As tiers go by
Big story of the weekend? Brum going back up? Nah, Birmingham City are the quintessential yo-yo team. 'Keep on going to the end of the road' is fair enough but it'd be nice for the fans at St Andrew's to have a stretch of highway that wasn't dotted with road signs like 'Hidden Dips' on '1 in 4' drop ahead. If you fill in an application form for BCFC supporters club there's a little rider underneath that says 'Football clubs can go down as well as up'. Still, it's never dull, eh? Rather that than mid-table obscurity. Maybe.
You find the big story by looking down to the foot of the Championship and seeing the three names heading down the chute: Norwich City, Southampton and Charlton Athletic. To be honest I was expecting the Boro to be playing at least one of these next season. And not cos of our relegation, either.
It hardly seems like yesterday that Le Tissier was in his pomp and the Saints were strutting around their new park. In fact it's eight years and probably nine managers ago (umpteen more when you start to include little appearances by 'Arry Bassett - the poor man's Red Adair - the Artful Dodger Wisey, Dodd and Gorman, etc.). The stadium is still tip-top - it's a cracking venue for corporate events, dinners with 60 executive rooms and enough space for 500 guests, so I've read. It's just a bit cack for footy.
It's hard not to tip the whole hot steaming pile of blame on to the doorstep of one Rupert Lowe. Lowe seemed at times to employ novices in order that he might have more sway himself. And yet his footballing acumen was writ large in the appointment of Clive Woodward in the position Extra-Something-Or Other-Cos-He's Good-At-Rugger.
What the hell was that about?! They're different sports, man! Presumably Rupert's conservatory was put together by the best plumber in Hampshire and his yachts are maintained by Kwik Fit.
It was Lowe who set up this Southampton Leisure Holdings Company as well. Personally I don't know of one football fan who doesn't express despair when he hears his club is just a subsidiary of some non-descript company who own a load of other stuff that's got nowt to do with the game. It means that financial considerations outside the football club itself can have more bearing on its success that what's put out on the park every Saturday.
(In Liverpool's case it appears that owners seem prepare to take profits out of the football club in order to pay debts acquired in purchasing the damn thing in the first place. If you need a good example of how t*ts up footy could be going, you could do worse than start there.)
I've not been following the fortunes of Charlton and Norwich as closely, save for when Delia gets on the half-time mike. Think Norwich and you think of winning 2-1 at Bayern Munich and how good the half-time pies must be. Delia will have to keep knocking out the cookbooks now if she wants the club to bounce back Leicester-style. Difficult to know where she can go after How to Cheat, though. I've already mentioned a cookery guide for blokes which would simply be a list of her favourite local takeaways... maybe she can add tomes called How To Pretend You Cooked It, or How to Thaw Out Your Mam's Stews. I'd buy it.
What worries me as a fan of a club over whom the shadow of relegation looms like the backlit silhouette of Carlos Tevez on a net curtain, is that these three set a precedent. The response to the drop can be twofold: haul yourself up off your knees and clamber back into the top tier making cocky claims on the way (the Carl Froch/Birmingham approach) or lie still and unblinking while they waft the smelling salts under your nose (the Ricky Hatton/Leeds United approach). All right, that's an unearned dig at the Hitman and that fight reminded me that while I love boxing, I just turn into a right Jessie when someone gets really hurt. I'm pleased Ricky's ok and I hope he never bothers with it again.
After a North-West 3 North-East 0 weekend, when that shabby second-string of United's - Scholes, Giggs, Coconut Head Kiki - just about broke into a stroll and the respective defences of Sunderland and Newcastle displayed all the calmness of a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking-chairs, you can see at least one club from the hotbed of football sliding further down than just the one tier. In fact I can see floods of tiers for the lot of us.
For Charlton, read the Boro: nice family club, fans none too expectant, red shirts and good will earning precisely nowt.
Actually, let's hope that Boro are the Barnsley of the Premiership this season. Fact is, whoever wins at St James's next Monday might just get out of trouble, always supposing that Hull hath no fury 'til the end of the season. Lawro said it's the biggest game Boro's had for 11 years. Likewise, the Barcodes. I predict an ugly, error-strewn 2-1 and an escape of Fulhamesque proportions.
I won't say who for though but. What was I saying about mid-table obscurity? I'd sell my house and all its contents for a bit of that right now.