Early Doors

Match-fixing: Well, maybe just this once…

Early Doors

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Fixing a match is widely accepted as the worst thing anyone can do in football.

Worse than diving, worse than spitting and yes, even worse than gnawing at your opponent's arm like it's a chicken drumstick.

The others are forms of cheating or misbehaviour, but they exist within the boundaries of football.

Match-fixing destroys football. It obliterates the degree of honest competition required if our sport is to mean anything at all.

Fans can argue the toss about Luis Suarez's punishment for his mid-game nosh against Chelsea - but few would dispute the life bans handed out to those involved in pre-determining (this year the Italian FA has ended the careers of 11 such players).

So let's just say it's a very serious business. Something that nobody with any love for football should tolerate or even contemplate.

Except... Early Doors is hearing evil voices in its head. Voices that wouldn't mind a bit of organised corruption in the interests of keeping the Premier League interesting.

ED tries to block them out, but this is what they say:

The title was decided eight days ago. Reading and QPR are already down. And you are not - repeat NOT - going to get Early Doors interested in the depressing modern obsession with who finishes fourth.

So... all we've got left in this whole stinking season is the final relegation place. And Wigan could be down well before the final weekend.

Aston Villa's brutalisation of Sunderland last night lifted them five points clear of the relegation zone.

There's Wigan on 32, then seven more clubs within a three-point range of each other.

What these voices are trying to say is that we could either have the most boring final day to a season, or the most exciting.

And it all depends on Wigan's ability to drag themselves out of the mire in four games handily dotted around the biggest game in the club's history - the FA Cup final.

So, shouldn't we give them a helping hand?

Modern football is sometimes accused of being too populist, too commercial, too interested in chasing TV ratings at the expense of its soul.

No, no and again no.

What other form of popular entertainment would risk its final hurrah being reduced to a melancholy whimper?

Big TV game shows leave their rules intentionally vague for just this sort of situation.

They would spring a shock bombshell by relegating four teams (really not a bad idea when you think about it) or use some form of judges' save to award Wigan all three points from their game against Spurs.

Football doesn't have this. All it has is match-fixing. And if there were ever an encounter to quietly nudge one team's way, it's Wigan's trip to West Brom this weekend.

Lose it and Wigan are all but down. Win it? All of a sudden you'll hear a collective tightening of sphincters loud enough to convince the Pentagon that North Korea has nuked Japan.

A Wigan win brings to life the glorious idea that 40 points might not be enough to stay up.

It puts Newcastle, Villa, Sunderland, Norwich, Southampton, Stoke and Fulham firmly in the crosshairs.

Imagine a final day when any one of eight teams could be relegated.

We'd have six games 'live':
Wigan v Aston Villa
Man City v Norwich
Newcastle v Arsenal
Southampton v Stoke
Swansea v Fulham
Tottenham v Sunderland

Imagine the permutations! Imagine the twists and turns! Imagine the sheer nerve-shredding tension of it all, and the glorious, mischievous enjoyment for the rest of us!

It would be brilliant. Worth some money to the Premier League, for sure. But mainly it would be ridiculously good fun to watch unfold.

It's a long shot, and the first step required is a Wigan win at the Hawthorns against a side with nothing left to play for.

Surely the dodgy betting syndicates, men with briefcases and those shadowy puppeteers who walk the corridors of power - whoever it is that sorts these things out can make it happen.

ED knows match-fixing is wrong - but just this once... nobody will mind...

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As the chairman I am embarrassed. I apologise unreservedly and it won’t happen again on my watch. I thought that we made a really gross error of judgement in who we selected for our entertainment last night. I was embarrassed. All that has gone on in football over the past few years, with everything that we purport to stand for, his set was inappropriate, it really was." PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle breathes new life into the non-story of Reginald D Hunter at the PFA Awards. Early Doors's view is best summed up by this clip.

FOREIGN VIEW: There is no danger Borussia Dortmund will suffer from stage fright in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg at Spanish giants Real Madrid, coach Juergen Klopp has said.

Klopp said his team's performance against Bayern Munich in the 2012 German Cup final in Berlin, when Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick, was proof they can perform under pressure on the biggest of stages.

"For us it's the same situation as last year's German Cup final," a typically relaxed and entertaining Klopp told reporters at the Bernabeu.

"We were the German champions and Bayern Munich wanted to beat us in this game, change their whole season," he added.

"They gave their all and my team was pretty cool in this moment because the only way to reach your dream is to be brave.

"And that's what we tried to do. It's no problem to lose the game because it could happen. It's only interesting what you invest in the game.

"They (my players) cannot fail as they will give their best, there is no doubt about this."

COMING UP: They can't... they might... they won't... they could do... no way... but you'd hate to miss it. Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund at 19:45 - it might be boring but you don't want to be the chump who missed the most thrilling comeback in Champions League history (until Wednesday night).

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Alex Chick - @alexchick81

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