Football: Prem Relegation Rubbish

This is how it is for the three teams going down. The exit route from the Prem

QPR: Carcrash Strategies

If Aguero’s last minute slam dunker was the way to win the Prem, then QPR’s scattergun approach is the epitome of how not to do the Prem. First, buy a job lot of Prem team rejects, wannabes and not-quite-good-enoughs signing them to long term, high wage contracts, then, following failure of said mercenaries, sell the club to another F1 supremo, sack your Championship winning but not quite up to the Prem manager and replace him with a man who thought Prem midfielders Fulham was too small a club for him, allowing him to buy another job lot of miscreants and loanees (more big, long contracts), then light the blue touch paper and stand well back. There will be fireworks.

What with Joey Barton, Djerbil Cissé, Trabaant, Wright-Phillips, Colin Warnock and his replacement Mark Hughes, QPR have been nothing if not hugely entertaining this season. Sometimes their football has been fabulous (such as when they lost to Newcastle), sometimes it has been atrocious, but it’s always been amusing. Not quite as amusing as the fabulous Four Year Plan documentary about their journey to the Prem promised land, but pretty bloody funny nonetheless.

Cissé is the perfect QPR player. His record of goalscoring interspersed with ridiculous red cards neatly encapsulates their rip-roaring,  upside down season. Good at points, terrifyingly bad at others. Half a squad (mainly the new buys) that deserves to be in the Prem, half the remnants of the previous years’ sides who clearly aren’t up to the job. It’s just their luck that there were three teams worse than they were trawling along the bottom this season.

One imagines another big job lot of newcomers arriving over the close season as Hughes beds in. I was impressed by his end of season interviews where he essentially said he wasn’t happy and that QPR were never going to finish that badly again while he was there. Big words for next season. For this one he’s just bloody lucky they didn’t finish any lower.

Bolton: The Beginning Of The End

Strange. You would never have thought that the loss of Daniel Sturridge (returning to Chelsea) and Elmander would have had such a catastrophic effect on a team. However, combine the loss of those goalscorers with the season long injury to Lee and the purchase of anti-goal striker David Ngog (the poor man’s Bendtner) and you really begin to look a goal drought in the mouth.

And there you have Bolton’s essential problem. The second worst home record in the Prem, an inability to score and a propensity to concede. It seemed as if the spirit had been sucked out of the team. Unlike Wigan, who stuck to their guns and ultimately just about did enough, Bolton found that their failure was contagious.

Blackburn: The Chickens Have Come Home To Roost

If QPR showed us the quintessential way of how not to do Prem survival, then Blackburn showed us the way to pretty much guarantee relegation. Alienate most of the players, including your key defensive stalwart – one of those players who epitomises the club they play for, and give support to a manager who clearly isn’t up to the task. Oh and get to the point where your entire crowd is booing the team from the word go during the last match of the season which you have to win to stay up.

Even so Blackburn had their moments. There was a truly bizarre win against Arsenal (during the latter’s flirt with relegation period), the astonishing win at Old Trafford and, er, that’s about it. The real problem with Blackburn, as with all the Relegation rubbish teams, is that it’s hard to say what they’re actually for. They have no coherent footballing philosophy, a squad of players who are lacklustre at best and would struggle at most other Prem sides. Indeed it seems as if part of the point of the Prem is to ensure that teams like this are sent off to the recycling bin that is the Championship. You sense that having bought the Prem back in the ’90s, Blackburn will have to spend a great deal more to scrape their way back.

Wolves: That’s The McCarthy Effect

Mick McCarthy represents everything the Prem is trying to eradicate, the supremacy of the internal spirit over actual technique, shouting over skills, the idolisation of the physical over ball-playing, the nostalgia for the ‘man’s tackle’ – the kind of tackling that Carlos Puyol refers to as a ‘failure of your defensive skills’ as good defenders should never let the game get to a position where such a tackle is actually necessary. Now you could argue that Chelsea’s Champions League win also epitomises the supremacy of spirit over skill, but I’d argue that in defending resolutely and effectively, without repeatedly fouling (or injuring) your opponents, Chelsea display exactly the kind of technique and ability McCarthy has never been able to get his teams to master.

Instead, he’s packed his sides with low grade journeymen, who clearly aren’t up to the speed and dynamics of the division. His record in the Prem, both with Wolves and Sunderland, more than bears this out. Like McLeish, his sides are filled with ‘enforcers’, men who aren’t afraid to ‘get stuck in’ and who seem to think that ‘showing character’ is synonymous with dangerous foul play. It’s no surprise that some of the lowest points totals in the Prem have gone to McCarthy teams.

Even so, the purchase of Roger Johnson (who has now enjoyed relegation with two Midlands sides in successive seasons) seems to have been a stroke of McCarthyite genius. Combining poor positional and technical ability with a propensity for drink, Johnson was tailor made for McCarthy’s footballing philosophy and he compounded the ‘Johnson’ effect by making him captain. Incompetent on the pitch and a destabilising influence off it, Johnson even managed to have a full on argument with his own keeper during a match. Now that’s class. Let’s hope none of this appalling shower ever make it back in to the league.

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