The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY - By John Lyons

WHEN Sun­der­land and Wolves meet this af­ter­noon at the Sta­dium of Light, the con­trast could not be much greater.

While Wolves are head­ing out of the Cham­pi­onship by the front door, the Black Cats are stum­bling out of the back en­trance.

Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s troops can break the 100-point bar­rier with a sin­gle point and will be ex­pect­ing to bag all three to round off a sen­sa­tional cam­paign.

Sun­der­land, mean­while, have al­ready been rel­e­gated, to make it back-to-back de­mo­tions, and know that even a shock vic­tory would not be enough to lift them off the foot of the ta­ble.


While Wolves have moved ef­fort­lessly through the gears to leave the rest of the sec­ond tier pack in their wake, Sun­der­land haven’t been able to get out of re­verse, man­agers Si­mon Grayson and Chris Cole­man pay­ing the price.

Af­ter last Sat­ur­day’s slightly anti-cli­mac­tic goal­less draw with Sh­effield Wednes­day, Nuno made it clear he wants to fin­ish the sea­son with a flour­ish.

And that could be bad news for Sun­der­land, who re­ceived a postrel­e­ga­tion shot in the arm with the news that un­pop­u­lar owner El­lis Short is sell­ing up to an ‘in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium of foot­ball in­vestors’ led by Eastleigh owner Ste­wart Don­ald.

“This sea­son de­serves to end bet­ter than to­day,” said Nuno. “It de­serves to end with a win.

“We must feel the taste of win­ning be­cause this is what we’ve been do­ing all sea­son, and teams per­form bet­ter when they are in win­ning mo­men­tums. So, let’s pro­ceed and try to en­gage this mo­men­tum to the next sea­son.”

As­ton Villa man­ager Steve Bruce must de­cide whether or not to rest some of his stars when they go to Mill­wall.

What­ever hap­pens this af­ter­noon, Villa will fin­ish fourth, so Bruce may de­cide to make changes ahead of the play-offs and a likely two­leg tus­sle with Mid­dles­brough, who cur­rently oc­cupy fifth place. Op­po­nents Mill­wall had their play-off am­bi­tions ef­fec­tively ended by their 2-0 de­feat at Boro last week, but will be de­ter­mined to round off a mag­nif­i­cent cam­paign by see­ing off an­other fat-cat at The Den. Like Bruce, Boro boss Tony Pulis has to weigh up mak­ing changes to his side for this af­ter­noon’s game at mid-ta­ble Ip­swich. Boro have se­cured their play-off place and will guar­an­tee them­selves fifth place with a point at Port­man Road. Brent­ford and Hull go into their clash at Grif­fin Park with lit­tle to play for, and that could make for an en­ter­tain­ing fi­nal-day clash. The Bees’ play-off hopes went up in smoke when they lost 2-0 at rel­e­ga­tion-haunted Barns­ley last week­end, while Hull

made sure of their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus for next sea­son with their as­ton­ish­ing 5-5 draw at Bris­tol City a cou­ple of weeks ago.

Bris­tol City com­plete their sea­son with a home clash against Chris Wilder’s Sh­effield

United. Both teams slipped off the pace in the clos­ing few months of the sea­son and will be left with a feel­ing of ‘what if ’.


None­the­less, the Robins did make it to the semi-fi­nals of the Carabao Cup, while the Blades have per­formed well in their first sea­son back in the sec­ond tier. There is plenty to build on for both.

Leeds will hope to round off a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign, which has seen them flat­ter to de­ceive, with a vic­tory when they host Ian Hol­loway’s QPR. With 12 wins at home and just three away, it’s clear that Rangers need to cure their travel sick­ness if they’re go­ing to chal­lenge next term.

Sh­effield Wednes­day (16th) and Nor­wich (12th) are an­other two clubs that would have hoped to have done much bet­ter this term.

The Owls have shown signs of im­prove­ment lately, as some of their in­jured stars re­turn, and will be keen to beat Nor­wich at Hills­bor­ough to fin­ish the sea­son on a high note.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PRIZE GUYS: Wolves’ Bright Enobakhare and Helder Costa share a mo­ment with the Cham­pi­onship tro­phy

PAY­ING THE PRICE: Chris Cole­man, one of two Sun­der­land man­age­rial ca­su­al­ties

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