Two tickets to the Championship have already been booked, but for QPR and Bolton, a nerve-racking day lies ahead. Shaka Hislop looks at who’s likely to still be a Premier League club by about a quarter to five on Sunday
With Wolves and Blackburn falling through the trapdoor in advance of the last day of the Premier League, this season’s relegation battle lacks the drama of recent years. It won’t feel like that for Bolton and QPR fans however. It’s going to be nerve-racking as the two teams cling on to survival.
QPR face a near impossible task in trying to beat Manchester City, but they’re the ones currently above the drop zone, so they may still lose and stay up. Only a win for Bolton will keep them up. No team looks forward to playing Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, but with nothing to play for in recent weeks, it’s not as ominous for Bolton as it might have been. The Potters have won once in 11 games and that was against Wolves. I wouldn’t have Bolton as guaranteed winners, but I wouldn’t be too despondent if I was Owen Coyle. It’s doable.
For the money QPR have spent, I’m surprised to see them in such trouble heading in to the last round of matches. I thought appointing Mark Hughes was a good move and I really thought he’d be able to steer them clear of trouble.
Bolton have had a tough season. They couldn’t get any momentum going early in the season and the Fabrice Muamba incident has cast a shadow over the last few months of the campaign. The loss of Stuart Holden was also huge. He’s a very important part of the team and losing him once was bad enough, but then losing him again just as he was coming back into the reckoning was worse.
Coyle has been under pressure throughout the season and the terrible end to last season didn’t help him when they started this season so badly. I still think the Bolton board did the right thing by keeping faith with him. It’s certainly paid huge dividends for Wigan who stuck with Roberto Martinez. If you cast your mind back to the start of the Coyle era at Bolton, you’re reminded of how good they were and that explains why the board haven’t sent him packing. They’re a tough club to manage. They don’t attract big names, it’s difficult to fill the stadium and their financial restraint they tend to exercise is good for their long term survival, but it makes it difficult to compete in the short term.
For Blackburn, Steve Kean never impressed me as a manager. He hasn’t been helped by the owners. They were far too hasty in sacking Sam Allardyce and as a result, Kean came in with a lot of question marks surrounding the appointment. There was talk of money being splashed around, but the majority of it hasn’t materialised and it’s accentuated the problems Kean has faced. When the warning signs first came, I think Blackburn needed to act quickly and get rid of Kean. Kean does deserve credit for the revival he coaxed out of the team over Christmas and how he handled the viscous protests, but the writing has been on the wall for some time.
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