Click Here to View the Bottom Half of the League Table
Following Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Portsmouth on Sunday, the bottom of the EPL resembles a Tokyo subway train in rush hour, with the difference being nobody is looking for the exit.
Five teams now find themselves level on 21 points with some big names
among them as well as a couple of the usual suspects. Let's start with
Tottenham. Harry Redknapp, who I don't need to remind you once played for
Seattle, joined Tottenham in a blaze of publicity in late October. Initial
results had him branded as yet another saviour for the White Hart lane
faithful, who in the words of Monty Python 'should know a messiah, as
they've followed a few'. They beat Bolton, Liverpool (twice), Zagreb and
Manchester City and procured a fantastic 4-4 draw with local rivals Arsenal
in Redknapp's first six games. However defeats at Newcastle, West Brom and
Wigan have taken some of the steam out of the ship and Spurs now find
themselves locked in a relegation dogfight. Only goal difference keeps them
out of the bottom three, and were it not for former Portsmouth player
Jermaine Defoe's late equaliser on Sunday would have found themselves
propping up the entire league. On Tuesday they entertain Stoke City and this
game is crucial for Tottenham. Defeat here and the faithful might just start
to doubt if Harry can keep the Spurs on the Premier League horse.
Below them lie Blackburn Rovers who as predicted here dispensed with
Paul Ince as manager. Reliable Sam Allardyce took over and with a steady and
experienced pair of hands in charge, the future may be rosier for them.
Second-half goals from strikers Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts helped them
thump Newcastle 3-0 in another fixture which saw a manager face a former
club. They haven't lost in five games and a Lancashire derby against Bolton
next week at home may provide them with another opportunity for three
points. After that, they visit Middlesbrough and Big Fat Sam may see this as
an opportunity to put clear blue water between Rovers and the trap door. Sam
was a long time servant as a player for Bolton but that will make no
difference as he tries to pull Blackburn away from danger.
Those of you who read this piece last week will remember that we ended
on an ominous note for Gareth Southgate, manager of troubled
Middlesbrough. I predicted doom if they lost at then bottom club West
Brom. They did, 3-0, not helped with the red card for
Didier Digard who arrived from Paris St Germain. According to the BBC,
Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate said he could have "no complaints" if
he was sacked by chairman Steve Gibson. Neither would most Boro fans. Boro's
recent record is atrocious with only four points and no wins out of the last
thirty available. It's relegation form and Southgate does not have long to
turn it about. As his ill luck would have it, the next league game is at
Stamford Bridge against Chelsea but Southgate may not survive to shop on the
Kings Road if his side fall at Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers
in the FA Cup next week. In fact Boro are so likely to lose this match, that
many pundits would call it a cup shock if they won.
Stoke City cannot be called a club in crisis. Having been promoted
last year, a relegation battle was always to be expected and recent results
have been quite good. They were leading Chelsea 1-0 until a few minutes
before the end until the misfiring Blues finally netted two late goals to
secure a faulty and fortunate home win. Last week they held Liverpool to a
0-0 draw at Anfield. Their
next outing is to troubled Tottenham on Tuesday and with their next three
games being against Manchester City, Sunderland and Portsmouth, there is
fair opportunity to net a few points to keep their campaign above water. In
fact, Stoke have already completed their fixtures against Chelsea,
Manchester United and Liverpool and don't meet Arsenal till the final day of
the season. They may spend several Saturdays battling for winnable points while
relegation rivals are losing matches to the big four.
Finally, let's talk about West Bromwich Albion. West Brom,
or the "Baggies" as they are affectionately called hold a unique honour in EPL
folklore. In 2005 they became the only team since the Premiership began to
survive despite being bottom at Christmas. They're going to have to repeat
the same feat but have made a good start by recording wins over
Middlesbrough, Tottenham and Manchester City in recent weeks. Tony Mowbray
is one of the more likeable and more honest guys in football management (he
reminds me of Brian Schmetzer in many ways). They seem to have overcome the
loss of effective striker Ismael Miller who damaged a cruciate ligament in a collision with
Portsmouth goalkeeper David James and will miss the rest of the season. They have secured the services of Marc-Antoine Fortune from French club Nancy on loan for the rest of the season as cover. After visiting Manchester United in midweek, they play Hull, Newcastle and then visit Fulham. Points will be hard to accumulate but Hull at least look to be there for the taking as they have secured just one win in the last 14 games and that was against Middlesbrough.
BC Place Gets Can $365 Boost
Good News for Whitecaps MLS Bid
On a very different note, news came out of Vancouver this week that the British Columbia government has approved a Can$365-million plan to upgrade BC Place with interior improvements and a retractable roof to open by the summer of 2011. This can only be good news for the MLS bid of the Vancouver Whitecaps who hope to use the Olympic Stadium for their MLS side if a new soccer specific one can't be built in time.
According to the Vancouver Sun,
"The retractable roof project is crucial to the
Vancouver Whitecaps’ bid to win a Major League Soccer franchise to begin play in 2011. Six North American cities are vying for two franchises and the MLS is expected to decide on the winning bids early this year.
With Montreal's withdrawal from the race for an MLS franchise, and no-one thinking Ottawa's bid is anything like a long shot, it is becoming clearer that Vancouver's bid is in with at least an average chance. Competing
cities include Portland, Ottawa, St. Louis, Miami and Atlanta.
The MLS season begins in March, but David Podmore, PavCo chair, said the retractable roof probably won’t be finished until the summer of 2011. He said the Whitecaps and BC Lions could still play in BC Place while the new roof is being completed.
"We expect to have the roof up and operational before the summer,” Podmore said. “Then there’s all kinds of finishing work to be done, but that won’t stop them from using the facility.”
Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the timing of the BC Place upgrade announcement couldn’t be better, with the MLS in the final stages of evaluating six potential expansion markets.