by Susan Jardine
Just hours after we have paid our visits to the polling stations to vote for whoever you vote for more nail-biting is in store for football managers up and down the country
Never mind Essex man or Worcester woman it is the North East which will hold the balance of power and ultimately decide who of the Manchester clubs will win the Premiership title. And just days after Papiss Cisse humiliated the Chelsea defenders with a mixture of skill and genius along come another set of defenders to torment.
Arriving on Tyneside will be Manchester City, and St James’s Park will host its last game of the domestic season. There is nothing that Newcastle should be afraid of. On the other hand there is plenty to worry Roberto Mancini’s charges. Cisse is looking irresistible at the moment and while I would suggest that there is not much love lost between Newcastle and Manchester United the Mags will feel that they owe Manchester City one after losing at the Etihad earlier this season. Yes there is Carlos Tevez, but he can’t do much damage if he does not get the ball and the form of midfielder Yohan Cabaye, twinned with Tiote means that Manchester City will be in for a bruising battle on Sunday. Of course if Newcastle win and results concerning Arsenal and Tottenham go their way the Magpies will be sitting in third place after the penultimate round of fixtures. Of course this in turn could therefore hand Manchester United the advantage going into the final matches in a weeks time.
Sunderland head for the capital to face Fulham at Craven Cottage with the knowledge that they and Fulham will end their season in mid table. Sunderland finally managed to break their scoreless run against Bolton last weekend, scoring twice; trouble was they also conceded twice. The last victory of note for the Black Cats was against Queens Park Rangers at the end of March and while whatever happens for Sunderland in their final two matches is not going to affect which league they will play in they should surely be looking to finish as high as possible. Fulham though is not the easiest ground to go to and I find it hard to see Martin O’Neill’s men coming back with the points. A draw is the best they can hope for, but perhaps the more likely result is a win for the Londoners.
Hartlepool also head to London, well to South East London, to face champions Charlton Athletic. I was present when the two sides met at the Vic earlier this season and witnessed a Halloween horror show as Hartlepool fell to a crushing 4-0 defeat. Since then Neale Cooper has taken over and has endured a rollercoaster ride as his team veered from the sublime to the surreal. Never a dull moment supporting Hartlepool and last weekend they handed Leyton Orient a 2-1 defeat- after the Sweeney(Antony) arrived right on cue. Coupled with results elsewhere it seemed as if Leyton Orient would be in a relegation dog fight this weekend, but they were spared when Notts County scored two late goals against Wycombe at Adams Park that saw fans of the O’s heaving a huge sigh of relief. I would imagine Jeff Stelling will have a relaxing time on Soccer Saturday this weekend and we will not witness the scenes of a few years ago when Hartlepool grabbed a draw at Brentford and in doing so escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth.
So what am I up to this weekend – I am not at a football match, instead I am in Sheffield for the climax of the World Snooker. Next weekend though is when everything will be decided and I have been given the honour of commentating on the final match of the season. Yes, I have Sunderland v Manchester United, with my regular cohort. Believe it or not he is a Sunderland fan and I am a Mag (as he calls Newcastle fans) So for once we have nothing to worry about in the final weekend of the league season, and it doesn’t usually happen that way. It is a weird and wonderful world if you support one of the North Eastern teams.
Before then of course there is the Cup final. Why is it squeezed into a league weekend when it should be the match that concludes the domestic season? It is ludicrous, and maybe it should revert to its historical slot in future seasons.
Enjoy your footy – see you next weekend for The Final Countdown!