Sunderland were looking to challenge for Europe a few weeks ago and victory at home to West Brom yesterday would have moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone and meant they were all but safe. They took the lead twice and should have been fine but three West Brom goals condemned them to defeat and an eight game winless run. All of a sudden they are six points clear of the bottom three with six games to go and a serious worry about where the next point will be coming from.
Manager Steve Bruce is very realistic about the position they find themselves in.
“We’re on a disastrous run. We are in a relegation battle along with all of the bottom 10 and it is up to ourselves to get out of it. It’s the first time we’ve slipped in. For seven or eight months we’ve been in the top 10 and, at one stage, challenging for Europe but we’re on a disastrous run.”
The reality is that Sunderland will probably be safe but a couple more defeats will lead to a very nervous last couple of weeks. Bruce must be wondering what on earth has gone wrong. Earlier in the season his forwards couldn’t stop scoring and his defenders were standing firm against all comers. Now they look incapable of out scoring anyone and totally devoid of confidence.
Just a month ago I read that Steve Bruce was in the running for the manager of the year award. Now, he could see his team drop into the championship. It is a turn around that he couldn’t possibly have dremed about in his worst nightmares.
As I say, for the neutral it makes for an exciting season. It looks likely that nothing will be decided until the very last day of the season. Wigan, West Ham, Wolves, Blackburn, Blackpool, West Brom, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Stoke, Fulham, Newcastle and Sunderland are not totally safe. That leaves just eight teams who know they will be playing Premier League football next season! That is remarkable and it makes for the best Premier League season for many a year.
At the top, Manchester United are starting to look safe, but it isn’t certain. There are still some interesting twists to be had up at the top but the real drama is down at the other end. After the doom and gloom of last Summer’s World Cup and the failure of the English teams in Europe last season, English football needed a bit of a lift. I think that has happened.
The only sad thing is that there are only a few weeks to go until it is all over again for another season.
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