Friday, 8 April 2011
Emotions Aplenty in the Relegation Dogfight
Euphoria. Devastation. Ecstacy. Desperation. Emotions which can be triggered simply by the prospect of the dreaded relegation dogfight. Every year, these emotions are channelled through the hearts and minds of desperate football supporters, as they can only watch on as their beloved football teams flirt with the prospect of relegation from the elite, elegant league, to the scrappy, ugly second tier of English football. Relegation can prove fatal for some clubs, as they suffer the inevitable losses in TV revenue and ticket sales, as well as accumulating an unmanageable wage bill. Some clubs have never recovered from this demotion, so it is pivotal that clubs avoid slipping through this dreaded trapdoor...
Leeds United. The story of a club dreaming too big. This once-proud club were once at the pinnacle of English football, part of the hierarchy, one of the elite. However, as a result of lavish owners, eager to splash the cash on luxury players, an insurmountable wage bill was accumulated, leading to a morale-sapping mass exodus over the next couple of years. Finally, the seemingly impossible occurred, as the former Champions League semi-finalists succumbed to the crushing blow of relegation in April 2004. The Yorkshire club have not resurfaced as of yet, and have been highlighted as a prime example of the destruction relegation can cause.
''Relegation completely devastated me,'' a Newcastle United supporter told us. ''My entire family are Newcastle supporters and so I've grown up supporting the Geordies. They are a major part of my life and I was heartbroken when we dropped out of the league.''
15 May 2005. A wonderful example of how a club can defeat the odds and preserve their Premier League status, proving all the doubters and nay-sayers wrong. West Bromwich Albion, written off at Christmas whilst lingering at the foot of the table and seemingly doomed, defied all odds by beating Portsmouth 2-0 and pipping three other clubs to the safety of the hallowed 17th position as a result. An insurmountable level of ecstacy and relief surged throughout the entire stadium upon the final whistle, the West Brom fans basking in the relieving glow of Premier League safety. Such was the intensity of that dramatic revival, those fans will never forget that magical summer afternoon. The last day of the Premier League season can offer a fascinating scrap for survival, including passion, wild celebrations and despair, as the clubs surge for the vital victory which could preserve their status.
Like all emotional events, the relegation dogfight can also offer public spats, such as Sheffield United's 16-month legal dispute with West Ham, having succumbed to the bitter blow of relegation in May 2007. They felt cheated by the West London club for fielding an inelegible player, who in turn had proved pivotal to their survival hopes. This drawn out legal saga is just one example of the bad blood that can exist between clubs who have locked horns in the relegation dogfight. When backed into a corner, some clubs will lash out at the opposition, venting their fury, frustration and sense of injustice.
This year's relegation battle promises to be an exciting and fascinating affair with five teams firmly stuck in the mire of the dogfight, and several more nervously looking over their shoulders. It certainly promises to be an exciting finale to the season, with a number of high-profile clubs, such as Aston Villa and Birmingham City, having been sucked into the battle. These relegation-threatened sides may not possess the guile, fluidity and class of the elite teams, but what they lack in terms of talent, they certainly make up for it with passion and determination, which promises a thrilling climax.
''I couldn't believe it,'' a lifelong Man City fan told us. ''In 2007, I had consigned myself to defeat. I genuinely believed we were going down. But since surviving that season, we've gone from strength to strength. It just goes to show that survival in the Premiership is key to a team's future.''
The anxiety, the waiting, the anguish, the relief... That heart-wrenching moment when the referee blows the final whistle, piercing through your heart like an arrow. That euphoric moment of bliss when the ball soars into the net, pulling the entire club back from the brink of destruction. The sudden feeling of uncertainty at being sucked into the relegation mire. The feeling of desperation at the seemingly impossible task of staying up. The relegation battle is a malevolent, destructive force with the sole intent of wreaking havoc and ruin upon three clubs every season. Who will succumb to its ensaring, outstretched grasp this season? Who will face the harsh reality that the brutish second tier awaits them? As ever in the beautiful game, you can't take your eye off the ball...