Premiership ends with a decided whimper
Ah, the final Sunday of the Premiership. Glorious spring. This year, sadly, there’s not that much to play for.
Chelsea have romped off with the title, paying a mere Â£600-million for the privilege of becoming the second side ever to retain the Premiership.
Sunderland have finished bottom by a record-breaking margin, even if they get something at Villa Park on Sunday. They are joined in relegation by West Brom and Birmingham, so no dramatic last-minute Bryan Robson escapes this year.
A rare win over Chelsea on Tuesday night—just the Blues’ fourth reverse of the season—saw Mark Hughes’s Blackburn clinch the final Uefa Cup spot. And so we’re left with two key areas of concern on the final day.
Arsenal could yet clinch fourth spot if Spurs slip up at West Ham. If they don’t, we’ll have to wait to see if the Gunners beat Barcelona in the Champions League final to find out which of the North London rivals qualifies for the world’s biggest club football competition.
And Liverpool could yet slip past Manchester United into second place, ensuring they don’t have any of those annoying pre-qualifying games in Turkistan, or even Wales.
With all that in mind, plus the vexing situation of England about to appoint Boro’s Steve McClaren, and Wayne Rooney limping about, it’s going to be quite a weekend, despite the lack of real bite at the top or the bottom.
Arsenal vs Wigan
Wigan can relax and reflect on a marvellous season. Relegation avoidance was the target, but Paul Jewell’s men were never threatened.
Verdict: Arsenal 2 Wigan 0
Villa vs Sunderland
Niall Quinn must be mad. The lanky Irishman, once a striker for Arsenal and Manchester City, has chosen Sunderland as the club he wants to buy. Yes, the Sunderland who are about to break their own record for least points in a Premiership season. Mind you, Villa wouldn’t be much better.
Verdict: Villa 1 Sunderland 0
Blackburn vs Man City
Manchester City should have been there or thereabouts too, but Stuart Pearce, for all the kicking and screaming, just couldn’t get his side going in the run-in.
Verdict: Blackburn 2 Man City 0
Bolton vs Birmingham
Sam Allardyce will see this as a disappointing season, but Bolton fans are happy with anything outside the danger zone. Just ask Birmingham and boss Steve Bruce. How they let Portsmouth squeeze past them to safety with a week to spare is beyond me.
Verdict: Bolton 1 Birmingham 1
Everton vs West Brom
David Moyes managed to get Everton up among the mid-table mediocrities after an awful start.
Verdict: Everton 1 West Brom 0
Fulham vs Boro
Both these clubs will be relieved that the relegation issues were settled so early. Neither can be proud of their league form this season, though Middlesbrough have the sizeable consolation of a Uefa Cup final next week
Verdict: Fulham 0 Boro 0
Man Utd vs Charlton
United are battling for second spot, their late charge to challenge Chelsea halted on Good Friday by Sunderland, of all sides. They never really got over that 0-0 draw, which ended a run of eight wins. Charlton, with Alan Curbishley on the way out after 15 years, won’t be much of a challenge though, even with Wayne Rooney absent.
Verdict: United 2 Charlton 0
Newcastle vs Chelsea
Glenn Roeder’s done well enough to get Newcastle right out of trouble and nearly into Uefa contention. As we saw on Tuesday, with Jose Mourinho laughing about three unawarded penalties, Chelsea couldn’t care less any more.
Verdict: Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0
Pompey vs Liverpool
It’s Happy Harry Redknapp day, with Portsmouth fans able to spend the afternoon celebrating at Fratton Park rather than chewing their fingernails. But Liverpool need the points here to keep the pressure on second place—with one eye on the FA Cup final next week.
Verdict: Portsmouth 2 Liverpool 2
West Ham vs Spurs
Lucky old Tottenham, needing this win to secure fourth place, face a West Ham side anxious only about next week’s FA Cup final. Should be a doddle. Then they’ll have to wait for Arsenal vs Barcelona to know if they’ve qualified for the Champions League.
Verdict: West Ham 0 Spurs 3