The last three weeks of the season are, at last, upon us.
For someone with no vested interest, like a Crystal Palace supporter, whose team are not going to achieve anything impressive besides remaining in the top flight, this is a fun time. For Leicester and Burnley, who have secured their place in the top flight next season, it is a time for ignoring the ‘but how can we ever compete with the Premier big dogs next season, when we don’t have tuppence ha’penny to rub together?’ elephant in the room.
But for others, there will be misery as relegation looms. In World Cup years gone by, this would have been compounded by further misery sometime in June, accompanied by the all-too-familiar sight of an overweight, sunburned Englishman, sobbing into his tracksuit, and the melancholy pleas of Del Amitri. Fortunately, we seem to have accepted that we don’t have a chance, and I for one will shrug nonchalantly as I silently switch allegiances to the Netherlands. I digress.
There may yet be football misery for me this summer, but we’ve been here before, haven’t we Charlton? After that glorious play-off final at Wembley in 1998 we spent one pitiful season in the top flight before plummeting back into the then First Division. Still, back then we had Alan Curbishley and a corresponding level of hope in our hearts, and that season we finished top of the division, earning a place in the Premier League for seven seasons. Until that cad Curbishley then left us, my brother cried, and a downward spiral ensued. To be clear: there is no direct correlation between my brother’s tears and aforementioned downward decline.
Although it’d be fair to say hearts had already been broken by Curbishley’s departure, by the time we were relegated again the following season, my heart had pretty much turned to stone. Frankly, I was bored of losing and bored of watching terrible football. So imagine how I feel now, finding myself again staring down the barrel of another season of Championship fixtures.
In the Premier League, Sunderland, Fulham, Cardiff, Norwich and West Brom are in the danger zone. Sunderland has yet to play both Cardiff and West Brom, whoever loses between Cardiff and Sunderland on Sunday must surely be for the chop, but a win won’t necessarily save either team at this stage.
Aside from Sunderland, Cardiff will still meet Newcastle and Chelsea, who, if they beat Liverpool this weekend, still have a shot at the title. According to View from the Ninian blogger, Ben, the writing was on the wall after the sacking of previous manager Malky Mackay. Much like my own experience of relegation, with every disastrous result, he finds he is more resolved with Cardiff’s almost sealed fate. Those contentious three points which Cardiff are hoping to glean from Crystal Palace could make all the difference, but according to Ben, their game was so terrible he’s not even really sure Cardiff deserves them, Palace treachery or otherwise.
Also currently in the bottom three, Fulham will yet play Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace, which makes me think they stand a fighting chance, given how little there is at stake for their opponents. Just teetering above, Norwich will play Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal, a line up which really needs no comment. We’ll look forward some high-octane East Anglian derbies in the Championship, next season. It is largely accepted West Brom are probably safe, despite a remaining fixture against Arsenal, however I’m sceptical about the level of damage West Ham, Sunderland and Stoke can do them.
So now you know all there is to know about the miserable acceptance of relegation, and who I think, in very non-committal terms, is Championship-bound next season. Spare a thought, though for Man Utd, who without a place in the Champions League next season, must feel like they’ve been relegated. But it’s not all bad, I’ve spoken to two Man Utd fans in the last two days who have actually started giving monkey’s about football again in the face of this – everyone loves an underdog.
Do you agree with Jen’s predictions? Do you have any relegation experiences you’d like to share with the Offside Rule (We Get It!)?
Read more from Jen Offord here!