semi-final 4-3 on aggregate.

City's clash with the Premier League's former richest club, Chelsea, at Eastlands on September 25 might be the spark that ignites the Cook powder-keg.

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