For the publishers of Bryan Robson's autobiography, who must have hoped to incorporate the fate of West Bromwich Albion before sending Robbo to the printers, the waiting may be over today. If Portsmouth take a point at Wigan Athletic, or Birmingham City beat Newcastle United, Albion will be relegated from the Premiership without kicking a ball.
Robson, whose side do not play again until Monday at home to West Ham United, conceded this week that a new chapter to top last year's late, stranger-than-fiction escape, was unlikely. "We're more or less down," the Albion manager said. "All we can do is make sure we win our last two and hope the other scores go our way over the weekend."
Albion's position is not sufficiently hopeful for Robson to spend the day sweating over news from the JJB Stadium, St Andrew's or even Anfield. A heavy defeat there for Aston Villa, in conjunction with wins by Portsmouth and Birmingham, could leave David O'Leary's side needing a point from their final fixture at home to Sunderland.
"I won't be watching the telly - I'll just turn it on at five o'clock for the results," Robson said, going on to reveal a nice line in self-deprecating gallows humour.
"What I will probably do is go for a run. If I went out for two hours I could probably run to Manchester and back [from his Cheshire home]. At least then I'd avoid the first half!"
Robson was asked whether he could face being a Championship manager again. "Yes. As long as the club are happy to stay with me, then I will manage here. I've been in the second level before and got promoted both times."
Albion had an "A plan and a B plan"; he knew which players he would want to bring in depending on which division they were in.
Why had the run-in produced such bad results? "Everyone knows we sold £5m of players in the last window and spent £1.25m on Nigel Quashie. West Ham have spent £25m since last summer; Portsmouth were fortunate enough to splash £11.5m in January. If we're relegated, then I've got a good squad and a higher wage bill than most people in the Championship. The expectation will be to go straight back up."
Birmingham, meanwhile, face what Robson's former comrade in arms Steve Bruce is billing "the biggest game in this club's history and the biggest of my football life". The sport's infinite capacity for coincidence sends the Newcastle caretaker manager, Glenn Roeder, to St Andrew's, where Bruce's Blues condemned his then West Ham team to the drop in 2003, with a chance of repaying the compliment.
For Bruce, a boyhood Newcastle supporter, there is the further irony of his club's destiny possibly being decided by the club whose managership he rejected after Sir Bobby Robson's departure early last season. "That's gone. I made my decision, though I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about it since then," he said. Bruce added: "It's all about how we handle the situation. One thing we've tried to do is stay positive and to believe we can get out of trouble. We have to get a result, and I'll make sure I know what's happening in the Portsmouth game."
And, the super-optimists among Birmingham's followers would no doubt stress, in the Villa match, too.Reuse content