Who am I? I’m a 44 year old Brit who now lives in the US. I attended my first game in 1967, aged 6 months, and was a season ticket holder and Manchester United supporter during the dark times of the 70’s and 80’s (I’m ignoring my rebellious flirtation with Leeds United when I was 5). I was able to move to the US after United finally won the league in 1992 and 1993. My first years in the US involved waiting until the following Wednesday to find out the scores from the weekend, then finally when Fox Soccer arrived I was able to start watching Man Utd again but it wasn’t until this year that I regained my obsession with the top division. Now I find myself watching every game I can, listening to every podcast I can, and reading every soccer blog I can (with this one top of the list of course).
If you look at the Premier League table today, you will find only six points between 9th placed Everton and West Ham, currently holding the highest of the relegation spots and, unlike normal, many of the teams down there are winning games and playing well. Normally people would say “they only need to win two games to be safe” and we’d dismiss it because those teams don’t win two games, but in most cases this year it could happen to anyone. My problem is that when I look at these teams I find it quite hard to find anyone, well almost anyone, that I think deserve to go down or that I want to go down (since I can’t see Man City or Liverpool hitting the drop now, remember the Man Utd blood is here).
Lets look at the teams and see what’s good, and in some cases, bad about them. Of course your comments are welcome.
Who could want them to go down? They are a traditional power. They have Phil Neville and the “lovely” and possible future Man Utd manager David Moyes. They played some good football and at this point it’s really quite difficult to see them dropping down but two bad results and who knows?
Given the Kevin Keegan era in the 90’s, it’s difficult to explain how hard it is for me to say I feel sorry for Newcastle, especially since they feature Joey Barton (who I think would be in the England squad were it not for reputation). The Andy Carroll episode, the injury problems, the fact that they are Geordies – you just have to feel for them. Coming back from 4-0 down with Arsenal earns them another bucket of credit. Again I suspect they will be safe but I do worry about them.
Their primary feature of sympathy is Mark Hughes and, of course, their willingness to feature US international strikers. Fulham have always been so inoffensive. How could anyone WANT them to go down?
One of the “bubble” teams for me. There is little to like about them but for some reason I do. I suspect it’s their, mostly, no name team and their unwillingness to compromise. Or perhaps it’s the fact that they have another super nice, honest manager in Tony Pulis. Rory Delap’s throw ins are a huge negative but I can see past that.
Another traditional power whom I will always have some love for, both for knocking Liverpool off their perch for a couple of seasons in the early 80’s and for the fact that I attended a number of concerts at Villa Park. Once more they feature an overly “nice” manager in Gerard Houllier.
And finally the sympathy runs out. Barely forgiven for the Shearer Championship years, the awful treatment of the not-particularly-nice Sam Allardyce, and the ridiculous flirtations with Ronaldinhio make them a picture to laugh at, not sympathize with. I wrote “except one” in the headline and this is why. I want Blackburn to go down.
I don’t think I need to write anything here. Who wants Blackpool to go down? Who wants Ian Holloway to go down? They play nice football. They play in an old school ground and they wear tangerine. End of discussion.
West Bromwich Albion
In rather a worrying trend down here in the nether regions of the league, West Brom are playing some fantastic football but not winning games. I have fun memories of The Hawthorns in my youth and I’d like to see them stay up and try to stabilize.
The Blues earn a super amount of credit for beating Arsenal in the League Cup and for Alex Ferguson II (aka Alex McLeish). Somehow Nikola Zigic adds to the sympathy factor. I loved the fans attitude in regards to the League Cup. Most said they would prefer to be relegated and yet win the League Cup. That’s a great attitude in this day and age.
West Ham United
“Too good” to go down, Demba Ba, Scott Parker, Hitzlsperger and the chance to see Avram Grant get excited again. I used to go watch West Ham in the old second division when I lived in London. Yes, I’d like them to stay up.
Mick McCarthy doesn’t deserve to go down. They’ve played great football, beaten most of the top teams yet inexplicably lost to Wigan twice. They have some nice players and play some nice football (on a terrible pitch) and their game with Spurs was possibly the game of the season but I do worry that it often comes to nothing for them.
Clearly the most in trouble. Roberto Martinez is another nice guy and I still remember them as a non-league team but their attempts to play “good” football end up looking foolish. If I had to make a second choice for who I want to go down it would be them.
So that’s everyone, and back to the original question. Who do I want to go down? It’s too hard to call. I think Wigan are done for and I want Blackburn to go down, I just can’t choose the third spot. Who do you want?
As for who WILL go down… again I think Wigan are lost. Wolves play almost every other team of the bottom nine and haven’t done well in those games. West Ham are looking too strong. Birmingham lost Saturday in the FA Cup and that might help their focus. Blackpool have a tough run in and their last game is away to Man Utd, which could be a weird one depending upon how the top end of the league shapes up. Most of their games are at home but they have struggled at Bloomfield Road and have a number of injury and suspension problems. If you’re going to make me choose then it’s going to be West Brom and Blackpool with Wolves as the outsiders. Either way, it’s going to be exciting.
Editor’s note: Check out Tony’s songwriting blog/podcast at www.homemadehitshow.com.