The battle for Premier League survival heats up, but two clubs have already decided their fate after decisions made earlier this year. Here are my predictions for the Premier League relegation scrap.
The Chairman’s conundrum, as we have seen this season, is an unenviable task. When your team are not performing, football fans tend to unite against the suit in the dugout.
Their idols on the pitch surely cannot be to blame for their side’s recent demise; “he’s a superstar for his country”, “he’s been a proven goal scorer for his previous clubs”, “heck he cost us millions of pounds so he surely cannot be to blame”.
And so this fickle bunch ask; on whose shoulders must we place the burden of responsibility and humiliate publicly until the man with the deep pockets, analysing proceedings in that comfy chair up there in the stands, decides he must agree with us?
In another environment, an individual may be able to take legal action for defamation of character after a dismissal, but once again football has its own unique place in our society. Unless you are so short-sighted to tweet abusive musings towards highly-paid stars in the public eye, football fans have safety in numbers.
Indeed, their opinions should be heard on occasions. Without their loyalty and continuous ability to shed out their hard earned cash week after week a Premier League football club would cease to exist. I just wish that sometimes “supporters” would take a step back and carefully consider what they are chanting before deciding to continue. The mind boggles when you stop and ask yourself; why would someone spend all that money on tickets just to scream expletives for 90 minutes each week?
The manager is often the target, and we have seen countless Chairmen forced to pull the trigger to good and bad effect. Their thought process probably goes something like this;
“Removing the manager should keep them quiet for a while, and I’m fed up with having to wind down my window to talk to journalists as I enter the car park. That mob outside are growing larger in numbers and noise by the day as well, surely they have a day job to attend?
“What to do… I strongly believe that our current man at the helm will keep us up, but can another man do better? Should I…”
Stick or twist? It seems that sometimes, after careful consideration, it pays to stick. Even in a short-term results business.
As the Premier League season draws to a close, it remains likely that three of five teams will be playing Championship football next season. Alex McLeish may be looking for his second relegation in as many seasons, and his Aston Villa side must still play Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool. Their position in the table bears a similar appearance to Birmingham’s last year, but I fully expect McLeish to learn from his mistakes and Villa will survive this term and must improve.
This leaves us with Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers thrashing it out to avoid Championship football next season. Let it commence.
Of the five teams mentioned, two are playing the worst football they have all season. Queens Park Rangers, under Mark Hughes, have picked up just eight points from a possible 33 since Neil Warnock was sacked in a far easier run of games than they now face. Their win at home to Liverpool was a fluke, and they must still play Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, otherwise known as the top five. I see no way back for QPR. Predicted finish: 19th.
The other team are Wolves. Since Mick McCarthy’s departure, Terry Connor’s side have picked up one point in five games, conceding 16 goals in the process. There is no way back for Wolves unless they win at home to Bolton on Saturday. Predicted finish: 20th.
There is a common denominator between those two aforementioned clubs. Decisions taken earlier in the season meant they significantly reduced their chances of survival after sacking their managers. The message? Stick.
Which brings us on to the other three teams, and in each case their Chairmen Dave Whelan, Phil Gartside and the Venkys have been pressured to remove their managers. To their credit, they have stuck with their man and rightly so.
The North West will lose at least one team this season and it’s looking increasingly difficult to call. Many people assume Wigan will finally be relegated after several narrow escapes, but in the capable hands of Roberto Martinez their experience of narrow escapes may be invaluable. Equally, Blackburn have surprised everyone by not only sticking with Steve Kean, but by picking up superb recent results. Having said that, their run in is tough with away games at Tottenham, Chelsea and Swansea to come and I think Wigan can catch them. Predicted finishes: It depends on the result when they face each other on 6th May at Ewood Park. May the best team win or secure the draw they may need.
In contrast, established Premier League side Bolton will be fine and I fully expect them to win most of their remaining home games and to pick up three points at disjointed Wolves this Saturday. It’s been a difficult season for the Trotters and one they hope to forget as soon as possible. Predicted finish: 16th or 17th.