I’ve frequently experienced the trials and tribulations of being a lower-league football fan, yet around Christmas time, I still feel sorrier for top-level supporters. While I’ll still get the same level of festive abuse from friends for my team’s fortunes (or lack thereof), I expect it – and my side will still plough on regardless and avoid any real press.

 

Sadly, followers of Premier League squads and the England national side are faced with – and readily embrace – the same old boring stories and predictable developments, which are only further exacerbated by the dearth of “real” news over the festive break. The classic angles still pop up: criticisms of too many games being played over Christmas; lists of teams that need to “turn around” their season after not hitting a pre-determined points total before Santa descends upon the nation; and, of course, the time-honoured rumour mill jumping aboard management problems at all levels.

 

Given that my beloved League Two-based Hartlepool United play with a low wage bill at a council-owned ground and in front of a fanbase happy with a top-half finish, there’s not much to worry about at home – that’s why I’ll instead turn my attentions to five of the biggest stories that will inevitably drag out over Christmas and beyond, giving predictions for each outcome along the way. Hopefully, it’ll save you the bother of looking at the news, so you can focus on the most important thing – the games themselves.

 

Problem #1: The Hull Tigers debacle

To fill you in, if it’s passed you by: after Assem Allam took over Hull City AFC in 2010, the Egyptian businessman committed well over £40 million to put the club back into the Premier League – and succeeded. However, in order to market them, he also decided to apply for a name change to Hull City Tigers, resulting in the sorry outcome that Hull would relinquish their status as the only club in the Football League where you can’t shade in any of the letters in the name.

 

The name change evoked a mix of emotions, which continue to make the local press in recent days; these range from a desire to honour old traditions to the usual smattering of anti-American sentiments last seen with the Glazers at Manchester United, which resulted in a brand new club and retro-style green and yellow scarves in the stands. Allam does not care – it’s what he wants, and he’s not backing down.

 

Predicted outcome: Allam’s wishes will come true. People around the country already call them just “Hull” anyway, and the Tigers have always been the nickname. Fans will nonetheless produce their own merchandise and staunchly wear their old shirts, flying flags in the stands in a move reminiscent of Cardiff fans after their colour change from blue to red ahead of last season. They’ll get bored eventually. Speaking of Cardiff…

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Problem #2: Cardiff City, Malky Mackay and Vincent Tan

To recap: Vincent Tan, another overseas business mogul, bought Cardiff. He immediately rebranded the club, changing the team’s colours – after 102 years of blue – to red. The crest changed too, though the nickname ironically remained the Bluebirds – and a solitary bluebird was dropped in at the bottom of the badge.

 

Cardiff were promoted after their most successful league campaign ever, bolstered by Tan’s investment and guided by the excellent Malky Mackay. Tan became more involved, to the point of allegedly recommending Mackay demand more long shots after Mark Hudson’s 68-yard goal against Derby. When Mackay said he wanted more players in the January window after an average run of results, Tan was blunt: quit, or be sacked.

 

Predicted outcome: Mackay will be sacked soon and get a nice pay-off, then probably join a mid-table team next year. Cardiff will likely stay up, and continue to be marketed cleverly to the Malaysian market, but will likely go the same way as Blackburn and QPR’s big-budget owners’ short-sighted expectations in a couple of seasons’ time. Premier League fans outside of Cardiff won’t really care.

 

Problem #3: Greg Dyke’s cut-throat gesture

Chairman of the FA Greg Dyke, upon the announcement that England had Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the World Cup, turned to a colleague and laughingly made a “cut-throat” gesture. His reaction echoed that of the press, commentators and football fans alike, but that didn’t stop him drawing the ire of certain publications – notably those with an anti-BBC slant, such as the Daily Mail, because of his background as director-general of the Beeb.

 

He has been chased for comment ever since, eventually addressing his response in an informal interview this week where he said – unsurprisingly – that it was a joke. For some, however, that wasn’t enough.

 

Predicted outcome: It will be forgotten about until England get a surprise win against Italy and the press do an about-face with his gesture making a front page. Then England will get smashed by Uruguay and Costa Rica, and then it’ll be forgotten again. Even if England get through, you only have to look at the other teams in the mix. Quarters and out at best.

 

Problem #4: RIP AVB (and THFC)

After losing 6-0 at Manchester City and 5-0 at home to Liverpool, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy had had enough – Andre Villas-Boas had to go, despite having the highest win percentage of any manager since 1899. Now, even Glenn Hoddle has thrown his hat into the ring to “express an interest” in the job.

 

Predicted outcome: Tim Sherwood will take them through Christmas and probably to the summer, when Spurs will probably scrape a Europa League place from a fading Everton squad. Why change team habits now?

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Problem #5: Brendan Rodgers’ plan to build around Suarez

Fans have registered worries over Brendan Rodgers’ plan to build Liverpool around the free-scoring, player-biting, racism-baiting and ultimately brilliant Uruguayan forward, who has just landed himself a club record weekly fee of £200,000 from next year.

 

Predicted outcome: Most of us knew he was doing that anyway, and it’s working, so no change there. It won’t stop Suarez being linked to Real Madrid, though.

 

So there you go: five things you don’t have to worry about listening to this Christmas. Five stories so dull and so excruciatingly drawn out that it’s making my own seasonal football calendar look stellar – then again, with back-to-back away games at behemoths Chesterfield and Morecambe, as well as a New Year’s Day clash at home to the juggernauts of Bury, who wouldn’t be jealous?

 

Matt Gardner is a long suffering Hartlepool United fan