By Guest Blogger Tom Mallows
So the final day is to be labelled ‘survival Sunday’ and for fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland, it will be an afternoon packed full of tension.
For Hull and Sunderland the outlook is simple; win your game and you’re safe. For Newcastle and ‘Boro, they are in that uncomfortable position whereby by their fate is not in their own hands.
But they should be thankful they have a chance of staying up on the last day, their recent form doesn’t suggest they deserve it.
It seems to me that none of the four teams are showing the battling qualities required to stay up. They have a combined total of just three wins between them in their last eight games and a total of 16 points gathered - hardly the sort of form that will drag you out of trouble.
Hull’s downturn is perhaps the most spectacular. Sixth at Christmas and a chairman talking of European competition, just one win since the turn of the year has seen them nosedive. Sunderland had a brief flurry of form when Ricky Sbragia took charge but once the honeymoon period came to an end they limped towards the finish line. They have had numerous chances to grab the one win they need to secure survival but have failed to take it - they may have just sleepwalked into the relegation trapdoor.
Boro and Newcastle have been in trouble all season, the circus that is St James' Park has perhaps hogged most of the headlines. Four managers, boardroom turmoil, fan’s protests, it has been nothing but chaos all year. The game between the two sides last week was dubbed a relegation decider, and a Geordie victory set up the home game with Fulham nicely. But once again they failed to take their chance and now must get a result at Villa. Relegation would be a fitting end to a traumatic season.
Boro have a chronic lack of goals, just 27 in the league all year isn’t going to keep you up. I admire the chairman for sticking by Southgate, as well as the way the former England man has handled himself throughout a difficult campaign. But the truth is he failed to replace departing key players last summer and those he has put faith in have failed to deliver.
No team can really say they have fought their way out of trouble, like Fulham did last year when they won three games on the spin to stay up on the last day. The only side to show any real mettle in recent weeks has been West Brom, too little too late for the Baggies though I’m afraid.
Because of that it's my football prediction that all four teams will lose at the weekend, sending Newcastle and Boro down. If that proves to be the case, Hull and Sunderland should count themselves lucky that the ineptitude of other sides kept them up, rather than any ability by themselves.