Yours truly spent a short while this morning trying to work out who the cup final was ‘bigger’ for, in the general scheme of things. I shall state my case for both.
City have not won a trophy for 35 years, and they share a City in which their rivals have undergone one of the most successful revolutions in English football history. They have a fanbase that is loyal and passionate, and yet has underperformed and imploded to an exceptional level. As an acquaintance once said: “the worst thing about City and United is that whilst United can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, with City it is usually the vice versa.”
Whilst Champions League qualification will have ensured Mancini of job security, there is nothing quite like silverware.
For Stoke, like City, European qualification was the huge fillip, allowing the club to genuinely play with a freedom on Saturday and ‘enjoy the occasion’.
For Tony Pulis, however, this is nonsense, because Saturday could be the final vindication of his footballing philosophy. His side are treated with vitriol for their back to basics style, but if his side won the trophy on Saturday, the argument against this style becomes defunct. They are winning and they are successful. Football doesn’t have to be pretty to be effective, and indeed pretty football is not always effective. Just ask Arsenal fans.
The West Midlands
Like Yorkshire, the Midlands is suffering something of a low period. With Forest, Leicester and Derby in the Championship the onus was on the West Midlands’ clubs impressing this season. But it hasn’t occurred.
Villa and West Brom have struggled, but are at least safe now. For Birmingham and Wolves however, the reality is that Championship football could be a reality. In fact, if results go right, the Premier League next season could be made up of 13 clubs from London or the North West.
Seemingly week by week Harry’s reputation is diminished. Before the game with Manchester City on Tuesday, he said:
“The man from Abu Dhabi has got so much money, I mean, it isn’t like money to him is it? That’s the key. They tell me they’ve got one or two players signed already who’ll blow your brains out. I mean, that’s where they’re going…They’ve got players there now earning £200,000 a week. I mean, it’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s another world really, isn’t it?”
That’s fine Harry, but surely look at your own station too. The following stats are taken from after 36 games (the same stage as now). Last years figures are in brackets:
Points: 56 (67)
League wins: 14 (20)
Home wins: 8 (14)
Goals: 51 (64)
Goals conceded: 45 (37)
After last week’s impressive no showing against Blackpool, Spurs now have one win in 13 in all competitions. This weekend they face a trip to Anfield. Lose and they will be without European football next season. How will Bale and VDV like that?
This weekend interest should be focused on the culmination of a title race is Scotland that has ebbed and flowed between the two halves of Glasgow. But it isn’t. Because on Wednesday night a fan entered the field of play and punched Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
Maybe he was just an idiot, a knuckle-dragger that wanted his shot at infamy. But at a time when Lennon has been sent bullets through the post, death threats and letter bombs, it continues a worrying time for all in Scottish football.
It actually makes me want Celtic to win the league. So Lennon can put two fingers up at the morons, and quit as Celtic boss, finding solace south of the border. Because he deserves that.
If Blackburn had held on against West Ham, then they would be safe by now. As it happens, despite four precious points in their last two games, they are firmly still in the mix. The crucial game will be Wolves away on the last day, but this weekend does provide something of a shot to nothing for Rovers.
They face a Manchester United side which needs just one point for the title, but actually a point would be massively beneficial to Blackburn too, because that result coupled with a Wolves loss at Sunderland would render Rovers effectively safe.
Getting your fill
It is now officially the time of year at which you are required to cram in as much televised football as is humanly possible, uneasy in the knowledge that the tap will soon run dry.
But fear not, and live for the present. This weekend you could possibly see two titles won (England, Scotland), two domestic cup finals (England, France), four playoff semi-finals, two other Premier League games, two games from Italy and two more from Spain.
Let battle commence.