This week has been a good week. Us English love an underdog, and this has been one of those fantastic weeks when lots of struggling sides have achieved more than they would have expected. Watford, facing relegation in the Premiership, reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Leeds, bottom of the Championship, won a much needed victory over close rivals and second from bottom club Luton. Tottenham managed to get a draw away at Chelsea forcing a replay in the FA Cup quarter-finals (a game they really should have won though). Middlesbrough drew with the seemingly unbeatable Manchester United, also in the FA Cup. But most unbelievably, my local club, bottom club in the whole English league system, Torquay United, won. They actually won.
Torquay have been bottom of League Two since Boxing Day, and have had three different managers and three different chairmen this season alone. Worst of all, however, with nine games left this season, they are eight points behind anyone else in the league.
Despite this, last Saturday they destroyed Wycombe, who are seventh in the league, 3-0. This is only their second win since 16th September, and was a desperately needed boost for the club in every sense. More importantly, they even looked convincing. Wycombe’s keeper Batista was forced to make a lot of tough saves, and Chris Robertson’s volley to seal the game for the Gulls was a fantastic display of skill. The man behind the huge turnaround at the Torquay is Keith Curle, the new manager and ex-England defender. Given a job no-one would envy, many of the fans think Curle was mad to even bother. But Curle says he still believes Torquay can stay up, arguing that he has managed to give the club what it’s been missing for so long: ‘Colin (Lee, director of football at Torquay) and I have managed to give the football side of the club a foundation and installed the work ethic we both wanted.’ All we can do now is watch and hope.
Even with their victory against Luton, Leeds have still been receiving bad press this week. Leeds manager Dennis Wise upset Luton by accusing Luton boss Mike Newell of ‘talking rubbish’ concerning his alleged attempts to re-sign Kevin Nicholls. Newell hit back at Wise stating ‘There has been a total lack of respect shown to Luton Town by the manager of Leeds.’ This all struck me as a little bit silly. These are two professional managers, who seem to have been reduced to the level of bickering children, simply because they aren’t very good at their jobs. 5 years ago Leeds were one of the top clubs in the premiership, and now under Wise they have sunk to bottom in the league below. Stick to playing football Dennis. Leeds face Southend on Saturday, who are currently one place above the relegation zone and three points ahead of Leeds. Even if Leeds win, therefore, due to their awful goal difference they will still be in the relegation zone (assuming they don’t win by five goals). Nevertheless, this only emphasizes the importance of this win. Victory, even by one goal, puts Leeds in a recoverable position. Loss means almost certain relegation. We’ll be watching this one.
Manchester United and Chelsea will undoubtedly be disappointed by their draws against weaker sides at the weekend, and Mourinho’s got himself in trouble again by muttering Portuguese swear words at the ref this Saturday. I must admit, my respect for the man is waning, with his team’s display at the Carling Cup final, and now his blatant arrogance and rudeness towards premiership referees. Every time a referee makes a mistake, there are cries for fines, suspension or dismissal, yet Mourinho, who seems to go out every week determined to upset someone, is untouchable. Last week he was having a moan about Manchester United getting ‘better refereeing decisions,’ proving that he really has overtaken Arsene Wenger as the Premiership’s biggest tosser. Whether or not any side does get better decisions, which realistically doesn’t happen, if Chelsea were good enough to win the Premiership, they would not be six points behind at this stage.
More importantly than any of this, however, was the Blackburn against Manchester City match, which Blackburn won 2-0, prompting cries for City manager Stuart Pearce’s head. Poor old Pearce. Alright so he hasn’t had a great season, but with Man City looking fairly safe now, six points above the relegation zone, he’s achieved his key aim for the season. Reaching the quarter finals of the FA Cup should just have been seen as a bonus, instead of which his job is on the line because he didn’t win. What would have happened if they’d lost in the semis or even the final?! And he would have been slated if they hadn’t got as far as they did, so either way this is just an excuse to have a go at Pearce. Man City have had it tough for a long time now – constant comparison to the almighty United leaves the fans feeling aggrieved, and desperate for some of what Ferguson’s team are achieving. However, getting rid of Pearce is not the answer to all their problems. Ferguson has been at Manchester United since I was a kid, and has been incredibly successful, which must say something about steadiness, stability and permanence within a club.
I’m not going to talk about the Premiership this week, because it’s essentially got pretty boring. Man United are looking a safe bet to win now, (1/7 chance as opposed to Chelsea at 4/1, making United 28 times more likely to win), and the relegation zone looks pretty set with Charlton, Watford, and unfortunately West Ham looking set to drop. Far more interesting is the current situation in the Champions League, where somehow all three English Clubs have managed to avoid each other. This fantastic stroke of fortune means we could see a Liverpool vs Chelsea semi-final, and if Manchester United reach the final, which I have all confidence they will of course (see comments on last week’s Roaming Football Column), we could see an all English final, and Alex Ferguson could have the pleasure of showing Europe what a twat José Mourinho really is on the biggest stage possible. Now that would truly be fantastic.