WHERE IT’S AT
Early May, sunshine dappling the blossom on the apple trees, optimism swirling in the air (though it might just be pollen) and the football season drawing to its conclusion. These are heady days, and for the Championship the final one dawns on Sunday with uncertainty at both top and bottom leading to a crescendo of actual excitement. There will even be people celebrating in Sunderland, though inevitably only in the away end. For it is there that Wolves, having beaten 22 of the 23 other Championship sides this season, get the chance to complete the set. Not for them premature celebrations and disappointing drift – they want to win. Quite badly. “The manager,” their captain, Danny Batth, warns, “is massive on it.”
But who will go up with them? Will it be Cardiff, who have a one-point buffer and host troubled Reading or … forget it, it’ll be Cardiff. The Bluebirds might have lost three of their last six but will be hyper-motivated by memories of an incident-packed 2-2 draw between the teams in December when manager Neil Warnock – and you’re never going to believe this – was sent to the stands. “When you die and pass away, it’s nice to have something people will remember you by,” said Warnock. “This will be my biggest achievement by an absolute mile. It’d be a miracle if it did happen.”
Where there’s life there’s hope, which is what Nigel Clough travels in as he takes Burton, in the bottom three on goal difference, to Preston. Still, he’s completely aware of the result his side requires. “A point might be enough,” he mused, adding: “It might not.” A win could take them as high as 19th, with the axe hanging dolefully above Reading, Burnley and Barnsley, already smeared with the gory remains of Sunderland and swinging towards Bolton at almost irresistible speed. The Trotters are not without hope, though they would need three times as many points from their final game, at home to Nottingham Forest, as they’ve got in their last seven combined, and even then might not make it. “We will be trying everything,” tooted captain Darren Pratley. “Then it’s up to the big man upstairs.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It feels like it has been a month. There is so much experience, so much has changed over that time. Football is so intense you don’t have time to sit back and look at what you have achieved” – Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany gets his chat on with Amy Lawrence.