Month: December 2016

Premier League Prediction – Week 18 Part 1

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Here we are at last the end of the year is nigh. What better way to close 2016 than with a round of Premier League matches. Regarding the year in football I will probably review that early next year. For the time being let’s briefly recall the festive round of games and see how the results matched up to my predictions.

The scoring system for the games is as ever three points for a correct scoreline, just the one point for the right outcome and zero points for getting it all wrong.

Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 1-1)

Arsenal 3-1 West Brom (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Burnley 1-1 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-0)

Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 3-0)

Leicester City 2-1 Everton (0 points – actual score 0-2)

Man Utd 3-0 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 3-1)

Swansea 1-2 West Ham (1 point – actual score 0-4)

Hull City 0-3 Man City (3 points)

Liverpool 3-1 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 4-1)

Southampton 1-2 Tottenham (1 point – actual score 1-4)

7 out of 10 correct outcomes again and 9 points again. It’s like Groundhog Day all over again. Not complaining though, it’s a good record overall and a decent standard from which to work. Two goals overall was the difference between the current score and 14 points with two spot on scores, but I won’t be bitter. 

Now let us consider the next round of games that sees the end of the year and the start of brand new one. I know that there are another round of games scheduled to start just the day after this round finishes, but there will be a set of predictions for that too.

Hull City 0-2 Everton

Burnley 2-1 Sunderland

Chelsea 4-0 Stoke City

Leicester City 1-1 West Ham

Man Utd 3-0 Middlesbrough

Southampton 1-1 West Brom

Swansea 1-2 Bournemouth

Liverpool 3-2 Man City

Watford 0-2 Tottenham

Arsenal 3-1 Crystal Palace

Yeah things will be different for all clubs concerned, some will have matches soon after this one too. Yet I am confident that I will do well on these occasions and possibly break into double figures territory. As ever, however …

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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Fences – Movie Review by Chris Stuckmann 

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I am posting this not because I have seen the film. I am posting this because over 2016 Stuckmann has been one of my favourite reviewers. I take his views seriously and enjoy how he shares his perspective. He is definitely someone I recommend for movie reviews. 

I might even give the film a check. Enjoy. 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Premier League Prediction – Week 17

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Although it has been barely an entire week, it feels a lot longer. Yet that wait for action is about to be sated with a flurry of games as the year reaches its conclusion. This also means the half way point of the league campaign is almost upon us! 

Before we get intrigued at that prospect and consider the next set of fixtures, let’s see how I fared in predicting the last round of games. The points system is very much like how it works in the league. Three points for a win – a spot on prediction. One point for a draw – right outcome, wrong score. Zero points for a defeat – getting it all wrong. 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 0-1) 

Middlesbrough 2-1 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-0)

Stoke City 2-2 Leicester (3 points) 

Sunderland 1-1 Watford (0 points – actual score 1-0)

West Ham 2-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 1-0)

West Brom 1-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score 0-2) 

Bournemouth 1-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 1-3)

Man City 2-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 2-1)

Tottenham 3-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 2-1)

Everton 2-3 Liverpool (1 point – actual score 0-1)

Hmmmmmmm … Nine points. Not as good as the last time out, but a fairly decent collection of points. In terms of correct outcomes, getting 70% rate is very good. I can live with that return on a regular basis and then just work on a few more correct scores to boost the points tally. 

It’s with some optimism that I approach this round of fixtures. 

Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace 

Arsenal 3-1 West Brom 

Burnley 1-1 Middlesbrough 

Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth 

Leicester City 2-1 Everton 

Man Utd 3-0 Sunderland 

Swansea 1-2 West Ham 

Hull City 0-3 Man City 

Liverpool 3-1 Stoke City 

Southampton 1-2 Tottenham 

The fun in these games is seeing how managers approach it knowing the schedule they face. Will I improve on the nine points of the last time out? I remain confident, but as ever in these matters … 

Let’s see how it goes. 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Another Word About Arsenal 

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The video highlights how Arsenal fans are losing their minds again after the latest two defeats. Some suggest that the Gooners are too fragile and contribute to a ‘toxic’ atmosphere at the Emirates. Their situation, if it is toxic, is purely down to the board’s satisfaction with their manager being satisfied with finishing in the top four

I enjoy following top flight football fairly closely. That means I have had some interest in the meteoric rise of Chelsea over the last 15 years and the similarly dramatic transformation of Man City’s fortunes in the last six years.

Yet no other club has intrigued me like Arsenal. .

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Arsenal to put in a credible title challenge. I don’t think it’s unreasonable with their resources for them to have had a credible stab at the Champions League at least once in the last ten years.

As it is, however, they have failed miserably on both reasonable expectations.Yet they have been told they should be grateful to still have such a great manager who allows them to persistently underachieve.

Say what you like about United but they were right to sack Moyes and they were right to sack LvG.

Say what you like about Chelsea but they were justified by the trophies they have won to replace the managers when they did. If they win the league again this season it will justify their decision to change and further damn Arsenal’s intransigence.

Comments about being careful what you wish for with regards to sacking such a ‘successful’ manager actually get worse the longer you keep the guy who really is a specialist in failure. It will take any new guy at least two seasons to wash out the Wenger Way from the club. He will have to do that whilst dealing with a significant faction of the fan base who only know Wenger. Any alteration to the Wenger way will be met with suspicion even if they win the main trophies. Indeed God have mercy on their soul should they fail to win.

This is why a healthy space of time for a manager at a club really shouldn’t go longer than seven years. Any longer and you run the risk of ruining the club as United are still smarting from. 

Arsenal will be worse, though. And the board will have no one else to blame other than themselves.

There endeth my Arsenal spiel for the time being.

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Premier League Prediction – Week 16 Part 2

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There are phrases I particularly get tickled by. One of them is, the games are coming in thick and fast. That phrase. Just hilarious. As though the number of games are like a blizzard. They are not like a blizzard at all. Though their plenteous nature is truly welcomed by someone who enjoys his Premier League football like my good self.

Before tuck into the feast of further football that awaits let us look at the games that have just been played this week and see how I did with the old prediction business. The system works in a simple way just like the league itself: three points for a win which is understood as a correct scoreline; one point for missing the scoreline but getting the outcome correct; then absolutely nothing for getting the whole shabungle wrong.

Bournemouth 2-2 Leicester City (0 points – actual score 1-0)

Everton 1-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 2-1)

Middlesbrough 1-2 Liverpool (1 point – actual score 0-3)

Sunderland 0-3 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 0-1)

West Ham 2-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Crystal Palace 1-2 Man Utd (3 points)

Man City 3-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 2-0)

Stoke City 1-1 Southampton (1 point – actual score 0-0)

Tottenham 2-0 Hull City (1 point – actual score 3-0)

West Brom 2-0 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-1)

Ten points in total. That’s very good and an improvement on recent weeks. But check this out in terms of percentage – 80%!!! 8 out of ten game outcomes were correctly predicted. That’s got to be an all time record on this prediction business. Yeah, it was great getting a correct scoreline in all that, but the sheer number of games with the correct outcomes was something I was particularly pleased with. That’s a good week’s work right there. The goal is to get more than 50% so to exceed that and get tantalisingly close to the full set was very good indeed, even if I do say so myself.

As the jolly season closes in and teams adjust to the rigours of the games coming in so quickly, will that affect predictions for the following set of fixtures? Will I be able to get equal or even better the performance of late? With that in mind, let’s consider this weekend’s fixtures.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Chelsea: Would it be harsh to sack Pardew this Christmas for failing to get enough points on the board over this run of games? I watch Palace play and see a side that does genuinely fight for each other and fight for the team. Yet for all their effort, they still come across as a side that is playing as less than the sum of its parts. How can a team like Palace be looking at Bournemouth and Watford above them? How does that work? Nevertheless that’s the position they are in. Noble though their defeat was to United in their last game, it was still a defeat and one that took place at home. Now they face Chelsea! Approaching this game as though they don’t have a chance won’t help them at all. It would be understandable for them to think that way though. Just consider their opponents. Ten wins in ten consecutive league games. Six points clear at the top of the table. They do not look like letting up. They can take on the defensive approach of Sunderland away from home without a key player and still emerge with the three points. Their system is working smoothly, they are not hassled by not scoring early. Players like Pedro and Fabregas who were initially considered out of favour can come into the team and make an impact. They are where they are because they deserve it and there’s little to suggest Palace can do much to change that. So would it be harsh to sack Pardew with that run of form?

Middlesbrough 2-1 Swansea: It’s a funny old game. Boro can’t be said to be having a bad season, as such. Yet here they are entering the game just three points ahead of their opponents who have been having a pretty torrid time in the league of late. Even if Swansea won, however, it wouldn’t put them above their opponents because of the degree of the goal difference and there is no way the Swans have it in them to be scoring a hatful of goals with little response. Having said that Boro don’t exactly have goals in them either. The onus is on Swansea though to get something from this match, preferably all three points. If things don’t go their way and they leave the Riverside with empty hands it will leave them with potentially a six point gap to safety. More disturbingly, it would leave them with another run of form that does not bode well for their chances of survival. There is something about the Welsh side, though, that gives the impression that they don’t have it in them to pull off an away win. They just don’t seem to be cohesive enough this season. Their team seems bereft of ideas when it matters most and that could prove to be their downfall. Karanka, however, cannot afford to take this game for granted. Their team has to be on it and they certainly have to raise their level of play from their last home outing where their defeat to Liverpool wasn’t too clever.

Stoke City 2-2 Leicester City: One minute they’re thrashing Manchester City the next minute they’re being humbled at Bournemouth. The Bournemouth result has been more reflective of the season the Premier League Champions. It makes it all the more of a fluke that they beat Man City the way they did. That result seems like a blip in a season of disappointing results and performances in the league. The questions remain: is this about players having a lacklustre  reaction to winning the league? Is it the case that others have sussed out their style? Are the players complacent? Has the manager run out of ideas? Whatever the issue, Leicester city are now four points above the drop zone, they are not safe by any means. They need to get into the habit of winning games pretty quickly. Stoke City, in the meantime, are having some difficulty. They did well to get a draw against Southampton having played with ten men for a significant part of the game. That does not help them, however, having lost their previous match. They could do with a win just to get their season back on a more even keel. Yet their team have not been convincing as an attacking force. They need to get their stuff in order where scoring is concerned, but it’s difficult to see where that will happen. They could take advantage of their opponents being off form, but similarly they would have to raise their game to do that.

Sunderland 1-1 Watford: Hmmmmmm … Sunderland. Bottom of the table. Four points away from safety. Three losses in their last four games. That’s not good. Their saving grace is that they are around teams who are similarly scrapping with degrees of poor results. They face Watford and they are at home. They can win this game. In Defoe they have a striker who still knows where the goal is. David Moyes has Premier League pedigree, he knows how to get a team organised. He is not that bad a manager. Yet with stories coming out of the Stadium of Light that there won’t be that much in the way of funds to strengthen the squad in the January window, this is not a good time to be a Mackem. Watford, however, do not have a good record away from home. For whatever reason, their players tend to struggle. Sure they could see this game as a chance to get some points on the board and to win the game. They have a team cohesion that Sunderland would love to have. They have a manager who has hit the ground running where getting used to the league is concerned. This game, however, will be a fight. This will not be a game for the purists and can Watford scrap sufficiently to get those points on the board. It will be tough, that is for sure. In it all, there seems to be more likely a draw.

West Ham 2-1 Hull City: Hooray, West Ham not only win a game of football, they win a game of football at their home ground! Are they playing well? Nope. Are they anything like the team of last season? Nope. Are they going to get relegated? Nope. There are worse teams like them in this league this season. Their standards would really have to drop low for them to play in the Championship next season. They are now unbeaten in two games, they have the momentum of a win behind them. Beating Burnley was something and now they face a side who are worse than Burnley. That’s no disrespect to Hull. It’s just saying it as it is. Hull have a poor away record. Hull have a poor record full stop. West Ham won’t get relegated, but Hull should. That poor away record and facing a West Ham who want to make the most of going on the up will not work in their favour. What is worse for the away side is that in West Ham they face a side near them in the table and who they would look to nab a point or more from in order to give them some hope. The likelihood is, however, that the hope will continue to be extinguished after a game like this.

West Brom 1-2 Man Utd: This is among the harder matches to predict in this round of fixtures. What makes it this way is due to the form of both sides. West Brom at the Hawthorns are scoring goals for fun. Now that is still an odd phrase to say in relation to a side managed by Tony Pulis. It’s odd, but it’s true. Their recent three goal spree gives them a look at the table where they are looking up rather than down. Of course, the first team they’re looking up at will be their opponents. Chelsea have been the best team in the league at the moment, but there’s a very good argument to be made that the second best team on form has been United. Where Arsenal, Liverpool, City and Spurs have lost in recent games, United haven’t tasted defeat in the league since they faced Chelsea way back in October. That’s all of 8 league games unbeaten. Sure if they had turned some of those draws into wins they would be higher up the table, but there can be no doubt they are making good progress. West Brom will prove to be their toughest opponents to date. It will be a good test of their credentials if they can emerge from the game with three points. A point will be a hindrance in their bid for the top four finish. They go into this game looking for nothing less than a win – they are Man Utd and they must win. West Brom will have other ideas and they have not been well and truly beaten in a game for a long time. They can use this game to really test their own mettle and see if they can start to take seriously their ability to truly do well this season. If the United team play near their best, they can just about get the three points.

Bournemouth 1-1 Southampton: If Bournemouth carry on the way they are going they will finish the season safely in the league to fight again. They do not win every game and they do not lose every game. They will win and then they will lose. They are getting used to picking up the points when it matters and especially at home they are proving difficult to face. Liverpool, Leicester, Everton and West Brom have all lost at the Vitality Stadium this season in the league, that’s a promising record for the side. Yet this is as good as it gets to a local derby for Bournemouth. It’s hardly the Glasgow derby in terms of intensity and hostility of rivalry, but it is still a derby and anything can happen in a local derby. Southampton, are the epitome of a middling team. Their last result against a middling team was a draw. There is little about them to suggest they are going to anything that drastically different against another middling team. That is not to suggest this will be an easy contest at all for either side. They are both wary of the threats that can be posed by their opponents, they are certainly aware of the expectations their fans have for such an occasion. It is an accumulation of all this that tends towards the thought that the game will end in a draw. The home side will certainly think they can do better than a point, but they will have to be at their best to remain focused and not let the occasion get to them.

Man City 2-2 Arsenal: These are arguably two of the best footballing teams in the Premier League. Footballing in that sense of passing the ball around, keeping possession and having the capacity to pass with intent and use speed to penetrate the other side. Footballing in the sense of being consistent in winning games and looking like genuine title contenders has eluded both sides in recent games. City more than Arsenal. The Citizens certainly recovered well from the shock defeat to Leicester, but they are still seven points behind the league leaders.  It’s not an unassailable lead, but it is a significant gap. A gap they need to start into pretty quickly. The Gunners lost for the first time in the league since the opening day of the season, so that is a fairly decent record to be getting on with. They too, however, have seen potentially topping the table to now being six points behind. They certainly did not want to be facing City so soon having lost to Everton, though some positive fans have looked at this as another opportunity to make a statement of intent in the Premier League. Indeed Arsenal can do that. They have beaten City before at the Etihad. There is a vulnerability about City that they could exploit with all the pressure that Guardiola is coming under for the lack of quality defending being displayed by his side. This has the makings to be one of the games of the season even if City are missing Aguerro. It will be interesting to particularly see how Arsenal approach this game, if they go for solidity in midfield and look to run the show from there, it could pay dividends for them. Though both sides know a draw would not be helpful in their pursuit of the title, it might have to be what they settle with.

Tottenham 3-1 Burnley: The fixture list has been kind to Spurs where their recent home games are concerned. Swansea, then Hull and now Burnley. Three teams to varying degrees struggling in the table this season. Three teams that do not have good away records and three teams who even for all that would be considered inferior to this Spurs side. Spurs dispatched Swansea without much hassle. They put down Hull without really breaking that much of a sweat. Burnley will provide something a little different for the home side. They will offer a lot more in the way of tenacity and grit. They will offer a harder working team ethic. They will offer a determination evident from the manager throughout. Pochettino will be very much aware of all of that. He will be aware of it and he will look at the players at his disposal and know that if they play at their potential, if they follow the instructions they have been given then they will pick up another three precious points.  Those points will be precious indeed if the teams about them fail to collect three points themselves. The job at hand, however, is for them to deal with Burnley first. They haven’t played at their peak as yet this season, but it will be a good way to start things the right way to put down a marker for their intentions to deal with business properly.

Everton 2-3 Liverpool: The Merseyside derby. Other than the North London derby, it is the enduring derby of the top league. Everton come into this game on the back of a morale-boosting victory against Arsenal. The way the crowd and the team rose to the occasion was something that will give tremendous confidence to the Toffees. They have not been beaten at home. In Lukaku they have one of the strikers who is sharper in front of goals than most. They will not be intimidated going into this game, especially if the team begin to believe in what Koeman is telling them. This game means a lot to the fans, it means a lot for pride and in terms of finishing higher up the table than they have in previous seasons. They can beat this Liverpool side, who for all the goals scored, still have to take their defensive responsibilities to a higher level than they currently inhabit. However, like Lukaku they have a striker in form. Origi has scored five goals in five games and that will stand him in good stead going into this match. As a derby game, this is not going to be one for tippy-tappy football. This should be about guts and passion and the team willing to channel that for the better will be the team that should win the game. Everton face their hardest home match to date in seeing their local rivals. If they can match the degree of intensity they displayed in the second half against Arsenal they should be confident. If Liverpool, however, can take the initiative and keep it, the Reds might be crowing come the final whistle.

A fascinating set of fixtures before a week without football. It will be a set of games to savour and if Chelsea win, it could be one that sees them safe in the knowledge that they will start 2017 in top spot – which will be ominous for their rivals. All of that is yet to be played out, and so …

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

An Alternative Top Ten Stevie Wonder Tracks

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Stevie Wonder. You know I love the guy. If you don’t know, then just have a look at the categories and select Stevie Wonder to see just how much I love the guy’s music.

WatchMojo.com is a YouTube channel I enjoy watching from time to time and they did the decent thing of putting together a top ten of Stevie tunes. Enjoy the video.

That top ten, then, is as follows:

  1. Superstition
  2. I Just Called To Say I Love You
  3. Sir Duke
  4. Higher Ground
  5. Living For The City
  6. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours
  7. Isn’t She Lovely
  8. You Are The Sunshine of My Life
  9. Uptight
  10. Boogie on Reggae Woman

Other songs that can be detected in the video include – Big Brother, My Cherie Amour, I Wish, Master Blaster (Jammin’) and For Once In My Life.

That’s a very good top ten. It hasn’t been suckered into just going all mainstream. It’s a highly enjoyable video too.

It got me thinking, however, of putting together an alternative top ten. These are purely my own choices of ten top Stevie Wonder tunes. As an alternative, I am giving myself the rule of not being allowed to include ANY of the songs featured in the videos – yes, that’s the top ten videos and the other Stevie Wonder that appeared on the video. So here’s my top ten.

10. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing

It’s a great example of the cultural dexterity Stevie applies to his music. It’s wrong to label him as just a soul star, because his reach had no problem touching on a variety of forms and styles. The feel he invests in this song is just sensational. It’s a light and fun feel to a song where the lyrics are not as light as the feel of the song. I like that. You feel like a moving and grooving and then you catch up with what the song is actually saying. Clever. Stevie masters the vocals and has the music arrangement on point everywhere.

9. That Girl

This song often flies under the radar of top Stevie Wonder tracks. In a way that highlights the great songs Stevie has written, but there’s also something in that where folks just plainly miss the brilliance in this song. There is a piece appreciating this song in more detail that’s worth checking.

8. With Each Beat Of My Heart

Stevie Wonder knows what it is to be in love. Not just a soppy emotion, but a deep connection with his love that goes beyond how they make you feel a flutter inside. The wealth of authentic love songs produced by Stevie is testament to that. It baffles me how this song is never mentioned when people thinkof great love songs. Just listen to the lyrics and see that this man knows how to celebrate love at its finest. That he’s done this in such a simple fashion – you could even imagine him doing this purely acapella – but there’s a richness in there that should make you sit back and take notice that here is the master at work.

7. Overjoyed

There are some tunes where Stevie grabs me from the start. This is one of the best examples of that. That chord structure at the beginning, I almost want to cry with joy right there. Beautiful stuff. Then I hear the lyrics and I hear the man uttersthese glorious love truths so simply and I am hooked. It’s one of those songs I would not have a problem having played at a wedding anniversary and voluntarily dance with my wife to the tune. Now that is saying something of monumental proportions right there. Excellent Stevie foing his thing. another masterpiece.

6. I Go Sailing

There are some true gems in Stevie’s 80’s and 90’s material. It is not his richest era for tunes at all and some of his albums are largely forgettable, but this does not negate the fact that Stevie put out some brilliant pieces of music in this stage of his career. This song is largely underrated by many listeners. To a degree I can understand. It’s a piece on a soundtrack album, no big fuss was made about it. What hooks me into it though is the lyrical content and the desire to use the mind for something beneficial without needing any stimulants of a negative variety. I love the vibe of this piece as well. This is chilling music that allows you to do what the song is encouraging you to do in your mind – just go sailing.

5. You And I (We Can Conquer The World)

This has got to be the greatest love song of all time. There. I said it. I reserve the right to change my mind at some juncture, but at the moment I proclaim this one tune to be the greatest love song anyone has ever written, recorded and produced in the history of humanity. A little bit of a big statement there, but I know what I’m saying. I know how I felt the first time I heard this song back in 1996. I was already impressed with what Stevie had produced, but this sent into another stratosphere altogether. It’s not a love song of success and eternal bliss. It’s not a love song ofall being well, you hear in the chords that sense of knowing that it may not work out, it may not be permanent – and yet despite that, there’s something to just enjoying the present. Celebrating what is the case in the now because of the love so rich and so true. It is an outstanding piece of creativity and truly deserves its place on any top ten songs ever written let alone Stevie Wonder tracks. That should make you think, if it’s that good and comes in at number five then …

4. Tuesday Heartbreak

Talking Book is probably my favourite Stevie Wonder album. It’s the first one I’ll go listen to because most of the tracks on there are strong from start to finish. So having been blown away by You and I (We Can Conquer The World), I was content to have enjoyed one masterpiece. No sooner had I heard the last parts of that song then this song came on the speakers and I had the look of a man with great incredulity. How could he do that? How could he top that in the space of the next track. Tuesday Heartbreak is criminally underrated. I gotta say the music arrangement is what grabs me. The use of the keys is something already and then around the one minute 30 second region he does something on the wah-wah keys that still makes me go back to listen to it again and again and again. how could he do that??? How could he top a great song with a track like this? But that’s what he went out and did. Hit a home run one time, then just for kicks goes out and hits a home run again. Nope, I imagine a number of Stevie fans won’t rate this highly in their favourite Stevie tracks – but I absolutely adore it. Such a sumptuous feast for the ears and a major reason why my admiration for Stevie Wonder turned into unremitting love for the guy.

3. Smile Please

Welcome to my album, take a seat, make yourself comfortable, relax it is my pleasure to help you feel right at home in anyway that I can. Imagine a song that made you feel like that. It wasn’t just a song, it was a warm hug from a friend that said you’re all good, you belong here, you can just be and enjoy yourself in that. You don’t have to imagine any longer, because Stevie Wonder wrote such a song. It is something I have hailed before, but it’s still worth raving about again. He wrote it, then he recorded it, then he released it on one of those significant albums of the 70’s. He did the smart thing of letting it be the first track on the album and set things up so beautifully that he has never beaten the standard since.

This should not be that much of a concern, however, because no one else has ever topped that as a standard to introduce a thoroughly enriching listening experience with such a warm and cosy opening track. Beyond being an opening track, though, you can listen to this and appreciate what Stevie is saying. Sure you had a bad day, sure things look rough and there’s no guarantee that things will be better in the morning. Yet while there is still life, while we are still here together, while we have things to be grateful for and while we’re still capable, it makes perfect sense to just for a moment from the heart share a smile. It does wonders to the face and it does wonders to the environment around you. So it’s no wonder that Stevie had the genius to pur this beautiful track together. As far as I know he has never done this track live. I have also yet to come across a cover version that comes anywhere close to replicating this standard of warmth, love, fellowship and care. That is why it among the best tracks that Stevie has ever produced.

2. Feeding Off The Love Of The Land

This song is serious. It is one thing to celebrate love and enjoy the love that we can share among each other in intimate settings. It is good to reflect that in song. What makes Stevie Wonder a heavyweight in the world of music, though, is that he is not limited to just talking about those issues. He has a great insight in the nature of the world that he lives in. He has his finger on the pulse and can express the dismay at how we mess up the world both in our human relationships and in our treatment of this earth. Stevie knows it, Stevie feels it, Stevie sings it, Stevie emotes through music construction on the matter.

This is the pinnacle of his work where those matters are concerned. He has written much about having a consciousness for how fit in the world around us, but he has never topped this masterful work. You can listen to it today and still be moved to tears at the plea in his words and the rebuke in it as well about our selfishness. It’s a song that transcends cultural barriers. It’s a song that hits the heart of our human experience. It is not just a song that makes you think or feel, it’s a song that provokes you to question why we live in a world like this and what we can do to be about the business of changing it. Not many songs can accomplish without either sounding harsh and preachy or somehow failing to connect lyrically and through the music. Stevie tenderly hits the top marks in this piece.

There are two versions I’ve heard. One with the string arrangement and one with just the piano. Either one you go for you’re in for a treat. The laid back acoustic feel of just Stevie and the piano gives it an even greater haunting effect in considering the issues he touches on in the song. I first heard this song with the string arrangement and whoever put that together deserves an award for such beautiful composing and arrangement. It really emphasises some of the disconnect in our busy world and the underlying tragedy in it. Stevie’s vocals have never been more mature and when he provides his own backing vocals at the end, it is simply superb to take on and reinforce dire the plight we are in. It’s a prophetic song. It cries out for justice everywhere and it cries out that this justice starts within us individually and works itself out among us. It’s a powerful song and deserves to be recognised as such.

Before the Number One selection here are some of the tracks that just missed out on a top ten placing: Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer, Golden Lady, Visions, Passionate Raindrops, Blame It On The Sun, Looking For Another Pure Love, As If You Read My Mind, I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It, Send One Your Love, Knocks Me Off My Feet, Rocket Love, Dancing To The Rhythm and Something Out Of The Blue.

1. Summer Soft

The number one greatest Stevie Wonder track is not something that is selected easily. As you have seen in the other nine tracks, I regard his work as superb. Saying one is the greatest is a tough choice. But it’s a choice I have made nonetheless – and this song is that choice.

Musician, vocalist, creator/writer, producer, man – Stevie Wonder in my humble estimation is the greatest of them all and there have been plenty. This one tune is a good reason for that humble estimation. Check that piano at the start, then kicks in the bass and other musical accompaniment. So, yeah, just appreciate it for its lush musical combination. Take it in as a musical piece without any singing and get the sense of musicians having some fun with this track. It’s not a selfish track, either. Room for the instruments to shine and play their part in the piece. That it is so sensitively on point where the feel of the song is concerned too and the modulating being right in line with the theme of time moving on is just Stevie showing off without being flamboyant or arrogant.

Then listen to the man singing. Unlike other pieces, he goes it alone. No backing vocals of any kind at all. So he carries the piece. It’s not falsetto he sings at any point in the song. The start of the song is him being playful and gentle even as underneath there are serious currents of time pressing on. Then his vocal gets more prominent as the chorus goes on and he belts it out without ever seeming to lose control. It’s a great vocal display with no need to show off, just express the sentiment in a way that we the listener can appreciate.

Then check what the man is singing. You’re hanging about waiting to see what will come with the time and you’re uncertain about what it will be as you wait in anticipation and before you know it that season has gone and it’s the next season. If you’re not careful you can just go from one season to the next waiting, hoping, hearing suggestions about something, but never being brave enough to actually seize the day and do something with the season in your life rather than reacting to it. So you will wait to see what they will do and you’ll find that season has gone. Can you afford to be doing that for your whole life, because soon it won’t just be the seasons that are gone. That’s a heavy message right there, but you’re not too bothered about it on casual listening, because it’s not choked down your throat. It’s serenaded, it’s plaintively brought across to you by the masteful vocals of the writer of the song who evidently knew a thing or two about not wasting time.

All that in under five minutes. That’s more than a feast – that’s at least a dozen feasts to enjoy in the one song. And that’s just the studio version of that song. The different cover versions you come across and the live renditions you also might hear only enrich that fesitval of sound. It is why just referring to the man as a Wonder remains an understatement in itself.

That’s the top ten. Subject to change, obviously. To be so challenged to pick an alternative top ten, highlights just what a gifted musician Stevie is – and to think he has unreleased songs too!

Enjoy

Shalom

C. L.. J. Dryden

Premier League Prediction – Week 16 Part 1

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The fixture list in its wisdom has said we can have three league matches in the space of eight days!! Truly they love those who love football. Which means that on week 16 of the campaign I get two sets of predictions to make.

Before I get stuck in with the first set, there is time ot review how I did witht he set of games that has taken place this weekend. Points scoring is straightforward – I lap up three points if I get the correct scoreline; I meekly collect one point for getting the right outcome alone and for getting neither correct I get the sum total of zilch.

Watford 1-1 Everton (0 points – actual score 2-1)

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City (3 points)

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 3-2)

Hull 1-2 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-3)

Swansea City 1-2 Sunderland (0 points – actual score 3-0)

Leicester City 1-3 Man City (0 points – actual score 4-2)

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-0)

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 2-2)

Last time out I only collected five points, but that was at least from five correct outcomes. This time around, however, I’ve collected only slightly more points with the six total, but that has come from a disappointing 40% correct outcome rating. Sure I’m delighted to get a scoreline spot on, but it would have been sweeter to get more correct outcomes. Some outcomes in that round of games were simply ridiculous – like when did Leicester find their scoring boots?

Nevertheless that’s the way the game goes and as we approach the first part of the two parter in week 16 of the Premier League, it’s with a touch more caution that I slap on these predictions.

Bournemouth 2-2 Leicester City: I defy anyone to tell me they say Leicester thrashing Man City. I defy them. There was nothing in how Leicester have played to give any indication they had performance in them. There you go, though. Ranieiri can happily look at that statement to say his team are more than capable of playing as well as they did last season. It will be of great interest however to see if they can maintain that in a game that comes so soon afterwards. Meanwhile Bournemouth continue their bumpy and inconsistent approach to this season. They don’t look quite poor enough yet to be troubled about relegation, but they cannot afford to live on highs of comebacks against Liverpool and then lose the next game. As ever the key is consistency and they will be looking to home comforts to provide them the environment to resume the winning thing. Will they have enough, however to take on the Premier League Champions who now have their tails up and are looking to keep that going? Thankfully for the home side, the Foxes will not find it that straightforward to replicate the scintillating form that saw them three goals up within twenty minutes. Likewise Eddie Howe will be insistent that his side don’t go about their business with a slow start on thsi occasion. If the home side can rouse themselves they can look to nab the win, but I see this game ending in a stalemate.

Everton 1-2 Arsenal: The league table is not looking so pretty for the Toffees. There is a reason for that, seen most clearly in the fact they have not won in their last five games. Their fans are starting to grumble in that kind of run and do not see much in the way of signs of improvement. It is not all completely dismal for them because at least Lukaku still knows how to score every now and then. Scoring now and then, however, is not that helpful when you’re tending to concede more often and fail to do enough to do that thing of winning games of football. Some are dreading seeing another season of mid-table mediocrity and there is already criticism of the new guy for not doing something different to address the performances and results. It is not the best time to face Arsenal with all that going on. Pessimists at Arsenal are finding it harder to grumble and complain – that’s not to say everything is rosy, after all it’s only December. Yet as they look at the table they see themselves comfortably established in second place and the most likely to challenge Chelsea for top spot. They did beat Stoke and were not particularly bullied by them at all. They won’t go to Goodison Park taking it for granted that they can collect the three points just by turning up. Koeman is savvy enough to send out a side that can combat the attacking threat Arsenal pose. Plus with so many games being played in succession the question of squad rotation in team selection comes to the fore. Will Wenger or Koeman risk putting out their strongest sides in this match knowing that another one looms in the not too distant future. As it looks at the moment, though, it is looking more likely that Arsenal will emerge from this trip to the North with the win.

Middlesbrough 1-2 Liverpool: It is not that long ago that Liverpool were top of the table looking down on all the other teams and obviously they suffered from vertigo. Since that brief moment at the top they have stuttered and faltered. Eager beavers blame the defence and especially the goalkeeper. Others point to apparently missing the impact of players like Sturridge and particularly Coutinho. Whatever it is, critics are sharpening their knives to suggest their whole title contending thing was too premature and Klopp’s failure to address the defence is obstinate to the point of blindness. They won’t find much in the way of sympathy from this fixture. Karanka will not write this game off as one they cannot do well in. They will not fear the attacking threat of Liverpool, because they may see a way of combating that whilst doing the damage at the other end of the pitch. Boro are not that prolific at that end of the pitch, but in the knowledge that the apparent frailties of their opponents may present them with opportunities, they may very well hope for the best. Klopp’s selection for this game will be very telling with the Merseyside derby being just around the corner. There is no sign of him adjusting his methods and his belief in his teams to score goals. His commitment to his principles is somewhat being tested in this brief phase of games that should have seen more points collected, it his commitment to the team ethos, however, that will be decisive in the outcome of this fixture. If they turn up and look to be clinical in front of goal they could get a much needed three goals. Boro, however, will be looking to captialise on any weakness.

Sunderland 0-3 Chelsea: Sunderland were doing so well. Two wins in a row, goals being scored, confidence building and Moyes must have thought he was onto something. To leave Wales with nothing but the weird feeling of actually being beaten by a team that has been worse than them will be deflating to say the least. They then follow that up with a little issue of facing the league leaders who don’t concede often and have not tasted anything other than victories in nearly ten league fixtures. Indeed if they collect the three points on this occasion that magical number ten will emerge. Conte isn’t bothered about records, that’s clear. He’s got his head screwed on properly when it comes to expectations. He will see this game as one similar t what they have endured with the game against West Brom. He will fully expect a ten man defence with maximum effort put in to stop the machine from churning. He will drill it into his players to remain disciplined and focused on the game at hand. Not get hung up with missed chances or stifling defences. He will know that if they keep probing then their breakthrough will come through as it did in their last game. The challenge, then, is for Sunderland to figure out how to competently keep quiet the more forceful elements of the irrepressible visitors from the capital city. If they are looking for anything in their past to help, Sunderland will be plum out of material. That won’t stop Moyes hoping that his efforts will get his lads putting in the intensity required to get in among the leaders and challenge for whatever they can get out of the game. It just looks like what that will amount to is that nebulous quality of ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’.

West Ham 2-1 Burnley: Go ahead and laugh. Go on. There it is, I believe West Ham will win a game of football at their home ground. That’s something worth laughing about because there is little to suggest that will be the case. They have had seven games at home winning two. That means Hammers spend most of their time at home watching their team extend Christmas cheer in giving away points like there’s no tomorrow. At the moment they could very much do with that thing called a win. It seems like such an oddity in the Hammer circles that they may be surprised to note that I believe they will make that happen in this match. Is that a slur on their opponents? Not at all. Dyche is very good at his job. Burnley are not by any means dead and buried in this league. They can fight and tussle with the best of them. It’s just that their ability to do that away from home seems to be lacking. It’s lacking at a time when they could do with it, because there seems to be no better place to be playing football away from hom than against West Ham. The draw at Anfield, though, would have sent Bilic back to the East of London in better spirits. It is now a matter of if Bilic can turn that into at least getting thorugh 90+ minutes and emerging with a miraculous and rare three points.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Man Utd: At last. At last Manchester United turn domination and chances into three points. In fact since late September, United have only lost once in the league. That’s a decent record. Of course it would be a much better record if a lot of those league matches drawn were actually the wins that they should have been. Yet here they are, still outside the top five ands still lagging behind other teams who have done the thing of winning games of football. Beating Spurs is a good result, though and they can take that into this fixture. A fixture in which they will be the favourites by some margin. The reason for that is their opponents. Pardew must have hoped he turned a corner with that win against Southampton, but to follow that up with a draw at Hull – a draw they just about scraped – was not the sort of performance and result that would have helped them. It certainly would not prepare them for this tricky home game. That will not deter the optimism of Pardew. He will want to send his home fans away happy that his team have given this game a go. He won’t be too concerned about them scoring goals, that bit they have down well. They will be a lot more concerned about their inability to stop conceding goals. Not that United are scoring them by the ton at the moment and the injury to Mkhitaryan could not have come at a more inconvenient time with the run of games coming. Mourinho won’t be too downhearted, though, because United were creating chances withouthim in the side and their renewed confidence and theoptions they have in attack and midfield should give them reason to believe they can see their way to collecting the three points.

Man City 3-1 Watford: Errrrrr … so  … Man City …. what’s going on there then? You expect every new manager to have a sticky patch as they get used to the way things work around here. But for Manchester City to lose two in a row is just … not going according to the plan. It’s one thing to remember when Liverpool were top, but it’s another thing to remember that this is the City who set a blistering pace in the league winning games in a row. Now they are in fourth place seven points behind top spot. That is simply not good enough. Sure it’s one thing to point out City’s defensive record of late, although laying the blame at the door of the new goalkeeper misses something bigger going on at the Etihad and that is the necessary changing of the guard where the defence is concerned. Whatever the transitional issues going on, the squad should not be lagging this far behind top spot. They can begin to make amends for that with this home match. Other than the defeat to Chelsea, City have been able to put in the performances at home to justify their status as title favourites. They will need such a performance to get themselves back on track. In Watford they face a team who themselves are not really doing much to prove they could be a pain to City. Watford are doing well for themselves in the better half of the table, but away from home they rarely cause that much in the way of an upset. It would be something as well to see if the Hornets could put in the kind of effort that would not be overawed by the attacking options that City can display even as they continue to have to deal with Aguerro’s suspension.

Stoke City 1-1 Southampton: Topsy-turvy, patchy, ups and downs and round and round. Here is a clash of two teams who typify that as well as any mediocre team in the Premeir League. They both know they shouldn’t be messing around with relegation. They both have aspirations higher than where they are. They have tasted of European football and would like to taste it some more. Their form so far this season, however, does not suggest they are going in the right direction to realise their aspirations. They are slap bang in the middle of the table and are separated by a place and a point. Their run of recent games has seen two wins, , two losses and a draw. Stoke want to recover from that defeat at the Emirates and Southampton want to have the rare experience of winning two games in a row. This has got a draw written all over it.

Tottenham 2-0 Hull City: Spurs are sort of drifting at the moment. At one point some wondered if they were title contenders and then they drew to Arsenal, lost to Chelsea and now lost to Man Utd. That should answer that question. The next question for Spurs to answer at the moment is whether they have the wherewithal to sustain a challenge for the top four. United’s win sees them only three points behind Spurs. So this is the kind of game that spurs need to win to both maintain their quest for a top four finish and keep some distance from the Red Devils. They will be grateful to welcome Hull to White Hart Lane. Hull come having drawn a match against Crystal Palace that they may feel they should have done better in, but they now travel away from their home for their eighth away match looking to buck a particularly telling trend. That trend being that of the seven previous games away they have only got points from two of those matches. There is little to suggest they are going to do that much better at a Spurs team keen to prove again that they are worthy of the acclaim they received. Swansea were dispatched with comfortably at White Hart Lane in the last home match and there’s no reason why Hull won’t face a similar fate.

West Brom 2-0 Swansea: So the Swans did very well in comprehensively beating fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland. Goals scored, clean sheet kept, three points collected and a way out of the top three in sight. A win is a platform of belief for the game to come. Bradley will be taking that onto the next game seeing them visit the Hawthorns. The mood at West Brom has been fairly upbeat. They have been doing well in games and scoring goals and collecting points in a far more prolific manner than their opponents. They are having overall a decent season. Losing to Chelsea is no shame and limiting them to the one goal shows that they have that discipline to keep their goals conceded column as low as possible. They can return from that battle and face this Swansea side with a degree of confidence and optimism that they can keep their good form going. If they do then that will bear them well for the future. The onus is actually on the Swans to raise their game again in battling to get as much from matches like this to help in their bid to climb above the relegation zone and believe they can actually survive. Not sure Pulis will be in the mood to help his fellows Welshmen out on this occasion.

With the possible exception of Everton taking on Arsenal, this round of fixtures doesn’t feature that much in the way of excitement with the teams meeting each other. Yet there is still enough for intrigue to take place for there are points to be won and title challenges to get back on track and relegation scrapes to battle. As for my predictions, I certainly feel a lot more confident of improving on the points total of recent weeks.

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden