Race For the Title and Other Tittle Tattle

It’s not over

I certainly don’t want to add to the great Sky hype machine but this weekend’s Premier League race could go down to the closing minutes. I did suggest during my relegation preview in February that Wigan could give Man United a problem if they needed a win to stay up on the last day. Well even though they are now safe I still have a sneaking feeling that it’s not going to be all plain sailing for Redface. Bruce – who I feel had gone stale at Birmingham – has done a good job at Wigan. With just two defeats in eleven games and consecutive draws against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool (having lost the last 20 Premiership games against the top four before Bruce arrived), Wigan don’t have that confidence problem that has beset the likes of Birmingham and, until recently, Newcastle.

Down south it should be a narrow win over the slightly-improved Bolton at Stamford Bridge. They still look fairly divided on the pitch but there is enough quality to nick a couple of goals and keep the pressure on United.

While I’d like to see Chelsea win it in the knowledge that Grant will be sacked anyway, my head tells me that United will win the league with a narrow win over those JJB scoundrels.

Relegation

I’d like to see Fulham stay up as their recent run should be admired and Brian McBride is an utter legend. But I do fear for them in the sense that Reading will come to life on the final day to rescue themselves and Birmingham might just get some magic out of McFadden to get a crucial point against Blackburn. But it’s going to be down to the wire as well and personally I think there’s a lot more at stake here than a top-of-the-table decider over which obscenely rich club ends up with a few extra million in the bank that they will only blow on agents fees anyway.

Rafa again

Sorry to come back to this guy but the haughty Spaniard amused me by valuing Peter Crouch and Xabi Alonso at £15m each. And for good measure Rafa might be hoping to squeeze £7m out of Newcastle (who else?) for John Arne Riise, whose best days look to be behind him at 27. Crouch is a good Premiership player, probably belongs in a 5th-8th place team such as Everton or Villa. But £15m? Save your money folks – Rafa has been conning teams in to paying over-the-odds for his transfer failures for the last few years. They got their money back plus a million for 7-in-27 striker Craig Beallamy from West Ham. And Juventus paid over £8m for the much-maligned Mohamed Sissoko – madness.

And who would pay £16m for Alonso? Oh. Juventus. The Spaniard is skilful but – like Michael Carrick – seems too slow and slight to be a top Premier League player and hasn’t really impressed in the last two seasons.

But I suppose you can’t blame Rafa in a way when Villa want £10m for Gareth Barry. I’m sure he’s worth it to Villa but he won’t bring that value to Liverpool’s first team.

Rangers not happy

Being successful comes at a price. Rangers have had a great season, winning the League Cup and reaching the Scottish and UEFA Cup finals. But their dominant position in the league has been chipped away at after back-to-back defeats to Celtic. With two games in hand they are four points behind their city rivals. But even though it’s in their hands the small matter of playing 8 games in 21 days is likely to impact their performances. The Scottish Football Association have refused to extend the season and Rangers have been barking madly, flinging the words “bungling” and “muppets” towards the men in power.

While one can have a degree of sympathy with Rangers, the idea that the season should be extended and subsequently inconvenience dozens of professional players and their families, borders on arrogance. Every season someone has a complaint about their schedule, sometimes with cause. But what is the answer? Start the season a month earlier?

And why should their title rivals Celtic support the moving of the goalposts? If the shoe was on the other foot you can be sure Rangers would not support the extension of the season “for the good of Scottish football”. If Rangers had already won the league or were out of the title race by now then they would simply play reserves in the remaining league games and no more would be said about it. I’m sure they would have little sympathy for complaints of the other league members should the hypothetical weakened teams they put out impact on the integrity of the competition. Best of luck Rangers but don’t worry – what goes around comes around, you’ll get your own back someday…

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