Bolton 35 -25 -35
Wigan 35 -33 -35
Wolves 35 -23 34
West Ham 35 -19 31
Hull 35 -40 28
Burnley 35 -37 27
DOWN Portsmouth 35 -33 15
Safe by April 17. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as Safe by Christmas, which we were more or less able to say during those two remarkable seasons under Peter Reid, finishing seventh each time before the familiar rot set in.
But for Sunderland fans accustomed to end-of-season trauma of one kind or another, it was still a relief to know we could complete the run-in without the least worry about how things would end up as we leave Molineux on May 9.
We can naturally hope Steve Bruce and his squad will make up for the wretched time we endured during the winless run from November to March. Nine points from the last three games would be delicious, seven pretty tasty and even six a decent appetiser for what we hope will be significantly better things next season.
But we are all human and naturally have preferences about how we want the next three weekends to go for others. Who do we want to see go down with poor old Pompey?
After last night’s defeat for Hull City at home to Aston Villa, the most obvious conclusion to be drawn from the table and the list of remaining fixtures (see below) is that the present bottom three will also be the bottom three on the evening of May 9.
But the appearance of names like Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool in the list of opponents shows that the potential for further twists is strong. Not to mention Wigan having to play two other relegation contenders, West Ham and Hull, and our own role as an ingredient in the mix with games at Hull and Wolves.
Quite a few Sunderland fans have expressed the hope that Hull would survive; many would have preferred Burnley, too, to stay up though their chances now look the most slender of all. That suggests West Ham as our drop candidates of choice, a sad reflection of the hint of antipathy that has crept into Mackem-Hammers relations (you need only read some of the comments that appeared here, and at the West Ham site Knees Up Mother Brown, after the Iluga-Jones incident and our recent 1-0 defeat at the Boleyn).
Since I have posed the questions, I cannot allow myself a cosy position on the fence.
So I will state that I very much want Wolverhampton Wanderers to stay up, because I have so much time for both Mick McCarthy and Jody Craddock; I would be less sorry to see the Hammers drop a division, but admit to some lingering affection for them as London’s most convincing claimants to “proper club” status. Also, West Ham’s tradition, understandably diminished of late, is of trying to play attractive football. And I need to keep in with Sam Haseltine at footballunited.com and his blood is pure claret and blue!
That leaves Burnley, who I think are doomed, and those other wanderers, Bolton, whose ritualistic appearance in the relegation zone each season probably merits its logical result.
That said, I also want Sunderland to beat Hull on Saturday, and that would have the unintended side effect of making their survival seem improbable, indeed impossible if West Ham beat Wigan.
Salut! Sunderland would be interested to hear readers’ views on the issues that will be decided at the wrong end of the table once the following games have been played:
* BOLTON Portsmouth (H), Tottenham (A), Birmingham (H)
* WIGAN West Ham (A), Hull City (H), Chelsea (A)
* WOLVES:Blackburn (H), Portsmouth (A), Sunderland (H)
* WEST HAM Wigan (H), Fulham (A), Man City (H)
* HULL Sunderland (H), Wigan (A), Liverpool (H)
* BURNLEY Liverpool (H), Birmingham (A), Tottenham (H)
* photo of the outside of the Boleyn, as most Hammers insist we should call Upton Park, courtesy of “tiredoflondon”, whose Flickr images can be checked out by clicking here
* NB: a recent deluge of spam means comments from people who have not been this way and posted before will have to await moderation. Sorry.