Monday, March 08, 2010

The Passion of Lovers (Part 6)

It's football time again, so switch off all you round ball haters...

The BBC has this nifty bit of kit on its football web pages called 'predictor' and it allows you to guess the remaining results of the season and update the table accordingly. When you support one of the four teams seriously vying for that 4th Champions League place, this tool suddenly takes on a new dimension. My own club aside, I've tried as hard as I could to be as objective and unbiased as I could and still, despite the easier run in, couldn't get Liverpool to finish 4th. That included them getting a point against Wigan, which, of course, didn't happen.

Liverpool's disastrous season has been one of the bonus extras in a Premier League season that is still too close to call on just about every front. 3 teams all capable of winning it; four teams all trying their hardest not to finish 4th and 8 teams all capable of being relegated along with Portsmouth. Even the FA Cup, despite Chelsea's presence, has the air of far more interesting than it has been for a while.

The individual battles are intriguing, with Chelsea seemingly blowing the chance of a big lead every time the opportunity arises; Man U who are showing an inconsistency that would have been punished had this been any other year and The Arse could still win it despite looking poor against the two better teams than them and dropping points against lowly opposition. My heart says Chelsea, my head thinks Man U might now just sneak it.

The 4th place war of attrition is looking like a straight race between Man Citeh and Aston Villa, with Spurs (by virtue of their poor record against the top 3 are guaranteed to drop at least 9 points in the run in) and Liverpool fighting it out for the last Mickey Mouse Europa Cup place. The reason I think Citeh or Villa will get the spot is because while Citeh have an awful run-in against some form sides, it's been against the form sides that this team has shown their metal; while Villa has the easiest of run ins, it depends on whether the League Cup Final defeat and their FA Cup commitments will take their toll - they have faded in previous years.

With Portsmouth assured of relegation (if they get points docked for going into administration) then the favourites to join them are either Burnley or Hull, but West Ham, Wolves, Wigan, Bolton and amazingly Sunderland could all get dragged into it if they suffer a string of crippling defeats (stand up the Hammers who have 3 of the top 5 in the next 3 weeks).

Special mentions to Everton who would have been up there making it 5 teams challenging for 4th if they hadn't suffered injuries comparable to a 1958 Man U team at the start of the season and Stoke, who I believe will be the team that has a say in who will win the league this year, just like they did last.

The FA Cup is looking like a Chelsea v Tottenham final, possibly Tottenham v Aston Villa, if either case happens, Spurs have the history on their side. two major finals against Chelsea and two 2-1 victories; one major final against Villa and one 2-0 victory. However, Spurs have to overcome a difficult Fulham at WHL first and then a Portsmouth team with nothing to lose in the semi. Wouldn't it be ironic if Portsmouth got to the final, won it and then got relegated!

The Premiership is exciting, but the league that really excites me at the moment is the Blue Square Conference, and trust me, I'm not bullshitting you. As a fan of football, I've always liked to follow the fortunes of other teams, especially those local to me or with some personal reference, so the BSC has a lot of interest for me and this is why:
Currently sitting 2nd are Stevenage, the town of my birth and the ground where Spurs play all their reserve matches. In 3rd place are Rushden & Diamonds, resurgent after a few years teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. This is the team I have seen live more times in the last 15 years than any other team. In 4th place are Kettering, another local team with history and the town where I work. All three teams are fighting it out for an automatic promotion place, of which Oxford hold top spot. I've had a soft spot for Oxford for years; a team of some history and a favourite city of mine. More tenuously, AFC Wimbledon, currently in 7th, are the phoenix from the ashes of the team that once won the FA Cup and baffled aficionados by staying in the top flight for many years; seeing them doing well is a delight. Then there's Luton Town, hard done by when punished by the Football League for another administrations bad management and condemned to the Conference after a 30 point penalty - this former top tier team fought bravely and now lie in 5th, in a play-off place.

Plus there's York, another former league club, who up until Monday were also in a play-off place, but lost 6 points when tragic Chester City ceased to exist - a team that just last year was in League 2. With Mansfield also pushing for a play-off, the Conference looks more interesting than League 2 at the moment and this one could go right down to the wire. I'd love to see Stevenage in the league, but I also think its time Kettering had a shot, having knocked on the door do often in the 70s and 80s and now no longer maligned, Rushden would be a welcome addition to the league, proving that you can get back to where you were despite countless set backs.

Briefly... Newcastle look set to bounce back and I'd have a few quid of Nottm Forest making the big return under Billy Davies. Wouldn't fancy their chances of staying in the EPL if they do though.
Norwich lost 7-1 at home on the opening day of their debut League 1 season and now are 5 points clear of Leeds in 1st. It will be good to see them back in the Championship, but if early pace-setters Leeds want to join them they have to start remembering how to win again or Leeds haters will have a field day come May. League 2 holds no interest for me at all, but I think it'll be a shame to see Darlington disappear.

There's still all to play for.

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