Relegation is a numbing, gut -wrenching experience that plunges a club into darkness.
When it is confirmed tears flow on the terraces, whole families are affected, and millions are struck off a club's balance sheet. Thus it came to pass yesterday. Not just for West Ham United, who dropped out of the hole in the Premiership, but also Liverpool who dropped out of the Champions League. Finishing fifth is a financial disaster for them. A time for their bank manager to don a black armband. A time, too, for superstar players to realise that genuine Euro glory is to pass them by for another season they can ill afford. Michael Owen and Steve Gerrard won't be mightily pleased. Relegation it most certainly was. Chelsea did for them at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool allowed it to come down to the final day and paid the ultimate price.
They had to go to the home of their only rivals and win. Nothing else would do and, though fleetingly ahead, defeat beckoned, culminating in a frustrated Gerrard being red-carded. Having finished second a year ago this was a belly flop for Liverpool who paid mightily for a mid-season collapse in which they took but five points out of 33. It wasn't Anfield as we know it and now the inquest will begin. Because of the sky- high standards set by the pass masters of the past, it could be savage. Sunderland and West Brom had been waiting patiently for a partner to join them on the coach to nowhere and the Hammers duly climbed aboard. The sympathy vote didn't count. Glenn Roeder initially fighting for his life, Trevor Brooking deserting his cool demeanour to become a manic manager, Paolo di Canio's crocodile tears, a barrowload of supposed stars who talked better than they played. In the end West Ham got what was coming even though Brooking manufactured two victories and a draw in his three-match tenureship. Too little too late. Destiny is determined over a season, I'm afraid. Bolton delivered the final condemnation, winning 2-1 against Middlesbrough who could in all fairness be mauled by a mouse on their travels. To be honest, I expected Chelsea and Bolton to be the survivors, given their home and goal difference advantage. A prayer was all their rivals could offer and no one was listening.
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||May 12, 2003|
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