Scottish Premiership: Motherwell close in on National League winger

Mark McGhee could make Forest Green Rovers star Elliot Frear his first signing of the January transfer window.

mark-mcghee-before-ko-v-celtic-15th-may-2016
Lacking in depth: McGhee has limited options in the wide areas and lost Marvin Johnson to Oxford United last summer (Picture from Sky Sports)

Scottish Premiership side Motherwell are reportedly closing in on the signing of one of the National League’s most sought after players.

Winger Elliot Frear has been a key component this season for a Forest Green Rovers currently second in the fifth tier of English football and challenging for a return to the Football League.

The 26-year-old has made 19 appearances this season but apparently took a Diego Costa and Dimitri Payet like stance by refusing to play in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Trophy win at Chester, amid growing speculation he is about to make a move north of the border.

Speaking about Frear’s absence, Forest Green boss Mark Cooper said: “Elliot has said he doesn’t want to play for the club anymore and we have to move on.

“There has now been interest as far as I know and we need players that want to be with us going forward.”

But in his defence, Frear tweeted: “Just to confirm I haven’t refused to play today, still struggling from injury last weekend. I’m a professional & would never refuse to play.”

The Englishman, who was linked with a switch to League Two Cheltenham in the summer, began his career with Exeter City before moving to Salisbury City in 2014.

A former England C international, Frear then signed a two-year contract at the New Lawn the following year and helped Forest Green reach the National League Promotion Final last season, when they lost 3-1 to Grimsby Town at Wembley.

He is set to become the Steelmen’s first signing of the January transfer window as Mark McGhee looks to boost his squad before next weekend’s Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Rangers at Ibrox.

With the Scottish top-flight currently on a three-week winter break, Motherwell lie ninth in the table, two points behind sixth-placed Ross County, but will be hopeful of securing a top-half finish in the second half of the season.

2016-17 Football Season: Predicted Tables

With one of the most unpredictable seasons in years in store, guessing the final outcome across England, Scotland and Spain has proved difficult.

2016-17 football season
Mouth-watering: Football fans can expect one of the biggest and best seasons in recent memory in 2016-17 in England and Scotland (Pictures from Sky Sports)

AFTER the briefest of breaks following the unexpected climax at Euro 2016, football makes a welcome comeback as the new domestic campaign begins in earnest.

2016-17 promises to be more dramatic, exciting and entertaining than seasons gone by with new managers, players and teams settling into their fresh surroundings and hoping to make an impact.

From Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford to Burton Albion’s Championship debut, there are many intriguing sub-plots which could present more shocks and surprises – such as Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title triumph as relegation favourites last term.

Such is the uncertainty of how clubs will fare amid the hive of summer activity, unrivalled spending and the fall-out from last season’s outcomes, predicting the precise outcomes in the promotion, play-off and relegation pictures in all leagues is an incredibly tough task.

Here’s my rough guess on what the final standings might look like across the main divisions in England, Scotland and Spain when May eventually comes around…


Manchester United and Manchester City fans outside Old Trafford
Rivals: After battling each other for a Champions League place last term, United and City will hope to mount a title pursuit this time around (Picture from Getty Images)

Premier League predicted table:

  1. Manchester City
  2. Manchester United
  3. Chelsea
  4. Liverpool
    ——————–
  5. Tottenham Hotspur
    ——————–
  6. Arsenal
  7. West Ham United
  8. Leicester City
  9. Everton
  10. Southampton
  11. Stoke City
  12. Crystal Palace
  13. Bournemouth
  14. Middlesbrough
  15. Watford
  16. Sunderland
  17. Swansea City
    ——————–
  18. West Bromwich Albion
  19. Burnley
  20. Hull City

Rafael Benitez pre-match (v Man City - 19th April 2016)
Contrast: The former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss will hope to steer the Magpies to an immediate Premier League return in his first taste of the Football League as a manager (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet Championship predicted table:

  1. Newcastle United
  2. Norwich City
    ———————
  3. Derby County
  4. Sheffield Wednesday
  5. Brighton
  6. Aston Villa
    ———————
  7. Nottingham Forest
  8. Leeds United
  9. Ipswich Town
  10. Wolves
  11. Fulham
  12. Reading
  13. Queens Park Rangers
  14. Cardiff City
  15. Birmingham City
  16. Wigan Athletic
  17. Blackburn Rovers
  18. Brentford
  19. Bristol City
  20. Preston North End
  21. Huddersfield Town
    ———————-
  22. Barnsley
  23. Burton Albion
  24. Rotherham United

Chris Wilder (Sheffield Utd boss at Wembley - 30th May 2016)
Possible saviour: The former Northampton boss is bidding to take the Blades back to the Championship after six years in the third tier (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet League One predicted table:

  1. Millwall
  2. Charlton Athletic
    ——————-
  3. Sheffield United
  4. MK Dons
  5. Bolton Wanderers
  6. Coventry City
    ——————-
  7. Bradford City
  8. Peterborough United
  9. Gillingham
  10. Scunthorpe United
  11. Southend United
  12. Walsall
  13. Northampton Town
  14. Swindon Town
  15. Oxford United
  16. Bristol Rovers
  17. AFC Wimbledon
  18. Rochdale
  19. Fleetwood Town
  20. Chesterfield
    ——————–
  21. Bury
  22. Port Vale
  23. Shrewsbury Town
  24. Oldham Athletic

Derek Adams on sidelines (v Wimbledon - 30th May 2016)
Disappointment: Derek Adams, who has signed a new four-year deal at Home Park, saw his side beaten 2-0 by Wimbledon in last season’s Play-Off Final at Wembley (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet League Two predicted table:

  1. Portsmouth
  2. Plymouth Argyle
  3. Doncaster Rovers
    ——————–
  4. Leyton Orient
  5. Luton Town
  6. Colchester United
  7. Notts County
    ——————–
  8. Wycombe Wanderers
  9. Cambridge United
  10. Carlisle United
  11. Exeter City
  12. Accrington Stanley
  13. Cheltenham Town
  14. Mansfield Town
  15. Blackpool
  16. Grimsby Town
  17. Crewe Alexandra
  18. Hartlepool United
  19. Barnet
  20. Yeovil Town
  21. Stevenage
  22. Crawley Town
    ———————
  23. Newport County
  24. Morecambe

Dover Athletic supporters before KO (v C Palace in FA Cup - 4th Jan 2015)
Positive: Dover Athletic fans will be optimistic their side can make up for failing to make the play-offs last season in non-league’s top tier (Picture from BT Sport)

National League predicted table:

  1. York City
    ———————–
  2. Tranmere Rovers
  3. Forest Green Rovers
  4. Wrexham
  5. Dover Athletic
    ———————–
  6. Eastleigh
  7. Braintree Town
  8. Dagenham & Redbridge
  9. Macclesfield Town
  10. Torquay United
  11. Lincoln City
  12. Woking
  13. Gateshead
  14. Chester
  15. Barrow
  16. Aldershot Town
  17. Bromley
  18. Boreham Wood
  19. Solihull Moors
  20. Southport
    ————————
  21. Guiseley
  22. Maidstone United
  23. North Ferriby United
  24. Sutton United

Stockport County sign outside Edgeley Park
Ready to rise: Former Football League club Stockport County will be hoping their fourth successive season in the sixth tier is their last (Picture by Adam Higgins)

National League North predicted table:

  1. AFC Fylde
    ————————
  2. Kidderminster Harriers
  3. Harrogate Town
  4. Stockport County
  5. Salford City
    ————————-
  6. FC Halifax Town
  7. Boston United
  8. Chorley
  9. Altrincham
  10. Stalybridge Celtic
  11. FC United of Manchester
  12. Nuneaton Town
  13. Bradford Park Avenue
  14. Curzon Ashton
  15. Alfreton Town
  16. Darlington 1883
  17. Gainsborough Trinity
  18. Tamworth
  19. Gloucester City
    ————————–
  20. Worcester City
  21. Brackley Town
  22. Telford United

Mark Warburton with trophy at Ibrox (v Alloa - 23rd April 2016)
Challenge: Rangers boss Mark Warburton will expect his team to compete with champions Celtic for the title after their long-awaited Premiership return (Picture from Sky Sports)

Scottish Premiership predicted table:

  1. Celtic
    —————-
  2. Rangers
  3. Aberdeen
    —————-
  4. Hearts
  5. St Johnstone
  6. Dundee
    —————-
  7. Motherwell
  8. Inverness CT
  9. Partick Thistle
  10. Ross County
    —————–
  11. Hamilton Accies
    —————–
  12. Kilmarnock

Jason Cummings (Hibs forward v Rangers - 23rd August 2015)
Key: Striker Jason Cummings, who has 48 goals for Hibs, will be a crucial factor in Neil Lennon’s side ending their three-year stay in the Championship (Picture from Sky Sports) 

Scottish Championship predicted table:

  1. Hibernian
    ——————–
  2. Dundee United
  3. Falkirk
  4. St Mirren
    ——————–
  5. Raith Rovers
  6. Queen of the South
  7. Dunfermline Athletic
  8. Greenock Morton
    ——————–
  9. Dumbarton
    ——————–
  10. Ayr United

Zinedine Zidane and Luis Enrique
Familiar battle: Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique (right) will be leading the pack in the race for the title (Pictures from Sky Sports)

La Liga predicted table:

  1. Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Atletico Madrid
  4. Sevilla
    ——————-
  5. Villarreal
  6. Valencia
    ——————-
  7. Athletic Bilbao
  8. Espanyol
  9. Real Socediad
  10. Malaga
  11. Celta Vigo
  12. Granada
  13. Sporting Gijon
  14. Real Betis
  15. Deportivo La Coruna
  16. Osasuna
  17. Eibar
    ——————–
  18. Las Palmas
  19. Leganes
  20. Alaves

Referee Robert Jones promoted to Football League list

Merseyside-based official Robert Jones will be refereeing in the SkyBet Football League from the 2016-17 season after being promoted following two years in the National League.

FOR a football team, gaining promotion to a new league at any level is an achievement worth celebrating.

And it’s no different for referees – so Robert Jones will be delighted after receiving the call to find out he will be officiating in the SkyBet Football League from the 2016-17 campaign.

The Merseyside-based official has spent the last two seasons taking charge of matches in the National League – the fifth tier of English football – and the Women’s Super League One.

He was the man in the middle for the National League Promotion Final earlier this month and delivered an assured display in Grimsby Town’s 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers alongside Aaron Jackson, Natalie Aspinall and fourth official Ollie Yates.

Jones dished out 63 yellow cards but only one red card in 21 games in non-league’s top tier during the regular league season while he only issued one booking at Wembley.

He was also the man in black for an Inter League Cup Final at York City’s Bootham Crescent ground on May 8.

And, as if life isn’t already sweet enough for him right now, Jones was also appointed as an assistant referee to Stuart Attwell for the League One Play-Off Final between Barnsley and Millwall on Sunday.

The news of his promotion was confirmed by his County Referee Association on Twitter.

It’s a well-deserved reward for a number of consistent performances in key games since he was promoted to Level 2A in the summer of 2014.

Jones has ran the line on over 100 Football League matches since 2009-10 but now he will be the main decision maker – another level entirely.

He is one of six referees who have been elevated to oversee Championship, League One and League Two matches from August onwards.

John Brooks flags for offside (Man City v Spurs - 14th Feb 2016)
Able assistant: Brooks has been a Select Group linesman for four years and fulfilled the role for the FA Cup Final at Wembley on May 21 (Picture from Sky Sports)

They include Leicestershire’s John Brooks and Lancashire’s Michael Salisbury – who have both served as Premier League assistant referees.

Ollie Yates (Staffordshire), Brett Huxtable (Devon) and John Busby (Oxfordshire) are the other whistlers who will operate in the Football League for the first time next term.