With one week remaining of the domestic League season, yesterday saw a large number of the issues regarding Promotion and Relegation resolved. In the Premiership, the charmless revolution emanating from Stamford Bridge continued with the Title confirmed as staying in West London for another season as Manchester United capitulated to a three goal defeat, proving that all of the hot air coming from Fergie et al in recent weeks about not surrendering was just the final bellows of a over inflated ego. In keeping with the complete lack of class surrounding the club, Chelsea fans pelted their opponents with a variety of objects in the first half. Coming on the back of a £10k fine for failing to control their players at West Brom earlier this year, it ranks as crass stupidity by the fans to do so. Perhaps now the FA will finally take action against the club that brings them into line with the rest of football and shows them that their blatant disregard for the rules is no longer tolerated. A three week closure of the stadium and a points deduction for the start of next season would seem to be the only thing that would make the idiots listen. At the foot of the table, ‘Appy ‘Arry avoided the ignomy of relegating both South Coast clubs in successive seasons by continuing Portsmouth’s improbable resurgence with a win at Wigan. This condemned both Birmingham and West Brom to Championship football next season, although whether the current bosses will be there to lead them is open to debate. European places are still up for grabs so I would expect Sky to show Arsenal and Tottenham’s matches next weekend. Blackburn are in pole position for the last UEFA Cup place, two points clear of Newcastle with two games to play as opposed to the Toon’s one. What this has done is prove that Souness really had lost the plot and put Roeder in a good position to take over as manager should he decide to apply for the job.
The Championship was decided weeks ago, Reading as worthy champions and perpetual bridesmaids Sheffield United promoted automatically with just the play-off positions to be decided; Preston, Watford, Leeds and Crystal Palace fighting for the one remaining promotion place. If I had to choose, my heart says it would be nice to see Preston win through for no other reason that it is another new face in the top flight, current form would suggest Watford should go up but I suspect Palace will have the nouse to win through. Relegated sides Crewe, Brighton and Millwall will be replaced by Southend, with probably Colchester going up automatically. In the play-off mix Brentford will be joined by Huddersfield. Thereafter, the two places will be filled by Barnsley, Swansea, Nottingham Forest or Doncaster. The Tykes are reasonably sure of being one of the teams but the remaining three all face away trips next week, Chesterfield, Bradford and Tranmere being the hosts. Picking the two to go omwards with their seasons, I have a feeling that Doncaster will miss out, having to win whilst the other two should be capable of picking up the necessary point.
The bottom of League One showed just what a rollercoaster game football can be. Walsall were relegated last week and will be joined by Swindon, supported by my father as regular readers will know. After an hour in yesterday’s games though, it seemed that The Robins were on course for a miraculous escape, leading by one goal at Bristol City. A flurry of late activity allied to a Bristol City equaliser condemned them to their fate; the punishment highlighted the negatives of recent home defeats to Rotherham and MK Dons. The remaining relegation places will be filled by two of Blackpool, Rotherham, MK Dons and Hartlepool. In a twist of fate, the winner will really take it all at Millmoor next saturday as Rotherham host MK Dons, although avoiding defeat may be enough for The Merry Millers if Hartlepool fail to beat Port Vale. Blackpool are nervously glancing over their shoulders as defeat at home to Gillingham could condemn them if MK Dons or Hartlepool win.
League Two has one promotion place to be decided, Carlisle promoted last week, joined yesterday by Northampton. The Cumbrians seem to be in pole position for the Title though as they visit Stockport and The Cobblers travel to Grimsby. That is not clear cut though as no-one but the most optimistic of Seagulls would have expected Torquay to beat Carlisle yesterday and Grimsby are not the force they were six weeks ago. Leyton Orient will be in third place if Grimsby lose or they win at relegation threatened Oxford United. The play – off’s are largely sorted, Wycombe and Cheltenham confirmed as joining the Mariners or O’s with Lincoln likely to join them, needing to get a point to deny Peterborough a play-off spot. It is again the relegation area that is the real dogfight. Rushden go back to whence they came, confirmed as a Conference side yesterday. They will be joined by any one of the next SEVEN sides above them in the table. Currently, that position is occupied by Oxford. Which is where it gets interesting. Next weeks games see Oxford entertain Orient who are fighting for Promotion. Stockport one up the table entertain Carlisle who need the points in the fight for the title. Notts County in 21st host Bury in17th who could theoretically be relegated if everyone below them won and scored enough goals in the process. Barnet in 20th travel to already relegated Rushden whilst Torquay who put their fate in their own hands entertain Boston who are in mid-table obscurity. The one remaining team who could go down are Macclesfield, visiting Bristol Rovers. Of all of them, my tip would be Oxford as Orient have the added incentive of automatic promotion if they get a point.
There would also be a delicious irony if Oxford went down as one of the teams coming up is Accrington Stanley, a role reversal from 1962 when Oxford replaced Accrington in the League after the latter folded. The Play-Off places are filled by former League clubs Hereford and Halifax, accompanied by Morecambe and Grays. It is the last one of the lot who I have a sneaking suspicion will be promoted, despite their defeat yesterday at home to Morecambe, beating Hereford in the final. At the bottom, current relegated teams are Altrincham and Scarborough despite what the BBC website says. Altrincham have an appeal against an 18 point deduction for fielding an ineligible player pending, should they succeed their place will be taken by Tamworth. But this could change if as is believed, Canvey Island admit that they cannot fulfil their fixtures for financial reasons next season. Mention should go to Forest Green Rovers who yet again pulled off a houdini act to escape relegation, ending Stevenages’ faint promotion hopes by winning their last match at The Lawn by 2 – 0.
Alan Curbishley has announced that he is to leave Charlton at the end of the season, fifteen years after taking joint charge with Steve Gritt. This will mean he is free to take over at Newcastle or England should they come calling. Hats off to him for his efforts in establishing Charlton in the top flight on an oft quoted, Limited Budget.
It seems that Premiership footballers no longer compare Cars or Salaries when they meet. The latest fad, once again made fashionable by Beckham, is the Broken Metatarsal. Wayne Rooney joins such luminaries as Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard in recent years but it makes me question why this particular injury seems to be occurring with such regularity these days when it was seemingly not so prevalent twenty years ago. Whilst it may be just a perception and back in the day it was quite common, if it was not then questions need to be answered about the current spate of causality. It is noticeable that the rise has coincided with a similar increase in popularity of bladed boots as opposed to the studded kind. Perhaps it is no more than a coincidence but it is well documented that a number of high profile managers dislike these boots. No doubt a study will disprove my theory, sponsored in due course by the boot manufacturers.
Finally, a salutory warning to Thierry Henry about the perils of leaving Arsenal. Rumours abound that Patrick Vieira is on his way out of Juve, having not lived up to expectations particularly since Christmas. It was widely reported that he left to have more chance of winning the Champions League, a fair point at the start of the season. How true it has proved about the grass not always being greener on the other side, as this seasons Quarter Final encounter proved. Best of luck to Patrick wherever he may go, what odds of him facing Henry in a La Liga match next year?
Todays Tunes come from Spanish Band, Cooper, a by-product from Los Flechazos split, formed by front man Alejandro Diez. These tracks are from the now deleted Promo CD single for 2003, Cierra Los Ojos (Close Your Eyes). These are a good representation of the timeless melodies woven by Diez throughout the existence of Los Flechazos and Cooper. Tune In, Turn On and Dream of summer.