Premier League predictions according to the Ancient Romans

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Predictions for this weekend’s Premier League fixtures via the entirely reliable medium of Roman divination.

Here at 3 Added Minutes, we have tried many methods for divining the future. My colleague Jason Jones, who has once again left me in charge of efforts to peer through the veil, has tried crystal balls, asking AI, rolling dice and even getting his dog to do it. The results have, if we’re honest, been mixed – so mixed, in fact, that one would think that our predictions were essentially being generated by moderately-informed journalists guessing, and not by some of the most innovative methods of prediction available.

So I’ve decided to try a different tack this week and have sought out the wisdom of the ancients in my search for accurate predictions and a winning accumulator. Specifically, I’ve dialled the clock back all the way to the long-past days of mighty Rome. One of the classical Roman priesthood’s means of divination was to release a small flock of birds and see which direction they flew in – that signalling the thoughts of the gods and revealing the future. This seemed like a practice that could easily be replicated in my local park, so I hotfooted it down to the nearest piece of green space and started running wildly into small groups of ducks and pigeons and recording what happened.

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Thanks to that exhaustive research – and I mean exhaustive, I had to do it ten times, so I’m knackered – I can now exclusively reveal the weekend’s Premier League results for you, at least according to ancient Roman priests.

Manchester United v Everton

The flock of mallards down by the lake were pretty startled when I did my best impression of an over-enthusiastic labrador charging through their midst, and flew in all directions at the same time for a short while before eventually settling back down more or less where they started. I took this decision to indicate that either ducks are inherently conservative creatures who prefer the status quo regardless of interruption, or it means that, after a surprising start to the football match in question, normality would be swiftly restored. So… Everton take an early lead but Man Utd equalise at some point? Not sure I’d have been cut out for a life in the service of Jupiter on this basis, but I was born 2000 years too late to really have to worry about that, so let’s run with 1-1.

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest

I frightened a large group of pigeons for this one, and their rapid, cooing retreat to the west meant that I at least had a clear sign to work with this time. So I opened my book of ancient birdflight interpretation – surprised they had them at Waterstones to be honest – sought out the correct page, and then found out that it was all in Latin. No idea what the pigeons actually meant, then, but form strongly suggests a home win so I’ll say 2-0 to Villa, based on my fundamental understanding of the sport rather than anything a bunch of poxy pigeons have to say.

Brentford v Newcastle United

I decided it would be thematically appropriate to go and bother some magpies for this one – I could have tried it on with some bees but I still have a traumatic memory of being stung on the tongue as a child, so we’ll give that one a swerve. In any case, the magpies I trotted up to didn’t actually move at all, presumably because they’re smart enough to know that I wasn’t actually going to try and beat up a bird in the middle of a public park. Anyway, there were two of them, which means joy according to the children’s rhyme, and while I’ve no idea if the Romans went in for saluting magpies, I’m not beyond claiming that this means a Newcastle win. Let’s say 2-1 to the Toon.

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Fulham v West Ham United

An interesting one, this, with the obvious form favourites Fulham having to make do without their star striker or even manager, making it all rather hard to call. The small group of collared doves I bothered to make this prediction seemed to agree, cooing in animated fashion as they took off in a flurry of wings and promptly landed in the tree directly above me. No idea what that means, and no idea what’s going to happen in this one, so I’m going to hedge my bets in cowardly fashion and say 0-0.

Leicester City v Bournemouth

The handful of starlings I fussed at in the name of getting a scoreline for this relegation six-pointer didn’t really didn’t seem happy to be bothered – in fact they got into a right flap. Thanks, here all week, try the buffet. Anyway, after watching them swirl about in the sky for a few minutes I failed to come to any useful conclusions, save that it’s an idiot who puts any money on basement battles this season. Or an idiot who tries to channel the visions of long-dead Mercury via the medium of a small murmuration of starlings. I don’t think Mercury even knew what football was. 3-1 to Leicester.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion

Right. Brighton. That means seagulls. This may have been the boldest or most foolish undertaking of my career, but I packed up my stuff and headed for the largest concentration of bins I could find in order to run screaming at some herring gulls. Such is my dedication to revealing the scorelines of the future. Anyway, what the Romans would have made of a series of giant screeching hellbirds tearing my scalp off in frenzied abandon, I don’t know. They’d probably have laughed their heads off before heading on to colonise Gaul. Anyway, I was in quite a lot of pain and I’m from Sussex, so let’s assume that points to a 1-0 win for Spurs.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea

The same group of pigeons from the Villa prediction were back in the park now, and that gave me a second crack at the whip, much like Frank Lampard. So, in honour of the former midfield man I decided to dispense with any notion of strategy or planning and went windmilling blindly in again. This time they legged it – winged it? – in a roughly southern direction, which I’m taking to mean the points going in the direction of London. 2-0 to Chelsea after Kai Havertz turns into Robert Lewandowski the moment Graham Potter turns his back.

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Southampton v Manchester City

Back to the park and it was starting to get a bit late, so not too many birds to try and intimidate left. I briefly considered squaring up to a swan, but I was still bleeding freely after the seagulls so decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Anyway, if the swan had predicted a Southampton victory I’d have completely lost faith in the endeavour, so let’s just say 4-0 to Man City and move on lest this entire exercise be revealed to be completely pointless.

Leeds United v Crystal Palace

The combination of frustration, wasted energy and bloodloss meant that at this point I was, frankly, going a bit feral. That’s the only explanation I can offer for finding myself having trapped and killed a crow before I pulled it apart in order to discern the future from its gory entrails. I don’t know how to do that either, so I can only apologise for killing an entirely innocent bird for no valid reason. I was losing it, so it was time to head home, but not before deciding that this match would end 1-1.

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Liverpool v Arsenal

Safely back in my house, I decided to finally do things the easy way. I just asked a chicken what it thought would happen. The chicken was long dead and currently stewing along nicely in a slow cooker with some mushrooms, stock and herbs, but at least it wouldn’t respond by beating me up or defecating on me, so this was a guaranteed improvement on prior attempts. And would you believe it, the sauce swirled mysteriously, forming the image of a heavily-bearded face and in a booming but solemn voice carrying the wisdom of the ages, it declared “I am mighty Jupiter, king of the gods and of men, protector of great and powerful Rome, and Arsenal will win 2-1 with Gabriel Martinelli banging one in late on.” So there you have it, really.

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