Saturday, 31 May 2008

Point of no return

It's strange to be thinking of points during the close season. Well, it's our close season anyway. I guess you can argue that our season continued until at least until after the play-offs so we know who we are playing next season. I have to confess some satisfaction that Doncaster made it to the Championship. I'm not that excited for THEM, it's just that Southend stay down and we get another couple of local encounters. Even better is the fact that Leeds are also still down and we can re-live our past encounters with them.

I know I've been a bit keen on comments about basic coaching skills, but there's a chap in the Premiership who's getting paid more money than our whole squad, and he doesn't know how to take penalties. After the Beckham soft turf encounter a few years ago you'd expect any other England captain to be extra vigilant. Hey, it was raining and that made the grass wet. Now how on earth did he get to slip and fall on his a**e in front of all those people, live on TV across the globe, in allegedly the top match of the season (actually our home game against Ipswich takes that crown). Well we just have to accept that when it comes to the credit crunch even the most highly paid footballers suffer from nerves at a crucial moment. Just how much time and effort has been ploughed into coaching that man?

Talking of Chelsea, we do have to feel sorry for that bunch of swingers. Runners-up in the Carling Cup, Runners-up in the Premiership, Runners-up in Europe. That's an unsuccessful season apparently. Reminds me of a struggling Yorkshire club called Leeds United in 1970. They were runners-up in the top flight, runners-up in the FA Cup and bombed out in the semi-finals in Europe. Look what happened to them. We live in hope for our current 'big four'.

Back to the 'point' of this little end of season rambling. I got to thinking if there was a point when we could actually say we were never going to play at Layer Road ever again. A point of no return perhaps. You might say it has already passed. The evidence is quite compelling. The new stadium is underway and nearing completion and the club has told everyone they are moving in the summer. Isn't this just like any other house move? What if Southend came in at the last minute and made a better offer? Could they play there?

OK, so the floodlights have been re-erected at the new site - perhaps that just means we wouldn't be able to play evening matches at Layer Road. The goalposts have been taken down - that happens at the end of every season. Layer Road has been put up 'For Sale' - just testing the market chaps. Lots of people do that to see what they are worth.

The evidence to the contrary? Well the offices and shop are still in Layer Road. There's no grass on the new pitch yet and only a handful of seats. Maybe they are ony installing the seats as the season ticket applications come in. Let's face it - it's still a building site. and the road signs are still in place around Layer Road together with their match-day parking restrictions.

So what is going to be the defining moment, the point at which we can consign 'Layer Road' itself to the club's Hall of Fame, when we can really start to re-plan our travel arrangements for match days. I'm not sure either, but I'll tell you here when I think it's happened.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Match 4 - Blog Updated

Just a quick note to say that the blog entry for Match 4 - Scunthorpe ('A Day in the Life of Layer Road') has been updated to include a number of photos from the day.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

If only .....

Now you might think I'd be wasting my time here. Even though I've been resigned to the fact that we are going down for a couple of months now, I entered the final weekend of our two year holiday in the Championship clinging to the thought that it may just be possible to avoid relegation. If anybody is actually reading this then they will think I'm out of my mind. But, just listen to my case and let's see if we have the slightest bit of a chance.

It was fashionable at one time to re-build a club by 'going into administration' and we've seen a strengthening of the FA's position on this in the last couple of years. Ten to fifteen points deducted for dodgy dealings behind the scenes. Now there's a possibility. The difficulty with all this is that we are so far behind on points going into the last match that only something extraordinary like this can save us. Assuming we could salvage a final 3 points from this final game at Scunthorpe then we need to rely on the good old FA to dish out some 15 point penalties for various offences committed by any club within striking distance. Why fifteen? Well if it's good enough for Leeds then it's good enough for the rest. The FA have set the bar at that level.

So, with a potential 40 points and a crap goal difference in the bag we needed to set our sights on those within 14 points of that at the start of the day. That means Blackpool, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester and Southampton. Scunthorpe are in the same boat but floating with a little more out of the water. We can't overhaul them in any fair consideration of the situation and it means that they will also benefit from anything we achieve.

Now there are some easy pickings here. Leicester went into administration a few years ago. Why should that go unpunished? Dock them 15 points just for the hell of it I say. Southampton's boardroom has been under fire all season and no-one knows who really owns them or wants to own them. So in one sense they are like headless chickens. Let's put them out of their misery and deduct fifteen there as well.

Coventry have been blighted with financial scandal all season so it doesn't seem unreasonable to relieve them of the burden of fifteen points as well. I can't find any readily available dirt on the other two, but that must be good enough for now, three clubs with financial problems. That could put us clear.

OK so it's down to the football stuff now, and in a fun-filled programme this week the U's have done their worst to make my calculations meaningless. Grabbing a 3-3 draw from the jaws of a 3-1 lead means we only have 38 points to end the season. Results elsewhere show that Southampton saw my plan coming and they wormed their way to safety with a 3-2 win over Sheffield United. Coventry are laughing after surrendering 4-1 to Charlton and even with an extra 15 points we can't quite touch them. Leicester are our favourites and they maintained a clean sheet at Stoke to give the Potters promotion and secure their own relegation anyway. They are going down and could do the decent thing and surrender themselves to the bottom spot with a deduction of points.

So that's it then? Not quite. Let's look at who's coming up from League One. Swansea as champions - and it's just been announced that they have taken a £650,000 loss in achieving promotion this season. Now that's dodgy dealing in my book. Deduct 15 points. That puts them back into the play-off places and gives automatic promotion to Doncaster. It makes a mess of the play-off matches so it may be best to just deny one promotion place and let the play-offs proceed as planned.

That means we have Leicester relegated below us and Swansea denied promotion. That means I need another place to ensure safety in the Championship. Well, my hopes are now on Carlisle winning the play-off place and then having promotion denied on account of their entering adminstration a few years ago. It's a slim chance I know, but we have to cling to these faint hopes.

Now, does anyone know a good lawyer, or the phone number of the High Court?