By Tom Parker
Leicester City and Manchester City face off on Saturday with the first chance to win silverware in the domestic campaign.
This is the second time Leicester are playing in the Community Shield, having lost 2-1 to Manchester United in 2016 after their improbable Premier League title triumph. This will be Manchester City’s sixth appearance since their wealthy investment takeover, having won three of those.
Manchester City arrive into this fixture on the back of some impressive pre-season form, albeit against much weaker opposition. Having said that, they have played a number of youth players, with senior availability being limited due to the Euros and a COVID outbreak at the start of their campaign.
Riyad Mahrez has been the highlight of the group so far, scoring three goals in three matches and providing some great performances to go along with those. Another standout has been youth prospect Samuel Edozie. The 18-year-old has also scored three in three and has shown great glimpses of potential, potentially staking a claim to be in the first team squad for this match.
The team will also be boosted by the fact the club have completed the £100m signing of England international Jack Grealish, with the Aston Villa captain agreeing a deal until 2026. Whether he is available for the game is still up in the air, although it seems unlikely.
A couple of key absences for City will be goalkeeper Ederson and defender Aymeric Laporte, although some of their first team has returned after short breaks. Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake are the two senior centre backs available.
Meanwhile, Leicester come into this match with a far less convincing record on paper. They have lost to Burton Albion and Wycombe Wanderers, alongside picking up a 3-3 draw with QPR. Patson Daka was able to score what will hopefully be the first of many for his club, but the result was again far from convincing. However, they did battle out a 3-2 win against Europa League winners Villarreal.
The cost of that win was devastating as Wesley Fofana picked a potential season-ending injury after breaking his fibula. Other absences include Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne and James Justin.
The points available for this week are: 40 points for a Leicester City win, 28 points for a draw, and seven points for a win on the blue side of Manchester.
By Sam Ketch
Hull City mark their return to the Championship after only one season away with a trip to Deepdale to face Preston North End.
But City come into the game with mixed form in pre-season. The East Yorkshire side opted to play two different squads on two occasions as they double-booked on July 24 – against Scunthorpe (A) and Mansfield (H) – while they faced Sunderland on July 30 then Manchester United U23s on July 31.
They won the games against Scunthorpe and United’s U23s but lost against Mansfield and Sunderland. Their goals in preseason came through Josh Magennis (two), Andy Cannon, Tom Eaves and ex-Tiger Tom Huddlestone (who was on trial).
The Tigers were led to the title in League One by Grant McCann, and the Northern Irish manager has many of his talismans available to him again this year.
Despite not featuring in preseason as a precaution, Mallik Wilks will be available for the first game. Meanwhile, last year’s ever-present Callum Elder, who played 45 of the 46 League One games, is “touch and go” for the game.
However, George Honeyman (ankle) Tommy Mayer, Sean McLoughlin, and new signing Randell Williams (Covid-19 related) will be unavailable for the game.
North End had a much larger preseason, playing three more games than the Tigers. They won games against Bamber Bridge and Celtic, drew against St Johnstone and Accrington Stanley, while suffering defeats to Bolton, Manchester City and Wigan.
The hosts have an almost fully fit squad, although Izzy Brown and Matthew Olosunde will both be missing.
For North End and Tigers fans looking to make a prediction on the game, the points are interesting. PNE fans, your team are rated better with only 12 points available compared to the 25 points for a Tigers win or the 22 points if the teams take a point apiece home.
By Tom Parker
My name is Tom Parker and I’m delighted to be part of the coverage on Footrace. As the title suggests, I’ll be reporting on my hometown club Wolves during the course of the season.
Some of you may be wondering what drew me to Footrace (or not, either way is fine, I’m not exactly a celebrity in a gossip magazine) and for the most part it was the unique competitive nature of this website. As football fans I think our competitive nature is always present in many aspects of our lives, I’ll be disappointed to lose a simple game of table tennis in all honesty. I also hold a passion for writing in football, and so when the opportunity arose to combine the two, I thought it would be an interesting venture. Doing it in a safe and money-free way is also convenient as I’m not much of an advocate for betting, and this offers a healthy alternative. My aim is of course to try and come out on top with my predictions but if not, then there is always the fact that writing about your love/hate relationship with your club provides enough entertainment.
So why Wolves? Well as boring and as tragic as it sounds, I was born and raised in Wolverhampton – so there was only ever going to be one club I would choose. I was a late bloomer when it came to the sport, only becoming interested in it at age 9 (other friends of mine started when they could walk). I went to a couple of Wolves games with a friend on his birthdays whilst being interested in snooker at the time, but little did I know it would spark my passion for a club and sport that have become a huge part of my life.
I began to follow the side towards the end of the 2010/11 season, where they barely stayed in the Premier League on goal difference. The subsequent seasons of back to back relegations certainly made me question why on earth I brought this much agony into my life, not to mention willingly too. Despite the disappointment and pain, I found myself addicted to football. I learnt everything there was to know about opposition teams and players (alongside Wolves players of course) and tried to watch as many matches as possible. The 7/8 years since have been very much a rollercoaster; having attended many Wolves games in League One, the Championship and the Premier League, I’ve seen the best and worst of Wolves in the modern age of football.
Wolves are never a boring team to follow good or bad, so you can expect a great level of entertainment no matter how well we perform (Wolves twitter always being a soap in itself). I hope you’ll enjoy my coverage of the side this season and I look forward to finishing top of the leaderboards to satisfy my pointless need to win.
By Lauren Whitehead
Huddersfield Town has always been a part of my life, and continues to be very close to my heart. Having been brought up with both my parents supporting the Terriers, I am grateful to have been introduced to a club that has brought me a lot of happy memories. Saying that, I am also not so thankful for the many days that have been ruined when we have failed to find the back of the net or keep the opposition away from the back of ours.
You may have guessed that a stand out moment for me – and, I’m sure, many Town fans alike – was the 2017 play-off final. As predictable as that may be, seeing the club doing so well made a huge difference to being the annual strugglers at the bottom end of the table. Whilst we did not have the fairytale journey we had hoped for, the penalty shootout that got us to the top flight in the first place was as gut-wrenching as they come, and – whilst it did not seem it at the time – made it very much worth it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way and it is something that will undoubtedly stay with me for a very long time. As much as the team has brought me my fair share of upset and frustration, it has also brought me plenty of joy that cannot be overshadowed.
My hometown club was also where my love for football overall began, and has, over time, become much more than just that. It has allowed me to appreciate the sport and those who excel in it; it has given me a topic that I can always fall back on in conversation; and it has both bettered and created friendships. As we all know, football and what it means to people is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Huddersfield may not be a place made for Premier League stars, but it is a town that is very dear to a lot of people and the Terriers play a huge part in this. The Cowshed is certainly at the start and at the heart of many cherished football stories.
Sheffield Wednesday: The team for me
Wednesday 2nd May 2001, from the day I was born there was only ever going to be one Football club for me…
However, I must admit I’ve been slowly falling out of love with Football and my beloved SWFC. Even before the strange return of matches being played behind closed doors, I was questioning whether Football still did it for me. Was it all just a phase that I am now bored of? Is it something to do with the fact all Wednesday’s rivals seem to be flying high whilst we continue to struggle both on and off the pitch?
I took a moment to forget about court cases, points deductions and any other Football club, to remember why I love Sheffield Wednesday.
I’m not one of the kids who was brought up going to games every week. I never really liked football at a young age. My dad is a Wednesday fan but had lost touch with it since I was born and due to my lack of interest we never went to watch Wednesday.
It all started in 2009, when I went on a school trip to Bramall Lane (home of Sheffield United, Wednesday’s rivals). I don’t remember much about the trip but all I know is Dad wasn’t impressed when his eight-year-old son came home with a red and white shirt. The next Saturday he took me to Hillsborough to Watch Wednesday.
Now you’re probably expecting a fairy-tale story about how Wednesday won a great game of football with a last minute winner in front of the Kop…
Well that’s not quite how it went. Firstly, we got stuck in traffic on the way to the game. We then got stuck in a queue at the ticket office. By the time we got into the ground and to our seats the game was already 25 minutes in and Wednesday were 1–0 down. We made it just in time for the visitors, West Bromwich Albion’s, second goal and before we knew it Wednesday were 3–0 behind at half time. The game finished 4–0, yet for some strange reason I wanted to go again next week.
The next 3 games we went to were all defeats with Wednesday not scoring a single goal in those games. It wasn’t until my 5th match in which Wednesday finally scored and won! Albeit against Peterborough who were bottom of the league, but still Wednesday actually won. Marcus Tudgay scored two goals in a 2–1 win and instantly became my favourite player ever! I remember singing ‘Ole ole ole ole Tudgay’ in the car all the way home.
Maybe this was where the fairy tale began? Is this where I really fell in love with Sheffield Wednesday as they begin to win games and climb the table? Wrong again.
Sunday 2nd May 2010: Sheffield Wednesday relegated from the Championship. Now the more eagle-eyed readers will notice this date has come up already. That’s right it was my birthday, Wednesday were relegated on my 9th Birthday.
An exciting game at a sold-out Hillsborough saw Wednesday face Crystal Palace in a season deciding finale. Wednesday positioned 22nd in the league table meant they occupied the last relegation spot. Palace were placed directly above Wednesday in 21st. A win for the Owls would see them leap frog Palace and secure safety. Anything less and the visitors were safe. An exciting, intense game finished 2–2 meaning Wednesday were relegated.
It’s funny what you remember. When Leon Clarke scored to make it 1–1 in the first half I remember the explosion of noise around the ground. I remember everyone’s bewilderment when Clarke then had to be stretchered off after kicking an advertisement board during his celebrations and breaking his toe. I remember the awful gut-wrenching feeling, seeing the net at the other end of the pitch bulge and thousands of away fans going mental, whilst 3 stands of the ground sat in despair. I remember seeing Darren Purse poke one in from close range late on to give Wednesday a glimmer of hope. I remember every single one of the 37 thousand crowd stood on their feet for the final ten minutes, hoping and praying for the goal that would keep Wednesday in the league. I remember Wednesday winning a corner with seconds remaining only for the referee to blow the final whistle and end the game before we had chance to take it. I remember players slumped on the floor as fans from both sides swarmed onto the pitch to vent their frustrations.
In a strange way I think it was that game of football that made me fall in love. Even though it didn’t go my way, that feeling when we scored, the adrenaline rush throughout the game, the immense noise from the stands, the inevitable disappointment. It all gave me a perfect taste of football, a taste of Sheffield Wednesday.
The following season Wednesday recorded their lowest ever finish in the English Football League occupying 16th place in League One. In the same season city rivals Sheffield United finished second bottom in the Championship meaning they would join Wednesday in League One, every cloud…
And thus began the clash of the titans, Wednesday Vs United, arguably the two biggest clubs in the division set for a season long battle for promotion. Charlton Athletic pretty much ran away with the 2011/12 League One title, with United holding the second place promotion spot for most of the season. At one point they even had a number of games in hand on Wednesday whilst also having the better points tally. But there was something about the Wednesday team that season. We didn’t play the most attractive football by any means, but we had a grit and team spirit which ultimately got us over the line.
Like I said it’s funny the small details you remember. I remember the bloke sat behind us counting up every single fan in the away end when Yeovil came to Hillsborough on a cold Tuesday night. Not being able to feel my toes when we played Blackpool in an FA cup replay, on an even colder night. Having missed out on the chance to go to both Steel City Derbies (Wednesday Vs United) I can picture exactly where I was stood when listening to the Radio commentary for every Wednesday goal; jumping on the settee when we equalised in stoppage time at Bramall Lane, running up and down the stairs when Chris O’Grady scored the winner at Hillsborough.
And how about this one for a boast; after winning VIP seats for Wednesday’s game against Hartlepool United, we met Owls legend David Hirst who stated that I should win an award for being the ‘best dressed’.
I will never forget the Carlisle game, crucial in Wednesday’s promotion. It was the turning point. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but we had to win in order to have the advantage over United in the promotion run in, with very few games left to be played. Deep into stoppage time and the scores were level, I can see it now clear as day. Michail Antonio getting the ball on the corner of the box in front of the Kop, cuts inside and thumps it into the far top corner! I hadn’t a moment to think before my Dad picked me up and started throwing me into the air. Think it’s safe to say that won’t be happening anytime soon…
And then there was Wycombe at home, final day of the season. We had done it, promotion was all but confirmed. It was in our hands, a win against relegated Wycombe saw us finish above United and be promoted whilst they would have to compete in the Playoffs. And that’s exactly what happened. 2–0, never in doubt, Wednesday were up. And to complete possibly the best weekend of my 11-year-old life, the following day we had been invited to attend the Sheffield Wednesday Player of the year awards.
I can’t think of anything in the world more exciting for a young football mad boy than spending an evening with his heroes, a day after being promoted. My love for football and Wednesday had peaked.
For the next couple of years I massively took for granted our superiority over United. Whilst we enjoyed Championship football they struggled to even make the League One Playoffs. The city was ours.
In 2015, Mr Dejphon Chansiri took over ownership of Wednesday and promised the fans Premier League football in the next few years. Unfortunately now in 2020 we know things didn’t quite go to plan, but I’m not here to discuss the failures, I’m here to remember the good times.
After a summer of change, The Owls made a promising start to the 2015/16 season thanks to new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s exciting style of play. There was a real air of optimism around when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal visited Hillsborough in a League Cup 3rd round tie. There was genuine belief Wednesday could get a result but even the most optimistic supporter could not have predicted this one.
Championship Sheffield Wednesday completely out-played Premier League Arsenal. Granted it maybe wasn’t the strongest Arsenal side, but it was still ARSENAL. When Ross Wallace finished a brilliant move to put us 1–0 up I couldn’t believe it. Then when Lucas Joao headed a second before half time I began to pinch myself. And when Sam Hutchinson got a third I don’t even think I properly celebrated. Me, Dad and my Uncle Dave all just stood staring at each other, we couldn’t believe what was going on. That was the night that gave me genuine hope that my Sheffield Wednesday could be in the Premier League next season.
Carlos Carvalhal took Wednesday to 6th that season meaning a chance at promotion via the Playoffs. Friday 13th May 2016, Brighton at home, Playoff first leg. The only thing unlucky about that night was where we were sat. I love Hillsborough with all my heart. It is a unique, historic, beautiful football arena. From the crummy old scoreboard (which was sadly replaced), to the random block of seats next to the Kop referred to as ‘the crows nest’, it gives me goosebumps everytime I walk into the place. However, there is one small detail about Hillsborough which can be an annoyance. In both the Leppings Lane End and the Kop there is a number of great big pillars. And if you get stuck behind one of those badboys it can mean missing a large chunk of the action. Thankfully for the Brighton game we weren’t directly behind one of the pillars but it was just our luck that when Ross Wallace cut inside and struck the ball, our view was blocked… All I saw was the ball zip past the Brighton Keeper and into the bottom corner. Again isn’t it funny how I can still perfectly envision seeing a goal from over 4 years ago. It’s also funny how the moment that ball hit the back of the net, I didn’t care about a pillar, I didn’t care about anything in that moment. All I cared about was Ross Wallace and his beautiful left foot. Actually, that’s a lie as I couldn’t even see which foot he had struck the ball with…
Kieren Lee made it 2–0 in the second half and my little life peaked. No team had ever come back from a two goal deficit after a playoff first leg. Wednesday had one foot on Wembley way.
My Dad was in a meeting the night we played Brighton in the 2nd leg. I was sat on the edge of my seat all game texting him minute by minute updates. The first twenty minutes read something like this; Brighton shot well saved by westwood, Brighton shot just wide, Brighton free kick in dangerous position, Brighton shot well saved…
Lewis Dunk scored on the 19th minute and with the way the game was going it looked as though the dream could soon be over. But, there’s a reason why I have a picture of Ross Wallace next to my bed that I kiss goodnight every evening (That’s a joke, it’s actually Carlos Carvalhal). Nine minutes after Brighton’s goal, and thankfully there’s no pillars in our living room to block my view of this one, Wallace shaped up to put a cross into the box, the ball goes over everyone’s head, curls past the Keeper… AND IN! Wednesday had their two goal advantage back and in classic Jude style I go sprinting up and down the stairs in pure excitement. And that did it, no more goals, we were on our way to Wembley for a place in the Premier League.
I have grown up watching Match of The Day every Saturday night. In my lifetime Wednesday have never been in the Premier League, I have never seen us compete with the very best. It is my dream more than anything that maybe one day I may get to see my club in the Premier League. Whether that ever happens I don’t know, what I do know is that if it did ever happen I would most likely cry like a baby.
Sadly, it was not to be for us at Wembley. I woke up feeling like it was Christmas, full of excitement. The day itself was brilliant. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I think of the sea of blue and white across Wembley and the absolute racket the Wednesday fans made throughout the game. The team just didn’t turn up and were completely dominated by a very good Hull side. Nonetheless, there was still a great amount of pride to be had from our season. We were 90 minutes away from the Premier League…
Ever since it has just seemed to be downhill for Wednesday, with the Premier League dream slipping further and further away season by season. But one thing is for sure; I will always love Sheffield Wednesday. My club. Nothing will ever take away the good moments we’ve had. Nothing will beat that match day excitement. No moments in time will ever be filled with more delight than celebrating a late goal. And as we know ourselves things in Football can change very quickly. The good days will return, until then we must remember who we are, and keep believing.
Thank you for reading.
When football returned after the lockdown, I was very glad. The three month wait with no football to occupy my football dominated mind was, not surprisingly, very tough.
However, even though I knew this, I did not realise its impact until it was back on my television screen. The main caveat of course is that we were all resigned to our television screens, but even still, seeing 22 men once again kick a ball on grass meant the world.
The beautiful thing about football, you see, is it’s more than what happens on the pitch. A cliche I know, but it is true. It’s the pre-match routine before walking to the stadium. It’s the bellow of the programme seller - three quid don’t you know. It’s the smell of pies in the air. It's football.
This football shaped inferno started burning in me from a young age, one of my earliest memories being a seven year old Lewis copying the football table from ‘Teletext’ and into a notebook. Another memory includes watching the football highlights, and sometimes being allowed to stay up to watch them.
Living in Sheffield from an early age suggested I must have supported either Sheffield United or Sheffield Wednesday. No. Despite living in Sheffield, I was born in Barnsley and they are the team I support. My Dad supports Barnsley and my Grandad supports Barnsley. Barnsley are my team.
Tell someone who isn’t from Barnsley that you’re from Barnsley and they will all say the same thing: ‘BAAAAAAAARNSLEY?!’. I’m used to it by now. The violins would be great here.
My Barnsley journey began early on, going to matches sporadically. I loved the feeling matchday gave me, the anticipation, the nerves, and the excitement. Buying a programme, looking at the opposition team on the back. Walking up the stairs, where the blast of fresh air hits you and chants from either end. When you’re small, a football stadium is just awe-inspiring.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all amazing and inspiring. There’s often been mid-table mediocrity, bad signings, bad decisions and relegation. A low point for me was the relegation to League One in the 2017-18 season after a 4-0 loss to Derby County on the final day. A team that was a mish-mash of players who were inexperienced under a manager who offered no promise.
However, one thing you must know about Barnsley is, we never do things the easy way. See the 2019/20 season. In a Covid interrupted season, at the restart the Reds were bottom of the league. Cut to the last minute of the season, where as it stood Barnsley were being relegated, but Austrian striker Patrick Schmidt squared the ball for Clarke Oduor who poked home and delirium occurred for everyone connected with the Reds.
This is just one of numerous nerve jangling, roller-coaster, fingernail biting inducing moments in the history of Barnsley FC. With Footrace, I hope to cover many more.
By Lewis Robinson
By Sam Ketch
I spent my formative years – do they exist when you’re 21? I don’t think so but for this narrative, they do – dreaming of being a football writer. Travelling the world, watching the biggest games, interviewing the best players and doing what I love: writing. The desire to do this started in primary school, me and my best friend at the time were such football fanatics that we’d created this separate reality – Football Manager or FIFA but done by kids – and our teacher asked us to do match programmes for these fake matches. That really was when the dream started, hammered home by the big book of everything on USA ‘94 that our American teacher gave us (I don’t know where it is now).
Just so that you don’t think I’m crazy: I know Footrace is probably not that opportunity right now, however getting in on the ground level is the best way to try and achieve those dreams one day here.
When Rob asked me about helping with Footrace, I was instantly interested. A free opportunity to try my hand at professional football writing? Yes please. The opportunity to be editor-in-chief? Double down on that Yes please, while also politely acknowledging that EiC is a very pretentious way of saying ‘guy posting other people’s work’.
We have had plenty of discussions over the last few months but until today, as I write this ahead of our launch, it has all felt, well, imaginary. It’s been tough to visualise what Footrace would look like. As I look at the site for the first time since it was finished and became public... This is great.
Yet today, as you read this anyway, is the day. The dive into the cold water. The step onto pastures new. The day Footrace begins while preparation for the new season is coming to an end with the season just under a week away.
So, anyway, why me? Why run the written side of Footrace? What will I bring to the table? Well, let me see what I can say to sell myself...
I’m a Hull City fan, what a ride that has been the last few years. Anyway, I’ll chip in every now and then on that front, but my interest is far more in the football news, business and all things related to gambling in football.
My decision to be editor-in-chief of Footrace is because, while I’ll be writing as much as possible to interest our audience, I want to make sure things go smoothly. Committing all my time to smooth operations, rather than juggling smooth operations and great content, is going to help the site from day one.
In this role I hope that I’ll be able to find your club’s next best journalist, because that’s the plan for the people on this site. The writer for Arsenal won’t be David Ornstein, it’ll be an Arsenal fan or two wanting to make a go of a journalism career. That way your news isn’t watered down, it’s authentic fan voices in a professionally written manner.
My vision for Footrace is The Athletic meets Mundial meets the old BBC Sport predictions section on their website. In my opinion... it’s going to be really, really cool.