Mancini in his 'punchy' playing days.

by Steven S

A quiet week by recent standards in the top flight. We had Liverpool continue to flounder, City almost crashing their season and Mad Mario taking it a stage further. All at a time of resurrections and comebacks marked on our calendars. Time for Wolves fans get to church this weekend.

Alex McLeish is fast becoming one of the most unpopular people in the Midlands region as Villa continue to plummet into the end of season relegation scrap. His time at Birmingham was not always the dour wet blanket he left behind last season, previously guiding them to their highest placing for half a century and breaking records along the way.

Our football memories can be quite selective so the kill joy approach Birmingham deployed toward their end in the Premiership is the part of his reign we remember. The football was draining and lifeless to be frank. There have been little or no spike moments since moving across to Villa Park, a place he has never been welcomed although a midtable finish was most likely the expectation of the team back in August. Ten points from their last ten games have seen them begin to teeter on the edge of a relegation battle and with Wolves almost certain for the drop there may be more local derbies in the Championship once again. Hodgson continues to flirt for the England role, meaning a vacancy could appear at West Brom over the summer, so McLeish could be in for an unlikely hat trick.

“I told him that if you played with me 10 years ago I give to you every day maybe one punch in your head.” Mancini the player was never a man to suffer fools in his time, getting into scraps with Trevor Francis, Liam Brady and Juan Sebastián Verón on the training fields. His strong willed personality gives a wider context to the ongoing management of Mad Mario who continues to frustrate fans and players whilst still delivering the goods. It is a father/son relationship between the two men; one where Roberto seems determined to iron out the undoubtedly talented young man’s personality tics.

Along with injuries in defence, Silva’s loss of form and no one else stepping forward to take the creative mantle, City are nowhere near the dominant force that flew out of the blocks seven months ago. Tevezs’ return has been greeted by the players in respect of what his talent can deliver although you do have to wonder how much they respect the rule of Mancini. By also telling his squad not to go public about Mario, which is the right thing, it will not stop the internal discussions by the team who appear to be tiring of the young man’s immaturity. Should they not win the title, all bets will be on for the managers’ position for next season.

Victor Anichebe told us his target next season was to get into the Everton starting line up on a regular basis, with next season likely to be make or break for his future there. It really doesn’t seem so long since coming into the team as a callow seventeen year old but now at the age of twenty three he will need regular first team football to continue his development. At the other end of the scale Jonathan Woodgate is scratching around for a contract extension at Stoke, making enough appearances to warrant the discussion but without the performances. Given his injury record it is hard to see him carrying on to his mid thirties in the Premiership or many others willing to take a gamble.

Easter weekend is always considered an important marker for any team chasing the title over the years where three games in a week keep the game on our screens every day for eight of the next ten days. The fight between the Manchester clubs could be over by this weekend, if United take the expected three points at home to QPR and Man City continue to stumble at the Emirates.

Ferguson has once again put together a real team comprised of all the ingredients needed to consistently collect maximum points in the English game. What happens in the summer at Old Trafford will dictate their approach toward the Champions League next season, as Fergie will surely want to take one more European title before retirement. After the last defeat to Barcelona the rebuilding programme was supposed to be targeted toward a team that could match them in Europe, yet this year it was still a very traditional United approach to the game.

Four games will remain at the end of this period so everyone will be in their positions to make their final push for glory or the avoidance of misery. At the bottom of the table Wolves are certainly going down so it leaves two from the remaining four or possibly five should Villa continue their recent form. No crucial head-to-heads over Easter for the relegation threatened clubs but every point counts with only one separating the four trying to avoid the drop. Last weekend saw the continued improvement of Bolton since the Muamba incident, whilst Wigan and perhaps most surprisingly QPR also took away important wins. Two weeks ago Blackburn had given themselves some breathing space from the chasing pack and it hasn’t taken long for that to disappear.

These two short working weeks are one of the best of the year; nothing beats a free holiday and plenty of football. Given the multicultural country we now live in, I think it only makes sense to incorporate all religious celebrations into the calendar for some more time off. If we can then get the reserves to play through the summer for much lower ticket prices, the season will never end. Brilliant idea if I do say so myself. Or too much time on my hands. And no you can’t decide. See you next week.