Charlie Webster - Who can hold their nerve in relegation battle?

By 22 April 2011 12:11

On numerous occasions this week I've gone through the Premier League relegation battle. The survival of the fittest seems to be tighter than ever and seriously hard to call - never mind the survival of the fittest this is the survival of the club that can hold their nerve.

Before we move any further I want you the name off the top of your head the three clubs you think aremoving down to second tier football next season. How hard is it to call? Very!

West Ham's Thomas Hitzlsperger said this week that the dogfight is taking its toll on the squad psychologically. But isn't that the key to staying up? Once in the losing mentality that frame of mind is so hard to get out of and as soon as one person starts the negative thoughts they spread like wildfire.

So are West Ham going to scrape through just like they did last year? Last season the Hammers held on, finishing in 17th place with 35 points. But now they're on 32 it looks like they are going to need more than just another three points on the board to stay up. It doesn't help that their next opposition is Chelsea - the last time West Ham won at Stamford Bridge was in 2002. Unfortunately for the Hammers that is followed with another test on the road against Manchester City, who are equally desperate for points but for differing reasons.

Who knows though, remember Fulham in 2008? They were in a similar position to West Ham, 19th in the table with three games to go, a sure bet for relegation. They then won away at Manchester City, at home to Birmingham City and away at Portsmouth and survived to tell the tale.

As for Blackpool, I for one would love them to continue in the top flight if not just for Ian Holloway. It's like they've almost done a Hull, started in amazing shape and then just deteriorated. Unfortunately for Blackpool they've deteriorated all the wayto the red and stand in the bottom three for the first time this seasonwith an awful run of five defeats in six games.

It was much to the Seasiders' downfall that Wigan are seeming like candidates to survive after that surprising 3-1 victory at Blackpool last weekend. Despite being sat in 20th for the past month until that prolific victory at Bloomfield Road, I've just got a sneaky feeling Wigan are going to come through breathing a huge sigh of relief. It would be an incredible achievement for Roberto Martinez if he could do this with the limited resources he has.

Wolverhampton are an interesting prospect to keep an eye on, at first glance they must be the team we all seenot to survive but they've a game in hand and could pull something out of the bag. When talking to Terry Venables this week he seemed to think Wolves are definitely not to be ruled out just yet. Mick McCarthy is not a man who is unfamiliar with fighting relegation, so he knows how to deal with the tensions, pressures and nerves the situation brings.

The concern though was for Sunderland, they haven't won a Premier League game at home since New Year's Day. Actually, if you are a Sunderland fan, skip this bit or you might just cry. They've lost eight of their last nine Premier League matches and are in serious freefall. The Black Cats were sixth back in February and take on Wigan this Saturday. The history of the fixture suggests this weekend' match is likely to end in a draw.

Then you move to Blackburn, another side where you wonder what has happened. Well, the name of Sam Allardyce and the fact that he's no longer there is what happened. Steve Kean's side have got to be careful, especially with fixtures like Manchester City and Manchester United coming up. One minute they are floating along in mid table and the next thing you know Rovers are hovering over the red.

The three promoted sides, apart from recently Blackpool, have proved a lot of doubters wrong, especially West Brom. I think everybody at the start thought they'd go down. Roy Hodgson has showed his true class as a manager and pulled the Baggies out of trouble. Alan Pardew has done much the same for Newcastle, keeping them nice and safe in a mid-table position.

Good luck to all the teams and fans in the nervy position of the fearful drop. It's going to be unbelievably tight. So the question is which team can believe and which manager can hold their nerve?

Source: DSG

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