End of season's greetings
The words 'congratulations' and 'Chelsea' are as comfortable a pair of bedfellows as 'Cameron' and 'Clegg'.
I can see a coalition government coming up, with Dave as PM and Nick as deputy - and neither of them telling us owt... the Clam years. Clegg n Brown'd be the Clown years I suppose.
Any road, Chelsea. I was kind of expecting a nervy 1-0 with United thumping Stoke. But no such jangle for west London nerves.
Gary Caldwell's dismissal ensured victory and then Carlo Ancelotti's side, rather than play keep-ball for another hour in the manner of a certain charismatic predecessor with dourer objectives, started pinging them in from all angles.
Drogba saw the funny side - eventually
Of course, Chelsea's success or failure wouldn't be complete without Didi-dums Drogba having his latest sulk. He held his child in his arms during the post-match celebrations - and it was a job to know which one would be going home in the pram.
Frank Lampard firmly told him to let the first team's penalty-taker take the penalty - he's crazy that Frank! - and Drogba managed to regress so quickly into adolescence that I swear his skin took on a Clearasil complexion, and he spent the half-time interval round the back of the Shed smoking fags, sipping cider and listening to Slipknot.
Lamps's ball across to him for Didier's first was the act of a pestered father at the end of his tether. It was the football equivalent of 'All right you can have a flaming sweetie!'
The sulking hulk completed his hat-trick against rice-paper defending and the rout was completed by young Ashley. All right he's not the nation's favourite, what with the wealth and the lack of gratitude in being wed to St Theresa of Newcastle, but he's the best left-back we have, so let's get behind him over the summer, eh?
It was, therefore, a bit of a damp squib of a season-ender after all. For the neutral. And magnificent fun if you were a Chelsea fan, I imagine.
Any road, never mind Chelsea, how did I do? Here's what I predicted at the start of the season, with final places in brackets:
1. Chelsea (1)
2. Manchester United (2)
3. Liverpool (7)
4. Tottenham Hotspur (4)
5. Arsenal (3)
6. Aston Villa (6)
7. Everton (8)
8. Manchester City (5)
9. West Ham United (17)
10. Fulham (12)
11. Sunderland (13)
12. Blackburn Rovers (10)
13. Bolton Wanderers (14)
14. Stoke City (11)
15. Wolves (15)
16. Wigan (16)
17. Burnley (18)
18. Portsmouth (20)
19. Birmingham City (9)
20. Hull City (19)
To quote the great Eric Morecambe, I got the top eight right, but 'not necessarily in the right order'. So let's get the apologies in first:
Alex McLeish, Birmingham fans - a ninth place finish is a brilliant achievement. But you can see how they might have been assumed to be relegation fodder at the start of the campaign. A midfield of Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson - come on, how many games did you expect them to end up playing at the same time?
When I looked at their strikeforce back then, I saw Cameron Jerome: The Brummagem Bendter. And Christian Benitez, too. I can never quite trust a striker who seems to have spent longer in front of the hairdresser's mirror then the opposition goal.
Then I saw James McFadden: Elusive, silky-skilled, blinking unreliable and after that, where was the creativity?
None of the above proved a problem and I reckoned without Desperate Dann and Roger Ramjet Johnson at the back. Or the keeper of the season, Joe Hart, between the sticks. A top effort all round. An almost Moyesian miracle from a squad of limited quality.
Gianfranco and the Irons. Sorry for misjudging you so badly.
There's still a part of me that imagines down at the old Boleyn Ground, plucky little Cockney sparrers playing in the rubble are rounded up, sprinkled with the ability to sing 'n' dance and kick a football, and are all set to stroll into the spine of the England team. Not only that, but they play the game 'in the right way'. And with the nicest man in the world in charge, who couldn't wish them well?
Turns out they're a right old ragtag outfit, full of crocks and misfits, and were it not for Scott Parker's drive, occasional glimpses of forward prowess by Carlton Cole and Ilan, and the real dearth of quality at Burnley and Hull, they'd be down.
I'm not sure that the two Davids are the men to pull them out of the hole they're in, but despite my impeccable Northernness I still feel this illogical touch of gratitude to West Ham, so look for the prediction of a Champs League place for next year.
Rafa Benitez has had little to smile about
Rafa and Liverpool: All right, fellow-blogger Phil McNulty thought you'd win the whole caboodle, but I still pegged you for third.
They were desperately poor, even if they occasionally pulled themselves up by Torres's hamstrings. I cannot see them doing any better next year either. Money's tight, big bucks and more medals must be luring the big boys, and Rafa's position looks as secure as a crepe paper chastity belt.
Arsenal: They did well this year, but it's obvious to all but Arsene Wenger what they lack, and that's a bit of midfield muscle (a 2004 Vieira in other words). Oh and a goalkeeper - actually a park-keeper would do a better job at the mo.
Other than them glaring errors, I did all right, I reckon.
But I must take issue with the Manager of the Season award going to 'Arry. Fourth place was never in any doubt, as my prediction proves.
Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea? Fine achievement, but made harder work of it than he should've. Woy getting Fulham to the Europa League final using a squad with the depth of a razor blade? I should coco.
Hodgson was Manager of the Season for me all right, with McLeish not far behind.