Football,eh? Bloody Hell!!!
For the last week or so,I’ve been driving around in a Vauxhall Astra. Not a bad car to be honest,but not as comfortable as my van-and definitely not on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning when I do about 350 miles or so. No DAB radio though,so no Planet Rock or World Service for me. I was reduced to listening to the Liverpool v Chelsea game on R5.
And what a game it was,an eight-goal thriller to use a tired old cliché. But it was completely overshadowed by events in the division below,now known as The Championship. It was everything that makes us all adore the game,and after twenty weeks,it was so good to be reminded of it.
It was the last game of the season,and unbelievably-due to relegation,promotion and play-off places still to be decided-ten out of the twelve games mattered to at least one of the teams involved. I’ll briefly give you the main permutations.
The second promotion place would go to West Brom if they won,or if they matched or bettered the Brentford result. To Brentford if they bettered the West Brom result. To Fulham if they won,Brentford didn’t,and West Brom lost.
West Brom were at home to mid-table QPR. Brentford were at home to Barnsley,who looked certainties for relegation,needing a win and some other results to go their way. Fulham were away to mid-table Wigan-who still needed to win due to the imposition of a twelve point penalty for going into administration,which would be imposed at the final whistle.
Down the bottom were Barnsley,Charlton-who would survive their visit to champions Leeds as long as Barnsley and Wigan didn’t win,and Luton,who needed a better result than at least one of them to stay up. And Hull,who needed a miracle.
In the play-offs,apart from the teams mentioned earlier,were Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest. Both on 70 points,they looked safe. Swansea were three points behind,and the respective goal differences of 7,11 and 5 would surely ensure that.
Cardiff were at home to the doomed Hull City,Forest to a now safe Stoke City,while Swansea were away to an also safe Reading.
Right. Have you got that?
Well,Charlton got humped. But that was ok if Barnsley didn’t win. And although they took the lead against Brentford,they were pulled back late on. That draw would put Barnsley down while Brentford would need QPR-who were outplaying a poor West Brom-to get a late winner,the score being 2-2. Fulham were doing their bit the hard way too,coming from behind to level. Luton,meanwhile,had been pulled back to 3-2 by Blackburn and dare not lose an equaliser. West Brom dare not lose a winner,while Brentford and Barnsley both needed one!
So did both Wigan and Fulham in their match,but neither achieved their goal,the match finishing 1-1. Luton held on to maintain their place in the division next season. West Brom held out for the draw while hoping that Brentford wouldn’t find a winner. Charlton were safe unless Barnsley did!
And they managed it in bloody injury time,which took them above both Wigan and Charlton. It was genuinely thrill-a-minute stuff,superbly relayed by the BBC. Jeff Stelling and his lads couldn’t have done it better-and besides,Chris Kamara would have been hyperventilating long before the end!
But the tensest bit of the evening was being played out over the final play-off places,as if the above wasn’t enough to be getting on with. Cardiff had taken the third play-off place,but while Forest and Swansea had both earlier looked like playing out draws in their respective matches,a late late turnaround in both changed everything! Swansea stepped up a gear by hammering three late goals past Reading,but they still needed Stoke to score another two goals in a fairly local derby. They didn’t-they scored three!
The last,six minutes into injury time and an own goal,just rubbed salt in the wounds-and they might take some time to heal.
Seriously,I’ve never known so much to be hanging on so many games so late in the day,and I was delighted for everyone who got what they wanted-and felt for everyone who got mugged at the final hurdle. Especially Wigan,who got relegated through no fault of their own. And yet,there may be further twists in this. Wigan can,of course,appeal. I think they’re onto plums for it,mind. But Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday are both facing Football League inquiries into FFP breaches which could see them deducted points. Both charges revolve around the owners of each club buying the ground from the club,which injects funds into the club by selling the owner something he already owns.
The relevant number of points needed to save Charlton is nine,imposed on Sheffield Wednesday. To save Wigan as well,it would take a seventeen point penalty on Derby too.
Don’t be surprised if it happens. The owners owned the clubs which owned the grounds. That means they already owned the grounds. That’s blatant.
By Sunday,I should have got my heart rate down after all of that,just in time for it to start again in the EPL,again the final round of matches. This is a more simple equation. The first two Champions League places have already been claimed by Liverpool and Man City,with two to play for. Chelsea,Leicester City and Man Utd are in the running for the other two,with the loser dropping into the Europa League. And the latter two play each other on the final day!
As Man City won The League Cup,it means that there is another EL place for finishing sixth. That place is currently taken by Wolves. Who visit Chelsea on the final day. If both games finish drawn,Chelsea drop to the EL-but that probably won’t suit Wolves because Spurs are away to Palace-who have been rank rotten since the return- on the final day,and a win would put them in sixth place. Even a draw would do if Chelsea won. Which would leave Wolves stuffed.
The other end of the table seems a bit simpler. Watford and Villa are tied on 34 points,with goal difference of -27 and -26 respectively. Bournemouth are three points below with a goal difference of -27. Bournemouth need a win while the others lose.
All three are away from home! Watford at Arsenal. Bournemouth at Everton. Villa at West Ham. Thing is,Everton too have been rubbish since the break. West Ham are safe,and probably relieved to be so. Arsenal may have their eyes on The Cup Final next week. So who knows how these games will go? Could be interesting,though I suspect Villa will be the only team to take a point.
But in a similar way to the championship,there could be a final,post-season twist. This one not requiring disciplinary procedures. If Chelsea win the cup,the seventh team in the table,either Wolves or Spurs,gets the final EL qualification place. Either could be out of Europe one week,and back in the next.
“Football,eh? Bloody hell”
It’s why we love it!!!
Above article by BMCUWP.