by Susan Jardine
The race is on to get out of the bottom. Trouble is, while a few have got a flyer and are slowly moving on up the charts there are a few playing musical chairs in the dreaded drop zone, and some slipping down.
“Where are we?” trilled Lynsey De Paul, the answer from Mike Moran in a Eurovision duet which just about sums up the plights of Queens Park Rangers and Reading as “rock bottom,”. The installation of Harry Rednapp at Loftus Road,with a number of signings to boot, and back to back wins against Southampton and Sunderland has seen the status quo in terms of points improve. However their league position has remained the same and with only 23 points to show from 29 league games maybe the road map to places such as Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester will be back in the not needed drawer as the ones for Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Ipswich are dusted off. Yet QPR do have momentum, which is a better position to be in rather than what Reading are currently experiencing.
The Royals have flattered to deceive as the striking prowess of Adam La Fondre saw them snatch victory from the clutches of defeat at Newcastle , and also turning over Sunderland at the Madjeski. Standing on 23 points at present they have since suffered five defeats on the spin at the hands of Stoke, Manchester United (in the FA Cup), Wigan, Everton and Aston Villa. A trip to Manchester United is next for Reading and should they lose their premiership future looks grim for the Royals
The transfer window looks to have marked a turning point for the Toon Army as the Magpies have inched their way up the league table. Coupling the arrival of Moussa Sissoko with the return of players from the injured list there seems to be a growing confidence among Newcastle fans that the Toon may soon be up where they belong at the top end of the table. Two defeats in nine, in all competitions against Tottenham and Swansea, with victories over Aston Villa, Chelsea, Southampton and Stoke have seen concerns give way to optimism among fans.
While the Toon look to be out of the woods Aston Villa however find themselves in a precarious position, and the failure to convert leads into victory has seen the Villains remain around or in the drop zone. Two late goals conceded against Everton saw points go a-begging and then slipping to defeat at the hands of an unconvincing Arsenal sees the West Midlands side fourth bottom on 27 points. Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool are next on the fixture list. It is now or never for Villa, as to maintain realistic survival hopes they must beat their fellow strugglers QPR: Lose against the West Londoners and it could be so long farewell to the premiership.
From being in the bottom three Wigan had dragged themselves out of it with that 3-0 victory over Reading, only to slip back in by virtue of results going against them. Newcastle and Norwich are next on the premiership radar. Newcastle put paid to them with ease at St James’s but the DW Stadium is a tough place for any club to visit and so any points dropped here will surely be a massive blow to Wigan’s survival hopes. However as history has told us it is at this point of the season that Wigan start to play well, so those in the table around where Wigan are may well be glancing nervously over their shoulders.
And one of them could be Southampton, a difficult run of fixtures has seen only two points in 18 gained and Liverpool and Chelsea to come the Saints may well be in desperate trouble as the season approaches it’s critical Easter programme
Sunderland are not out of trouble either. Without a win on home soil since January the Wearsiders have seen their season mirror Southampton’s in terms of points gained over the last month. Two winnable games against Fulham and Queens Park Rangers yielded only one point. Norwich is now a critical game and if they don’t get it right then the fall out could be horrific as Manchester United and Chelsea follow with a trip to Newcastle, and without putting too fine a point on it Sunderland don’t have the brightest of recent memories against their North East neighbours at St James’s Park. The Rocky Horror Show has been at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland recently – getting stuck in a winless timewarp is bad enough – but at this point of the season one club tends to go into freefall and gets dragged into the relegation scrap.
And as winter gives way to spring (well in theory anyway) so the seeds of team’s destinies are about to bloom. While some may find the gardens rather rosy, three clubs will see the petals fall off as they take their leave of premiership for a year at least.