Grand Finale Didn't Disappoint
How many of us neutrals actually think that Sheffield United will be the one joining Charlton and Watford in the Championship next season?
I can tell you it's not a lot, considering the Blades had the upperhand and with their fate lying in their own hands. They were up against fellow strugglers, Wigan, who were in an absolutely horrendous form prior to the game and looked very likely to falter at Bremall Lane.
Considering it was Sheffield United's home ground, it was definitely no easy task for Paul Jewell's men and they were marked as the underdogs for this game. Wigan's survival is also closely link to the simultaneous match going on at Old Trafford, where West Ham did everything they could for survival, to dampen United's joyous mood after winning their first Premiership title since 2003.
But before the battle on the pitch had even started, the war off the pitch has already heated up. The 'Gang of Four', Charlton, Sheffield Utd, Fulham and Wigan were all involved in a law suit against West Ham and they were contesting the Premier League committee, who only fined West Ham 5.5million GBP due to the problematic signings of Tevez and Mascherano.
The quartet felt it was unfair and wanted West Ham to be docked off points just like AFC Wimbledon did few seasons ago after fielding 6 loanees on the pitch at the same time. They felt that the sentence should be more severe rather than just monetary compensation.
When all the world seemed to be against you, that is when the true character shows and West Ham put up a magnificent showing at Old Trafford to not only put a little sour note to a supposed celebratory occasion for United but also ensured their own safety.
Ironically, the man who got them to do a 'Harry Houdini' is none other than Carlos Tevez, the one who got them into trouble, well not his fault anyway. Since he scored his first goal for West Ham in the 4-3 defeat to Spurs back in early March, he was on top of his form and managed to dragged West Ham through.
Although Sir Alex fielded a weaken side, one should never question the integrity of the Red Nose as is probably saving the tired legs from the FA Cup Final this Saturday.
And that's probably why some of us are glad to see the back of Neil Warnock and his Blades. He have been banging on about clubs playing their weakened side and giving the relegation strugglers a foothold. And that constant whinging and moaning has got on the nerves of many neutrals.
Although, to me, I was very surprised to see Sheffield United going down because although they have been languishing in the bottom half of the table for majority of the season, they have been able to make their home a very difficult place for teams to go to and they are relatively stable compared to the likes of Wigan and West Ham.
But their away form have been abysmal and that probably is the stumbling block for their season. Losing key striker, Rob Hulse, is also another major turning point for them and their struggle to get goals means they'll always have less chances of winning.
Wigan went on a 10 games winless streak and were a totally different side from the one we saw last season. Their season hasn't been good by any means and they've probably became the team 'nobody gives a damn about' this season.
Yet when it all mattered, they turned up. Sheffield United sank. And that was how it all went wrong for the Blades. It was a bitter and cruel twist of fate as time wore on, Wigan's fortune began to change while West Ham showed true character and resilience despite ManYoo's futile attempt to dash their hopes of survival.
Paul Scharner puts Wigan ahead but Jon Stead equalised for Sheffield United. The turn of the tide came when Sheffield Utd captain, Phil Jagielka, handled the ball in the box and it was up to the former Blades player to put the final nail in Sheffield United's coffin. He slammed home the penalty and soon, it became a one way traffic game where the home side piled pressure and waves upon waves of attack at Wigan's goal.
But as we all know, football is never predictable. The final showdown of the relegation battle sums it all up really. The beauty of it, of course if you're a Blades fan. How things turn 360 degrees in your favour in a matter of seconds.
Well done Wigan and especially, West Ham. They put up their best when they were called to and although they merely survived by the skin of their teeth, both the teams know that it is extremely vital to stay in the Premiership.
This season has been yet another tremendous one considering the champion is not Chelsea this time round.
The relegation battle that boils down to the last day of the season is exhilarating and has been a fantastic showing for neutrals.
Although not as epic as the one 2 seasons ago, it still has been top notch while the the battle on top were a little different.
Basically, ManYoo steamrolled through almost all the teams while Chelsea playing catching up till the point they ran out of gas. They are considered the 'Big Two'. Then Arsenal and Liverpool fought for the 3rd and 4th place till the last day of the season as well but it doesn't really matter, isn't it? They are called 'The Other Two'.
Whatever it is, it has been a wonderful season and although I was disappointed to see us not challenging the title once again, it is still enough to excite and kept us at the edge of our seats. Bring on next season! Faster!
Managerial Musical Chair Begins
It is a norm that after the end of the season, there will be managerial casualties and also, jumping ships.
Big Sam Allardyce was the first as he quit Bolton two games before the end and is now appointed as the new Newcastle Utd. manager.
He is known for bringing out the best from the players and I've got a good feeling he'll succeed and excel at St. James' Park. Of course, lots of work needs to be done still as the club is fast becoming more like a medical centre than anything else.
Injuries aside, the dressing room hasn't been united through Glenn Roeder's last days as Oba Martins is reportedly missing while Charles N'Zogbia walked out after finding himself on the bench.
Money will be available for Fat Sam, finally, after years of limited budget at the Reebok Stadium. With Freddy Shepherd being the contributor, he'll now be able to bring in quality players without having to scour through the free transfer market for past-it players.
Paul Jewell, too, left his position at Wigan. It was only 48 hours after the miraculous survival and it is believed that the last few months has heaped so much pressure on Jewell that he can't take it further. A break is needed.
Man City, meanwhile, sacked Stuart Pearce after a dismal season in the league. With only 4 points off the relegation spot, Man City struggled throughout and despite spending big on Giorgious Samaras, Bernado Corradi and DaMarcus Beasley, they were short of fire power up front and broke an all time record of only 10 league goals at home this season. Shocking.
It might not end here as the board begins to assess the managers while the likes of Chris Coleman and Paul Jewell still about, the musical chair might not end just yet.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Grand Finale Didn't Disappoint