AND SO, the likelihood of a hallowed treble (UCL, League and Cup) now comes down to one possible candidate, Ajax Amsterdam, who have already won the KNVB Cup and face Tottenham in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final. As for the league, they are in top spot, but PSV Eindhoven are level on points. Ajax lead 1-0 against Spurs, so they are favourites to win through to Madrid – an Ajax v Liverpool final would be very attractive, would it not?
THERE ARE rumblings that Paris Saint-Germain’s owners are thinking about pulling out of the club. Is this just paper talk or are they frustrated by the club’s inability to secure the big prize, the Champions League? The current season has been easy for PSG in Ligue 1, but they failed to get beyond the last 16 of the UCL, for the third consecutive season. They also lost the Coupe de France to Rennes, after which Neymar had a skirmish with a loud-mouthed fan as the team walked up to collect their losers’ medals. There is talk that the Qatari backers are looking at AS Roma as a possible alternative. Whatever happens, another investor is sure to come along, PSG are among the top clubs in Europe and they are an attractive investment in one of Europe’s top capitals.
DAVID BECKHAM’s career has been carefully managed and well-timed. You always get the feeling that everything he does is stage-managed, from watching basketball to getting a new haircut. His decision to join Salford City as a director came in February 2019 with Manchester United’s neighbours going for promotion to the Football League. When his co-stars in the Class of ’92 got involved with Salford, where was Beckham? Perhaps the pipedream was too low-profile for him to throw his hat into the ring, but now, with Salford on the brink of reaching the League, he will no doubt be spotted at Wembley when the play-off takes place – indeed, if he is there, his “people” will make sure he is targeted.
UNAI EMERY’s arrival at Arsenal was greeted as the start of a new era, one which would lead the club out of a stagnant decade that saw them fall from Champions League regulars to a Europa League outfit. Chelsea’s appointment of Maurizio Sarri was a similar situation. Where are these clubs today? Both should win through to the Europa final, which is being held in Baku, and the winner will gain Champions League entry. Chelsea have already qualified for the UCL, while Arsenal have missed out. If Valencia manage to beat Arsenal in the semi-final of the Europa, their season will have collapsed completely, leaving Emery a little vulnerable. Chelsea are currently at 1-1 with Frankfurt but even if they go out, they can fall back on their UCL qualification. Sarri may still not survive the summer given Chelsea’s record with managers. If Arsenal end with nothing, the cynics will suggest Emery has merely maintained Arsenal’s latter days under Wenger. Valencia away and a Europa League final are absolutely vital for the Gunners.
GOTP visited Stevenage on the final day of the League Two season, our first trip there in six years and the first Football League game at the Lamex. Between 1998 and 2000, we reported on Stevenage games for the Herts Mercury and the Press Association. Stevenage were a non-league club in those days. It’s a very different place today and, one could argue, a better, more inclusive club than the days when fierce ambition sometimes got the better of things. They still had a chance of promotion on the final day via the play-offs, but it didn’t work out, despite a 2-0 win over a very poor Cheltenham Town side. Club stalwart Ronnie Henry was saying farewell to Stevenage, coming on as a substitute to a standing ovation. Henry had two spells with Stevenage and played over 500 games, such loyalty is almost unheard of these days. He is the grandson of Ron Henry, who was a member of the 1961 Tottenham double team.
FINAL THOUGHT: Delighted to see Sheffield United promoted to the Premier League. As we pointed out in a video for TIFO, Sheffield’s absence from the Premier was very notable. It’s good to see the Blades back among the big boys. How about it Wednesday – your turn next year?
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