Well the football season’s almost over. I’m heading to Wembley on Saturday to see if tiny home-spun Blackpool, the team I supported as a boy, can do something verging on the incredible by winning the Championship play-off final against Cardiff to secure a place in football’s top-table, the mighty Premiership. Though, if truth be told, it’s not been a vintage Premiership season.
I’m not saying that because of sour grapes. My favourite team, Man Utd, won the Carling Cup but were runners up in the title race to charmless Chelsea who last week-end also won the FA Cup to secure their first true Double. And they achieved this despite:
– losing leading scorer Drogba and several of their stars for a month of the season to take part in the African Cup of Nations;
– their captain Terry being caught up in a maelstrom of bad publicity culminating in the humiliating loss of his England captaincy over a rather sordid sex scandal;
– ditto similar unsavoury headlines for the club following Ashley Cole’s indiscretions (who also went missing for several weeks following a broken ankle);
– the loss for most of the season through injury of key player Essien;
– having a rookie manager to the Premiership in Ancelotti who, having been comprehensively out-thought/played/smarted by the oh so special one Mourinho in the Champion’s league QFs, was understood to be on his way out of the club along with assistant manager Ray Wilkins and his many backroom staff;
– having millions pumped into it over the last 5 years, the club’s Academy hasn’t produced one single player regularly playing in the first team.
Given this you’d expect them to have a kind of up-and-down season, which is really what they’ve had. So what about the competition? Man U had the player of the year in Rooney at least until he became injured in that fateful match against Bayern bloody Munich (and I still cannot comprehend how they lost that match after cruising it 3-0). However the loss of Tevez and, more importantly, the sale of Ronaldo meant that the club were down 50 goals and at least 10 extra points. Although Rooney’s goal tally improved significantly, the languid Berbatov never looked like making up the balance. And his days must surely be numbered now.
Arsenal are still at least 3 players short of being a great team (goalie, uncompromising midfielder and a top striker) and they hung in there but fell away as usual towards the end. Things will get a lot tougher next year should Fabregas decide he’s had enough of the Holloway Rd and heads for the Ramblas.
Liverpool had a quite dreadful year and are heading towards mid-table. Surely Torres and even Gerrard are heading for John Lennon airport.
Spurs came on quite a bit as did Man City and, to a lesser extent, Aston Villa. And with further investment they will all expect to continue to get closer to the top. But even if they pumped in £100m in new players, I still sense they will be chasing but failing to catch the top 2 again next year.
As for the rest of the Premiership it was pretty grim football from all bar Everton, where David Moyles must be getting a little tired of pulling off small miracles, and plucky Fulham who had a season to remember and will probably get relegated next year. Imagine being a West Ham fan this season – it must have been a nightmare. As for Portsmouth well what can I possibly say? They will sink into oblivion.
Newcastle did well but will surely struggle again once they are back in the Premiership. Leeds are up a Division but it’s a long way back. Don’t you think that Mourinho is the new Don Revie – thoroughly-prepared, more concerned about the result than the performance, sly and willing to court controversy and just a little paranoid? Which leads me to ask who cares who wins in the Champions League final now? Both Mourinho and Van Gaal have egos so large the winner’s gloating will be hard to stomach.
And then, of course, we’ve had another head of the FA embarrass himself and the institution and the standing of the English game at a critical time over an indiscreet dinner chat with a young woman armed with a tape recorder and a grudge over an earlier affair, it is alleged. It’s all rather pathetic and predictable.
So come on Blackpool, brighten a rather dim season and get Ancelotti, Ferguson and Wenger quaking at the thought of visiting a ground with less than 4 completed stands next year. Ah we can dream.
ps I was delighted for my old mate JP who’s team, Millwall, made it to the Div 1 play off final last night too. Surely this time JP?