Wherever your allegiances lie the chances are that the next few weeks are going to entail gut-wrenching tension and nails chewed right down to the quick as we find ourselves entrenched in the ‘business end’ of the season. It’s squeaky bum time where every corner prompts a silent prayer and a scuffed half-chance sends you into an apoplectic fit demanding the errant striker is either flogged in the summer or to death depending on the lateness of the hour.
Titles are being fought for, play-off places scrapped over, promotions chased, while the relegation trap door yawns ever wider.
It’s torture – glorious, thrilling, agonising torture – and the time for entertainment has all but gone. Now it is drama. Life and death drama.
Now we’re in Shakespeare country.
So once more into the breach dear friends as we look at five possible scenarios that might yet play out of such bathos and heightened theatre they could well have been scribbled from the great bard’s quill.
St Crispin’s Day For Fergie
If the bearded boy from Stratford had penned this saga between the established hierarchy and their once-downtrodden neighbours rising from the shadows Anne Hathaway would have probably commented ‘Forsooth Billy, it’s a bit far-fetched innit? And from whence doth commeth their benefactors? From the east thou say?’
In fact every element of the modern-day Manchester rivalry is rooted in Shakespearean imagery from Ferguson’s Julius Caesar to Tevez’s Richard II.
Now City fans are dreading the genuine possibility of Henry V being replayed on their Etihad turf on the 30th April.
With five points separating them and just five games apiece remaining all Mancunian eyes are burnt upon the holy mother and Mary of all derbies that looms ever-nearer in the distance. For City it represents an opportunity to claw back some precious ground that they’ve lost in recent weeks. For United it could well be a chance to secure their record 20th title at the one acre on this planet where it would hurt the most.
The Premier League have already stated that, should this event occur, there will be no official post-match celebrations. For Ferguson and his players just winning there of all places will be enough. It would be their Agincourt.
How Shakespeare predicted it….Henry V
A band of brothers….okay, those despicable Brazilian twins….and a happy few triumph on foreign soil for their finest hour.
A tempest at Anfield
Is this an Agger I see before me? Okay so I’m mixing up my works here but on January 8th 2011 Roy Hodgson must have felt there was skulduggery afoot as he was sacked after only 31 games in charge at Liverpool. Granted the results weren’t coming but he must look at the leeway afforded to present charge Dalglish – who has hardly fared better – and feel a certain amount of understandable bitterness.
Though he hardly seems a vengeful chap Hodgson could well get his chance at retribution when he brings his West Brom side to Merseyside on April 22nd.
The fixture immediately follows Liverpool’s semi-final clash at Wembley against arch-rivals Everton – a game with so much importance attached to it as regards to Dalglish’s future. Should the Toffees proceed to the final and then the Baggies get a result at Anfield it is hard to envisage anything but a deposing of the king.
How Shakespeare predicted it….The Tempest
Prospero was thrown out by his brother but ultimately sought revenge and returned to power.
The corruption of ambition
Barely more than a decade ago Bradford City were in the top flight defying the odds with a squad that contained Benito Carbone and Stan Collymore. Now they are fighting for their lives in League Two hovering precariously above the drop zone.
Though it is unlikely the Bantams will face the ignominy of losing their league status for the first time in their 108-year history – they are presently seven points clear with four games remaining – while it is still mathematically possible the nerves will be frayed in West Yorkshire with club chairman calling the worst case scenario ‘unthinkable’.
So how did they get from beating Chelsea on the opening game of the 99/00 season to facing a potential live-or-die six-pointer at home to Macclesfield Town on the 21st of this month? Well ten managers in as many seasons, two spells in administration and an interminable downward spiral tells its own story and it is widely viewed with hindsight that City went for broke once they reached the casino of the Prem. They have suffered the awful consequences ever since.
It is an all-too-familiar tale of over-reaching ambition and subsequent fall from grace best illustrated in the 1600s with the story of a brave Scottish general who hears a prophecy from a trio of witches that he would one day be king.
How Shakespeare predicted it…..Macbeth
“Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more”
Prince Hal of the terraces
If Wrexham progress through the play-offs – and with an eleven point margin between themselves and their nearest challengers it could be argued they deserve to – and get promoted from the Conference they will become the fourth fan-owned club in the Football League (the others being Exeter City, Brentford and AFC Wimbledon). Community owned clubs are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon – often born out of necessity – in an age where a slew of unsavoury chancers dream of buying into the fabulously wealthy football market, purchase a club and promise the world, only to realise all-too-late they are in way out of their depth. In other instances of course their motives are far more sinister.
Either way the club is left ruinous with only the supporters left to pick up the pieces.
Once viewed by the government and portrayed in the media with extreme negativity to the point of demonization the image of the football fan has never been stronger. We are the conscience of football. Its heart and soul. Meanwhile the reputation of the governing bodies sinks ever lower.
It is a gratifying role reversal but really, did it have to come to this in order for us to be respected? Sadly it appears so.
How Shakespeare predicted it…Henry IV
We first encounter Prince Hal in a seedy tavern carousing with his drinking buddies and taking every opportunity to thumb his nose at authority. He is distrusted by his father the king who doubts his ability to one day govern.
Once betrothed powers however Hal transforms himself into a worthy and able ruler.
Romeo slays Tybalt
On a sunny May day in 2010 Cardiff found themselves deprived once again of play-off glory this time at the hands of Blackpool. In one of the most thrilling and open Wembley finals of the modern era the Tangerines twice came from behind to reach the promised land – and all the fortunes therein – of the Premiership.
With both clubs again in the play-off mix it is more than conceivable that they could meet for round two at the end of next month.
How Shakespeare predicted it…Romeo and Juliet
They may have had servants and lived in fancy gaffs but ultimately the Montagues and Capulets were just chav families in tights. Swap ‘Juliet’ for ‘our Tracy’ and it could be a feud simmering on any estate in Newport.
Still, I digress; during the first fight Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo’s best buddy. Revenge is later attained by the star-crossed lover in the second bout of fisticuffs.