YOU can’t miss it on a visit to Stoke City these days. It’s there, as clear as day, right by the corner flag. And yet I’ve not seen it at any other Premier League ground.
I’m talking about the advertising board for chlamydia tests. It has been given pride of place on the perimeter, in the kind of spot usually reserved for boards advertising training shoes, or soft drinks, or computer games.
As far as I’m aware (and I can’t say I’m anywhere near as aware as I should be), Stoke doesn’t have higher rates of chlamydia than anywhere else in the country. (I love league tables as much as the next anally-retentive football fan. But there are certain league tables I really don’t want to spend all of Sunday poring over.) Nonetheless, the city’s football club have done their bit to raise awareness of the disease, and they should be applauded for that.
Mind you, I can’t help but wonder if that board is a distraction for visiting defences when Rory Delap lines up for a long throw. Perhaps that’s why Stoke’s home form has been so good this season.
Tonight’s final game: Stoke 2 Wigan 0
Commentator: Ian Gwyn Hughes
A record of 10 home wins from 19 Premier League games is exceptional, and there is a very strong case for making Tony Pulis Manager of the Year, given that he has guided Stoke to 11th place in the Premier League with very limited resources.
Having secured top-flight safety with two games to go, Stoke could enjoy themselves at home to Wigan this afternoon. That the fixture was meaningless made it a shoo-in for the final game on Match of the Day, but that’s a small price to pay for such a successful season.
The highlights of a relatively uneventful game were: Delap over-doing it with a first-half long throw which he hurled straight into the net (fancy a crack at the javelin for London 2012, Rory?), Ricardo Fuller almost forcing Wigan’s defenders out of the way to barge in an opening goal at about the seventh attempt, and the sight of that chlamydia board in the background as James Beattie celebrated the second.
With the exception of their performance against Manchester United on Wednesday, Wigan have been rubbish of late, accruing fewer points in recent weeks than Finland’s Eurovision Song Contest entry.
In fact, the last seven games have seen them collect fewer points in the Premier League (one) than they have on the Gubbometer (two). Any hopes of European qualification have long since tailed off.
Testing times, then, for Wigan manager Steve Bruce (no, not in that sense).
“It’s a shame, because the vast majority of the players have had a wonderful season,” he said. “But it’s tailed off in the last month to one where it’s just been OK.
“We’re still in the division, and that’s progress, I suppose. But it’s a case of what could have been.”
Wigan’s season is not completely over, though. They could stilll end the season as Gubbometer champions.
Their appearance at the tail end of MOTD means the Gubbometer title race will, thrillingly, go to the final day of the Premier League season. Sky and Setanta, I can tell you, are already squabbling over the rights.
The basic mathematics are as follows. If Fulham’s game against Everton is last on MOTD next Sunday, they will be crowned Gubbometer champions. If Wigan’s game at home to Portsmouth is on last, they will snatch the title. If neither team’s game is on last, then Fulham will win it on Gubba Difference.
As Brian Moore once said: “It’s up for grabs now…”
1. Fulham: 9 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. Wigan: 9 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
3. West Brom: 7 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
4=. Middlesbrough: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
4=. Bolton: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
6. Capello: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +5)
7. West Ham: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +2)
8. Arsenal: 4 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
9=. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9=. Stoke: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11. Gubba: 3 (GD: +3; CD: +1)
12. Tottenham: 3 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
13=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
13=. Hull: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
15=. Aston Villa: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
15=. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
17=. Everton: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
17=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
20=. Chelsea: 0
20=. Liverpool: 0
20=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)