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Butler: Drama at the top and bottom of the BPL table

Noel Butler, TSN
5/2/2014 5:18:54 PM
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Late last summer, London bookmakers were offering 2-to-1 odds Manchester United would retain the BPL title and meagre 1-to-14 odds they would finish in amongst the Champions League spots.

Not sure any bookies were offering odds that, deep into the business end of the season, Liverpool would be placing job ads related to a victory parade the club are planning to possibly stage the day after the season ends.

For those who recollect the quite extraordinary city scenes the day after Liverpool had beaten AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final when a reported 750,000 people lined the route as an open top bus carrying the European champions made its way from John Lennon Airport to City Hall, these aren't the type of events you leave to chance.

Even the Queen got in on the act then, as she sent the club her congratulations from Edmonton on the last day of her Canadian tour.

A bus of an entirely different nature may have derailed Liverpool's title bid after their club record equalling 11-game winning streak grinded to a rather abrupt halt last Sunday, but there can be no denying Liverpool's rightful place at the head table - that Champions League virtuous circle more commonly referred to as the "top four."

Having finished last season in a very distant seventh place, the turnaround at Liverpool has been nothing short of remarkable and especially when you consider the spending power and superior squad strengths of their title rivals.

With Champions League football assured for next season, the target Brendan Rodgers set out with last August, making it all that more special their place back amongst the elite of English football, has come at the expense of their bitter rivals Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have preached patience for the incoming manager to the 75,000 in attendance at Old Trafford at his final home game last May, but how about the patience of the Anfield faithful who have waited almost a quarter of a century since their last championship triumph?

Although the Chelsea reversal last week handed the initiative to Manchester City, that disappointment pales into insignificance when recalling how the 1989 title was decided.

Arsenal not only had to go to Anfield on the last day of the 1989 season and win, but they had to do so by a two-goal advantage. With 90 minutes on the clock and Arsenal leading 1-0 the title was Liverpool's. Then, with time running out in added time, up popped Arsenal's Michael Thomas to score the decisive goal. Seconds later came the final whistle, as Liverpool players lay completely distraught on the hallowed Anfield turf. Arsenal celebrated, the Kop, for once, in stunned silence. How cruel the beautiful game can be.  

No victory parades will be staged for the clubs who escape the dreaded drop going into the penultimate weekend of the season, with even FA Cup finalists Hull all the way up in 13th place not safe yet.

Following a run of five-straight defeats that firmly rooted Sunderland to the foot of the table in mid-April, it led to questions been asked if Gus Poyet, who had only replaced Paolo Di Canio in October, would resign before season's end. But my how the club have responded, most famously taking Jose Mourinho's unbeaten BPL home record, earlier this year.

On Friday, 21-year old striker Connor Wickham was named BPL player of the month for April, his five goals playing a huge part as the club moved out of the bottom three for the first time since February. 

With a game in hand against the teams below them, Sunderland control their own destiny. Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff will need help from others this weekend.

With the possibility that top place could change hands three times between tomorrow and Monday afternoon when Liverpool play, the real prospect exists come the final game of the season next Sunday that three clubs will still be in contention for the title.

This would be the first time this has occurred in the BPL-era and, in doing so, will plunge the league into a silverware crisis.

As there are only two BPL trophies in existence and, as traditionally the trophy is handed out on the last day of the season, a trophy will be needed next Sunday at Anfield, the Etihad and in Cardiff where Chelsea plays. 

So come the final whistle between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on Monday afternoon, the Premier League may have to put a call and a delicate request into Old Trafford, where, sitting resplendent in their trophy room, a replica BPL trophy exists.

Any chance you can deliver it to Anfield please?

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca 
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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