Relegation is a funny thing. Basically, in the English Premiership, the bottom three clubs are relegated to the lower division. Punishment for winning so few games.
As a Sunderland fan, one of the 'joys' of every season is the annual relegation battle they inevitably find themselves entwined in. Managing to avoid relegation is about as much fun as going to the dentist but finding out you actually don't need any work done. You don't win anything, per say, however you don't slide into the relative anonymity of the lower divisions.
Relegation would be a complete disaster in the big US sports, for financial reasons. As it is, the English clubs that get relegated struggle mightily, however a die hard element of support keeps the turnstiles clicking, keeps buying club jerseys and basically keep the clubs that do go down afloat. Imagine the Tampa Bay Devil Rays got 'relegated' to an imaginary lower division? Tampa, the AL champions, hosted the Boston Red Sox for a big series last week. Some of the gates at those games were downright pathetic, one as low as 14,000. If there was relegation in MLB, and Tampa took the slide, they would disappear completely, bandwagon fans who won't go to see the Sox v Tampa surely wouldn't turn up to support the ball club in tougher times.
I guess in Tampa, if it's not the playoffs, don't bother going, apparently anyway.
Meanwhile, Sunderland, who I have yapped on about at length before, are left with three games to save themselves from the disaster known as relegation. With just the three games left in the season, there are five clubs basically in the hot seat. The bottom of the table looks a little something like this.
16 Sunderland 35
17 Hull City 34
18 Newcastle 31
19 Middlesbro' 31
20 West Brom 28
In the Premiership you get three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Each team has a tricky finish to the season, with plenty of banana skins laying in wait for them as they try to tip toe their way to safety.
The way Sunderland are ending their season, you could see them losing all three remaining games, away to Bolton this coming Saturday, away to Portsmouth and then ending the season at home to Chelsea (yikes). However I feel they will draw with both Bolton and Portsmouth which would give them 37 points to end the season.
Hull City have quite literally collapsed since a bright start, they play Stoke at home and then Bolton away, finishing with Manchester United on the road. Stoke are safe, and aren't playing that well away from home, so I can see Hull battling to a vital win, a draw with Hull and losing 0-9 on the final day of the season to the Champions elect. That leaves them with a nifty 38 points.
I have seen Newcastle a few times live on TV lately and I have to say, I have not seen as poor a side in many a year watching Premiership football. They lack creativity, heart and passion, and their caretaker manager, Alan Shearer, seems completely clueless. On Saturday, as Liverpool won easily 3-0 (and could have put ten past them) the 'Pool fans chanted 'You shoulda' stayed on the telly!' in reference to Shearer's other career as a football pundit. Crucially, however, Newcastle finish with two home games and one away, Middlesboro, Fulham and Aston Villa in that order. The Newcastle fans, some of the most passionate in the world, simply will not let them lose those two home games. I see them finishing win, draw, draw, the last result on the basis that Villa will have absolutely nothing to play for while 'Castle will be scrapping for their lives. That leaves Newcastle with 36 points.
Middlesboro have a tough finish ahead of them, away to Newcastle, home to Aston Villa and away to West Ham. I already predicted they will lose at home to their North East rivals, Newcastle, after that I see a couple of draws, meaning 'Boro will grab two more points leaving them with a paltry 33 points for the season.
Finally, West Brom are finishing with two home games against Wigan and Liverpool, and then away to Blackburn on the final day of the season. Ironically it is the bottom team that are finishing with something approaching a fighting spirit. It is not impossible to see them going win/draw/win to end the season, seven crucial points, leaving them with 35 to finish the year.
After all that the final table would look like this;
Hull City 38
Newcastle 36 West Brom 35 Middlesbro' 33
Newcastle, West Brom and 'Boro down to the lower divisions and facing a summer of unrest and a completely uncertain financial future. The final day of the season will feature many shots on TV of fans, young and old, half covering their tear stained faces as they face a season or more of watching their club in the lower rungs of English football.
Meanwhile, Sunderland and Hull City fans will consider themselves lucky and, rough handling of the mouth by an imaginary dentist aside, escape without any fillings.
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