by Susan Jardine
“So long Farwell” Remember these lyrics? “There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple too”. The imagery evoked from the song “So long farewell” lends itself to football and in particular to so many sides who are fighting for promotion or battling to beat the drop as we approach the climax of the domestic football season.
And it is against the North Eastern teams that the fates of a few clubs could be decided.
Chasing the bronze medal for the season Newcastle make the trip to Wigan. The Magpies travel to Lancashire on the back of a six match winning run, taking on a side that after a revival of their fortunes with victories over Arsenal and Manchester United suffered defeat last weekend against Fulham. Lying just three points behind Arsenal in the Premiership the partnership between Cisse and Ben Arfa has caught fire with the Frenchman being instrumental in the scoring streak of the Senegalese striker. The problem facing Roberto Martinez is how do you prevent Cisse from scoring? If they double up on Cisse then that frees up more space for Ben Arfa and Demba Ba. Throw in the form of Yohan Cabaye and Newcastle may well be celebrating a seventh straight win this weekend. From Wigan’s point of view it is a game they must win; a draw or a defeat could see them drop into the bottom three.
And that would happen if Bolton beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. After battling their way to victory against Aston Villa in midweek (which also dragged Villa into the quicksand) the Trotters face a Sunderland side who have not scored in 305 minutes of Premiership football. And the two performances that I have recently watched have been lethargic and lacklustre, with no hint of a goal from the under-performing Mackems. There is no doubt that Bolton will feel that they have a realistic chance as we all know at this point of the season it is harder to play a side who are fighting for promotion or against relegation rather than a side who are sitting in mid table security. For Sunderland fans, here is a scary thought – had the Black Cats not had the run of form that they enjoyed when Martin O’Neil took over they too would have been in a relegation dog fight.
Middlesbrough go into the final match of the Championship season knowing that they are reliant on Crystal Palace doing them a favour in beating Cardiff. The Teesiders lie two points behind the Welsh side and must beat Watford if they are to stand any chance of snatching the last place in the play offs. It is a tall order but the final day of the season can produce some twists of fate. Cardiff of course could have guaranteed their place in the play offs last weekend but could only draw with Leeds while Middlesbrough came from behind to beat Southampton. A result that in turn also managed to revive West Ham’s hopes of automatic promotion. Relegation issues from the Championship are already decided but the second promotion place is not. Southampton entertain Coventry while West Ham host Hull. Will it be Big Sam’s Grand Slam? My head tells me no it won’t. I take Southampton to complete the formalities at St Mary’s.
Hartlepool play their final home game of the season against relegation threatened Leyton Orient. A point at Tranmere thanks to Antony Sweeney’s equaliser sealed a point for Pools, and in doing so saw Jeff Stelling treat viewers of Soccer Saturday to a burst of the Sweeney theme tune! Cue the snooker jokes from Pools fans this weekend if they manage to condemn Leyton Orient to defeat at the Vic, as of course the Chairman of Leyton Orient is Barry Hearn. Victory for Hartlepool could plunge Leyton Orient in the relegation mire for the concluding games of the season. For that to happen though, Wycombe have to beat Notts County and Walsall must take points off Milton Keynes Dons.
It is amazing to think that the football season is just about over. But with so many issues yet to be decided it will go to the final weekend of the season in each league. For those whose clubs are not changing leagues it is vicarious entertainment but for those who are nervously biting their finger nails as they await the fate of their football teams I wish your clubs the very best.
Enjoy your footy – see you next weekend.