Fourth Place Egg and Spoon Race
In the kaleidoscope of the season’s finale- when all the talk subsides and the bedlam of eight months of football is shaken into some kind of natural order- this game could well go down as one that helped define it. Some part of it, at any rate. The bit which has, perhaps, been the most intriguing story of the whole damn affair.
The race for fourth place.
With all the false starts and mishaps from those in contention, it’s often difficult to know exactly who’s after it. Or, indeed, who is, but wont know what to do once they’ve got there. Liverpool probably started as favourites. Even without Alonso, it’s safe to say the Anfield lot know their way around the upper regions of the Premier League- they’re old hats. To the befuddlement of Papa Benitez and many others, however, they started with a whimper. It turned out- to the dismay of last season’s runners up- that not only was the Spaniard an important egg in the crate, he was keeping the entire factory in business. Without him they appeared rudderless and distinctly ordinary. But they’ve negotiated a corner it would seem; the plug on the life-support machine has been shoed back into the socket and there’s the definite look of a pulse flashing across the monitor. They even look to be up for a fight. Which is a nuisance.
Man City. Possibly the opponents of which to be most wary. Sitting dormant in sixth but with a two game advantage to make up a single point. You do the math, as our American cousins might suggest. Well I did, and the outlook is worrying. Turns out money can buy you happiness after all; or a Carling Cup semi-final, at the very least.
And then there’s Villa- our adversaries on Saturday afternoon. Since making the wise decision to remove themselves from the Europa League in September- thus preserving vital energy- Martin O’Neil’s flock have been churning out a consistent season. Garry Barry may have departed sometime ago now, but unlike Liverpool, they’ve had a replacement in-waiting all along. James Milner. FHM conducted an experiment in this month’s issue, asking the question ‘How Accurate Are Footballers?’ Using young James as the guinea pig, they tested his precision from five to thirty-five yards; the target being a victim gaffer-taped to a goal post. How accurate are footballers? It turns out, very. Out of the twenty efforts, Milner missed just twice. I can see why Keegan wanted shot of him. Elsewhere, the dangers are bred from the usual pool of suspects; Abonglohor is finding something resembling form again- not that you’d realise it with the look of bemusement permanently carved on his mug. Not one of nature’s most charming of vistas, that.
From our point of view, nothing short of a maximum haul will suffice tomorrow. Villa got off lightly at their end last time around, with us indulging in the typical routine of keeping possession but allowing ourselves to be careless in front of goal. Crouch chuckled as the ball bounced in every direction but goalward. We failed to see the funny side. Tottenham dominated the second half- on their own back yard, no less- but left the Midlands clutching just a single point while rueing the loss of two more. At home, close to full strength, there’s no reason why we can’t perform that elusive miracle of turning a watery one point into a wine-soaked three. Sainthood beckons for whoever can mange it.
2-1 for me.
St. Peter to grab a divine double.