Football can be cruel some times and that will be all the more apparent this Sunday when one of the biggest and most important last day games in English football history takes place as, Sheffield Wednesday take on Crystal Palace with both teams needing to gain some form of points to stay in the Championship. Despite the fact Wednesday have the home advantage playing at Hillsborough, Crystal Palace may well be considered favourites due to their position which means a draw may be all that is necessary in order to condemn the owls to league 1, yet even then you’d be a brave man to bet high stakes on this game. Wednesday have won once in the last ten games whereas Palace have two precious wins and currently stand two points above their relegations rivals. Palace could have sealed their safety in the dying minutes of their game against West Brom on Monday, although when looking back on the match as a whole it would be hard to argue that West Brom didn’t deserve to score at least a second.
I cannot remember (apologies if there was one) in my lifetime as a football supporter there being a fixture quite like this one. It’s effectively a play off game and even though both teams have terrible form, you’d have to think that both sets of players would be fired up for this game and will be ready to give it their all to keep their club in this division. Confidence has been expressed by both the Sheffield Wednesday chairman and the Palace player Johannes Ertl has claimed that he cannot wait for Sunday’s game. Take what you want from this, but even the best of players would be feeling the nerves before a game like this, we can definitely expect a tense opening ten minutes and it will ultimately end up with one of these two teams throwing the proverbial kitchen sink in before the final whistle is blown.
But let us remember how horrible relegation is. Both of these teams have had a difficult season, Palace were one of the latest clubs to take a ten point penalty for going into administration and Wednesday had some success under Brian Laws last season, but have never really gotten it together and failed to appease their massive support. Relegation will spell disaster for both these clubs, as Wednesday know all too well the league 1 surroundings and for Palace, they will see this as another financial set-back and may become one of the football league clubs in favour of the controversial new parachute payment proposal.
Palace’s relegation also raises an interesting point about teams that go into administration, and Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford has complained that Palace should automatically be relegated for spending outside their means. Strafford is one of the voices in favour of bigger punishments for teams that build up heavy debt and has claimed that administration is ‘the escape route out’. Crystal Palace have built up their debt over the years after promotion to the Premiership saw them spend it big, and the club have attempted to re-create this success ever since relegation from the top tier. It’s an issue that is starting to become more noticed in football ever since the recent issues with Portsmouth in the Premiership and it’s hard not to agree with Strafford in saying that it is somewhat of an escape route for teams who build up high risk. The future for Palace seems shady, but will become a more violent and ugly one if the club is playing in league 1 next season (although they will get a chance to revisit rivals Brighton).
The Sheffield Wednesday servers crashed on Tuesday, as people raced to get the final tickets for what is now a sell-out so if you’re like me you’ll be watching this one on the box. Ticket prices dropped to a mere £10 for adults, with cheaper options for concessions, OAP’s and students, which is a wonderful thing to see in English football considering some of the ridiculous pricing that now exists at particular stadiums. Wednesday will also unveil their new shirt, which will sport a local children’s hospital as its logo, following the same route the likes of Barcelona and Aston Villa have gone down in recent seasons and it is nice to see a football team support such a cause.
So here is a game that has a lot riding on it and for the neutral it is a must see match this weekend. The horrors of relegation loom for both sides and the tension may be unbearable at times; whoever goes down has my utmost sympathy as Palace and Wednesday are two great teams with a large support and it will be a shame that I won’t be able to write about one of them as a Championship side next season. Although I have that ‘I can’t wait feeling’ it’s marred by a certain empathetic feeling towards both sets of supporters and I know that while one will be partying into the night, the other will be down on their luck and in a world of hurt. Good luck boys.