Super Sunday to inspire super cliches
Roll on Super Sunday. The Premier League reaches its climax in an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza this weekend that will have the decibel levels of the radio and TV guys and gals breaking all records, the written Press in a mouth-foaming lap-top frenzy at grounds around the country and the national newspaper desks competing furiously for the snappiest headlines.
And who cares about the cliches? Variations on “Blue Moon Rises” will accompany Manchester City’s title success; same again with “Fergie’s Fury” as Manchester United are denied by goal difference and a dodgy refereeing decision at Sunderland; and also expect “Gunners Fire Blanks” as a 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns wrecks their Champions League third-place qualifying spot.
That slot will go to Tottenham Hotspur, when a late Gareth Bale winner sinks Fulham at home. Cue “Harry Happy As Larry” or, perhaps, “Gareth Bales Out Sloppy Spurs”. Look out, too, for “Toon Torment” after Newcastle United lose at Everton or “Chelsea Chumps” when they carelessly falter – though they can’t now make the top five – at home to pitiful Blackburn Rovers.
Alliteration is key when headline writing and the funnier or punnier, especially in the tabloids, the better. So punny that, sometimes, you have to read it two or three times to make any sense out of it. Even then, its meaning may evade you. The sub-editor will have tried to be too clever. It is nonsensical.
At the opposite end of the Premier League, Queens Park Rangers’ survival – despite a 6-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium – will be heralded by “Relief For Rangers” and Bolton Wanderers’ demise, after failing to gain their must-win result at Stoke City, might get the simple “Bolton Bombed” treatment.
For me, the state of play at the bottom holds little interest. QPR have been as dysfunctional a club that has played in the top flight for years and, quite frankly, do not really deserve to stay up. And they might not. They will lose at the Etihad, it’s nailed on, and if Bolton do actually secure their must-win at Stoke, it will be they who retain their exalted status at the West London club’s expense. “Bolton Bombed” swiftly becomes “Bolton The Brave”.
It’s a shame that Wolverhampton Wanderers are long gone and that Blackburn disappeared on Monday night. “Toothless Wolves Go West” and “Rover And Out” have been used already. It’s at the top end, though, where the fascination lies. Not necessarily with the all-Manc duel to be crowned champions [the ultimate] or called runners-up [effectively nowhere], that’s as good as done and dusted, but with the three-into-two-won’t-go equation featuring the Gunners, Spurs and Geordies.
Really, I envisage it remaining as it is – Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle. And the newspaper reaction? “Wenger Boys Do It For Arsene”, “‘Artache for ‘Arry”, “Pardew Poleaxed” … something like that. And then, of course, the eventual fourth-placed side will have go through that anguish and pain all again when Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at the Allianz Arena in Germany on May 19.
I suspect that since Chelsea defeated Barcelona in that enthralling semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp, they have been – perhaps subconsciously – pinning their hopes of playing in the competition next season on winning the final, even in Bayern’s own backyard, as the holders of the trophy. Hence their meek surrender of a top-four domestic finish and final wave of the white flag in the 4-1 loss against Liverpool on Tuesday night.
And that to a Liverpool side who they had almost casually toppled 2-1 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday; and that, albeit with Roberto Di Matteo fielding a weakened line-up at Anfield, to a Liverpool side that had previously won less games at home than relegated Blackburn. Says it all.
Bad call, Roberto. Possibly terminal, with the Chelsea interim first-team coach still auditioning for the permanent role. There is no way that Chelsea can enjoy such good fortune as they enjoyed against Barca – at times, it was head-shakingly outrageous – and don’t forget that Bayern toppled Real Madrid, the other Spanish giant, on their home turf, too, even though it took a penalty shoot-out to decide the issue.
So Chelsea lose to Bayern and, next season, they head off into the Europa League backwaters. Bye bye, Roberto. And the fourth-placed Premier League finishers breathe a sigh of relief and go into the Champions League qualifiers. Phew. Final-day Super Sunday, if per normal, should be the be all and end all of the Premier campaign. But, this time, it ain’t. The intrigue will rumble on a bit longer …