Something For The Relegation Weekend: 21/05/2011

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The Independent Online

Blackpool play the innocents

If one thread holds together all that has gone on at Blackpool this season, it would be wilful naivety.

Their whole year has had the feel of Dorothy transplanted out of Kansas, everything has been done with a wide-eyed unworldliness. They played 4-3-3 and pressed high up the pitch. They went 3-2 up at Goodison Park but conceded another three goals and lost. They never sat back on a lead, they never contemplated closing out a game. Points after points were thrown away in the final minutes. They even signed Marlon Harewood and James Beattie, somehow expecting useful output. Never knowing or calculating, but always entertaining. Tomorrow, though, the lambs stumble into the lions' den, facing a swaggering Manchester United.

Martinez takes his beliefs to Stoke

If Blackpool enchant with their gentle naivety, there is something much more knowing about Wigan Athletic. Roberto Martinez has embarked on a campaign to prove the worth of his theories about the game. Can Premier League football be sustained in a rugby town? Can a functional team be fused together solely from players from Scotland and Latin America? (It has almost worked at Celtic). And can all this be done playing a patient, charming football? Arsène Wenger is similarly purist but he has the base of quality players and personal reputation for it to be fairly risk-free. Martinez has neither. He is staking himself utterly on his beliefs. At Stoke City, his antithesis, Martinez will be judged tomorrow. He will travel down the M6 with a crusader's confidence.

Fans of free-falling pair fear the worst

Should Blackpool and Wigan scramble results tomorrow, the contest may come down to a race to the bottom between the league's two most downwardly mobile teams. Birmingham City and Blackburn have been in free fall for months, winning just three of their last 24 games between them. Blackburn have changed too much while stale Birmingham have not changed enough. But the pair, hurtling down the table as if in a competitive luge race, are desperately hoping their falls are broken tomorrow. Or they may not stop falling next season either.

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