The State of Play


MANCHESTER UNITED’S failure to beat bottom club Sunderland at Old Trafford, combined with Chelsea’s 2-0 victory at Bolton, surely ended Sir Alex Ferguson’s hopes of denying José Mourinho a second successive league championship.

Going into last Monday’s Bank Holiday programme, the Blues were nine points ahead with only four games remaining. Liverpool kept up the chase for second, with a 1-0 win over Blackburn. However, what is more exciting is the battle developing between fierce North London rivals, Tottenham and Arsenal, for the fourth Champions League spot. On Saturday, Spurs beat Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park to remain four points ahead of the Gunners, who easily dispatched West Bromwich Albion at Highbury.

At the other end of the table, the relegation battle, as to which two clubs are to join Sunderland, is really hotting up. A hard fought 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough, saw Portsmouth emerge from the quagmire, now three and four points to the good over fellow strugglers Birmingham and West Brom. The former did not aid their cause by slumping to a 3-1 Midland derby defeat against Aston Villa on Sunday.

The Championship

CHAMPIONS, READING, will be joined by a jubilant Sheffield United in the Premiership next season. The third promotion place will be decided between Watford, Leeds, Preston and Crystal Palace, who all made sure of play-off places. Brighton, Crewe and Millwall look to be facing life in League One.


HEARTS’ 2-0 win over Kilmarnock, coupled with Ranger’s 1-1 draw against Aberdeen, has opened up a five-point gap between the two teams. Hearts now look favourites to join Celtic in Europe.        

Non-league return

ACCRINGTNON STANLEY, made famous by the 1980’s television adverts, have returned to the football league after a 44 year absence. A 1-0 away win over Woking Town secured the Nationwide Conference title, and marked the end of an exile precipitated by a blaze of financial shame in 1962.

Silver lining

THIS SEASON’S European cup competitions are drawing to a close. In England, Middlesbrough overcame Charlton at the second time of asking, and now face West Ham in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final. Twenty-four hours earlier, Chelsea take on Liverpool at Stamford Bridge for the other place in Cardiff.

In Spain, the issue has already been decided. Espanyol beat Saragoça 4-1 in convincing style to claim the Taça do Rei for the fourth time, following previous successes in 1929, 1940 and 2000.

Bayern Munich defeated third division St Pauli 3-0 to take their place in the German Cup final in Berlin, where Frankfurt will provide the opposition. AS Rome and Inter Milan will dispute this season’s Italian silverware, while in France, Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Nantes and Rennes have reached the semi-finals of their competition. AEK Athens and Olympiakos are the finalists in Greece.