the time of the season when every neutral begins to choose their allegiance while every ardent supporter
of a club threatened with relegation becomes a nervous, quivering wreck.
It's that time when distinctly average footballers make heroes of themselves, grown men are filmed in slow motion weeping uncontrollably, and everyone suddenly remembers that there used to be a footballer by the name of Graham 'Diamond' Stuart who once performed pretty well for Everton back in May 1994.
supporters of Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool,
Wigan Athletic and West Ham United, the next few weeks will be truly agonising.
games having already been played, there are now just two more sets of 90
minutes to decide each side's destiny and, suffice to say, a fair amount of
wonga is at stake.
The destination of the title is already effectively decided, so the attention must switch now to the rear end of the Premier League table in search of drama, misery, ecstasy and plenty of replays accompanied by tear-jerking string quartets.
you want to see go down? It's a dry and rather sadistic question to ask, but
it's one which will consume even the most casual armchair pundit over the next
two rounds of games.
would offer the best value for the Premier League next season? Which of the
teams would be most greatly missed? And have we all had enough of Ian
Holloway's wit, Mick McCarthy's dour and dreary platitudes or Steve Kean's 'I pick my teams while drilling duty free on the plane to India' suggestions?
run through the teams languishing around the relegation places and assess
their relative merits.
Ham United (20th - 33 points)
should stay up: The Hammers will be playing their home games at the Olympic
Stadium before too long, and having it half full in the Premier League is
ridiculous enough. With such a history, tradition and infrastructure, West Ham
would be missed if they made another visit to the Championship.
they should go down: To hear from Messrs Gold and Sullivan less often can only be a
good thing. The Hammers owners' incessant griping has become extremely tedious,
with their treatment of boss Avram Grant frankly shambolic. Oh, and they might
finally be rid of perma-injured
Athletic (19th - 36 points)
they should stay up: Roberto
Martinez is a staunch advocate of progressive, attractive football and that
should never be taken for granted in a league where the maxim 'style is
nothing; points are everything' pervades strongly.
they should go down: Pitiful
attendances and a distinct lack of away support - even the most vociferous Wigan
supporter would struggle to justify their top-flight status in terms
of the club's profile and backing. It's been a steady downward slide for the Latics
in recent times, and this season could see their demise.
(18th - 36 points)
they should stay up: Most
football fans would agree that having Holloway in the Premier League can
only be a good thing, with the bonkers Bristolian providing exceptionally good
value at the normally dour press conferences and post-match interviews. The
Tangerines play fearlessly and with such abandon at times, it's hard not to
they should go down: Next season
could be arduous, should they beat
the drop on this occasion. Charlie Adam - despite snogging the club badge last
week after netting a penalty - will be off and that could spell the
Wanderers (17th - 37 points)
they should stay up: For all
McCarthy's stoic pessimism, he brings an incredible honesty and frankness to
the Premier League table. Wolves reserve their
best performances for big scalps, and a few upsets doesn't do anyone
they should go down: Have they
simply been hanging on for too long? If the likes of Matt Jarvis leave,
McCarthy may really struggle to find sufficient creativity in the transfer
market on a budget. Also, Karl Henry has already left his mark on enough players
to last a lifetime.
City (16th - 39 points)
they should stay up: If the
winners of the Carling Cup end up going down, it may spell the end of clubs
from the lower echelons of the league attacking the cup competitions with such
gusto. Birmingham are surely far too professional,
well-drilled and organised to go down and, if Carson Yeung dips into his
pockets, there is money to be spent... and lots of it.
they should go down: Fans of
gritty football with a feisty edge would be disappointed to see Birmingham go
down but, for the rest of us, the Blues represent a side which is wholly
uninspiring. Functional, but lacking in creativity or panache. It's entirely understandable,
but it renders McLeish's men disposable.
Rovers (15th - 39 points)
they should stay up: It would be
intriguing to see how Kean would fare given a full season to thrive or,
on the other hand, to fail. The unproven Scot was a staggering appointment from
the club's new owners after the sacking of Sam Allardyce: he's obviously
world-class at delivering powerpoint presentations, but where
will he take the club next season, should they stay up?
they should go down: After having
the sheer brainless audacity to fire the widely respected Allardyce after the
big man had saved the club from a Paul Ince-inflicted relegation and
established them in mid-table, owners Venky's would be more deserving than
anyone if they were to see their side plummet.
Who do you want to see go down from the Premier League and why? Post your views below...
who believe Ben Foster's decision to take an 'indefinite break' from
international football is pretentious and out of line are entirely wrong.
28-year-old has accumulated just five caps for the senior side since he made
his debut against Spain in 2007, with a spate of untimely injuries and the
gelled blond hair of Joe Hart in the way.
course, the fervent patriot would argue that Foster should make himself
available for each and every England match without even a flicker of
anyone claim that travelling all over Europe, having to sit next to Joleon
Lescott and Scott Carson while clad head to toe in JD Sports gear is
has made the right decision for himself and for his club Birmingham and,
perhaps in the manner of Paul Scholes, he may be set for a sudden resurgence of
form and fitness as a result.
growing concern for England is that, with Paul Robinson and Foster churning out
distinguished displays most weeks for their clubs, boss Fabio Capello's virtually
non-existent, or just plain shoddy, communication with his players is proving increasingly costly.
OF THE DAY: "The Qatar 2022 bid team ran an
historic campaign that changed football. Happily, our promise of bringing
football to Qatar compelled FIFA. Bidding, like football, is a rough
sport." A statement from the Qatar team laid to rest the tantalising
questions of whether their successful bid 'revolutionised football' and whether
football is a rough sport. ED think the answer is no on both counts.
VIEW: So what did ED conclude from last evening's
avid foreign football watching? Barcelona are pretty good at playing football.
The Catalan club clinched their third consecutive La Liga title with a 1-1 draw
against Levante, and Pep Guardiola's ominous assessment? "We have to work
more and we need to reinforce in some areas. There are many things we can
improve on." ...Collective gulp.
UP: It's the first instalment of the
Championship play-off semi-final first legs, with the ever feisty Billy
Davies's Nottingham Forest hosting Swansea at the City Ground from 19:45. We've
got an exclusive interview with former England brolly-wielder Schhhtteeeeve
McClaren, and the inimitable Bundesliga blog 'Never Mind the Ballacks'.