Whither the fixtures of the only three clubs in the world of interest; Sunderland, Norwich and Newcastle?
Anyone who has ever competed in the Echo Quiz League will have experienced the bickering that invariably becomes almost part of proceedings.
“It’s not fair. We’ve had all the hard ones. How are we supposed to know what they call the crew car on an airship?* Yours have all been dead easy. Everyone knows that Kilmarnock is the capital of Namibia ...” and so on.
There is a perception that Sunderland’s last three games, against the league leaders Leicester, a stomach-wrenching six-pointer at Norwich and the visit of Arsenal, who desperately need points to remain in the top four, were significantly tougher than Newcastle’s.
Thaa Toon (sic) faced nothing-to-play-for Swansea, a poor Manchester City side that was daydreaming about the Champions League and Liverpool, also distracted by Europe and forced into playing toddlers by injuries and failed drugs tests.
Are Newcastle playing everyone at a good time? Next they have Crystal Palace, who will be preoccupied by the FA Cup final, followed by a visit to the disgraceful Aston Villa (although at no stage this season has there been a bad time to play Aston Villa.
Oooh. Newcastle are so lucky.
Now we all like to cling to a grievance as firmly and protractedly as possible, but I really can’t go along with this particular grumble.
Sunderland’s remaining four games are against sides currently in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th positions, who have nothing of note to play for.
Next up are Stoke City who have won only one of their last seven games and conceded 14 goals in their last four. It should also be noted that Newcastle face Tottenham on the final day and have played a game more than Sunderland.
Meanwhile Norwich have Arsenal and Manchester United next, with both of those stellar opponents needing points.
We often hear on phone-ins that Sunderland “deserved to go down” in such-and-such a season but were “lucky.” This is of course, complete conkers.
With the possible exception of Sheffield United in 2007, since the Premier League began, the teams that deserved to be relegated – were. The ones who averted the drop did so on merit. This season will be no exception.
I have an infinite preference for boredom over the wrong kind of excitement that we endure annually, but that’s the situation.
There are no excuses. Beginning on Saturday at the (oh dear) Bet365 Stadium, all of Sunderland’s opponents are there to be got at. To their credit, they have already done this in their last two games. Gerrintothem.
* It’s a gondola