It’s a tawdry and patronising cliché to say that it’s the most difficult league to get out of – Wolves didn’t find it hard to leave, did they? But my God in heaven, there was a snake-pit full of twists and turns on the last day.
First thing to say is if anyone still has doubts about the fairness of the play-off system then please close your dim-witted gob now. The play-offs keep mare teams interested, more fans on the edge of mental breakdowns; they simply make the end of the season better.
I was surprised that Hull got the second promotion place to be honest. All right they had a comfy Cardiff to play (Man U’s performance v Chelsea proved what a lot of edge can be lost if you’ve nowt to prove anymore) but they’d been abject in their last three games. They couldn’t aim without shooting themselves in the foot.
Watford, on the other hand were up against a Leeds team with nothing to play for and they had everyone’s favourite Italian as their manager. He’s such a nice man, Gianfranco. Last day shoot-outs require calm heads on the pitch too. Zola had two who were anything but… the lad who came on as sub keeper… well you just wanted to stick him on a South Sea island for a couple of months so he could forget that the rest of the world exists.
As for Troy Deeney, that sending-off was ridiculous – a Scholesian runaway shopping-trolley of a challenge. It was so bad, even Gianfranco couldn’t be nice to him. Even then Watford could’ve stumbled past Hull who, in an attempt to recreate the impossible drama of Brentford-Doncaster the previous week, contrived to miss a penalty and almost instantaneously conceded one at the other end.
But eventually Hull – and Steve Bruce – fell over the line like an exhausted pensioner finding his seat after having run for a bus. And Watford must go again against Leicester.
If that wasn’t enough, Huddersfield, Barnsley and Peterborough played out a ladies excuse me for the last relegation place. Wolves confirmed their departure in meek fashion – I just don’t know what the hell Steve Morgan and his board are doing there. Saunders has got the bullet this morning. Here’s a manager who took a team down last season getting appointed this year so he could the same.
Colin Wanker must be lined up already. He’ll get them promoted, fuck everyone on the board off, and get told to leave too. It’s a bleeding shambles. If I was a Wolves fan, I’d be livid.
Any road, Peterborough ended up holding the bomb when the music stopped, not least because of a dreadful decision to award Palace a free kick in the last minute that led to the decisive goal. But the fact is the teams fighting for survival all had quite a stack of points. Boro, near enough top on New Year’s Day, have ended up just five points above the drop.
All this after 46 games. It’s bloody exhausting. Them Premier League boys just don’t know how cushy they have it. Attention turns to them again now (if we overlook Brentford’s extraordinary stagger into the Div 1 play-offs – there can’t actually be a Brentford fan in the country who hasn’t gnawed his own arm off.)
We’re all presuming Wigan will beat Swansea aren’t we? It’s what they do. Except their defence has never been this creaky on a run–in. I haven’t seen such poor marking since I spent a day with a privatised examination board.
But if they do then we’re looking at Newcastle and Norwich as the first in line for the Championship slops. However, after using the marvellous BBC Predictor I have – reluctantly you understand – come to the conclusion that Sunderland will be helping Di Canio reacquaint himself with a lower league.
For one, they have no one left who can score a goal unless you imagine John O’Shea’s going to poach a hat-trick at White Hart Lane. For two, I just have a feeling that Southampton will beat them at the Stadium of Plight.
This in turn will save the skins of Norwich and Newcastle who will between them scrape a point at home to West Brom and Arsenal respectively. Wigan will do enough against Villa. All of which leaves Spurs, who will get a point at Chelsea tomorrow, edging out Arsenal for fourth spot and throwing Wenger’s future into fresh relief. That HAS to happen in the close season or footy journos have nowt to write about.
So that’s what will happen,m boys and girls. Unless it doesn’t. The one thing you can guarantee is that Wigan will be still in with a shout on the last day and North-Eastern sphincters will be tightened to the max. Curiously enough, I even think defeat in the FA Cup final will only strengthen the Wigan will when it comes to the league.
And no, they won’t win the FA Cup. The FA Cup final doesn’t do fairy tales. Portsmouth was a blip. So Wigan will have to save their miracles for the League again.
In the meantime I’m pleased that the rest of you lot have had to endure sitting on the razor-wire of end-of-season hell, even if Boro’s season has ended as if the whole club has been on a morphine drip. Onwards and upwards. I’ll be stoking the flames of optimism for next season. Tomorrow.