‘Kane can sweep individual awards if he signs for Manchester City’

Steve Darby believes Harry Kane can sweep the individual awards and win trophies if he goes to Manchester City.

Darby, who has enjoyed coaching stints all over Asia, shares his thoughts ahead of the new Premier League season that kicks off tomorrow morning when newly-promoted Brentford hosts Arsenal (3am).

Which club will emerge champion, and who else will make the top four?

Darby: The vaccinations appear to have worked, and the pubs are open. So, life is back to normal. The most important thing is that despite 130,000 dying due to Covid-19, football is all that people are talking about.

The season promises to be exciting. For the top four, I think, is easy – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. The champion, a lot more complicated.

If a club suffers one or two injuries to key players, it can derail a campaign. Look at what happened to Liverpool last season when Virgil van Dijk got injured.

United can’t afford to lose Bruno Fernandes, City Kevin de Bruyne or Chelsea N’golo Kante. Yes, Kante, whom I believe is the most underrated player in the Premier League.

The answer as to who will be champion will be clearer after the transfer window closes. For example, will Harry Kane go to City?

Which of the three promoted teams excites you?

Darby: Without a doubt, Brentford. However, it is different, not so much on the pitch but how it operates as a club off it.

It really is the “Moneyball” club. It relies on scientific analysis, sees the coach as a short-term employee, buys players cheaply, develops them, and often sells them!

Plus, it has a new tight and small ground that only holds 15,000. Logically, it cannot survive. If it does, many clubs that don’t have the ‘Big Six’ owners may well start copying its methods.

Leeds finished ninth last season. Can it improve on that?

Darby: Leeds went from being one of the most hated teams in the league (“We all hate Leeds and Leeds and Leeds”) to everyone’s second team. The reason seems to be Marcelo Bielsa. Who, at times, seems quite mad!

But his man-for-man system, high work rate and running style have made average players like Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips into stars!

When you watch Leeds, you never know what you will get – except it will be entertaining.

I would love them to do well, but my brain says they cannot sustain this high work rate without either fatigue or muscular injuries.

Your pick for Player of the Season and top scorer.

Darby: If Kane signs for Manchester City, I think he could do both! He is the club’s missing link.

However, for the top scorer, it’s hard to choose a Liverpool player as their front three will share goals.

Lukaku at Chelsea could be an excellent bet for the leading scorer. As for Manchester United, I just can’t see any player getting 20-plus goals.

My Player of the Season may always not be the usual choice. I like players like Andy Robertson, Kante or Son Heung-min who play for the team and not themselves.

But the player whom the majority of fans want to see win this award would be Jack Grealish.

He has captured the hearts of all the fans with his dribbling and excitement. He may well be the Player of the Year!

What are you most looking forward to this season?

Darby: Crowds! Fans singing, passion coming back to the game. As J.B. Priestley once stated: “To say that to watch football is to watch twenty-two men kick a ball, is merely to say that a violin is a piece of wood and gut and Hamlet is but ink and paper. It is conflict and art.”

Can the referees get VAR right this year?

Darby: I hate VAR. Though the Euros and the Olympics showed it can be used wisely to improve the game, which was the intent. But the EPL version was awful.

I want to see goals, not a goal being disallowed for an armpit or elbow being offside.

All I can say is that indeed it can only get better. It could not get worse.

I initially liked it because it might help alleviate match-fixing as it became harder to bribe an individual referee.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

SATURDAY

Brentford vs Arsenal (3am)
Manchester United vs Leeds (7.30pm)
Leicester vs Wolves (10pm)
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace (10pm)
Watford vs Aston Villa (10pm)
Everton vs Southampton (10pm)
Burnley vs Brighton (10pm)

SUNDAY

Norwich vs Liverpool (12.30am)
Newcastle vs West Ham (9pm)
Tottenham vs Manchester City (11.30pm)