It has certainly been a weekend of great entertainment throughout the Premier League and the Football League in England. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not over yet as we still have ChelseaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s visit to Newcastle later today in a game that will decide the title race if Newcastle manage to take all three points.
Although there have been many fantastic achievements by many people, teams and clubs. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to pick out six of the best from this weekend so far:
Nottingham Forest have long been the forgotten club of English football. After the glory years under Brian Clough when two European Cups made their way to the City Ground, the decline of the club has been a long and painful process.
Yesterday, Forest gained automatic promotion back to the Championship amid scenes of unrestrained joy. For the neutral it was great to see this once proud club start to bounce back. The fans have been starved of success for a long time and I am thrilled for them.
It is also recognition of a Board of Directors sticking by their manager in difficult times. Colin Calderwood must have feared for his job when after the disappointment of play-off defeat last season, Forest failed to win in their first six games of this campaign. The temptation to make a change must have been there, but they stuck by the Scot and have been handsomely rewarded.
Bournemouth are going down to League Two. It might seem strange to include a relegated team in an article about Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsix of the bestÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, but they deserve an honourable mention. The club is in financial turmoil and remain in administration with doubts about their future survival. The ten point deduction they were handed as a result, plunged them deep into the relegation struggle with seemingly no chance of avoiding the drop.
At the end of February, a draw at home to fellow relegation candidates Cheltenham left Bournemouth twelve points adrift of safety and doomed to the drop. Then, remarkably in the circumstances, manager Kevin Bond led his team to only three defeats in their last twelve matches. A run of six successive victories meant that they travelled to Carlisle on Saturday knowing that one final win might see them to safety.
Carlisle needed a win to gain automatic promotion, so the task couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have been much tougher. Bournemouth gave it everything but could manage no more that a 1-1 draw. They hit a post, forced some good saves and piled on the pressure, but couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find a winner that would have actually kept them up.
They may be going down, but Bournemouth should be proud of their efforts as they so nearly pulled off what would have been an amazing survival act.
Stoke City are going back to the Premier League after twenty-three years in the wilderness. A goalless draw against Leicester City, which incidentally sent the visitors down, was enough to see scenes of near hysteria at the Britannia Stadium. It is a magnificent performance by Tony Pulis the manager, and by the team , both of whom were unfancied at the start of the campaign.
It will tough in the Premier League for the team from the Potteries, but they shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about that just yet. They should, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure they will, make sure they enjoy their success before they look forward.
Southampton managed a fine 3-2 win against Sheffield United, which kept them in the Championship and avoided the unimaginable drop into League One. Manager Nigel Pearson took over a dispirited and dishevelled side and managed to turn them into a team of battlers who have earned the right to put this awful season behind them and start again next season in the same League.
One man deserves much of the credit. Stern John. The thirty-one year old Trinidadian striker bagged two goals yesterday to take his tally for the season to nineteen. That is a remarkable performance in a side fighting against the drop. He got himself sent off in yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game for two bookable offences. One of them was for Ã¢â‚¬Ëœover celebratingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ a goal that kept his side in the Championship. How ridiculous is that? Change the rules for goodness sake!
Fulham were down and out a few weeks ago, but they have now given themselves a chance of Premiership survival. Their 2-0 win over fellow relegation strugglers Birmingham City on Saturday was their third win in the last four games. Remarkable for a team who only had four victories all season prior to this run.
Fulham now travel to Portsmouth next Sunday with their destiny in their own hands. A win and they stay up. Match or better the results achieved by Reading at Derby and Birmingham against Blackburn and they stay up. This looked to be an impossibility just a few weeks ago but you wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bet against them getting what they need next week now.
Manchester United destroyed West Ham on Saturday. The 4-1 victory was not a generous margin. Following on from their Champions League victory over Barcelona, United have put themselves back in the driving seat and emphatically answered the critics who were talking of them Ã¢â‚¬Ëœblowing upÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Even more ridiculously, some critics have been questioning the right of Cristiano Ronaldo to be called a great, or to win the awards he has won. His two goals on Saturday, taking his total to forty for the season, were the perfect response to the idiotic ramblings of some people who watch a very different game to the one that I do!
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