x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Blackpool are entertainment personified

Premier League best and worst: Thrilling with goals - at both ends - by the bucket load. We can only hope Blackpool stay up.

David Vaughan, left, typifies Blackpool's hustle, as Ricardo Gardener and Bolton discovered.
David Vaughan, left, typifies Blackpool's hustle, as Ricardo Gardener and Bolton discovered.

Worst miss

Here is the scenario: the game is entering injury time, the scores are level, one goal will save your side from relegation and see them live to fight until the last day of the season, the ball arrives at your feet a yard out from goal, tap it home and you are the hero.

Carlton Cole most have dreamt of this scenario a thousand times, tucked up underneath his West Ham United bedclothes. However, when it came to the real thing, he fluffed his chance monumentally.

With the Hammers drawing 2-2 at Wigan Athletic yesterday, they knew that a draw would see them relegated. However, Birmingham City were losing to Fulham at the same time, meaning a victory would give them a fine chance to save themselves on the final day.

Both sides were going for it, with Wigan also in trouble, and the game was end to end. Thomas Hitzlsperger, the West Ham midfielder, got into the box and pulled the ball back for Cole.

A simple sidefoot would have sent the ball into the net, but the bungling forward somehow contrived to send the ball backspinning into the air and out for a goal kick. What a miss from the England international and just about summed up Avram Grant's day as the manager was sacked shortly after the 3-2 defeat.

Worst example of giving up

Just how bad have Arsenal been since it became clear they were going to end with nothing in the trophy cabinet season?

They still had a chance yesterday to finish second after Chelsea drew with Newcastle United and yet were well beaten by an average Aston Villa team 2-1 at Emirates Stadium.

That makes it seven seasons since Arsene Wenger's last league title win and six years since their FA Cup penalty shoot-out victory over Manchester United.

There have been plenty of excuses by the Frenchman since then, and even more broken promises. The Gunners are third bottom of the Premier League form table over the last six games, having taken just five points from their fixtures.

Yesterday was proof that the players have chucked in the towel. Maybe Wenger should contemplate doing the same or this time next year it will be the same old story.

Best manager

There surely now can be no argument that Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest British manager of all time.

With all due respect to Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Brian Clough, Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, the gruff Glaswegian, who is difficult to like and yet impossible not to admire, stands above them all. Ferguson's 12th English Premier League title means Manchester United move one ahead of Liverpool with a record 19 championships, with the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley Stadium still to come on May 28.

And when you look at the job he did in Scotland at Aberdeen - three league titles, five domestic cups, and a European Cup Winners' Cup victory over Real Madrid - even his most stubborn critics have to admit he is something special.

It should also be pointed out that when Ferguson left East Stirlingshire three months into his first managerial job, in October 1974, they were top of the league.

And to think he has won all those trophies for United when his team have not been given one decision by the officials in all that time, the dodgy penalty decision on Saturday which allowed Wayne Rooney to equalise in the 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers to earn the point needed to secure the title being the first time ever his side have enjoyed such luck. If only Ferguson had enjoyed some influence on the referees. Then he might have been really successful over the past 20 years.

Worst timing

Imagine for a moment that you are a Manchester City fan. It's not been an easy life, has it?

But then all of a sudden you are one of the world's richest football clubs, with brilliant players and a chance at long last to win something.

And it actually happens. It actually really happens. City get to the FA Cup final and on Saturday beat Stoke City 1-0 at Wembley Stadium to win their first major trophy since 1976.

On the very same day, United become the most successful club in English football. Now that just isn't fair, is it? Only City fans would have to endure the authorities playing league games on the same day as the FA Cup final - which is a bad decision - giving United a chance to steal some of their thunder.

This could only happen to a Blue. All they can do next season to make sure they can party alone is to win the Premier League. Over to you, Mr Mancini.

Best game

It is surely against the law for Blackpool to be boring.

Their 4-3 win over Bolton Wanderers was typical of the way Ian Holloway's side have approached their first season in the top flight.

They played fast, entertaining football, scored goals and were utterly hopeless in defence. If Blackpool could clear their lines they would be challenging for a European place.

The big surprise from this game was that Blackpool captain Charlie Adam's 63rd-minute goal, the seventh of the game, was the last time the ball hit the back of a net.

Blackpool are still in the bottom three with a trip to Old Trafford next week. For the sake of football, we can only hope they beat United's reserve team, stay up and then a buy a half-decent centre-half for next season.