Come the end of the campaign there are ordinarily two or three sets of fans focused on the title race and further four looking purely at the chance of European football. So what’s left for the other 13 tribes? The relegation dogfight of course.
We see season after season the same teams involved in the fight to stay in, arguably, Europe’s finest league, but the scrap never ever gets dull. Last season the axe swing precariously over Wolverhampton and Birmingham on the final day, until the wind of a combined Stephen Hunt wonder goal and a Roman Pavlyuchenko brace, edged the razor-sharp blade toward the blue sector of the midlands. Charles N’Zogbia once again dragged the Premier League’s barnacle team Wigan Athletic kicking and screaming to safety, while Blackpool suffered the gut wrenching drop, with defeat away to confirmed Champions Manchester United.
It’s not uncommon to go into the final day of the season with five teams all staring at the abyss, relying on a mixture of passion, faith and of course luck to drag themselves clear of the trap door. Not very often can we say that five teams have the chance to win the league on the final day, Actually, we can barely say even two teams even have that chance.
True, if we had the 20 best teams in the world in a league, three would have to be relegated, but would the passion and the humour be as evident at mega stadiums instead of arenas such as the DW or Molineux? I’m going to say no.
Some sides may not be glamorous, or even that good, but we are a ‘David Vs. Goliath’ nation, who love to see the underdog triumph against all the odds. The Premier League regularly offers this on a cold Wednesday night, under the floodlights, as the rain pours into the stands. We may moan at the time, but secretly we wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you ask followers of teams throughout the league of their favourite away stadiums, you’ll get the obvious answers such as Old Trafford or Anfield with their vast size and history, but often thrown in with this there will be a Craven Cottage or perhaps a Carrow Road. The ambiance created at the smaller ground is something to cherish, especially when compared to the ‘only sing when you’re winning’ atmosphere of stadia such as the Emirates.
The truth remains that the relegation fight and the teams involved are a key part of the cocktail we call the Premier League, and offer just as much week on week as the title contenders.