PAUL Armstrong, the editor of Match of the Day, effectively revealed on Friday afternoon which game would be on last this weekend.
In his entertaining blog on the BBC Sport website, Armstrong explained that West Ham’s game with Newcastle had brought up the rear last week because it had been the only Premier League match with nothing riding on it.
“I don’t generally like to predict running orders,” Armstrong added. “But it’s a fair bet that Blackburn v Derby will be last this week for the same reason!”
Last night’s final match: Blackburn 3 Derby 1
Commentator: Tony Gubba
Of course, it wasn’t a completely meaningless game, as Tony Gubba was quick to point out.
“If Derby lose, they’re the worst team ever in the Premier League,” he said in his introduction. I think he might have been tempted to say ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, but the point still stood. Derby, with 11 points, needed a win to stand any chance of overhauling Sunderland’s record low Premier League tally of 15, set two years ago.
Their long-suffering fans turned out at Ewood Park in beach wear, and actually had something to celebrate when Kenny Miller gave them a 19th-minute lead.
For all you stat fans out there, it was only the 10th time this season that Derby have held the lead in a league match. In 3,330 minutes of Premier League football this term, Derby have been in front for 240. (That doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that 107 of those minutes were in their two games against Newcastle.)
Miller’s goal raised the age-old question: What time is it when you’re losing at home to Derby? Fortunately, Gubba had the answer.
“It’s hands-on-hips time for Mark Hughes,” said the commentator over a shot of the Blackburn manager. If you can’t put your hands on your hips when you’re losing at home to possibly the worst team the top flight has ever seen (there’s a chant in there, somewhere), then when can you?
Derby, meanwhile, have had a hands-on-hips kind of season. With the air of a team who haven’t gone into a game expecting to win for a very long time, they conceded a goal to Roque Santa Cruz with the interval beckoning. And a Blackburn win was inevitable after that.
Jason Roberts scored two minutes into the second half; Santa Cruz added a third from close range with 13 minutes to go.
“You generally need 40 points to avoid relegation,” Gubba said. “On current form, Derby would need to play for three-and-a-half seasons to get 40 points.”
Expect a Derby charge for Premier League safety sometime around January 2011, then.
Even if they beat Reading next Sunday – and they might – Derby are now officially the worst team in 16 years of Premier League history.
In fact, if you want to figure it out on a points-per-game ratio, Derby are statistically the worst team ever in the top division. Only Stoke have ever mustered fewer points in a top-flight season – they managed 10 in 1890 – and they only played 22 league games.
They can now take the place in the list of truly terrible football teams: Sunderland 2006, Doncaster 1998, Ipswich 1995, Stoke 1985, Cambridge 1984, Doncaster 1905, Loughborough Town 1900, Darwen 1899, Vale of Leven 1892, East Stirling practically any year you care to mention.
And Blackburn? Well, incredibly, thanks to a good run and an Aston Villa stumble, they will go into their final game at Birmingham next Sunday still with a chance of qualifying for the Intertoto Cup. I say ‘incredibly’, perhaps it’s another word I’m looking for.
This blog asked the question back in February: Will Blackburn finish ninth? The answer is that ninth is now the lowest they can finish – and they could yet end up sixth. It’s an achievement of sorts. But it won’t be remembered for anywhere near as long as Derby’s feats this season.
1. Derby: 13 (Gubba difference: +2) – Champions
2. Fulham: 7 (GD: +2)
3. Wigan: 7 (GD: +1)
4. West Ham: 7 (GD: 0)
5. Gubba: 6
6. Reading: 6 (GD: +1)
7. Birmingham: 6 (GD: 0)
8. Blackburn: 5 (GD: +3)
9. Bolton: 4 (GD: +1)
10. Portsmouth: 3 (GD: +1)
11=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
11=. Chelsea: 3 (GD: 0)
11=. Sunderland: 3 (GD: 0)
11=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0)
15=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
15=. Walsall: 2 (GD: 0)
15=. Middlesbrough: 2 (GD: 0)
18. Tottenham: 1 (GD: +1)
19=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. Cardiff: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. Wolves: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. Bury: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. Workington: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. Huddersfield: 1 (GD: 0)
19=. 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.)