Thrills, chills and moments to savour
The journey took in 72 matches and almost 22,000 miles, concluding with England's 2-2 draw with Switzerland in a Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley.
From Blackpool to Basle, it was an unpredictable mixture, throwing up the brilliance of Barcelona's Champions League final victory against Manchester United and the thrills of that final "Survival Sunday" as five clubs fought to stay in the top tier of English football.
As we look back on this season, through what will be a highly eventful close season and ahead to the next campaign, what condition has your club been left in? Here's my review:
Arsenal - 4th
Same old Arsenal. Wonderful, flowing style and memorable nights at the Emirates when Barcelona were beaten and Chelsea swept aside but once again no silverware and not even the meagre consolation of automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.
Arsene Wenger was bursting with optimism in late February as the Gunners chased four trophies but they never recovered from losing the Carling Cup final to Birmingham City in the dying seconds.
Arsenal finished the season with a whimper, prompting serious questions of Wenger's ethos and policies after six years without a trophy. He paid the price for failing to address obvious flaws in central defence, not helped by injury to Thomas Vermaelen, while a lack of physical presence and tenacity in central midfield was also telling.
Criticism of Wenger is often met with an angry reaction from some Arsenal supporters but the realists will surely now accept that it is justified.
Wenger will be under more pressure than ever to deliver success next season so he must address any flaws or Arsenal will once again be in Manchester United's shadow.
The continuing march of Manchester City also threatens to put more distance between the Gunners and silverware, while Liverpool are ready to spend big and set their sights on the top four again under Kenny Dalglish.
High points for Arsenal were the continuing development of Jack Wilshere into the centrepiece of their team for years to come and indications that Wojciech Szczesny has the natural talent to become the reliable goalkeeper Wenger has been seeking.
This may be a defining summer for Wenger. If he gets his signings wrong, then the Arsenal mantra of "Arsene Knows" may come under even closer scrutiny.
Aston Villa - 9th
A wasted year for Aston Villa that was doomed from the moment manager Martin O'Neill left the club days before the start of the season. Plans were thrown into disarray, while the arrival of Gerard Houllier as O'Neill's successor was delayed because of his commitments to the French Football Association.
The season ended in the same swirl of speculation as it started with Houllier leaving Villa on health grounds. It looks like the rebuilding process will have to start again, too, with England winger Ashley Young seemingly on his way to Manchester United and Stewart Downing also considering his future.
Houllier's reign was a stop-start affair and a respectable ninth-place finish cannot disguise the disappointments. The Frenchman struggled to win over Villa's dressing room and supporters, with disciplinary problems involving defenders Richard Dunne and James Collins finding their way into the public arena.
Houllier angered Villa fans by making no secret of his affection for Liverpool on a freezing night when they lost 3-0 at Anfield and lost many forever by choosing to field a weakened side for the FA Cup fifth-round loss at Manchester City.
And yet there were also signs that Houllier's methods were having an impact in terms of improved discipline and results late on. Owner Randy Lerner also showed his faith in the manager by breaking the club's transfer record to land £24m Darren Bent from Sunderland. It will be to Houllier's eternal frustration that he was not able to push his long-term plans through.
Lerner and Villa now face a crucial couple of months that will offer a clear indication of their ambition and intent to challenge near the top of the Premier League.
Birmingham City - 18th
From the highest high to the lowest low. A late goal from Obafemi Martins was the catalyst for scenes of unbridled ecstasy as Birmingham claimed their first major trophy in 47 years by beating Arsenal in the Carling Cup final at Wembley in February.
Fast forward to White Hart Lane in May and a catastrophe that few Blues fans saw coming as they drank the surrounding areas of Wembley dry. Defeat to Spurs meant relegation back to the Championship.
For all the fine work of manager Alex McLeish, Birmingham ran into an irresistible force of poor form, fatigue and long-term injury that saw them sucked away from heady success and into a failed battle to survive in the Premier League.
McLeish has been backed by Birmingham's board but effectively ordered to win promotion next season. Key players such as Roger Johnson and Scott Dann are already being linked with moves away.
Will owner Carson Yeung provide the finance to embark on the recovery? It was a desperate end to the season and now an uncertain summer faces the Blues. How Birmingham and their fans have experienced both ends of the emotional scale.
Blackburn Rovers - 15th
Blackburn retained their Premier League status on the final day of the season but only after the club's new Indian owners gambled by sacking Sam Allardyce in December with Rovers comfortably placed in the table.
Allardyce's approach and personality makes him a divisive figure but there appeared no logic in dismissing the man who had stabilised Blackburn and replacing him with managerial rookie Steve Kean.
Some stubborn performances at the end of the campaign meant Blackburn's hierarchy did not pay the ultimate price for Allardyce's ruthless dismissal but the jury is still out on whether Kean can fashion real progress.
Outstanding youngster Phil Jones is already on the move to Manchester United, generating around £16m, so there should be money to spend. Ewood Park's regulars still wait to discover the extent of the substance behind those in charge. We will know a lot more by the time the first ball is kicked next season.
Blackpool - 19th
Ian Holloway brought verbal and footballing colour to the Premier League with a dashing approach that was only denied survival by defeat at champions Manchester United on the last day of the season.
Still, Blackpool go back to the Championship with memories of a double over Liverpool and plenty of other thrillers. The 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on the opening day will live forever in the memory of every fan who witnessed it as Blackpool marked their return to the top flight in style.
Charlie Adam and David Vaughan looked at home in illustrious company but will now move on, leaving Blackpool and Holloway to work out how they can rekindle the dream of a return to the Premier League.
Blackpool were a credit to themselves. I tipped them for the drop at the start of the season and would have loved to have been proved wrong. I very nearly was.
Bolton Wanderers - 14th
An up and down season for Bolton and boss Owen Coyle. The Scot enhanced his reputation as one of the game's brightest managerial talents - yet his team finished in an unflattering 14th place.
Bolton also suffered the nightmare of losing 5-0 to Stoke City in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. It was a memory that scarred their season and will take some time to fade.
Coyle has succeeded in modernising Bolton's style after the Gary Megson era and pulled off a real coup by bringing Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge to the club on loan.
Ambitious and progressive, Coyle may lose England defender Gary Cahill this summer but will hope that Bolton match his drive and show further progress next season. Coyle is destined for bigger things, so Bolton will need to keep up with him.
Chelsea - 2nd
Chelsea were my tip for the title in August and started the season in a swaggering manner that suggested they would be able to overcome even that severe handicap.
Sadly for Carlo Ancelotti, they lost their way and suffered injuries to Frank Lampard and John Terry as their season veered off course. The £50m arrival of Fernando Torres from Liverpool in January, seen by many as a vanity project for owner Roman Abramovich, created a tactical muddle that was never solved.
Chelsea were beaten by Manchester United in the Champions League, a defeat that effectively sealed Ancelotti's fate, and also lost out to United in the title race despite a late recovery that saw them travel to Old Trafford with real hopes of retaining their crown.
It came as no surprise when Ancelotti was sacked but it was still a harsh judgement on a manager who created history by winning the league and FA Cup double a year earlier.
Chelsea's new coach - with Guus Hiddink awaiting confirmation that he is to return to Stamford Bridge - must rebuild and also fulfil Abramovich's fantasy of winning the Champions League, while answering the many questions that hang over the club.
Is it now finally time to plot a future without Terry, Lampard and Didier Drogba? Will the team have to be rebuilt around Torres? Will Abramovich demonstrate hidden depths of patience and allow Ancelotti's successor to build steadily towards new glory? Success must come swiftly, as Ancelotti can testify. One season without success and he was out.
Everton - 7th
Everton once again ended the season strongly under David Moyes and demonstrated their threat by beating Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester City and Chelsea at Goodison Park.
Sadly, they were undermined by a lack of goal threat. Moyes knew that was a problem last summer and yet never had the financial support to successfully cure it. Jermaine Beckford scored 10 goals and showed promise but Moyes needs more than free-transfer gambles to take Everton forward.
As owner Bill Kenwright is unable to provide major finance himself and has not uncovered an investor, it is hard to see how that will change. Moyes is once again facing the familiar dilemma of having to sell to buy and may have to field bids for outstanding defender Leighton Baines and England Under-21 star Jack Rodwell. He also has to persuade giant Belgium midfield man Marouane Fellaini that Everton are primed for progress and a club worth committing his future to.
The brutal reality, as more or less admitted by Moyes, is that seventh may be as good as it gets for Everton in their current circumstances. How long before Moyes himself becomes frustrated by the financial straitjacket he is constantly forced to wear?
Fulham - 8th
The glow of a very satisfactory Premier League placing was quickly replaced by the shock created by the abrupt departure of Mark Hughes as manager, a repeat of last summer when Roy Hodgson left for Liverpool after taking Fulham to the Europa League final.
Martin Jol's swift appointment will help banish some of the disappointment. The Dutchman, still a hugely popular figure with Spurs fans after his time at White Hart Lane, is a fine choice and demonstrates once again that Fulham have a sure touch when it comes to selecting managers.
Jol will bring knowledge of the Premier and Europe to Fulham and is presumably happy at the club's scale of ambition, a factor put forward as one of the reasons Hughes left. The Dutchman also inherits a club and team in a healthy condition. Hughes recovered from a poor start to steer the club into the Europa League via the Fair Play standings.
Losing another manager could have been a destabilising blow for Fulham but this fine old club has shown it has the infrastructure and the squad in place to move on with Jol.
Liverpool - 6th
Liverpool's season fluctuated wildly from the misery of Roy Hodgson's brief reign to the optimism engendered by the return of Kenny Dalglish and the ambitious plans of owner John W Henry and the Fenway Sports Group.
Hodgson was a seemingly "safe hands" appointment following Rafael Benitez's departure but the veteran with the big reputation was never a comfortable fit.
He was not well received by Liverpool's fans, especially when they knew Dalglish had been rejected for the post in his favour, and his fate was sealed by poor results, such as the home defeats against Northampton Town in the Carling Cup and Blackpool in the Premier League. Bad signings in the shape of Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky damaged Hodgson's standing even further.
Anfield history will judge Hodgson harshly but he brought Raul Meireles to Anfield. This was a case of a manager being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Dalglish's emotional return changed the face of Liverpool on and off the pitch, with even the departure of £50m Fernando Torres to Chelsea turned into a positive with the arrival of the brilliant Uruguayan Luis Suarez in the Spaniard's place.
Liverpool have already sealed a deal worth around £20m for Sunderland's Jordan Henderson and were pipped by Manchester United in the £16m chase for Phil Jones - bold and expensive moves that signal the start of a powerful statement of intent by Dalglish and the Anfield hierarchy.
Liverpool's fans started to get carried away towards the end of the season by talking up a title charge next season. But defeats against Spurs and Aston Villa meant there will be no European football at Anfield next season. Reality must rule.
Dalglish will have his sights set on the top four next season, while the mood around Anfield is of genuine hope that Liverpool can emerge into the light once more after spending so much of a turbulent season in the dark.
Manchester City - 3rd
Roberto Mancini overcame the obstacles of handling an unwieldy, expensive squad and some fairly high maintenance egos to end the season with Manchester City's first major trophy since 1976 and automatic entry into next season's Champions League.
This constitutes a job well done by the Italian, who saw big-money summer signings like David Silva and Yaya Toure, who was a match-winner in the FA Cup semi-final and final against Manchester United and against Stoke respectively, deliver when it mattered.
Temperamental Mario Balotelli and striking colleague Edin Dzeko were not as convincing at a combined cost of more than £50m but City showed signs of real quality and unity in the closing weeks of the season.
Mancini is intent on more high-profile acquisitions this summer, backed by City's Abu Dhabi millions, and there will be great expectation for a Premier League title challenge after finally ending the club's barren run.
It could be that a player who is already at Eastlands holds the key. Carlos Tevez is captain, leader, talisman and City's outstanding player. If he can be persuaded to stay, it might just provide the perfect platform for further success in the transfer market.
If Mancini can use the attraction of huge wages and the lure of Champions League football to get his choices right, City can be a serious title threat next season.
Manchester United - CHAMPIONS
Sir Alex Ferguson faced constant questions about the strength of his squad as well as unfavourable comparisons with Manchester United teams of the past. The club's historic 19th title, won by nine points, was his answer.
United struggled away from home but Old Trafford was almost impregnable, with only two points dropped in the Premier League. This vintage may not have the "fantasy" provided by a Cristiano Ronaldo but they were still good enough to account for their closest domestic rivals Chelsea in the league and in Europe.
Barcelona's brilliant dismissal of United in the Champions League final illustrated the task facing Ferguson to win that trophy again - and even the championship does not gloss over the fact that the squad needs attention, a fact accepted by the manager.
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has retired, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes have also gone, while the Old Trafford career of Owen Hargreaves is over, wrecked by injury. How long can Ryan Giggs resist the tap on the shoulder from Father Time?
Ferguson has gems for the future in place already, namely defender Chris Smalling and the brilliant Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, while the Scot has already beaten his rivals to land Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers and lined up Atletico Madrid's David de Gea to replace Van der Sar. Ashley Young is also an expected arrival from Aston Villa.
In other words, the next phase of the Old Trafford renewal is under way.
It was in midfield, in particular, where United looked threadbare against Barcelona, so expect Ferguson to address any gaps. Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder looks a perfect fit but there are growing whispers that the Scot sees Spurs craftsman Luka Modric as the potential heartbeat of a reshaped midfield. He would be a wonderful signing.
The season may have ended in disappointment at Wembley but Ferguson was still able to write a new chapter in United's history with that league title. He will not spend this summer standing still and the beating from Barcelona will only have sharpened the old streetfighter's desire for a scrap.
Newcastle United - 12th
Newcastle United can be accused of many things but never call them dull. From the unceremonious sacking of manager Chris Hughton to the sudden £35m sale of England striker Andy Carroll to Liverpool on deadline day in January, they made their share of headlines on their return the Premier League.
Owner Mike Ashley was heavily criticised for sacking Hughton in December and replacing him with Alan Pardew but he will be satisfied with a place just outside the top 10 and plenty of good memories to revel in throughout the summer.
Newcastle's high points were the 5-1 thrashing of north-east rivals Sunderland and their two meetings with Arsenal. Carroll's towering header gave them victory at the Emirates but their comeback from a 4-0 half-time deficit against Arsene Wenger's side at St James' Park was a candidate for game of the season.
Pardew assured fans angry at Carroll's departure that the £35m received would be spent on new players this summer. Now the Toon Army await the proof and already speculation is rife about the futures of Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique.
In plenty of respects, it was a satisfactory season for Newcastle but expect a lively summer - one way or the other - in readiness for August.
Stoke City - 13th
Tony Pulis deserves great credit for his management at Stoke City. Not only did they prove once again that they are an established Premier League club, they embellished this by reaching the FA Cup final.
It was disappointing Stoke played so poorly in losing to Manchester City but this should not scratch too much gloss off another fine season, which provided a real highlight for their fanatical support when Bolton were beaten 5-0 in the semi-final.
Stoke also gave the lie to the old judgement about simply being a long-ball team, providing plenty of entertainment by fielding two wingers, Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, who constantly supplied Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters.
Stoke still have their critics - but you will not find me among them.
Sunderland - 10th
Sunderland will examine a final Premier League position of 10th and regard the season as mission accomplished. This does not tell the complete tale of a campaign divided into two distinct halves.
Steve Bruce's side started the season so impressively that there was even talk of Europe. The second portion contained so many dismal displays that there were genuine relegation fears after a run of eight defeats in nine league games late on.
Bruce can claim mitigating circumstances. The whole of Wearside was stunned when top scorer and England striker Darren Bent demanded to leave and subsequently signed for Aston Villa in a £24m deal.
Bent's departure disrupted Sunderland's equilibrium, with Bruce also having to contend with horrendous injury problems. Still, some of the displays in the latter part of the season were disturbingly poor.
Bruce must now freshen up Sunderland's squad again in the summer with Jordan Henderson off to Liverpool in a big-money move and cash still available from Bent's sale.
Consistency is the key for Bruce - but not the sort of consistency they showed from January onwards. He must also spend the money he has at his disposal wisely.
Tottenham Hotspur - 5th
Harry Redknapp's talented squad illuminated the Champions League before they were eliminated by Real Madrid in the last eight. By then, they had served up two old-fashioned "Glory Glory" nights by tearing apart then holders Inter Milan at White Hart Lane and beating AC Milan in the San Siro thanks to Peter Crouch's goal.
It will be a disappointment, then, that Spurs will not sample those riches again next season after an indifferent finish saw them drop out of the Champions League places.
Spurs were undermined by injuries suffered by Gareth Bale in the latter part of the season as well as the failure of their strikers to hit the target with the regularity required.
A recovery saw them pip Liverpool for a Europa League place but White Hart Lane will miss the big nights after revelling in the rarified atmosphere of the Champions League.
Redknapp will spend the summer building again towards a top-four place. One obvious flaw has been addressed with the signing of goalkeeper Brad Friedel as competition - and more likely a replacement - for accident prone Heurelho Gomes.
The Spurs boss is likely to bolster his midfield with the signing of West Ham's Scott Parker, while signing a goalscorer of proven pedigree is also a priority.
Spurs and Redknapp loved the taste of the Champions League. He will want to ensure it is not a one-off experience.
West Bromwich Albion - 11th
I tipped the Baggies for the drop but was delighted to be proved wrong as a big club with a big following stayed up thanks to the efforts of two managers and a chairman who took decisive, if not universally popular, action.
Roberto Di Matteo got Albion off to a good start with a win at Arsenal and a draw at Manchester United that meant they were the the only side to take points at Old Trafford in the course of the season.
The Italian could not continue the good work and was dismissed in February after a run of 13 defeats in 18 games. It was a move that seemed cruel on the man who took them to the Premier League but Albion's hierarchy, led by chairman Jeremy Peace, can point to the subsequent improvement under Roy Hodgson as full vindication for their actions.
I expressed concern that a lack of firepower might be Albion's downfall but the feats of 15-goal Peter Odemwingie addressed that following his move from Locomotiv Moscow.
Hodgson was rejuvenated after his arrival at The Hawthorns and has solid foundations on which to build and use his experience for next season. If he can keep Odemwingie and added further reinforcements, perhaps Fulham's Andrew Johnson, then Albion can look forward with optimism.
West Ham United - 20th
An abject season from the moment Avram Grant was mistakenly appointed as manager, West Ham United can have no complaints about relegation. New owners David Gold and David Sullivan opted for Grant without real evidence that he could build a Premier League side and suffered dire consequences.
Grant always looked like he was struggling at Upton Park (it is never a good sign when you market a "Save Our Season" game in November) and it appeared the board's confidence in him had evaporated in January when sights were set on Martin O'Neill as his replacement.
No-one takes pleasure in suggesting a manager should lose his job but West Bromwich Albion's route to survival can be traced back to Roberto Di Matteo's sacking. West Ham, on the other hand, went down under a manager who appeared to be a lame duck as the season moved towards a climax.
Grant, now replaced by Sam Allardyce, should not take the blame alone as West Ham's hierarchy must also share the burden of responsibility. Few of their players can look back on the campaign with pride either.
Scott Parker was a shining light and will now leave with the blessing of West Ham's fans after propping the team up almost single-handedly at stages.
It is back to the Championship but at least they have a manager in Allardyce who is capable of sparking a revival. Sadly, this was an appointment made five months too late.
Wigan Athletic - 16th
Roberto Martinez stayed true to his principles and was rewarded with a late escape and another season in the Premier League - but it took quite a recovery to do it.
I was at the DW Stadium when Wigan looked to be heading for relegation after West Ham took a two-goal lead in the season's penultimate game.
In one of the season's most memorable matches, the home side staged a comeback to win - and another three points at Stoke City on the last day kept them up.
Wigan appear destined to flirt perpetually with the drop but they are a mercurial side capable of beating the best and losing to the worst. It is hard to see how it will be any different next season.
The task will be even harder should they lose star man Charles N'Zogbia but few will begrudge them their place in the Premier League if they produce more of the entertainment that they provided against West Ham.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - 17th
It took Stephen Hunt's late goal in the 3-2 defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers - coupled with Birmingham's defeat at Spurs - to keep Wolves up.
Mick McCarthy's side were another mixed bag, capable of beating Chelsea and Manchester United at Molineux but also plumbing the depths on other days.
Wolves suffered for the loss of striker Kevin Doyle late in the season but Steven Fletcher filled the void with an important flurry of goals that contributed to their survival.
McCarthy will want to keep players of the calibre of Doyle and Matt Jarvis away from the clubs coveting their services and recruit shrewdly to avoid a repeat of that nerve-jangling last day.
Wolves and McCarthy rightly celebrated staying up but they will hope that a club of their calibre can perhaps have more than survival as their sole aim when next season kicks off. It should be about more than that for them.
Now a few awards based purely on the games I have attended this season.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
Manchester United. Say what you like - and we did on occasions - but champions for a record 19th time and a third Champions League final in four years marks them out as the best.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic. A tower of strength as he led his team to the title and a world-class defender.
GAME OF THE SEASON
Wigan Athletic 3-2 West Ham United. The game that had everything. West Ham in the lead and looking at survival before Wigan, on the brink of the drop, fought back to win and send the Hammers down.
The last 10 minutes were truly magnificent and madcap as both sides knew only a winning goal would do, all played out amid scenes of near hysteria at the DW Stadium. And who could forget the infamous light aircraft trailing the banner bearing the words: "Avram Grant - Millwall Legend."
The match just edged out the 3-3 draw between Spurs and Arsenal at White Hart Lane - a classic of its kind.
INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON
Gareth Bale. Spurs v Inter Milan. The close proximity of White Hart Lane's press box to the touchline provides a unique vantage point and allowed a privileged view of Bale terrorising Inter's celebrated full-back Maicon with raw pace and power.
Time and again, Bale flew past us - and Maicon - in a blur. Truly wonderful.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
Easy decision. Wayne Rooney's overhead kick winner in the Manchester derby. Magical piece of instinctive skill that only a special talent can provide - and more importantly won three vital points.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON
Liverpool's Joe Cole. Arrived at Anfield as their big summer signing but started badly when sent off against Arsenal on the opening day and deteriorated from then on. Steven Gerrard compared Cole favourably to Lionel Messi when he signed. Not really.