We are at that time of year again when titles are won, promotions are gained and for the unlucky few, relegation looms. In the Premier League what has seemed inevitable for months was finally confirmed last week when Chelsea were crowned as this seasons champions. You have to hand it to the self-named special one, Mr Mourinho, apart from a brief blip at Real Madrid he just keeps delivering titles and trophies. I have to say though, I think the other major players have made it slightly more straight forward for Chelsea this season than even they probably imagined. Manchester City have fallen away badly after threatening to challenge at the turn of the year. It would be no surprise to see yet another change of manager in the summer at City as they seek greater consistency in the League and, ultimately, success in the Champions League. Arsenal have had another very ‘Arsenal’ season. They may yet win the FA Cup if they manage to overcome Aston Villa at the end of May but they have never really threatened to challenge in the League after a really poor start to the season. It remains to be seen how long the club will be satisfied with the odd trophy here and there and qualification for the Champions League. (Which they seem to look less likely to win every year!) Manchester United will probably take the last Champions League spot ahead of Liverpool. United seem to have found a coach in Van Gaal to finally rid them of the Ferguson hangover but they will have to invest and improve again over the summer in order to challenge next season. Liverpool have not coped well at all with losing Luis Suarez last summer. His loss to the team has been further exaggerated by losing Daniel Sturridge for long periods of the season, but if ever proof were needed of the difference goal scorers make to a team then just look at Liverpool post Suarez.
At the other end of the table Burnley and QPR’s fates were sealed this week and any one of the five teams above them will join them in the Championship next season. It is sad for Burnley, they have tried to stay up playing in the right manner but have just come up a little short on quality in key areas. As I write this blog they have only managed to score 27 goals all season, which, no matter how well you defend is always going to make survival difficult if not impossible. Their manager, Sean Dyche has conducted himself very well and has been a refreshing addition to the Premier League. I hope for Burnley’s sake Dyche isn’t lured away by a ‘bigger’ club and that Burnley can bounce back.
QPR appear to be in a bit of a mess both on and off the field and seem to have been that way all season. They have gone from bad to worse since the debacle of Harry Redknapp’s departure at the end of the January transfer window when he cited knee problems as the reason for leaving. They look like a rudder-less ship from the outside, and with a very large wage bill to contend with many changes will have to be made over the summer if they are to mount a serious challenge in the Championship.
Amidst the gloom I would like to congratulate all at AFC Bournemouth on their promotion to the Premier League just eight years after being on the brink of bankruptcy and exiting the football league completely. These fairytales do not happen in sport too often, let alone in football, and I wish them well for next season. They have a very talented, forward thinking, young manager in Eddie Howe and I hope they hang on to him for next season at least. When I was at Swindon Town and we were promoted to the Premier League we lost our manager, Glenn Hoddle, to Chelsea before the season started. This seemed to rip the heart out of the club and relegation seemed an inevitability long before it duly arrived.
I would like to wish my old club, Bristol Rovers the very best of luck when they face Grimsby Town in the Vanarama Conference play-off final. Rovers is still the first result I look for every Saturday and I know how much it hurt everyone connected with the club when they fell out of the league last year. Let’s hope the ‘Gasheads’ have a day to remember at Wembley and the Club returns to where it belongs at the very first attempt. I only wish I could be there to cheer you on!
I have to admire the Saint Mirren fans who this week voted a six year old from their academy as the Club’s player of the year. Aaron Woodall is currently undergoing chemotherapy, having already endured radiotherapy and an operation to remove a brain tumour. The Club has said it is happy to honour the decision of their fans and are currently arranging the formalities.
This is a timely reminder to us all that whilst we celebrate players and team successes, there are far more important things in life than football. Saint Mirren have shown they are a team with a heart. I would like to wish Aaron all the best in his continued recovery. Cancer in young people is a subject close to my family’s heart as my son Edward was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) when he was two and a half years old. He has endured years of horrendous, intrusive treatment and whilst we cannot take anything for granted he is doing very well and is a fun loving cheeky 10 year old. Ed has decided that we should embark on a challenge in order to raise some funds for a charity that is very close to our hearts because they have been a huge support to us over the past seven years. So, as Ed does not like to do things by half, on May 30th we, along with about 65 friends and relatives, will be climbing Ben Nevis to raise as much money as we can for Children with Cancer UK. If readers are kind enough to donate or want to know more about the work of the charity please visit Climb with Ed and read about our wonderful, brave and inspirational Edward.