Blackpool and Birmingham City have been relegated from the Premier League after last day losses away to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. They will join West Ham United in the Championship next season. The East London side went down last week after capitulating against Wigan Athletic who survived on the final day thanks to a 1-0 win away to Stoke City.
Blackburn Rovers and Wolves, who played each other, also survived a last day scare and stay up. At one stage, Wolves had dropped into the bottom three but two second half goals combined with results elsewhere was enough to guarantee survival for Mick McCarthy’s hard working side.
The hardest truth in football is that you reap what you sow. You get what you deserve. 90 minutes is enough time to determine one game. If you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself. Players know that making excuses about bad refereeing decisions and bad luck is just an exercise in bullshit.
The same goes for relegation. If you go down, there are no two ways around it – you deserved it.
Blackpool, Birmingham, and West Ham, despite picking up many new friends across the last 38 weeks, just weren’t good enough.
If anything, you could probably make a decent Premier League team if you amalgamated all three sides and that probably still wouldn’t be good enough to stay up.
The Tangerines and Ian Holloway were a breath of fresh air this year. They go down with their heads held high. Each and every man. From the boot boys to the players to the manager to the board, they have done themselves proud and deserve huge recognition for the fight they put in.
At the start of the season, with a budget that would not be out of place in League One, they were everybody’s favourite to be relegated. Their wage bill is just £13m for the entire season while Wayne Rooney alone gets paid the same amount for his 52 weeks work.
Actually, it is worth knowing that before they were promoted to the Premier League, the vast majority if not every Blackpool player had a clause in his contract that saw his wages reduced to just £500 per week during the close season.
Many of those same players will now in all probability be sold back to the Premier League as the Seasiders gear up for life in the Championship. If they do things right, they could become the next West Brom or Norwich and preserve the life of the club before extravagant spending takes hold.
But when all is said and done, they just weren’t good enough. Going forward, they have some very good players, Charlie Adam springs immediately to mind but defensively they are poor and incredibly naive at this level. In truth; they never stood a chance of survival.
But they knew that going in, and deserve huge praise for taking the fight to the last day.
Birmingham City and West Ham United on the other hand, deserve no such praise.
They went into the season knowing exactly what they had to do. With players of international experience, highly competitive wage bills, and huge followings, these teams should never be treading water in the relegation zone.
West Ham goes down thanks to being one of the worst run clubs in the league. Gianfranco Zola was not exactly setting the world alight at Upton Park but his merciless sacking set the tone that would cripple the club for the next 12 months.
His replacement, Avram Grant, was the wrong appointment right from the start. The likeable Israeli may be one of the games nice guys, but he has never done anything in the game to warrant managing a club in the Premier League, let alone a club like West Ham who do have the potential to be one of the leagues giants.
In putting Grant in charge, the West Ham hierarchy was then forced to back a busted flush right from the start as results went against them and when they eventually did get the chance to get rid of him and replace him with a manager of real authority and significance, Martin O’Neill. They somehow went public and ruined their hopes as the dignified Irishman refused to do business with them.
Had they acted in January, like West Brom did by replacing Roberto Di Matteo with Roy Hodgson, who knows where the Hammers would have finished.
West Ham is an awful side, there is a real lack of quality in every department of the club and at times it seemed like they were being carried by Scott Parker alone. They deserve to go down more than any other team.
Birmingham City…just fell apart. From winning the Carling Cup in February, Alex McLeish’s team just fell to pieces and were ultimately undone by their lack of fire power up front. Midfielder Craig Gardener was the club’s top scorer with just eight goals this term.
The most disappointing thing for the Blues is the way they were relegated.
From being in a position of relative safety, they literally dropped like a stone. Birmingham only picked up nine points from their last 12 games and struggled to beat teams as their main striking options got injured. And as the fear of relegation loomed on the horizon, the players just caved in and the manager looked hopeless.
In their final game of the season, Birmingham showed why they did not deserve to stay up.
Take Blackpool for instance. They went to Old Trafford and took the game to United and actually tried to win the game.
Birmingham on the other hand, put every single man behind the ball and looked to catch Spurs out with a set piece.
It wasn’t as if they even set their tactics out to defend, and they didn’t do that particularly well because Spurs cut them to pieces. They just didn’t attack, they had no ambition, and they didn’t try. They sat back and allowed Spurs to dictate the game and it wasn’t until they were forced to look for a goal that they showed some kind of ambition.
Unfortunately, their rivals had shown that ambition from the start of the season, never mind the games today, and in the end the footballing gods chose who would survive.
That is the relegated team’s biggest crime, no ambition.
You can forgive players who aren’t good enough, but you can never forgive a player who doesn’t put in an honest shift. That’s why people felt sorry for Blackpool being relegated, but not so for West Ham. While Birmingham’s lack of good business in finding a striker ultimately was their undoing.
Football honesty, it goes a long way and cannot be underestimated. Without it, you have no chance. With it, you can accomplish anything, and Blackpool almost did.