Top 5 talking points from Saturday's football action
It’s been a truly exciting day across the Football League, here we look at the the top five talking points of the weekend so far.
1. Championship Beckons
It’s been coming for both Fulham and Cardiff but today, the penultimate weekend in the Premier League season, saw both of these sides relegated from the Premier League, dropping into the Football League. Having got into the Premier League back in 2001, it’s been a rollercoaster decade for the Cottagers which has this season ended in relegation. You don’t have to look much further than their ‘goals against’ column to see why they’re in this position. 37 games, and after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Stoke today, they’ve conceded 83 goals in a Premier League season. Only Derby County have conceded more in a season (89), and when you also don’t score for fun, it’s a recipe for disaster. Having started the season with Martin Jol at the helm, have chopped and changed managers for fun this season. In came Rene Meulensteen the former Manchester United coach, brought in Ray Wilkins and Alan Curbishley , but the Dutchman’s experiment lasted just four months, when he was removed from his job in February. In came former Bundesliga winner Felix Magath, who just couldn’t steady the ship. Having given Meulensteen just one month with his January signings, and to bring in a manager with no Premier League experience or players that he’d like is dangerous, and so it’s proved.
And then there’s Cardiff. I don’t think there are very many people who have any sympathy for Cardiff. The sacking of Malky Mackay from crazy owner Vincent Tan was handled terribly, as well as being probably being one of the worst decisions this season. Solksjaer is a likeable guy, and undoubtedly a good manager, but the job he walked into was a hotbed, and was almost certainly not going to end well, and it hasn’t. Just one season in the top flight proved too much for the South Wales club and they’re mix of nationalities. Under Mackay they looked solid at the back and capable going forward, most notably beating Manchester City early doors. But, when you use the support of the fans, what is a football club? Almost nothing, and the short Premier League stay for Cardiff can only be seen as a learning experience for other sides wanting foreign owners who have very little idea of football. Made 10x worse by how difficult the Championship is, and after so many years of Championship play-off’s, no one knows how hard it is quite like the bluebirds fans. Got to re-group and go again next season.
Will both sides having talented players on some big wages, how different will their sides be come August? No one knows yet, but in the likes of Caulker, Campbell, Jones, Dejagah, Parker, Sidwell and Mitroglou, there could be some bargains out there this summer.
2. City go top
Merseyside has never been a good hunting ground for the potential Champions, but they dragged a result out today at Goodison Park. After falling behind to a Ross Barkley wonder strike, Manchester City came from behind to take a 3-1 just after half time, thanks to a goal from Aguero and two from his strike partner Edin Dzeko. Finally when you look at the League City don’t have their game in hand waiting and have thoroughly earned their place at the top of the tree. Losing Aguero and Toure to injury during the game will put a doubt behind them for City’s final two games of the season, but for the time being, they sit top. As Lukaku got back into the game, City showed great resilience to hold out and win, at what is one of the hardest grounds to visit in the league. It was another showing of what has been Manchester City this whole season. Scintillating going forward, but defensively poor with Kompany and Demichelis looking adrift this evening. But, the pre-season favourites have just
two games in which they only have to match Liverpool and Chelsea’s results in order to lift a second Premier League trophy in three years, for the side flooded with class and money. With Aston Villa and West Ham at home in their remaining two fixtures, it’s hard to see past a City title, but this season has thrown up a number of surprises already.
3. Walk Out at Newcastle
A pre-planned walk out was organised today at St James Park ahead of Newcastle’s final game of the season against Cardiff. Notably it was a minority, but the banners and continuous chants of “Pardew Out” or “Ashley Out” have been going on for a while now. When the clock hit 69 minutes, just under a thousand fans inside St James Park got up and left. 69 is believed to be because of the last time they won a major trophy in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1969. Clearly, despite looking like a top ten finish this season for the Magpie’s, the problems seem to be mounting on top of each other week on week, and it’s not hard to see why. Having entered 2014 just 4 points behind Liverpool, after today’s game, they’re 31 points behind, with a game in hand for Liverpool. So can Newcastle afford to keep Pardew in charge? Well the eight year contract he’s only three years into would cost an absolute fortune to sack him, but the hostility between the club and fans is only growing and growing. The real problem surely lies within the figure that is Mike Ashley. His somewhat refusal to sell the club is baffling, especially when very few, if anyone, wants him there at Newcastle, it must be an awful position to be in.
4. Terrible Tottenham
An all too familiar sight for Tottenham fans, as a club with a Champions League squad looks like they might just scrape into 7th place. The lunchtime kick-off today saw them pit their wits against West Ham, who still needed the win to be mathematically safe, and that was exactly what they got. Tottenham didn’t even turn up at Upton Park today, and every single player bar Hugo Lloris looked like they were looking to Ibiza and Malia in the summer, and not the game in hand. With Sherwood at the helm, passion has never really been in question, just quality and structure. Today, there was nothing. Adebayor, the revitalised Togolese forward attempted just one shot today, in 90 minutes of football. One. Even Christian Eriksen looked down and tired today, the main bright spark for Spurs this season. The stats don’t lie though. 21 crosses were attempted throughout the game, and only 3 of them met the head of a Tottenham player. No desire to get on the end of it? Certainly looked like it. Lack of quality out wide? Certainly looked like it. Having spent over £35million in the summer on Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela to fill the void left by Gareth Bale, they’ve both been nothing other than woeful. Throw in Lennon who played today, and Gylfi Sigurdsson who played out on the left, there’s no quality what so ever. Andros Townsend usually offers something different with his out-and-out speed, but with him out injured for most of the season, no one has offered anything out wide. Then there’s the defence. Hugo Lloris stopped the game being 4 or 5 in West Ham’s favour as the back four totally switched off. They were all over the place early on, and then when Younes Kaboul got himself sent off early in the first half, it only got worse. Dawson and Chiriches didn’t communicate, Rose and Naughton at full-backs showed them to be two of the worst full backs in the league, and it was again diabolical. 2-0 flattered Spurs today and the Champions League football Levy dreams about couldn’t seem further away.
5. Football League
And the final point from today’s games comes from the Football League. On the final day of the football league season, only about half off relegations, promotions and play off places were secured, leaving a tense day at the top and bottom for a lot of teams and their fans. In the Championship, another dramatic end there saw Brighton scrape into the play-offs virtual of a Leonardo Ulloa winner at Forest, where as a late Birmingham equaliser at Bolton saw Doncaster return to League One following just one season in the second tier of English football. Cruel on Doncaster, who played well away at already Champions Leicester, but a dubious 15th penalty of the season for the Foxes was enough to send Doncaster down. Into league one and with everything up at the top already sorted, all eyes turned to the bottom where five teams were battling it out to not be the final two to drop into the bottom tier of the football league. Poor form in the last month or so saw Tranmere and Carlisle join Shrewsbury and Stevenage in dropping down into the fourth tier of English football. But into League Two, where my team, Wycombe Wanderers, sat in the relegation zone at 3:00, but a 3-0 win away at already relegated Torquay and a Colin Daniel goal for Mansfield against Bristol Rovers saw Wycombe preserve their football league status, and Bristol Rovers drop into the Skrill Premier for the first time since 1920. It’s a shame to see a club of their stature drop into the non-league, but someone had too, and I’m glad it wasn’t Wycombe!