The John Horgan column: English soccer is filling the gap until GAA resumes

The John Horgan column: English soccer is filling the gap until GAA resumes
Sheffield United's John Egan scores his first Premier League goal last weekend. Picture: Clive Brunskill/NMC Pool/PA Wire. 

THE countdown is on for the GAA season to recommence but in the meantime, the Premiership is keeping the ball rolling.

Liverpool’s excellence decreed that the title race was done and dusted months upon months ago and nobody, even those of us who enjoyed their lengthy famine of 30 years without a title, can have any issues with that.

They have been simply marvellous all the way through, surely right alongside the great Manchester United team under Ferguson and Arsenal’s Invincibles.

They might have got thrashed 4-0 by Manchester City last week but anybody who reads anything into that result is trying to make something out of nothing.

Even Roy Keane admitted in the aftermath of the game that when United had some of their titles wrapped up with a few games to go they hadn’t the foot firmly on the accelerator.

That’s human nature, there might have been a bit of pride involved in that game, bragging rights, that sort of rubbish but the only pride about Liverpool this season has been their magnificence.

You could say that they spoiled the title race for the rest of the chasing pack, ended the interest in it prematurely but that’s not going to bother them.

Of course, for them to be regarded as one of the best Premiership sides of all time they must win it again next season and the season after.

That will be easier said than done and, in fact, they might not even start next season as favourites.

That tag could well be placed on Manchester City as they are perceived to have a stronger squad and if they are not allowed to participate in the Champions League because of alleged financial irregularities they would have all their eggs in the Premiership basket.

However, Liverpool will not be unseated easily now. The pressure that built up over 30 years without a league title is removed now and that has to be a significant plus.

Bournemouth's Lloyd Kelly looks on as Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes controls the ball during the Premier League tie recently. Picture: Peter Powell/NMC Pool/PA Wire.
Bournemouth's Lloyd Kelly looks on as Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes controls the ball during the Premier League tie recently. Picture: Peter Powell/NMC Pool/PA Wire.

Manchester United and Chelsea will be stronger challengers to Liverpool and City next season but it make take longer and a few more stellar signings to make them real contenders again.

For now, though, all the focus is on the battle for Champions League places and the relegation issue at the other end.

So much hinges on Manchester City’s appeal and there is a growing belief that they may win it which would impact very much on the top four.

As it stands Liverpool and themselves will be in the Champions League next season with a fierce battle developing between Leicester, Chelsea and United for the other two spots.

Wolves cannot be ruled out either and maybe Arsenal although the latter need a lot to happen to join the queue.

Of course, if City fail in their appeal fails Chelsea, Leicester and United are in pole position to qualify.

United are, without doubt, the form team, on a terrific run of 16 unbeaten games in all competitions and the team with what looks to be the easier run-in to the season’s end.

But, by a long shot, nothing is set in stone and there’s a lot of football to be played yet to sort it all out.

United’s final game of the season is against Leicester City and that could easily be a game that the outcome will finalise one of the Champions League places.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring as the club continue to battle for a Champions League spot. Picture: Jason Cairnduff/NMC Pool/PA Wire. 
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring as the club continue to battle for a Champions League spot. Picture: Jason Cairnduff/NMC Pool/PA Wire. 

Chelsea must play Liverpool in their second last game at Anfield and that too could be a defining game.

It really is set for an intriguing couple of weeks.

Down at the basement, Norwich are as good as back in the Championship next season but who will be joining them.

Bournemouth and Aston Villa can’t buy a win at the moment but can still survive if there’s a change in their fortunes.

Watford are struggling big time too but maybe West Ham’s win over Chelsea and their point against Newcastle last Sunday might give them the belief that they can survive.

And, hopefully, that happens because David Moyes surely deserves a break.

Who knows what’s going to be the outcome and the dreaded VAR might have a huge say in the final destination.

And from what we have seen of it in the past week it’s making a mockery of the game.

In last Sunday’s Sunday Times a letter to the Sports Editor summed it all up.

It read: “ I am 65 now, watching and loving football for 60 of them until now. VAR and the latest handball law have become the most unpopular introductions in my lifetime, they have taken the spirit out of the game.

“The officials on the pitch should make the decisions, right or wrong, in the spirit of the game. We want our football back." 

Hard to disagree with that terminology because some of these VAR decisions are farcical as we have seen many times this season.

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