Survival Sunday…and breathe

Well wasn’t that exciting?

After all the intense build-up, the sleepless nights and the endless Sky Sports’ trailers, ‘Survival Sunday’ well and truly lived up to its billing – it was even good enough to gag any talk of Imogen Thomas for the day.

It was predictably topsy turvy, a fitting climax to a Premier League season high on entertainment but lacking in true quality.

There were eight changes to the bottom three over the course of the afternoon, but it was Birmingham and Blackpool who eventually joined West Ham’s relegation wake.

It marked a sad day for football purists as the Tangerines romantic fairy tale ended in tragedy.

Blackpool’s brand of fearless, exuberant, attacking football lit up the top-flight this season, and was a refreshing tonic for even the most gnarled cynic.

Their trip to Old Trafford was no different, scoring twice to come from behind and lead United, before finally succumbing to the Champions.

Ian Holloway has shown he is much more than just a good quote; as epitomised by his conversion of my new favourite Premier League player Charlie Adam from Rangers misfit to much-coveted star.

The Scot’s efforts in recent weeks have been nothing short of superhuman, and he has proven to be more talismanic than even Scott Parker.

Birmingham’s third relegation in six years has few positives though. Carling Cup aside, the Blues have consistently underperformed all year.

They have had two major faults throughout the season. The first, is a chronic lack of goals. They netted only 37 times, comfortably the lowest in the division, and their strikers only contributed an embarrassing nine.

The second is an aging squad. Having the leggy combination of Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer in your midfield for most of the season is asking for trouble. It could be worse though, you could be their former owners.

West Ham’s relegation is another heinous example of gross mismanagement.

The Hammers were doomed the second the ink had dried on Avram Grant’s contract. There’s a man whose smile could surely be mistaken for a sign of an impending Armageddon.

His managerial abilities haven’t been much cop either, two relegations in two seasons is a joke.

As for the teams that survived, well Wigan’s safety is just rewards for their total football principles and Wolves may have lost but survived thanks to their second-half comeback, and that’s indicative of the never-say-die attitude instilled by Mick McCarthy.

Blackburn are a curios story, as their potential last-day struggle was self-inflicted after they sacked Sam Allardyce. What odds for Steve Kean to be the first manager sacked next season?

But forget about luck, refereeing decisions or FA conspiracies, this relegation battle was ultimately decided by money.

West Ham wasted theirs, Blackpool and Birmingham didn’t spend enough, Wolves spent wisely last summer, and again in January, while Wigan and Blackburn were secure enough to keep hold of their decisive players.

The saying “speculate to accumulate” couldn’t be truer of today’s Premier League.

QPR and Norwich take note.

James Riley

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