Monday, 25 May 2009

Punch drunk: Hull and Newcastle both deserved relegation for their dire last-day displays

Brown's Got No Talent: Phil's attempts at entertainment (and logic)
would have received the buzzer straight away from Cowell and co.

Has there ever been a more lacklustre relegation fight? Of the four teams still realistically in it with six games to go only eight points were won out of a possible 72. Where was the heroic scrapping? The to-and-fro of Premiership places? The extra-time goals? The goalkeepers coming up for corners? No one seemed particularly bothered.

The tame way both Newcastle and Hull succumbed to defeat on the final day, without any barnstorming-every-man-forward-in-a-last-ditch-attempt-to-salvage-Premier-League-status-and-zillions-of-pounds-in-tv-money finale, inevitably took some of the sheen off seeing Shearer’s devastated countenance (incidentally not too dissimilar to his expressions of ecstasy) at the final whistle.

In the climaxing round of matches last season Birmingham defeated Blackburn 4-1 and Reading thumped Derby 4-0 to do everything in their powers to stay up. That each result was ultimately in vain, as Fulham won 1-0 at Porstmouth to avoid the drop, will have hurt those clubs involved but validated all neutral fans’ belief that the Premier League was full of committed professionals with a desire to perform at the highest level.

Newcastle and Hull’s limp efforts were equivalent to an undercard bout between a pair of down-and-out boxers who traded the softest of sparring jabs before each comically stumbled over with one just about managing to stagger to his feet one beat before the ten count.

Unfathomably, Boaz Myhill even wasted time taking a kick as the final minutes ticked away.

But the way Phil Brown spoke after the final whistle helped us understand the managerial motivation behind Myhill’s time-wasting. In a post-match interview a beaming Brown left logic back in the same dressing-table drawer as his razor. “Both one nils went the right way for us,” he explained. His efforts to extract some sort of reason from his baffling statement proved slightly unconvincing. “It didn’t matter what we did, as long as the result at Villa Park went our way.” Err, no Phil. Even those who see Crayola crayons as edible treats could work out the Hull manager’s maths skills were lacking, and establish that a win for his team would render events in Birmingham irrelevant. With any luck the self-satisfied, look-at-me, wanabee pub singer will employ the same ill-thought-out tactics and take the club down next season.

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