Day of destiny

Premiership's greatest ever relegation battle reaches thrilling finale
Click to follow
The Independent Online

All a relegation-threatened team can ask for, on the final day of the season, is that they control their own destiny.

All a relegation-threatened team can ask for, on the final day of the season, is that they control their own destiny.

Well, almost all. Norwich City, the only endangered Premiership team for whom victory tomorrow guarantees survival, would also have dearly loved to be playing at Carrow Road.

It is a year and five days since Norwich won at Crewe Alexandra to crown their promotion season. They have since played 20 League and cup matches away from home without collecting a win bonus.

"It's not a psychological problem because our performance levels away from home have, at times, been excellent and we haven't got a lot of reward",insisted Nigel Worthington, their manager, yesterday.

"At other times it has left a little bit to be desired, but the effort and commitment has been there," he added. "We are going into this game well aware of that situation - hopefully we can save the best to last."

Should Norwich - who were seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the table five weeks ago - fail to win at Fulham, Southampton can secure their Premiership place by defeating Manchester United at St Mary's, unless Crystal Palace win at Charlton by two goals more than Southampton's victory margin. Only if all three fail to win can West Bromwich Albion escape, provided they beat Portsmouth at The Hawthorns.

Survival for Albion would overturn the Premiership maxim that the club which is bottom at Christmas gets relegated. It would also complete the rehabilitation of Bryan Robson's managerial reputation.

Robson, a Hawthorns hero as a player, has been at his desk at 6.30am this week, unable to sleep and desperate to get on with engineering Albion's improbable escape. "I've not been dreaming about the match because I've not been sleeping," said Robson. "I've been up much earlier than normal. I'm still really feeling great about it. There is a real belief amongst the boys that we can do it and the important thing is that we focus 100 per cent on ourselves.

"The players have just done everything I have asked of them and that is what has got us into this position. If someone had said to us, at the start of the year, that we'd go into the final match knowing if we won we'd have a chance, we would have taken it."

Robson, like Worthington, has made no plans to follow the other scores, though they know supporters will transmit them to the players. At Southampton Harry Redknapp has arranged to be kept updated. Perhaps he recalls Alan Ball erroneously telling his Manchester City team to play for a draw at Anfield in 1996 when, in fact, they needed to score.

Redknapp will also have a plastic angel in his pocket, for luck. His Palace counterpart, Iain Dowie, has put his faith in a mini Buddha. At 3pm tomorrow however, all four managers must put their faith in 11 very human players.

Comments