Beetroot-Loving Watson Takes a Hammering

Awakened by the hammering coming from his neighbor’s garden, Nick Watson is up early and thinking that he might have finally found a use for the 24 jars of beetroot that the Chairman bestowed on him as his Secret Santa Christmas present two years ago. Poised with a six-pack of the red toxin in hand, Watson pads out the front door in his rubber-soled shoes and onto the front path ready for action. But it’s not the sound of the unknown hammering – no, this is not a reference to the Sanjiv Sachdev and Matthew White “Prediction of the Week” (Wolves 1 Arsenal 4 – a hammering we can surely all enjoy!) that startles our disgruntled early riser, it’s the sight of the Moonerazzi staring up at him from the front pages of The Sun, The Guardian and The International Herald Tribune all lying on his driveway.

Yes, reading is elementary to our dear Watson, but the Moonerazzi, with her green Marge Simpson hairdo all askew and her Amy Winehouse tribute tattoos revealed in all their unlikely glory, is enough to shake even the most well read of predictors. To say the least, Week 13 in the Predictorship was unlucky for some but none more so than the scribbling scourge of founding predictor Mark Young. But even as she was being hauled away to rehab, the Blackburn Rover’s last words were directed at the New York-based Englishman: “I’m still ahead of you in the table.”

Sadly, most people are this season. None more so than Janet Roberts, who continues to set the Predictorship pace. Two points back of the Chairman’s missus is Steven Dunlop, who earned quote of the week honors with this unique Valentine to the table-topper: “I’m rather chuffed at my proximity to your wife – in the purely platonic Predictorship sense of course!” Of course, Mr. Dunlop is not the only predictor making moves on Ms. Roberts. Various members of the Roberts and Taylor clans are all getting into Top 10 positions, girding themselves for the Home Counties version of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

The big move this week comes from Christine Butters with an 8-point top score windfall. By coincidence, 8 people also correctly predicted that Chelsea would beat Manchester United 1-0 (Lady Butters being one of them). And finally, a tip of the forelock (yes, some of us still have them) to David Jones, Matthew White and Alex Iskander Liew, who all record season high positions.

Even more importantly, a get well soon shout out to our rehab-bound poisoned-pen princess. As the Leeds United players never said of Brian Clough: “We’ll miss you while you’re gone.”

One in a Million…

Ringside and the atmosphere is steamy. It’s minutes to go and ‘Rocky’ Birrell and ‘Riddler’ Roberts slip off their silky gowns to the cheers and jeers from of crowd, prompting Buttkiss to leave an urgent message at the feet of the Chairman.

Topping the scoring with 8 points and no joker played, Birrell is favourite but the Riddler – also on 8 points but with the tell-tale green hue, is whipping up his rowdy following.

Swathed in a emerald haze the front row is packed with the villain’s supporters: Janet Roberts sitting proud on top of this weeks table and diamantes glinting regally in her crowning glory; Chairman David, content to bathe in Janet’s limelight at 8th position this week, smearing off the damp patch on his dusty brogues and the ‘Taylor’ clan: Roger, Jill and Dave snuggling up with the ‘in’ crowd in 3rd, 4th and 5th position at the end of week 12. Who says beetroot doesn’t talk?

Causing a commotion at the end of the row, Mark Young grapples to release his umbrella which cavorts disdainfully above his head to the irritation of the seats behind.

‘How did he get up there?’ whispers Steven Dunlop to Matt Wayne, watching discretely from 6 rows back with the 30–40 pointers. ‘I managed to crawl back one point last week and after this week’s user friendly selection I’m 2nd in the table!’

‘Just watch and stay back Steve,’ Wayne offers sagely. ‘Best to stay away from a crowd like that’.

The bout begins. ‘Riddle me this Birrell:’ taunts the Joker, ‘What’s black and blue and red all over?’

Birrell lunges deeply into his opponents’ stomach, winding the man in green.

‘Less of the poetry, Nigma’ heckles the Penguin, ‘or it’ll be your face not his’ he sneers and goes back to wrestling his umbrella.

Meanwhile, Nick Watson; ‘ a man celebrating his club’s first win since the invention of the wheel …’ according to Statman White, is cheering manically as either of the boxers lands a punch. Joining in the celebratory atmosphere are Predictors of the Week, Nicola Savage & Jill Taylor (Burnley 2-0 Hull City) & Andrew Thraves (Bolton 1-4 Chelsea – final score 0-4), dressed in gold and black to support their hero. Nicola, so giddy with the fumbling advances of the would-be champion that she almost forgot to submit her scores this week, is waving erratically in the air to signal her support.

Despite the hype it’s been a low scoring round this far with only 24 correct scores, half of which were for Everton 1-1 Aston Villa.

Then, the crowd groan as Riddler lands a lethal right, sending Birrell’s gum shield flying. Then another… as he stagger around the ring deliriously, everything goes into slow-motion. The baying front row, Nicola’s grief-stricken face as she runs towards the ring…

And then down.

Nobody notices that the Penguin has left or the fluttering pages of a reporter’s notebook that spiral, unchecked to the ground….

Matt Wayne heads swiftly for the exit.

Jokerwocky

I won’t revisit the sorry stats of the week so ably narrated by Matt Wayne, so here’s an autumn poem to lift your spirits…

‘Twas gloomy and Predictors woes
Did slide and simbre in their ale
All tipsy from their highs and lows,
Much bemoaned with outrage.

“Beware the Jokerwock my son!
The smile that’s white, the olive thatch
Beware the Penguin bird, and shun
The luminous Riddler’s chat!”

He took his vorpal mouse in hand:
Long time the wond’rous web he surfed –
So rested him by the latte stream
And sipped a while in thought.

While at the sorry stats he looked
The Jokerwock with beetroot stains,
Came whiffling through the reference books
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! The tables drew
The vorpal mouse when click and clack!
He sent the mail to all and said
“You won’t corrupt my stats!”

“And has thou tamed the Jokerwock?
Take off your cloak, crusading man,
O cupshious day! The Blues – hooray!”
They chortled as they sang.

‘Twas gloomy and Predictors woes
Did slide and simbre in their ale
All tipsy from their highs and lows,
Much bemoaned with outrage.

... after Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 – 1898)

The Best is Yet to Come

It’s Saturday 14th September, 1963 and the telly’s on.

The lounge at Predictorship HQ is set out for the assembled Predictors to watch the afternoon’s match as WBA are first out on the pitch to begin their warm-up. Old Trafford is heaving with fans eager to catch a glimpse of new signing, George Best.

Top of the Predictorship pile, Janet Roberts has been re-coiffed to celebrate another successful week with silvery beads woven through her ever-enlarging beehive. However, as Janet sachays through the throng distributing peanuts, Chairman David (this week’s top non-joker scorer with 9 points) casts a menacing glare at the party in the corner discussing their successful Sunderland – Liverpool prediction, John Collins, Ralph Hannah, Alex Iskandar Liew, Steve McHugh, Ted Warland and Joe Zalewski who seem a little too interested in the constantly-swaying mini-skirt before them.

Turning back to the huddle, Ralph, who claims to have stepped out of something called a Hadron collider, is bragging to his bewildered audience:

‘No famous people to name drop this week…although I sat in the front row at Wembley on Wednesday and I think Crouch heard me shout his name…’

The group try to look impressed while glancing around to see if anybody knows what he’s talking about!

Conveniently, the party is broken up by a flustered Nick Watson pursuing a pair of puffed-up Persians with bad attitudes heading between Janet’s legs.

Gallantly swept out of the way by Dave Breeze before disaster strikes, the peanuts (and Janet) are saved. Dave, having played his joker to win a rather ostentatious 16 points to rise 13 places up the table, has been loitering around Janet all afternoon, smirking lasciviously at her with a rather unpleasant painted grin fixed onto his sallow complexion.

‘Shame about that train robbery last month,’ oozes Dave. ‘Poor driver eh? Do you think he saw who hit him?’

Janet smiles back politely and unpeels herself from Dave’s oily grasp.

Predictors of the Week – Rob Molloy, Sally Moon (Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea) and Joe Zalewski (Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool) who’s just managed to extricate himself from Ralph’s continuing monologue, move swiftly towards their seats as Dave makes his way towards them.

The match is about to begin and Baggie’s boy, Mark Young still languishing at the bottom of the table, can be heard muttering to a red-carded Rob Dimery:

Finally the Moonerazzi has gone too far — as any self respecting connoisseur of high culture knows, “The Great Escape” is copyrighted to West Bromwich Albion fans. I understand she’s been in a dark, dank place with just meager rations for a few weeks, but this is a worse football violation than Sylvester Stallone playing a goalkeeper in “Escape to Victory.” Something has to be done: its time for “The Damned Predictorship United” moment: I’ll understand if you don’t break your china set at the next AGM at Predictorship HQ, but can we at least get a reprimand in the minutes? And by reprimand, I suggest a solitary confinement screening of “A Shot At Glory” while sitting on the cooler floor bouncing a baseball off the wall. If she drops the ball, then the movie goes back to the beginning.’

Don’t you think you’ve been watching too many movies Mark? Don’t get me wrong, but think you might be loosing it a bit.

The Best is Yet to Come

It’s Saturday 14th September, 1963 and the telly’s on.

The lounge at Predictorship HQ is set out for the assembled Predictors to watch the afternoon’s match as WBA are first out on the pitch to begin their warm-up. Old Trafford is heaving with fans eager to catch a glimpse of new signing, George Best.

Top of the Predictorship pile, Janet Roberts has been re-coiffed to celebrate another successful week with silvery beads woven through her ever-enlarging beehive. However, as Janet sachays through the throng distributing peanuts, Chairman David (this week’s top non-joker scorer with 9 points) casts a menacing glare at the party in the corner discussing their successful Sunderland – Liverpool prediction, John Collins, Ralph Hannah, Alex Iskandar Liew, Steve McHugh, Ted Warland and Joe Zalewski who seem a little too interested in the constantly-swaying mini-skirt before them.

Turning back to the huddle, Ralph, who claims to have stepped out of something called a Hadron collider, is bragging to his bewildered audience:

‘No famous people to name drop this week…although I sat in the front row at Wembley on Wednesday and I think Crouch heard me shout his name…’

The group try to look impressed while glancing around to see if anybody knows what he’s talking about!

Conveniently, the party is broken up by a flustered Nick Watson pursuing a pair of puffed-up Persians with bad attitudes heading between Janet’s legs.

Gallantly swept out of the way by Dave Breeze before disaster strikes, the peanuts (and Janet) are saved. Dave, having played his joker to win a rather ostentatious 16 points to rise 13 places up the table, has been loitering around Janet all afternoon, smirking lasciviously at her with a rather unpleasant painted grin fixed onto his sallow complexion.

‘Shame about that train robbery last month,’ oozes Dave. ‘Poor driver eh? Do you think he saw who hit him?’

Janet smiles back politely and unpeels herself from Dave’s oily grasp.

Predictors of the Week – Rob Molloy, Sally Moon (Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea) and Joe Zalewski (Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool) who’s just managed to extricate himself from Ralph’s continuing monologue, move swiftly towards their seats as Dave makes his way towards them.

The match is about to begin and Baggie’s boy, Mark Young still languishing at the bottom of the table, can be heard muttering to a red-carded Rob Dimery:

Finally the Moonerazzi has gone too far — as any self respecting connoisseur of high culture knows, “The Great Escape” is copyrighted to West Bromwich Albion fans. I understand she’s been in a dark, dank place with just meager rations for a few weeks, but this is a worse football violation than Sylvester Stallone playing a goalkeeper in “Escape to Victory.” Something has to be done: its time for “The Damned Predictorship United” moment: I’ll understand if you don’t break your china set at the next AGM at Predictorship HQ, but can we at least get a reprimand in the minutes? And by reprimand, I suggest a solitary confinement screening of “A Shot At Glory” while sitting on the cooler floor bouncing a baseball off the wall. If she drops the ball, then the movie goes back to the beginning.’

Don’t you think you’ve been watching too many movies Mark? Don’t get me wrong, but think you might be loosing it a bit.

Just any Tom, Dick or Harry?

It’s a day for celebration and with the photos safely stashed away, the Roberts emerge into the sunlight.

‘We won’t be getting any trouble now, my dear’ the Chairman reassures his wife as they stride across the dusty yard to inspect the prisoners.

Janet Roberts idly adjusts the curls around her magnificent green beehive as they approach the dishevelled huts. She hadn’t realised what a powerful aphrodisiac victory could be, but after gunning her way to the top of the table once again she was savouring the adulation with her co-conspirators.

‘Janet!’ Joe Roberts shouts urgently across the yard from the doorway they have just left.

‘What’s brown and wrinkled and never stays where you put it?’

‘Joe!’

Joe and Tom Roberts along with James Bradley have all played their jokers this week and with 12, 14 and 12 points apiece Janet had noticed them behaving a little out of hand. Tom had been particularly surly after scoring 6 points from the first 4 fixtures on the scorecard but just 1 point from the remaining 6 fixtures, and his brother had been making the most of his mood.

‘No – you don’t understand…’ Joe enunciates slowly, beckoning them back towards the office.

Meanwhile, Ralph Hannah (aka The Cooler King) is striding around the Predictor’s hut recounting a chance encounter the previous evening and tossing his baseball casually into the air for effect.

‘Well my scores were decided then,’ admits Ralph, ‘I met Maradona”s daughter last night and she said she would be happy with 1-0, who am I to argue…’

“Then of course, off my guard, The Chairman came up behind me and – well, here I am’.

The Predictors nod sadly at the story, recalling their own painful tales of capture.

‘Keep your spirits up guys’, Pete Yoder (The Scrounger) jumps up, seizing an opportunity to offer ‘support’. I’ve got a small stash of liquor they missed when they picked me up from New Orleans. Guess the drunk act worked huh?’

‘That was no act, Pete’ retorts Andrew Thraves (Intelligence), observing quietly from the corner as usual. You reeked of bourbon when they threw you in here last night… but we won’t hold that against you!’

The Predictors gather around Pete to find out where the stash is hidden, while Andrew goes back to studying his papers. With 3 correct scores (a feat only matched by Janet Roberts) for Finland, Ukraine and Japan, Andrew is slowly heading his way up the table, but not without the finger of suspicion resting upon him. After an unpopular Predictor of the Week award for England’s defeat in Ukraine, morale and Andrew’s popularity are at an all time low. Ted Warland (The Forger) is making his own award for predicting Ireland’s 2-2 draw with Italy and Matt White (Big X) joins him to finalise the plans.

‘What’s Auntie Margaret’s leg doing sticking out of that trunk?’ screams Janet in horror as they enter the room.

‘Get it back in their quick, boys before somebody sees it!’ urges the Chairman, ushering the Tom, Joe and James towards the wrinkled stocking sticking out of the half-open lid.

‘She should have handed over the photos when she had a chance, Janet’ David mumbles distractedly. ‘Come on, let’s get back to the prisoners’.

But as they enter the hut, the room in empty.

Matt pulls The Moonerazzi from the tunnel onto the damp grass.

‘Why are you shaking? I thought you were the “Tunnel King”!’ asks Matt, concerned.

‘It’s not that,’ she sighs gratefully. I think I’ve had a bad reaction to all those beetroots they’ve been feeding us. Never let me see a beetroot ever again!’

Steak Out

A hastily scribbled note on a crumpled list of fixtures was all that remained.

* Top score: 10 – Janet Roberts
* Total players: 40/43
* Total points scored by 40 predictors: 247
* Average score: 6.17 (almost 3 points lower than last week’s 9.05)
* Prediction of the Week: Simon Gold & Marek Phillips for Liverpool 4 Burnley 0
* Jokers played: 0
* Yellow cards: 3 (all 3 scored 0 points as there were no draws this week)
* Red cards: 0
* Sanjiv Sachdev scored 8 points without finding a correct score: clever
* Janet Roberts & Dave Taylor: 8 correct results
* Joe Zalewski’s 1 point is for Sunday’s games only ANOTHER HOLIDAY

‘Holy Poets! The Moonerazzi’s been taken and look at those red stains on the wall!’ Ted Warland turns to Matt Wayne in despair.

‘And that ‘s not the worst of it, Ted’ warns Matt as he strides up to examine the marks.

‘Let’s hope that’s only beetroot, but they are more than meaningless dorbs. Something’s been written in that juice.’

The boys look closer and sure enough, the words slowly emerge from between the mottled plaster:

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s black and white and re(a)d all over? No, not a newspaper: its the Chairman dripping beetroot juice all over his leather outfit at an Alvin Stardust karaoke night… (When oh when is the Moonerazzi going to release the photos?)

‘Holy root vegetables Matt. You know what this means, don’t you?’

‘Yes Ted. And it’s all my fault. With all those Predictors on holidays I let my guard slip and now the Moonerazzi’s being held ransom by my arch enemy.’

‘Yes, that Riddler, Matt. He makes my blood boil.’ replies Ted, spitting at the wall.

‘If only it was, Ted. But that’s not the Riddler – that’s just one of his evil ploys to throw us off the scent.’

‘Look here’. and Matt stoops down to pick something up off the floor.

‘Pie crumbs. I was right. This is the work of the Penguin. And look at my cape. Those violet threads must have come off the wall when I stepped forward to examine it’.

‘Holy top hats Matt. Let’s hope she doesn’t give into his demands. Who knows what could happen if those photos fall into the wrong hands!’

Dig for Victory!

Following the massive top score of 22 from Roger Taylor this week, the ugly rumours of dirty brown envelopes and insider dealings are once again rife in the seedy world of the Predictorship elite.

Yes. Its that time of year again when the Predictorship Country show takes over the fields of Church Langley, and all is definitely not coming up roses.

There’s a stench of foul play in the vegetable tent as rumours bubble around the Chairman’s fine beetroot display. ‘Nepotism. That’s what it is,’ whispers Dave Breeze to Ted Warland who sit 8th and 7th in the table with a very creditable 11 and 13 points this week, as they queue up to weigh in their Maris Pipers.

‘Look at them all,’ Dave continues, allowing a little spit to land on the judges blouse. ‘Two Taylors and three Roberts in the top 6. You can’t tell me that’s a coincidence’.

‘Yes, and look at their hair!’ hisses Ted, nodding in agreement. ‘Chlorine in the swimming pool? I don’t think so!’

Irritated at the chattering behind him, Dave Taylor snatches up his prize-winning root (2nd place with 14 points) and turns to fix the culprits with a dark gaze. Silence engulfs the tent as Dave stretches a blood red smile at the two pretenders. ‘Your time will come,’ sneers Dave, ‘but I’ll be waiting for you’.

Ted and Dave edge towards the exit, only to be blocked by Joe Roberts – this week’s 6th place with a 13 point haul and still to play his joker – who steps out from the shadows at the back of the tent. ‘Riddle me this boys, what is it that no man wants to have but no man wants to lose?’ Joe steps across the door, arms folded as they shrink back into the tent. ‘That’ll be a law suit!’ crows Joe menacingly, ‘which is what you’ll have if you don’t stop your sorry little rumours!’

Ted and Dave lunge past him to freedom sending Steven Dunlop flying as he heads towards the home produce tent with his freshly baked Pasteis de Nata.

But there’s nothing that will dampen Steven’s enthusiasm today as he scrapes the custard out if the grass and back into their fluffy cases:

‘What a week it was!’ quips Steve cheerfully. ‘8-1 victory for Benfica (their biggest in 15 years) and 12 points for me securing second place in the Predictorship, it’s been many a moon since I scaled such dizzy heights!’

And with another 12 points this week to send him soaring into the joker pack in third place, he drags the crest-fallen heroes off to sample his Portuguese delights.

The homemade tent is evidently the hot ticket as Predictors from all over the globe arrive to see who will win the pastry prize.

Mark Young, shifts nervously from foot to foot behind his small trestle, eyeing his steak and kidney pie beatifically and tugging his flat cap over his eyes as stat-man Matt White examines his crust.

It’s going to be a close run contest with hot contenders pulling in 9 correct results this week: Joe Roberts (who only failed to predict the result of the Argentina-Brazil game), Nicola Savage (Denmark-Portugal) & Pete Yoder (Poland-Northern Ireland) and all of whom have an extremely impressive array of puff-pastry treats on offer.

The standards have never been higher, with an average score this week of 9.02 (a new Predictorship record), 13 players who have recorded double-figure total scores this week and an astounding 32 players who have recorded double-figure scores so far this season (that’s an average of 8 a week!) we’re looking at some large egos and big prizes up for grabs.

So if you fancy displaying your vegetables and pastries, you’d better start pulling out those jokers. And with only 4 played so far, the field’s never been so wide open.

Penguins on Parade

… it started with a kiss. No sooner had Janet Roberts seen her husband’s transformation, her fate was already sealed. Fuelled with a passion we can only imagine, she lunged at her beloved’s borsch-stained lips and sealed her fate.

… and as in all good musicals at such a tender moment, the orchestra strikes up, the chorus enters stage left and the lovers begin to gyrate erratically around the boards. Passing the Joker ‘crown’ on to a star-crossed lover is obviously a queue for a big number and Chairman Roberts doesn’t disappoint. Twirling and swirling the lovely Janet, resplendent in her trademark green beehive, through the dry ice as his Nike’s swoosh energetically across the stage, there is hardly a dry eye in the house. A dance of champions as Janet rightly celebrates her 3 point Predictorship lead with a whopping 18 points.

It’s a well deserved night on the town for the assembled Predictorship audience with an average score of 8.55 this week, an amazing 66 correct scores and 13 players reaching double figures. There are a few who, of course, always go over the top on such occasions and others who let the side down.

Sliding between the penguin suits at the intermission, Ralph Hannah (hot foot from Paraguay) and Pete Yoder (hot foot from ‘Vegas) in unfashionably floral attire whisper conspiratorially as Ralph slips a few readies into Pete’s waiting palm. With scores of 9 and 7, could the boys be betting on the final placements already? Judging from the third member of their party, there could be something more sinister afoot. Mark Young, sporting a violet topper and bow tie in the manner of Burgess Meredith, is once again standing out from the crowd. Turning an attractive shade of puce as he sucks heavily on the Marlboro light in his cigarette holder, Mark appears to be pointing out the Predictorship Cup Chairman to his companions.

Matt Wayne, unaware of the discussion, is getting in a round for the week’s top scorers Steve Dunlop and Dave McAleer (both on 12 points). Unusually the conversation is one of regret with Steve, giddy with the Spanish sun, holding back from playing his Joker at the last minute and thereby loosing a potential 24 points. Matt nods sagely,

‘There’s nothing worse than living a life of regret, Steve.

Holy super leagues. If there’s one think I’ve learned in life. Go with your instincts. You never know what might be lurking around the corner.’

Steve and Dave look at Matt suspiciously but, the intermission bell has sounded and Matt is gone. ‘Maybe all those stats have finally sent him round the bend!’ suggests Dave as the work their way back to their seats.

‘He’s certainly been acting a bit strangely this season.’ agrees Steve, ‘Do you think it’s those Turkish sausages he’s been eating? He certainly seems to be disappearing a lot lately.’

The second act begins with moving solos from our ‘Predictors of the Week’ for the Blackburn 0 West Ham 0 score (watched incidentally by Millwall’s John Collins who nipped out at half time to watch some paint dry). Simon Gold (9th place with 9 points) begins with the old Bachman-Turner Overdrive number ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’ and Normanetta No Mates, transformed into Edith Piaf for the evening, brings the audience to it’s feet in a finale of ‘Rien de rien’.

Meanwhile, there’s a strange cloaked figure moving through the lighting rigs above the audience. Little do they realise, the evening and the Predictorship are a long way from being over.

A Dark Night

One glance at this weeks table tells us that the odious rumours were true.

As the everyday folk of Church Langley chattered animatedly over their Friday night barbeques and the aroma of cremated sausages filled the air, smoke was rising from a darker place.

Nobody heard the grate of metal above the laughter as the sinewed figure heaved the manhole cover to one side and emerged, glistening onto the tarmac; his shock of green hair luminous in the harsh sodium light.

Janet Roberts was busy putting the finishing touches to her weekly scores when the door blew shut. ‘David, is that you?’

There was no answer. Why did he never remember to put the latch on when he went out to the bins? Men!

She didn’t hear the creak of the stairs as the figure made his way up to the door and by the time she had turned to see him, it was too late. The telltale beetroot stains smeared wildy around his mouth and up across his face told their own story. The Chairman had transformed and there was no turning back. The Joker had been played.

Rising up the table a mighty 29 places to 2nd the frenzy of excitement has turned the Chairman into a crazed man.

“Looking forward to seeing my yellow bar on the new table!” cackled Roberts to Matt Wayne, Predictorship Cup chairman, on his 14 point coup. It wasn’t the first time Wayne had heard the sinister voice and he knew he had to act. And act fast.

Shadowy figures began appearing in Church Langley as the weekend unfolded: Nigel Birrrrrell arrived with an icy blast, freezing out the opposition with 12 points and rising to third place. Jill Taylor, joined the whispering huddle soon after, wrapping her tendrils around her co-conspirators and tightened her ivy-grip on the top of the table, watched, out of sight from the rooftops by ‘Cat’ hryn Gregory, biding her time with 11 points and only one point behind.

But as the parents called their children inside away from the freakish gathering a roar could be heard echoing through the empty streets as the sleek black Tumbler thundered into the close. Matt stepped out, Teflon-coated and stood menacingly to confront the leering villains.

‘Holy supervillains!’ cried Matt as he spotted Mark Young in a top hat scurrying behind the council bins. ‘Don’t think you can take over this Predictorship with me looking after the good people of this competition’.

WHACK, BAMM, THWACK!

The Caped Crusader slugged the Chairman, sending him reeling into his Mini Cooper.

‘With an average score of 7.6, there are many worthy Predictors and I WILL see fair play’.

SLAM, ZAP, BANG

Poison Ivy, Jill was launched into a particularly unpleasant rockery.

‘And, with only five players failing to record one correct score, the competition will be too hot for you!’ Matt shouted, glaring at the blue man in the shadows.

POW, CRACK!

Nigel Birrell flies onto an open barbeque and starts to met uncontrollably.

‘I name the Predictors of the Week Steve Dunlop, Saleel Sathe and Nigel Birrell – to show I believe in fair play for the Burnley Everton match, but Holy Predictorships – if I catch you all together again, I’ll be flashing my red cards, and you’ll all be sorry!’

So be warned Predictors out there. Play your jokers wisely and fairly or you may be getting a visit from the Black Knight.