I was having a discussion the other night with a work colleague as to what was the worst game the Premier League has seen this season. I wanted to put forward Manchester City’s 0-0 draw with Wigan at Eastlands at the beginning of this month.
He, however, was having none of it. “It was Bolton’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough in November,” he said. “That game was so bad, that they only showed three minutes of it on Match of the Day, and they always make a point of showing at least five minutes of every Premier League match.”
I’ve heard at least two other people, independently of each other, suggest that goalless draw at the Reebok was the worst game in the Premier League this season, which in my book, is as close as you get to a consensus in football.
However, I suspect Blackburn’s 0-0 draw at Reading yesterday would run it close.
Last night’s final match: Reading 0 Blackburn 0
Commentator: John Motson
Blackburn failed to win – or indeed create many chances – despite playing against 10 men for the last 18 minutes after Reading’s Marek Matejovsky was sent off.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Blackburn manager Mark Hughes told MOTD afterwards. No, go on Mark. “But we had a lot of people away on international week; a lot of travelling was done. I think that showed at times today.
“We didn’t have that little bit of zip and spark that we needed to get the three points today.
“We had a lot of guys away and it fragments your working week as well. I think a lot of teams will say after the international week that a lot of the effects of it came to bear.
“But it’s not an excuse.”
No, it’s not an excuse. Ah, hang on, here’s Hughes speaking to Blackburn’s official website after the game.
“We had a lot of guys away and a lot of travelling, so we hadn’t had a lot of time to prepare for the game, so that could possibly be put up as an excuse.”
Oh, so it is an excuse then. Did they all travel via Terminal Five at Heathrow Airport or something? I think we should be told.
It could be worse, Mark. You could be manager of Blackpool. Now they had a genuine travelling nightmare last weekend, when it took then four hours to get to Stoke because an accident had closed off the one chunk of the M6 in Staffordshire which it is impossible to get round with sitting in traffic for eons.
When Blackpool – despite all that disruption – still got a 1-1 draw, Stoke manager Tony Pulis blamed his side’s failure to win the game on the referee, who had also been stuck in the same traffic jam, causing the kick off to be delayed by half-an-hour.
Now that’s what I really call scraping the barrel for an excuse.
Anyway, for all those of you wondering whether Blackburn are still talking of qualifying for Europe, despite lying seventh in the Premier League, I’m delighted to inform you that the answer is yes.
“Yeah, I think so,” Hughes said. “A couple of the other results went for us; a couple of the other teams around us were beaten. We haven’t been. So we’ve edged a little bit further ahead.
“But everybody’s got big games at this time of the year, so we need to win rather than draw games.”
So there you have it: the key to European qualification is winning rather than drawing, and travelling less. But doesn’t qualifying for Europe mean you have to travel more? Is it really worth all the hassle of qualifying for Europe at all?
Bloody hell, I’m starting to sound like Gary Megson, now. Sorry Bolton, all is forgiven…
1. Derby: 11 (Gubba difference: +1)
2. Fulham: 7 (GD: +2)
3. Wigan: 7 (GD: +1)
4. Reading: 6 (GD: +1)
5. Birmingham: 6 (GD: 0)
6. West Ham: 5 (GD: 0)
7. Gubba: 4
8. Bolton: 4 (GD: +1)
9. Blackburn: 3 (GD: +1)
10=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
10=. Chelsea: 3 (GD: 0)
10=. Sunderland: 3 (GD: 0)
13. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: +1)
14=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
14=. Walsall: 2 (GD: 0)
14=. Middlesbrough: 2 (GD: 0)
17=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Newcastle: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Cardiff: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Wolves: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Bury: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Workington: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Huddersfield: 1 (GD: 0)
17=. Grimsby: 1 (GD: 0)
(NB. Where teams are level, positions are decided by Gubba Difference; the number of times a team is on Match of the Day last with Tony Gubba commentating.)