It’s the final day of the Premier League season and with all of the actual main prizes sorted, it’s time to talk up the relegation battle as the most dramatic event you’re ever likely to experience in your life ever. Oooooooo relegation! Nasty.
All your best playersCharlie Adam deciding to leave you? Harsh! At least two visits to the northeast midlands? No-one wants that. Stay with me for all the latest updates from a fascinating final day of the season. I’ll be watching people who are watching the football and reporting what they over-excitedly blurt out.
A lot of people have been on to me asking about permutations on the final day of the season. Well, they’re a little bit 80s in my opinion, but if you can find a hairdresser who’s open on a Sunday – go for it. Personally, I’ll be watching the football.
There’s a flurry of controversy at Old Trafford where despite saying he’d put out his strongest line-up, Sir Alex Ferguson names Heather Mills alongside Stevie Wonder in the centre of midfield. There’s initially uproar from the teams battling against relegation who aren’t Blackpool until it’s pointed out that it’s probably a more effective combination than Carrick/Gibson.
Heurelho Gomes has been named in Tottenham’s starting line-up against Birmingham. Is it a sign that all has been forgiven and he still has a future at the Lane or is he in because Harry really doesn’t want Europa League football?
With relegation avoided and the disappointment of an FA Cup run behind them, it’s party time at Stoke. Tony Pulis submits his team-sheet 59 minutes before kick-off and tells Rory Delap he doesn’t need to dry the ball every time he takes a throw in – just every second time. Oh the hijinx!
At Molineux, Mick McCarthy gives a rest to arguably the hardest working member of his team this season – the physio. He sends him for a day out at the Black Country Living Museum with instructions to ‘have all the goes on the Helter Skelter your stomach can handle’. Blackburn’s owners have taken a particularly hard-line with their players warning them that a failure to preserve their Premier League status could see them included in next month’s batch of savoury goujons.
1 mins: As per Premier League guidelines, all the games kick off at precisely the same time. Except at the Britannia Stadium where Roberto Martinez is crouched in the tunnel taking a suspiciously long time to tie his shoelace.
4 mins: And they’re finally off at the Britannia. Not the game, Roberto Martinez’s shoes. Bemused with his constant failure to put the rabbit through the hole, the referee orders Martinez to take his footwear off and put on a pair of flip-flops. The game also kicks-off.
9 mins: At White Hart Lane, Rafael van der Vaart doesn’t dispel the theory that when he’s not on form he actually damages Spurs by giving a Gareth Bale a PowerPoint presentation on the advantages of living in Madrid.
15 mins: Down the road at Craven Cottage, Arsenal have a great opportunity to take the lead and move back in to third spot. After some 76 passes Tomas Rosicky finds himself on the penalty spot without a defender within in five yards of him. As he desperately looks around for another team-mate to pass the ball to, Mark Schwarzer strolls out and picks the ball up at the 1st attem … 2nd … er … 3rd … no, em … 4th … Come back to me later, this may take a while.
17 mins: And it’s back to the Britannia with an incident that could have a huge bearing on the relegation battle. Impressed by the dancing feet that Charles N’Zogbia shows in his multiple stepovers, Michael Flatley has signed up the Frenchman for a lead role in his latest Paddywhackery bonanza – Lord Of The Toxic Asset. He leaves immediately to take up a role in Broadway and Roberto Martinez immediately enquires about the availability of Denise van Outen.
20 mins: Blackburn have made a strong start. They’re playing the ball around nicely and creating some good chances. It’s a breath of fresh air in comparison with the Big Sam era. Ohhhh – what Steve Kean wouldn’t have done for a breath of fresh air last Saturday evening.
24 mins: We’ve got something of a shock over at White Hart Lane. Seb Larsson hits a very weak shot at Heurelho Gomes and the Brazilian keeper stops it at the first attempt! I was not expecting that.
29 mins: At Old Trafford, if Blackpool are going to go down, they’re gonna go down swinging. Using a daring 0-1-9 formation, they’re playing the only way they know how – giving the ball to Charlie Adam and hoping he can do something.
31 mins: And there’s a goal at Molineux! 1-0 WOLVES. Karl Henry scores from distance. Henry – after hearing the ball insult his mother – launches himself two-footed at the ball. Such is the power of the connection it sends the ball hurtling towards the Blackburn goal and beyond the dive of Paul Robinson.
33 mins: So as it stands it’s Wolves that are staying up and so are Blackburn and Birmingham. Wigan and Blackpool are the two teams we’ll be pretending relegation is incredibly cruel on.
35 mins: GOAL 1-0 WIGAN! Who would have thought it? Our pointless As It Stands bit turns out to be pointless as Wigan take the lead at Stoke to throw the cat amongst the premature statistics. It’s James McCarthy with the goal and – still thinking he’s Scottish – Roberto Martinez serenades him with a version of 500 Miles.
39 mins: The fear for the other sides involved in the relegation battle was that Stoke would be more worried about their summer holidays than an inconsequential Premier League game and those concerns look valid as the entire back 4 nip down to the Bureau De Change at the local NatWest. It affords Hugo Rodellega all the time in the world to waste a glorious chance, which he does by curling a shot high and wide.
42 mins: Still no joy for Blackpool, but they’re causing Man Utd all sorts of problems. Charlie Adam plays a one-two with Charlie Adam before playing a through ball to Charlie Adam who squares it for Charlie Adam who has his shot tipped around the post by Edwin van der Sar. Rio Ferdinand hasn’t been marked that absent since the last time he heard the drug tester ask “would you mind peeing into this cup Mr. Ferdinand? Mr. Ferdinand?”
HALF TIME: So with 45 minutes to go, no-one is safe. It’s still mathematically possible that any two of the five teams could still go down. It’s also mathematically possible that you could suffer from severe oxygen depravation at birth and still dwarf Paul Merson in the intelligence stakes.
It’s over to Old Trafford for a quick few words from Ian Holloway. “Right now, we’re like a monkey in a boiler suit at a roller-disco. Maybe we’re sweating a little bit, but we’re confident we’ve got the ingredients to turn this recipe into a nice pair of sow’s knickers. Sometimes you need to know the moves and other times you need to know that you don’t know the moves, but don’t let anyone else know that you don’t know the moves. If you know what I mean.” I don’t Ian, but god bless you for just being you.
46 mins: The second halfs/halves (I’m not sure which is right) get underway in unison, despite Roberto Martinez’s protestations that he think he left his car keys back in the dressing room.
48 mins: Oh that’s great play from Heather Mills. She nips in to take the ball away from Gary Taylor-Fletcher when he’s not fully paying attention. Clearly she’s had some experience of mugging an aging Scouser who’s not got his eye on the ball.
49 mins: GOAL! 1-1. It’s over to Molineux where Blackburn have equalised against Wolves. It’s a cleverly worked set piece. From a free-kick on the left, Morten Gamst Pedersen moves unnoticed to the far side of the pitch. David Dunn shouts ‘Oh my God – that’s the guy who used to be in Backstreet Boys’ momentarily distracting the Wolves defence. He rolls a simple ball into Jason Roberts who turns and slots it past Wayne Hennessy. Clever stuff.
52 mins: GOAL FOR STOKE! 1-1. Maybe I was a little harsh on accusing the Stoke players of already being on their summer holidays. Glenn Whelan picks up the ball outside the penalty and hits a low shot. It hits Kenwyne Jones’ sand-castle bucket, is deflected off Robert Huth’s extra-large bottle of factor 50 sun cream before and rolls over Jermaine Pennant’s travellers’ cheques into the net.
53 mins: It’s over to the game at White Hart Lane where Charlie Nicholas is jumping shrieking and jumping around in his seat so much you’d think the world is about to end. It’s a throw in to Tottenham.
57 mins: Many people have questioned the return Birmingham were getting for their £6 million investment in 6 ft 7 inch striker Nicola Zigic, but he has come up trumps when it matters. The Serbian striker rescues a cat stuck in a tree outside the ground.
60 mins: RED CARD! Bad news for Paul Scholes. In what could be his last game for the club at Old Trafford, Scholes is given a straight red card for a terrible tackle on Charlie Adam. It’s late, it’s studs up and the ball is no-where near him – making it one of the better tackles of his career. He gets his marching orders.
61 mins: It’s not looking good in West Ham’s bid to make the Premier League table look a little better from their point of view so they can look back in a few years and point to the fact they were hard done by to go down. At Upton Park the game is in danger of being called off after a thick fog of depression envelopes the stadium. The Samaritans are refusing to take calls from West Ham players after failing to come up with anything positive to say. News that Sullivan and Gold plan to erect a statue of Gary Glitter outside the main gates doesn’t appear to have lifted the mood at all.
66 mins: GOAL at the Brand of Reasonably Priced Athletic Sportwear Stadium in Bolton! 1-0 Man City! Just as the fans were starting to turn on Mario Balotelli following another hour of poor touches and disinterest, the Italian makes an interception on his own goal-line, makes his way past every Bolton player on the pitch with a mix of raw power, mesmeric skill and balletic beauty before smahsing the ball in to the top corner past a helpless Jaaskalainen. That’s sure to win the City fans over…no wait…he ruins it all with his celebration which consists of urinating on the fans in the wheelchair section. He’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a complete prick.
73 mins: Meanwhile, back at the Cottage, Bobby Zamora beats the offside trap and races through on goal…disaster strikes as he trods on the ball and tumbles to the ground. Squillaci is the closest defender to him so he has time to get up again, dust himself down, have a bit of a stretch and continue through on goal. Having been the only Fulham player to have touched the ball Szczesny expects him to play the pass and is shocked when the Fulham man just has a shot instead. 1-0 to the home side. The keeper stands there with a confused look on his face as he appears to be asking Vermaelen; “Why don’t we just do that?”
76 mins: GOAL for Wolves! 2-1. It’s the goal that might just guarantee Wolves’ place in the Premier League and some very ex-Premier League footballer tasting chicken kievs from Venkys in the near future. Stephen Hunt runs around and around in circles like a child full of caffeine – his normal style of play really – distracting the Blackburn defence and allowing Steven Fletcher to roll the ball into an practically unguarded net.
79 mins: It’s Blackpool’s best chance of the game! In his last game at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson takes the Dutchman off early to give him a standing ovation from the crowd. Tomasz Kuszczak comes on. There’s no actual goal-scoring opportunity, but having Kuszczak in goal is undoubtedly Blackpool’s best chance.
81 mins: GOAL 1-0 to Man Utd! It’s over to Old Trafford where Man Utd have finally taken the lead. It’s another controversial penalty. Matt Gilks give Chicharito a dirty look, the Mexican goes tumbling to the ground. Howard Webb points to the spot. It’s harsh – it looked more like a look of bemusement rather than an outright dirty look. Wayne Rooney scores and even though it’s a fairly pointless goal in his career, he runs for the nearest camera and Sky Sports cut off the audio feed. I’m a qualified lip-reader so don’t worry. He seems to be saying ‘truck you, you trucking hunts. Stick that up your trucking arches.’ Clearly it’s some sort of protest against lorry-driving fox torturers.
83 mins: The odds aren’t looking good for the Tangerines. They’ve now 1000/1 to stay in the Premier League. For those not familiar with gambling terminology, that means if you put £10 on them now, in about tens minutes you’d have lost a tenner.
84 mins: It’s last roll of the dice time for Alex McLeish. Don’t worry, having managed Nicola Zigic and Obafemi Martins all season he’s used to handling immobile lumps who occasionally produce good results purely by chance.
88 mins: Wolves are on course to stay up, but they’re looking shaky at the back. Mick McCarthy brings himself on to shore up his defence for the last couple of minutes. He has an immediate impact as he growls in that sinister Yorkshire way of his at the advancing David Dunn who meekly coughs up possession.
90 mins: It’s last chance saloon for all the teams – except for Birmingham who should steer clear of any saloons after events on Tuesday.
92 mins: Blackpool are running out of time and Charlie Adam is getting increasingly desperate. He’s handing out business cards to each member of the Man Utd coaching team and editing a highlights reel of him in action for his agent to send to the rest of the Premier League managers.
FULL TIME: A chronologically dubious full time whistle sounds at all Premier League grounds and it means that Blackpool and Wigan go down. Wolves, Blackburn and Birmingham are all safe. Sometimes three relegation places doesn’t feel like enough.