Unmissable: Sky Sports bosses must thank heaven for Newcastle United
- Credit: PA
Sky Sports must be hugely grateful for Newcastle United’s monumental collapse in the past couple of months.
With almost nothing left to play for as this year’s Premier League season comes to its climax, there’s just one real issue to be determined.
Back in March it would have seemed unthinkable that Leicester, Sunderland and Aston Villa would be sitting pretty on the final day of action with not a care in the world, “they’ll have their flip-flops on”, as the saying goes.
And anyone who would have said that Newcastle wouldn’t have picked up the last few points they required to make themselves safe in the top flight for another term would be asking right now for a second look at the league table.
The spectacular collapse on Tyneside, with that incredible losing streak and alarming lack of goals scored, has left Toon fans tearing their hair out but Sky Sports bigwigs mightily relieved I expect.
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The European places are all but decided (and the ones that have not quite been confirmed belong to the Europa League, which any manager worth his salt would wish to avoid like the plague, judging by the way it’s disrupted the rhythm of enough improving sides in recent years.)
Things kick off at 3pm on Sunday at St James’ Park, where Newcastle entertain West Ham (which is hardly the right word to use, I accept) and Old Trafford where Manchester United host Hull City.
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Hull need to win – an unlikely scenario as Steve Bruce has never won as a manager back at his old stomping ground, but not impossible – and hope that Newcastle lose or draw.
Newcastle need to equal or better Hull’s result – if they do so, they will survive regardless of the outcome in Manchester.
It’s not exactly the glamorous nail-biting conclusion to the Premier League that many would have expected or hoped for, but it should prove mildly tense for a couple of hours (especially for my younger brother all the way in Shanghai, where he’ll have persuaded the bar keeper at his local to beam in the action from the North East of England).
And it will all be debated and critiqued by the two real stars of the top division’s past 12 months.
Once the fiercest of rivals on the pitch, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have become the perfect partnership to cover the big games.
On the final Monday Night Football of the year they welcomed Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe into the studio – fresh from winning promotion – and their discussion, examination of tactics and probing, complementary questioning proved how quickly this pair have established themselves as being head and shoulders above the rest.
The high-profile arrival of Thierry Henry has not quite delivered on its early promise - you have to say insightful observations, Thierry, not just state the obvious, albeit in a smooth and confident French accent – and Carragher has zoomed ahead into pole pundit position alongside the now well-established leading light of G Neville.
Neville and Carragher have made the Monday night match vital viewing for football fans. Their look at the weekend’s action during the preamble to kick-off is comfortably the best analysis on the box.
I’ll be watching the action, flicking between Tyneside and Old Trafford, will you?
What do you think of the Sky Sports coverage? Email me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss