Editor’s Note: Guy Bailey will write columns for The Yanks Are Coming throughout the Barclay’s Premier League season where he discusses the happenings overseas in the world’s most popular sports league. Guy offers a unique perspective on the league as a Brit who lived for a long while in the United States before moving back to Teeside in the past year. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter all EPL season at @guyrbailey.
Two more weeks down- the march to another title is ever closer and another World Cup thereafter. An exciting time to be a soccer fan. Here’s what I wrote prior to Manchester City’s League Cup win over Sunderland.If you’d prefer, you can skip down to this week’s fixtures and preview, which of course features the FA Cup.
28/2/14 – Up for the Cup, Down for the League?
Cup football is a curious thing. Some fans swear by it and think it is a catalyst for league success and momentum whereas some fear it, think it’s an unwelcome distraction and with extra games and injury risks, a negative on their league form. Ask a Sunderland fan this week though and you’ll only get one answer. For the first time since 1992, The Mackems are in a cup final. A closer parallel would be 1985 when they played Norwich in the League Cup final, lost 0-1 and ended up being relegated, although back in 1973 they won the FA Cup as a Championship side, beating Leeds Utd, the equivalent of Man City in those days, 1-0. They play Man City on Sunday having already beaten them at home in the league and with Adam Johnson rediscovering the form that he showed at Man City in the first place. An intriguing game lies ahead but 10 years to the day that Middlesbrough won their one and only major trophy, no way will Sunderland replicate it and be the first North East team since to win a pot.
Sunderland will be keeping a nervous eye on the other results this week too. Losing 4-1 at Arsenal last weekend was hardly ideal preparation although the Gunners could do them a big favour by repeating the result at relegation rivals Stoke City. The most crucial West London derby for years sees leaders Chelsea go down the Fulham Road to Craven Cottage and look to put a nail in the coffin of their closest geographic rivals while Cardiff need to start picking up points and quickly although you won’t get many backers for it to begin at Tottenham. Improving Norwich, who ground out a deserved 1-0 over Spurs at home last week, travel to Villa, not out of the woods themselves, while Swansea and Crystal Palace will look to get the better of one another.
Liverpool visit Southampton in the most attractive looking fixture of the day football wise although Everton will hope to put more pressure on the top six with a visit to notorious travel sick West Ham.
Man Utd will be glad they have no game this week and are licking their wounds from yet another setback, a 0-2 Champions League reverse to Olympiakos in Greece this week. Man City and Arsenal also were made to look like pretenders by ultra polished Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides respectively and it will be a major surprise to see either go through into the next round. David Moyes will be glad to get to the end of another weekend without seeing more ‘United in Crisis’ headlines .
8/3/14: City Win League Cup, FA Cup Weekend Next
The calendar turns, the hands of the clock tick on, the first dancing daffodils emerge from their reticent winter slumber and the first piece of Silverware is doled out. Nearly 10 years to the day that my Middlesbrough team broke with 128 years of mediocrity and won the first major trophy in our existence – Sunderland, of all teams, threatened to do the same for 55 minutes last Sunday.
Taking the lead with a goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the other end of the pitch from Fabio Borrini, they then harried, chased, won every second ball and generally bossed the game with Yaya Tourre looking as uninterested as he was ineffective. Half Time saw a Scooby Doo turn of events as the REAL YaYa escaped from whichever broom cupboard Ellis Short had him tied up in, unmasked the imposter and rightfully took his place in the City side for the second half.
Starting as they meant to go on, he nonchalantly curled an equalizer from 25 yards with the same effort and disregard you or I would drop a scrunched up piece of paper into a bucket, then freeing Sami Nasri to score just 30 seconds later. Sunderland visibly wilted after that and it was inevitable that Navas would seal the game although it was at the death.
Pellegrini now has one trophy from one attempt and Sunderland can use their upturn in cup form to their advantage this weekend as they travel to Hull for an FA Cup Quarter Final and to book a quick return trip to Wembley. They need to beware the omens of another Middlesbrough side in 1997/98 who infamously lost both domestic cup finals that season and were unfairly relegated too. One down, two to go and they will be looking nervously over their shoulders as the two teams beneath them meet at Cardiff. A win for the home team over Fulham would lift them above Sunderland who although they have games in hand, are never as effective as points on the board.
Before the final whistle it was an entertaining weekend for Sunderland fans in London as news filtered through that Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, fed up of being the butt of jokes in the North East since losing his second consecutive Tyne Wear derby at home, decided to put his head to work and butt Hull’s Andy Meyler, despite his team leading comfortably. A record £100,000 fine followed and official warning from the club although his position was never really in any doubt (having 7 years of a 10 year contract remaining will do that for job security) although how long the owners patience could be tested should a repeat happen is a moot point.
Man Utd travel to West Brom at lunchtime with points at a premium for the home team while a bad tempered London derby is in line as Chelsea entertain Spurs and look to go seven points clear at their rivals expense. David Moyes’ loveletter to United supporters, which was really a plea for patience, has been well-received but all that changes with a loss to the hapless Baggies. At Everton, the rule was “Death, Taxes, David Moyes’ sides in springtime” but that hasn’t been the case for Moyes’ United thus far. Hence the loveletter.
Sadly the last word this week must go to poor Stuart Holden – a man who could be forgiven for checking every time he goes to the bathroom for fear it may come off in his hand. Playing in his comeback reserves game this week after cruciate ligament damage, he lasts a total of 23 minutes before the inevitable happens and he is stretchered off again with knee ligament damage. He has flown home to the States for treatment and possibly career recovering surgery but it might be a case of throwing in the towel for Bolton and the USMNT’s great white hope.
As noted, Guy Bailey writes on the Barclay’s Premier League for The Yanks Are Coming. Want more Guy Bailey? We highly recommend his new book, Blessay From America, a collection of writings made while living in America, where he married a southern belle and saw his son born, which you can purchase here.