Early Doors

Why can’t they all go down?

Early Doors

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Franz
Beckenbauer once said of the Germany
team: "You could take all of them, put them in a bag and hit them with a stick.
Whoever got hit
would deserve it."

Early Doors
feels similarly about the Premier League relegation battle, albeit in a less
ruthlessly Teutonic way.

Over the
last two months, we have waited for teams to put together a run of results and
get out of trouble. With the possible exception of Blackburn,
nobody has.

Teams have
shown themselves to be mentally fragile, physically weak and technically
substandard as they have proceeded to lose a succession of 'must-win'
games.

When Alan
Shearer arrived at Newcastle, he said it would
be a minimum requirement to win their three remaining home games against teams
not named Chelsea.

They managed
only one win, and that against equally useless relegation 'battlers'
Middlesbrough, drawing with Portsmouth
and losing to Fulham. In the same time, they have collected a single point on
their travels.

So you
might be forgiven for thinking it was game over for the Magpies. Not a bit of
it. Their rivals have been so rubbish that one win could be enough to keep the Toon up as long as they avoid defeat to an
Aston Villa side so eager to get away on holiday their tray tables are already
stowed away and seatbacks are in the upright position.

A quick glance
at the form table will tell you that in their last six games, none of the four
remaining relegation candidates has won more than once.

Their
combined record reads: Played 24, won three, drawn six, lost 15, for a
miserable total of 15 points.

It is safe
to say that anyone who goes down this season deserves it, and that a couple of
sides will get an unmerited stay of execution.

In cases
such as this, where a clutch of teams are clearly unworthy of top-flight
status, why not relegate more than three?

Any side
incapable of averaging at least one point per game, 38 over the course of the
season, should be relegated automatically and their place in the Premier League
given to losing Championship play-off teams.

Under the
ED system, Middlesbrough and Newcastle would
already have joined West Brom in the relegation mire, while Hull
and Sunderland would have to beat Manchester
United and Chelsea respectively to prove themselves worthy.

It also
grinds ED's gears to have to listen
to people feigning concern for the state of football in the North-East.

Who really
cares if the region loses two of its three top-flight sides, except fans of
those clubs? What makes it so special?

There are
20 teams in the Premier League; if the North-East loses a team, somewhere else
gains one.

If Burnley go up, they will join Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan - plus
the two Manchester
sides - in what must rank as a golden age for Lancastrian football. But all
anyone can think about is those poor Geordies, Mackems and Smoggies.

Not so long
ago, the East Midlands had three teams in the
Premier League, now it has none. But no 24-hour sports news channels sent
reporters out to chat gravely with pork pie-making artisans in Melton Mowbray about
the woes of Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Derby.

The unvarnished
truth is that Sunderland, Hull, Newcastle
and Middlesbrough have all been bad enough to go
down, so no tears should be shed when two of them get what is coming to them.

- - -

The back
page lead of today's Sun screams 'Tevez final insult',
claiming that the Argentine will be left on the Manchester United bench for the Champions League
final.

The Current
Bun claims Fergie will stick with the side that thumped Arsenal 3-1 at the
Emirates, with Ryan Giggs replacing the suspended Darren Fletcher.

The thing
is, that team also had no place for Dimitar Berbatov, whose standing among fans,
pundits and now his own manager have fallen faster than a parachutist who has left
his backpack in the plane.

And yet,
while he does not exactly look like a £30 million player, Berbatov has not had
a bad season at all and his omission really ought to be just as much of a story
as Tevez's, if not more so.

Berbatov
has started 29 Premier League games, more than anyone except Edwin van der Sar,
Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo.

He has
scored four winning goals this season - three in the league, one in the FA Cup
- while Tevez's only winners have
come in the Carling Cup. Although admittedly his
stunner against Wigan might just be the most
important goal United score this season.

Anyway,
back to Berbatov, who scored four times in his first two Champions League
matches for United and has played all but one of their games in the knockout
stage.

Now, you
could certainly argue that, with one goal in 12 games, the Bulgarian's recent performances have been as tepid as a day-old
cup of tea.

But ED
struggles with the common assumption that he has been somehow worse this season
than Tevez, who United fans have mystifyingly elevated to a Joan of Arc-like
martyr status.

Tevez's popularity seems to stem entirely from the fact
that he runs around a lot and appears to care very much, while Berbatov just
lopes about half-heartedly.

The moral of the story, as so often in life, is that it
doesn't matter whether you actually
do anything. Just look busy and people will love you.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

English version of Cristiano Ronaldo interview with Spanish TV: "I'm sure (Florentino) Perez would create an
incredible team at Madrid
but at the moment I'm at United and
I don't care about what happens
there. I only care about what will happen next season at Manchester United."

Marca
version: "White is my colour and Figo is my idol."

FOREIGN VIEW: Axed Bayern Munich coach
Juergen Klinsmann has blamed the club's
powerful chiefs and his former players for his failed 10-month stint at the
German champions.

"I hit the limits with my way of
thought because I often had to deal with people who were unwilling to develop
further. I wanted to take the next step," Klinsmann said

He said he had came up against club
officials including President Franz Beckenbauer, manager Uli Hoeness and
general manager Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who were all strong personalities.

"They are all alpha males and also
need their space. They are all personalities you have to work with."

The 44-year-old said he should have asked
for three or four signings.

"It was a mistake to accept
compromises because you are dealing with alpha males," he said.

"One of the mistakes was to take over
the squad that was given to me. I should have been clear from the start and say
'I need three or four players'. I allowed myself to be convinced."

COMING UP: No
football today, so why not check out the lovely Tuscan scenery in text form as
the Giro d'Italia rolls into Florence.
Plus there is a glut of tennis.

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