There are no excuses. West Ham United sealed their fate when they hired Avram Grant as manager. The club and its directors have only themselves to blame. In fairness, Grant did well at Chelsea, but at Stamford Bridge he was managing a world-class team that more than likely carried him through the good times. There's a simple lesson for all clubs when fighting to survive in the EPL. Make sure you hire the right man.
Ian Holloway's boys in orange brought such great color to the Premier League. At least early on they did. Once Blackpool started to go south in the table most pundits knew that dropping all the way look imminent. What a fall from grace it was for Holloway, who at times cracked everybody up with his outspoken comments on the Premier, FIFA and indeed his own club. Now his sarcasms and sense of humor are not so funny anymore. His team ended up being to naïve and lacked the tactical awareness to sit in and win a game from there. And that's what they should have done when they went 2-1 up at Old Trafford on Sunday. It's going to be one hell of a tough job to bring Blackpool back up especially when they lose Charlie Adam. Though, what an incredible job Holloway has done for the football minnows. Achieving Premiership status is possible, no matter how low the budget is.
Birmingham City fans urged their players on in the final minutes against Spurs but the Blues had nothing left in the tank. There was one glimmer of hope when City got a corner but Spurs cleared to put an end to any hope of a Birmingham winner. Hearts were crushed when Roman Pavlyuchenko dipped a wicked shot over City's keeper and into the net. While Alex McLeish admitted he was gutted after the game, he looked that way even at 1-1. Many a City heart was broken on the weekend but many fans stayed on and sang for their team. Like Blackpool, Birmingham got their season off to a flyer, but fell short of remaining functional for 90 minutes. Nevertheless, expect to see Birmingham return within two seasons, providing McLeish stays on at the club.
Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed up by the skin of their teeth - 40 points (goal difference, - 20), just ahead of the unfortunate Birmingham (-21) and Blackpool (- 23), both of them on 39 points. Mick McCarthy's Wolves have a great fighting spirit but it fell short way too often during the season. Despite playing some good football against fellow minnows and mid-table teams Wolves were not able to back up some good performances with 3 points. Rather, McCarthy's men saved the wins when playing against the big guns. As Sunday approached they were favored to stay up but when Blackburn Rovers, who were also battling for survival, hit them for three goals in the first half, and the other relegation teams were holding their own at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, the Wanderers began to worry. Then, McCarthy made a few bold changes at half time, Jamie O'Hara pulled one back and in the 87th minute Irish international Stephen Hunt rifled a shot into the top corner, giving them a goal-difference edge, though it wasn't necessary. Ultimately, Spurs and Man. United helped decide one of the best relegation battles we have ever seen.
Wigan, however, took matters into their own hands by winning 1-0 at Stoke City, giving them a 42-point tally for the season's 38 games. Columbian Hugo Rodallega hit the all-important winner for Athletic keeping the dream alive in the Premier. Staff and players raised manager Roberto Martinez off the ground as he exclaimed, "It's like winning a trophy." For those teams who survived, including Blackburn Rovers, avoiding relegation is bigger than any trophy. Indeed remaining in top flight is worth millions of dollars in TV rights, something that will be sorely missed by West Ham United, Blackpool and Birmingham City.
While we were treated to a fantastic finale at the bottom of the table, the run-in for the title saw Manchester United prove themselves to be worthy favorites. The Devils had Chelsea's number both in the league and in Europe. Eventually winning the title by 9 points shows that there is a gap that the rest have to fill to catch up with United and Alex Ferguson. Not an easy task. However, early on in the season the lead changed hands enough times to give us hope of a more competitive campaign next time around. The most important teams in the league to keep Ferguson from dominating for the next few years are Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City. Everton can join in the foray only if they get off to a good start. The return of Kenny Dalglish was one of the best things that happened during the season. Let's hope that he continues to turn things around at Anfield for the sake of more exciting football. Future eyes are on Stamford Bridge when Carlo Ancelotti was let go after losing 1-0 to Everton.