Well that, as they say, is that. Survival Sunday, as it was optimistically dubbed, ended in relegation for Newcastle and Middlesbrough, while Everton held on to the ‘best of the rest’ fifth position and Fulham secured the final Europa League place. Everything else is pretty much as you were. Here are my final conclusions of the 08/09 Premier League season, I hope it’s been a good one for you and lets hope the next one rolls around quickly!
1. An Omen for Everton
Everton won against Fulham at Craven Cottage, a comfortable 2-0 victory that completely ignored the Toffee’s previous complete inability to win at the tiny London ground, where they haven’t emerged triumphant since Alan Ball scored the winner in 1966. Of course, the year 1966 means a lot to all English football fans, but to me it actually means a touch more too, and I am optimistically taking yesterday’s result to be a very good omen indeed for the Toffees.
You see, in 1966, Everton won the FA Cup (3-2 against Sheffield Wednesday). And of course, next weekend, Everton will compete against Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup Final, the first time they’ve reached the final of that competition for fourteen long years. As a die-hard Evertonian I’m absolutely desperate for us to beat Chelsea and finally add to out trophy cabinet. And considering the last time we won at Craven Cottage we also won the FA Cup in that same year, it could well be a positive sign. I certainly hope history can repeat itself come next Saturday. COYB.
Three more conclusions after the click including: why relegation is a bonus for Newcastle, why the final day results were fitting, why I am actually glad that Man Utd won, and why I feel rather vindicated…
2. A blessing in disguise…
…may well have been bestowed upon Newcastle United in the shape of their relegation. Though there are many fans of other clubs who have been delighted to witness their demise, based upon the admittedly annoying belief that many of the Newcastle faithful seem to hold that they have a right to be a top flight club on merit because of their admittedly excellent fan base, I don’t count myself among them.
Instead, I feel for those passionate fans who have the dignity to acknowledge that the sort of shoddy and farcical leadership that has overseen the demise of their club over the past few years means that relegation is all that the club genuinely deserves. However, for the real fans of Newcastle, as I said, I feel relegation will be a blessing.
I feel this because, quite simply, dead wood floats. Newcastle are sinking but they are carrying a lot of dead wood, and as they sink, they will be able to rid themselves of that particular burden. The burdens of players who don’t play for the club so much as they play for their hefty paychecks. The burdens of the constant pressure of expectation placed upon the club by unrealistic fans. And the burdens of idiocy that were placed on the club by the naive financial and managerial decisions that led the club to this low point.
In the Championship, Newcastle have a chance to rebuild. They can offload the players who don’t want to be at the club and will be left with a core of quality, like Steven Taylor and Steve Harper, players who want to play for the club, who love the club and play for the fans. They will also continue to attract massive attendances, because their fans are very loyal, and so such large attendances, a severely reduced wage bill and the generous parachute payments will give them a bit of financial security, despite the loss of revenue that relegation brings, mainly through loss of TV Money.
They also do have the added bonus of carrying a certain prestige. Newcastle are a famous club, and while that doesn’t give them the right to a top flight place, it will emit a certain attraction to the higher quality players in the football league. They will be able to attract players of a good quality to the club and so build a squad that can compete in the second tier of English football.
With all of these blessings in place, so long as the club is managed and run sensibly, I see absolutely no reason why they should not return swiftly to the big time. And not only that, but should they do so, they will return in a much healthier state than they are currently in, and thus be far better setup to re-establish themselves as a Premier League force than they would have been if they had survived on Survival Sunday.
3. A Fitting Final Day
I thought it was pretty much reflective of the season as a whole that the four clubs who were battling to avoid relegation all lost on the last day of the season. Usually on a final day there will be at least one club who denies all the odds, all previous form and all expectations to grab a heroic win on the final day, sparking scenes of jubilation amongst their fans.
Yesterday though, all four of the teams involved in the relegation scrap pretty much just succumbed to defeat pretty meekly. Sunderland gave Chelsea a bit of a game in fairness, but really, there were no absolute shocks. It goes to show just how poor all four of the sides are, that even with the massive motivation of possible relegation behind them, they still couldn’t overcome sides who, for the most part, had nothing at all to play for.
As I mentioned above, this condemns Newcastle and Middlesbrough to relegation, and they will need to do some serious re-building, but the same applies to Hull and Sunderland. The standard of the majority of sides in this season’s Premier League was surprisingly low, which resulted in the very open relegation battle with almost half the teams involved up until a point. Hull and Sunderland need to really overhaul their squads and their attitudes if they are to survive next season which surely, will not be so abjectly poor again.
4. United won, I was pleased: go figure.
As a typical non-Manchester United fan i am not a big fan of Fergie and his boys. I respect their quality and acknowledge that they’re a top side, but I really enjoy seeing them slip up. This season has been strange for me then, in that I wanted them to do well and to win the league, so that Liverpool wouldn’t, once it became clear that the London clubs had fallen short.
This strange desire to see United win also translated to the final day, though for very different reasons. All the talk before Survival Sunday surrounded Ferguson’s likely line up and whether he would be justified in playing a below par team, given the unstable nature of their opposition’s Premier League status.
In the end, I was glad to see that United won, because it saved a lot of sour grapes. If Hull had beaten them, you can bet your boots that at least some Newcastle and Middlesbrough fans would have kicked up a fuss, despite the fact that both their sides lost. Overall, I think it was just better for everyone and their ears that the status quo was retained and Hull got beat, surviving by luck more than anything.
5. The League Table Is No Longer Lying…
A few months back, at the end of December when Aston Villa were fifth (and fourth at times) and Everton were sixth, I wrote my first article on Soccer Fan Base, arguing that sometimes the league table does lie, and that in that instance, it’s assertion that Villa were a better side than Everton was false. I gave numerous reasons for this view and you are more than welcome to read them here.
I concluded my article by suggesting that we should let the season run its course before suggesting that Villa were the best side outside the ‘big four’ (a notion that was popular at the time, and is still so now, if less so) because the final league table doesn’t often lie. I suggested that the true test of the team is over 38 games and suggested that Villa had some tests to overcome while Everton, with a nightmare beginning to the season, had overcome theirs.
And, for once, I have been pretty much proved to be entirely correct. The final table shows Everton sitting ahead of Villa in fifth, reflecting the fact that I believe they are a better team than Villa, something that I would think most unbiased people would agree with. In the end, Villa failed to deal with their troubles, like injuries and loss of form, as well as Everton had at the start of the season, and continued to do as they picked up more and more season-ending injuries.
So really, this final conclusion is me wallowing in my own sense of vindication. It goes to show that sometimes I actually do talk sense on here and that I do occasionally know what I’m talking about, which will probably surprise a few people! I hope you’ve enjoyed following this season with me, and I hope you’ll stay with me through the off season as we get ready to do it all over again. Thanks, as always, for reading.