Hull relegated from Premier League, but Newcastle beat drop
Hull were relegated, Liverpool were thrashed and Arsenal made certain of third place on an eventful final day of the Premier League season that had largely been decided before kickoff. Despite the fact that only two of today’s games truly mattered, there were a surprising amount of goals sprayed about as England went out with a bang instead of a whimper. The final game to be played on the English calendar is next Saturday’s FA Cup final between Arsenal and Aston Villa, live on FOX.
Going into the day, there was only one relegation spot remaining to be decided, and it was a straight shoot-out between two teams – Hull and Newcastle. Both had been terrible, both probably deserved to go down, and both had surely been saved by the fact that QPR and Burnley were worse.
Prior to their game against West Ham, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley gave an unprecedented television interview, saying that the team’s plight was down to him and stopped at his door.
"The only positive is that we have the club on a sound financial footing," Ashley continued. "But that isn’t really good enough…I shan’t be selling the club until we win something, not at any price."
On the evidence seen over the club’s last eleven games, Newcastle fans better brace themselves for the fact that may mean Ashley will be their owner for life.
With a grim record of just four points collected in their final eleven games, the Magpies needed until the final day to ensure their safety – but at least it can be said they seized their chance, with Moussa Sissoko nicking the winner and Jonas Gutierrez adding late insurance in a 2-0 slog against West Ham to secure their survival.
The result ensured an unhappy ending for Hammers boss Sam Allardyce, who was told virtually at the final whistle that his contract would not be renewed. Allardyce had expected to learn his fate at a meeting between David Sullivan and David Gold on Monday but the club’s co-owners simply could not wait.
On a happier note the goals had embattled coach John Carver off his bench in glee, but it will do little to reassure fans of the Toon’s long-term prospects. The fact remains that the team is poor and shows no signs of stemming their talent drain.
On the other side of the coin, Hull gaffer Steve Bruce had won many games with Manchester United, but never as a manager against them. Today, with only a win working for Hull, he had noted somewhat glumly before the game that maybe his old side owed him a favor for "wrecking [his] knee, and hip, and ankle."
His Hull side certainly made a good fist of it, seeing two goals disallowed in the early going at United while watching United backup Victor Valdes make a critical save on Ahmed Elmohamady to boot. There was a sense that United had already gone on vacation, and if only the Tigers could keep the pressure on, they might seize a winner. But even when Marouane Fellaini was sent off for a vicious foul on Paul McShane, Hull could not make their advantage count, and were forced into a dooming 0-0 draw. Hull’s future in the Championship is far from certain next season, and it may be quite some time before we see the Tigers in the top-flight.
Elsewhere, Arsenal put an emphatic stamp on their third-place finish today, scoring three goals in the first 16 minutes en route to a 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion. Theo Walcott opened the floodgates after just four minutes and would complete his hat-trick in the first half with a Jack Wilshere strike inbetween. Both men raced to the touchline after scoring to hug Arsenal’s physical therapist, a poignant reminder of how much time both had spent idle due to injury this season.
The news was much grimmer up north for Liverpool as a week of turmoil around young striker Raheem Sterling reached a head with the side collapsing like a card table to Stoke, 6-1. Sterling, relegated to the bench to “protect him,” according to manager Brendan Rodgers, seemed the only person actually unaffected by the calamity as the Reds ended their year on a sour note. The result surely increases the pressure on Rodgers, and while his tenure is allegedly not on Fenway Sports Groups’ agenda this month, it is hard to imagine after this show that his performance will not come up for discussion.
Elsewhere, Didier Drogba announced today that he would be leaving Chelsea for the second time, adding that he wanted to play one more season before retiring. Drogba told Sky Sports, "I spoke with the manager and the board and we all agreed that I wanted to enjoy more time on the pitch so they will let me go. I will always come back here, the club want me to be part of the future of this team. I am happy with the way we found this solution."
Unfortunately for the legend, his day was cut short, as he pulled up with a minor injury on the half hour that saw him carried off by his teammates to a standing ovation. The Blues ended their championship season with a 3-1 win over Sunderland.
Also departing was Frank Lampard, who scored Manchester City’s winner in an eventual 2-0 victory over Southampton. He will soon join NYCFC in MLS. Brad Friedel was unable to get a send-off at Tottenham after all his years of service; the veteran American keeper took six stitches to his shin earlier in the week and was not fit to feature, according to the club. Friedel of course will be joining FOX Sports this summer, and he watched Tottenham secure passage to the Europa League group stages with a 1-0 win at Everton courtesy of a goal from the prolific Harry Kane.
Leicester punctuated their great escape with a 5-1 thrashing of QPR, while Aston Villa finished on the edge of the drop zone with their 1-0 loss against Burnley. And Alan Pardew took Crystal Palace to 48 points and a shock tenth-place finish with a 1-0 win over Swansea on the final day.