End of Season Review

Filled full of more surprises, confusing comings and goings and unexpected sing-a-longs than an episode of Eastenders, the 2008/09 Premier League season has once again failed to disappoint.

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been an air of predictability about the title run in and eventual champions, but who could have predicted that Newcastle would be relegated on the last day of the season despite Alan Shearer’s best efforts, that Stoke would ease to a twelfth place finish and that Hull manager Phil Brown would fancy himself as the next Tom Jones, complete with matching goatee.

So true to the bookies odds the big four filed into their places in the league with favourites Manchester United coming out on top, plus they also pinched the Carling Cup thanks to a penalty shoot-out win over Spurs and Chelsea walked away with the FA Cup, but the unpredictability lay in the chasing pack below.

Having narrowly escaped relegation the season before, Roy ‘Houdini’ Hodgson again worked his magic and guided Fulham to an unexpected seventh place finish and qualification for the supposedly new and improved version of the UEFA Cup, the Europa League. A fantastic achievement considering their expectations for the season must have surely been to just survive on their limited budget.

Newcomers West Brom did what they best and went straight back down to continue their yo-yo between the first and second tier, whilst Midlands neighbours Stoke surprised all with resilient and effective displays and also introduced us to Rory Delap’s missile like throw ins and Tony Pulis’ attempts to look like the manager of a kids Sunday league team in his tracksuit and cap.

Having defeated Arsenal and Spurs early on Hull had their eyes on a European place before Christmas in their first season in the top flight, but the New Year was not as kind to them, as they could only gather a measly eight points. The turning point came during a five one away defeat to Manchester City and Phil Brown’s decision to have a demoralising and quite bizarre team talk on the pitch after they conceded before half time. Heads definitely dropped after that public display of anger.

He did lighten the mood on the last day though with a narcissistic sing along to the Beach Boys hit ‘Sloop John B’ with the fans, although the pleasure appeared to be all Brown’s as he gleefully belted out the high notes in front of a semi-circle of photographers. To be fair to him, he had kept Hull in the league and It’s Not Unusual that he wanted to celebrate

Their survival was helped dramatically by a woeful season for the north-east, with only Sunderland managing to survive, just two points above the drop zone, with both Newcastle and Middlesbrough destined to being playing football in the Championship next season. Newcastle’s inability to muster any form of meaningful attack on the last day against Villa sealed their fate and Middlesbrough’s failed to impress all season, the leading goal scorer in the league was Tuncay Sanli with seven, which says it all really.

At the other end, the race to be best of the rest below the big four looked like it potentially had a new member until Christmas. Aston Villa hinted that they had the class to earn the fourth Champions League spot and by the new year were eight points clear of nearest rivals Arsenal, but disastrous defensive displays and an inability to put the ball in the net proved very costly, as they eventually ended up in sixth place.

Everton would continue their dominance of fifth place despite not having a striker for much of the season, although this didn’t stop them from reaching the Cup final, but were outclassed eventually by a Chelsea side benefiting from the rotation of a larger squad.

Big things were expected of Manchester City this season after they were taken over by the tremendous wealth of the Abu Dhabi United Group and with the surprise signing of Robinho, the club appeared to be moving towards bigger things. It was unclear though who the Brazilian thought he had signed for, with press speculation stating he thought he was heading to the red side of Manchester. Despite his inclusion in the squad, a handful of entertaining performances and rumours linking every world class player with a move to Eastlands, they had to settle with mid-table obscurity and a tenth place finish.

Managerial comings and goings dictated the season for Spurs, Chelsea, Portsmouth and Blackburn who were certainly below their expected best. As the managerial merry-go-round continues into the post season, more surprises are to surely follow.

Wolves, Birmingham City and for the first time Burnley will be entering the Premier League and will doubtlessly be written off as certainties for the drop, much like Stoke and Hull were this time around. The unpredictability could well continue.

Tags: Hull City, Phil Brown

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