May, such a wonderful time of the year for football fans. Sky Sports have been heavily advertising the run-in across their platforms, and why wouldn’t they? Title races are reaching their climax, fights for survival are coming down to the wire, and a multitude of different clubs are hoping to punch their ticket to the play-off lottery. There truly is something for everyone. Or is there?
With May just around the corner, this season’s run-in is shaping up to be somewhat of a dud, an anti-climax. Dare we say it, a disappointment? Manchester City have all but wrapped up their fifth Premier League crown.
Sheffield United are already relegated, West Brom look set to follow them, and Fulham’s resurgence has been extinguished in recent weeks. They trail Brighton by seven points with just five games remaining and look nailed on to be joining The Blades and The Baggies in the second tier next season.
So, there isn’t much to get excited about in the Premier League, but surely there is plenty to whet the appetite in the EFL? You’d think so. You’d think that promotion beckons and that someone is well on their way to completing a great escape. Unfortunately, you’d think wrong.
In the Championship, Norwich City and Watford have already secured their passage to English football’s promised land. With The Canaries five points ahead of The Hornets and just two games remaining, it’s safe to assume that the Championship trophy will be heading to Carrow Road in a fortnight’s time. And if that wasn’t lacklustre enough, all four play-off places have already been claimed. Brentford, Bournemouth, Swansea City, and Barnsley are set to battle it out for English football’s most lucrative prize.
At the foot of the table, it seemed that there was a story for us all to feast on. Derby County’s epic fall from grace under Wayne Rooney has been well documented. At the start of April, they sat four points clear of the second tier’s trap door, and, having played four more matches than Rotherham United, the future looked bleak at Pride Park. Fast forward to today, and The Millers have lost three of their four games-in-hand and handed survival on a platter to The Rams, sparing Rooney’s blushes.
Heading further down the footballing pyramid, it’s a case of more parties that have already ended. In League One, promotion has already been sealed and relegation is almost a foregone conclusion. Rochdale and Northampton Town are four points adrift of 20th placed Wigan Athletic with just two games remaining. There is still a scrap for the playoffs, with five teams feuding over the three remaining spots.
It’s a similar story in League Two. Cheltenham Town secured promotion on Tuesday. Cambridge and Bolton are set to follow. Relegation has already been wrapped up and all that remains are for four teams to fight it out over the two remaining playoff spots.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, the pessimist, the party-pooper, but the fact of the matter is that there isn’t much to get excited about across England’s top four divisions. Perhaps in these uncertain times, we should be grateful that we have any football to watch at all. This time last year, football – and the world as a whole – was at a standstill. We had to look to Belarus and Nicaragua for our footballing fix. It wasn’t until May 16th that the Bundesliga returned. It took another month for the Premier League’s project restart to take action. What a strange time that was. God bless FC Slutsk.
Maybe it is just me that is being overly negative. Maybe I’m being greedy in wanting more. Fans of Leicester City and West Ham United would certainly say that. They’ll be on the edge of their seats as the race for the Top Four – which should probably have its own trophy at this point – reaches its apex.
The Foxes seem to have virtually sealed their Champions League berth for next season, with them sitting seven points ahead of the fifth-placed Hammers. Chelsea currently hang on to the coveted fourth place, and with four teams in with a chance of catching them, there is at least one aspect of the Premier League that remains undecided.
We can also look towards Europe with a glass half full and our rose-tinted spectacles. The Champions League is at its semi-final stage. Paris Saint Germain have somehow found themselves as the good guys of the final four after the European Super League debacle and the football purists will be cheering on Mbappe and co. as they look to overturn their first-leg loss to Man City and secure their maiden crown.
The Thursday night delight that is the Europa League has also reached the last four, with Roma and Villareal having endured contrasting fortunes in their attempts at overthrowing the English elite.
Looking further ahead, we have Euro 2020 (or is it Euro 2021?) looming on the horizon. As the UK and the rest of Europe slowly begin to open up after the pandemic, a summer of beer gardens and football awaits. Maybe there is a lot for us to be excited about after all.