Ben Burgess column: Twists, shocks and pressure piles up
Another week of teams and managers succumbing to the pressure of the end- of-season scrap for promotion and relegation.
In the Premier League, Swansea are in complete freefall after a bright start under new manager Paul Clement, while at the bottom of the Championship the goings on at Birmingham have taken an even stranger turn.
Their decision to sack Gary Rowett when they were seventh in the league looks completely ludicrous now. Since Gianfranco Zola took the helm they have managed only a couple of wins in his 22 games.
He has promptly jumped ship, with three very tough games remaining and only two points separating them from the relegation spots. Harry Redknapp taking the job just about completes a crazy year for them, but if there’s anyone in the game who can lift the players’ morale with his man-management skills then Harry is that man.
Blackpool’s Easter weekend proved far more fruitful than Zola’s.
Despite a surprising goalless draw with the normally free-scoring Accrington Stanley on Good Friday, Gary Bowyer’s men still managed to finish the weekend in the top seven thanks to a late, late win at champions-elect Doncaster.
To say it was a nailbiting end to the game would be an understatement.
When Mark Cullen stepped up to take the penalty in the last minute, I really felt it could be a turning point in the Seasiders’ quest for the play-offs, so when he hit the post you couldn’t help but feel deflated.
Fortunately, the team reacted excellently and earned another penalty two minutes later.
No wonder Darren Ferguson was complaining about the referee post-match.
It’s not often a home side gets a player sent off and two penalties awarded against them in the dying moments. The responsibility fell on the young shoulders of Jordan Flores and he promptly slotted home to joyous celebrations from those in tangerine and despair for the Donny players and fans.
Blackpool’s last three fixtures look particularly favourable, with two at home against relegation threatened Cheltenham and Leyton Orient, who should be relegated by the time they arrive on the final day.
The game tomorrow against Cheltenham is one I’m really looking forward to, having spent the last two enjoyable months of my career there. They’ve had plenty of turmoil this season, with manager Gary Johnson’s medical issues, but they won their last game and that keeps them just above Michael Flynn’s resurgent Newport. Bowyer rotated his team at Doncaster, so it will be interesting to see the 11 he chooses tomorrow.
While Blackpool are chasing promotion glory, another of their girls’ teams has sealed cup success, with the Under-10s winning a final last week.
Women’s and girls’ football has become extremely popular in recent years and it’s great that girls now have female players to aspire to, like the superstars of Manchester City women’s team and the England Lionesses’ multitude of heroines.
The people running the ladies’ team at Blackpool do a fantastic job with limited funds and support.
We have a number of girls from our school team who play for them, and they have improved so much from the coaching and from the competitive games they take part in.
In fact, all across Blackpool schools, the standard of girls’ football is improving and we have some fantastically competitive games.
On the subject of competitive games, I’ve got to mention how much I was enjoying Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich until the referee ruined it with some awful decisions.
We all know how tough the ref’s job is, but there was no excuse for his mistake in sending off Arturo Vidal late in the game.
Not only was it not a dangerous tackle, he also clearly and comfortably won the ball.
There will be another clamour for video evidence in football now, but this was all about incompetent refereeing.
You certainly wouldn’t want matches being stopped for every half-challenge like Vidal’s or we would lose the free-flowing game we love.