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So, that was the Premier League season once again. The circus has stopped for another few months, and we look forward to a summer without football. Practically every sporting column across the country is reflecting on the season, and SCAN Sports is not going to buck that trend.
This has been a bizarre, and exciting, season from start to finish. This year, we’ve seen an astonishing goals per game average rate of 2.8. To put that into context, the last English top-flight season to see a higher goals per game rate was the 1967-68 season, which saw an average of 3.03 goals per game.
In 2005, Liverpool finished 37 points from first place and came fifth (and of course, won the Champions League). This season, Blackpool and Birmingham were both 41 points off first, and were relegated. But that isn’t to say there was an injustice; as was perhaps expected, the Champions, Manchester United had the greatest conversion rate (16.9%) and West Ham had the lowest, with just 10.2%.
The first fact alone describes a season that has been tight throughout. It has been one of the most open at the top end for a long time, and still looked open until, perhaps, Arsenal conceded that penalty against Liverpool.
The bottom end of the table, however, has simply been extraordinary. Going in to the final day, it was looking like any one of six teams could be relegated, but it was West Ham, Blackpool, and Birmingham who dropped out of the top flight in the end, while Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn all flirted with the drop throughout the course of the final day.
This is where the shocking fact that just ten points separated relegated Birmingham, on 39 points, and eighth placed Fulham, on 49 points. Either the majority of teams lived life dangerously this season, or quality took a massive jump above most seasons. I’ll let you make your own conclusions.
Blackpool, however, were a complete credit to themselves this season. It was obvious that they were going to struggle right from the start, and it was clear that they didn’t have a Premier League budget. They had Luke Varney upfront, who at times could barely hit a barn door for Charlton Athletic back when they were in the Championship.
What they did bring was passion, embodied in the relentless style they played. Even against Manchester United (who Blackpool put four goals past this season, it is important to remember) on the final day of the season, with the score at 2-2 and a matter of minutes remaining, they tried their hardest to play football – and that’s what it should be all about.
Ian Holloway also lived up to expectations, bringing humour and a bit of everyman reality to football, a sport that at times can be so incredibly out of touch. His observations have frequently been quoted in this column over the course of the season, as he spoke for supporters – particularly over the World Cup venue debacle. Blackpool supporters can be proud.
As a footnote, in writing this article, I reflected on my predictions article at the start of the season. I was trying my hardest to ignore it and make no reference, but I feel like I should simply for completeness. I essentially predicted the bottom three to be Bolton, West Brom, and Blackpool to be relegated – and also said that Newcastle would be dangerously close. I also said Chelsea would win the league.
But, I think we’ll gloss over the fact that West Brom and Newcastle occupied the 11th and 12th positions respectively, while Chelsea’s manager Carlo Ancelotti was sacked on the last day of the season. We’ll just focus on the fact that Blackpool went down. Sounds fair to me.
I’ve learnt my lesson though. I can assure you that I won’t be writing a Premier League predictions article next season.
Stats provided by @OptaJoe and @OliverKayTimes.