The only certainty among the four clubs mentioned above is Reading, promoted thanks to the 1-0 win over Forest. Southampton look set to join them but may still have a little work to do while Wigan’s sensational recent wins have not yet ensured survival. Pete Sixsmith looks at the likely comings and goings and shamelessly allows his preferences to be dictated by geography, politics and beer …
While M Salut has been turning his attention to who might be playing for us come August, it is also useful to take a look at which teams we might be lining up against in our sixth successive Premier League season, 2012-13.
When we rolled Wigan over in early January, I wouldn’t have given tuppence for their chances of being a top flight side next season. Indeed, up until a few weeks ago, it was Wigan and any two from four to go down. Then they earned a draw at Norwich in a game they could and should have won, and there has been a steady improvement since.
However, going into games against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal looked terminal for them and the trapdoor beckoned. They were robbed at Chelsea, deservedly beat United and then probably pulled off the result of the season by winning at Ashburton Grove.
So, there is every possibility of a return to the DW Stadium and, more importantly, a couple of pints in the Anvil, my favourite pub this year. Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan both have principles and stick to them and I would imagine the excellent Bernard Ramsdale (he could only support Wigan or Bury or Rochdale with such a resonant Lancastrian name) is gleefully anticipating The Great Escape Part 5.
One of the Lancashire clubs is going to go down with Wolves, and it is looking more and more likely to be Blackburn Rovers. The sullen peace that broke out has been fractured, there is a demonstration planned against the owners and the manager and they have lost the ability to claw points in since beating us. Bye-bye to our Skipton pause en route!!
Bolton also look in a very unhealthy position, although they have games in hand over their rivals. By and large, their football this season has been abject and they appear to be a club in trouble. Good players left last summer and were replaced by poor ones like Ngog and Pratley. Mind you, if it came down to them or QPR going down, they would receive my whole hearted support: £25 v £48 is no contest.
Apologies to our friend Steve Colwell but Rangers would not be missed one little bit. That said, they may have the players to stay up, while Villa must be looking over their shoulders with some fear and trepidation. Their game against us is absolutely vital; lose that one and they are in serious trouble. Birmingham City were in a similar position last year and look what happened to them. Remind me who their manager was, please!!
The Villa fan site Heroes and Villans does not make for particularly pleasant reading for those of us who support Sunderland. They do not like MON and, typical Villa, can’t decide whether to boo him or ignore him on Saturday. They no longer boo McLeish because he isn’t worth it, which is typical of the West Midlands apathy which attaches itself to this club. If they give MON a hard time on Saturday, they will join Coventry, Palace and the Mags on my List of Doom – not that the Sixsmith Curse has worked very well on the inhabitants of NE 1.
Reading will be at The Stadium next season, with their miserable little away following, which typifies a nothing club in a nothing town. Brian McDermott has done a great job in getting them up (and surely no club that has employed Charlie Hurley can be all wrong – ed), and I look forward to seeing Ian Harte up against a rejuvenated James McClean next season as well as watching such accomplished players as Kaspar Gorks, Mikhael Leigertwood and Adam Le Fondre. They are owned by a Tory who is friendly with Cilla Black. Enough said.
Who will join them? Well, Southampton look almost certs and can clinch it at Middlesbrough on Saturday. It is quite likely that the travelling fans will outnumber the home ones as Teessiders are not over fond of spending money on lost causes. Next year could be a very difficult one for Boro and they are looking like a Coventry City in waiting.
Of the play off teams, let’s hope that Blackpool can come through. The Saddle is an excellent pub, Ian Holloway is as mad as the proverbial box of frogs and it’s not too far to go. Reading and Southampton are a long, long way away and a play off success for West Ham would be too much. They can have another season in the Championship complaining about Big Sam and extolling “the West Ham way”.
Last night saw the probable relegation and possible extinction of our dear friends from Coventry City. Their demise (good word, that) has been awaited as eagerly awaited among Sunderland fans as that of Lord Londonderry was by the colliers of Seaham Harbour, and it is to be hoped that they are so strapped for cash that they will have to melt down the statue of Jimmy Hill that stands outside the ground they do not own. Failing that, they could sell his chin to the local council for use as a ski slope.
Locally, the Northern League title race is going right to the end and is a three horse race between West Auckland Town, Spennymoor Town and Dunston UTS. The latter have lost their last two games, including a 4-2 home defeat to the mighty Shildon in what was the best game I have seen this season. West Auckland conceded a 94th minute equaliser in a dreary 4-4 draw at Penrith and Spennymoor play Ashington, always hard to beat, tonight. The season ends on April 28 and it is going to be an exciting final 10 days.
Which kind of makes up for the Wolves game, or so I like to I think.