Last week was far from dull… and no, I’m not referring to the ‘privileged woman gives birth to second baby’ incident. Or the political name-calling and scare-mongering which went on in the pursuit of power and influence at Westminster.
First we had the verbal dust up between Nigel Pearson and grizzled Midlands-based journo Pat Murphy, which was highly entertaining and, for me, won on points by the man from the BBC. I note that Leicester made it first on Match of the Day again – funny that.
Then of course came the literal dust up in Vegas between two lean, mean fighting machines. Mayweather won that one on points, it said so on the scorers’ card.
Sandwiched between those match-ups came the Watford fans’ reaction to my piece of last week. A few low blows were received.
There was no intention on my part to goad them but was merely pointing out the facts of their poor record against the better teams in the division and passing my opinion on the ‘model’ on which their success was achieved.
But I will confess to a little fist pump when Sheffield Wednesday denied the Hornets the title in the 91st minute. Justice was served and the right team were crowned champions of the Championship.
Then there was City’s long, long, long awaited triumph over Fulham. That monkey was well and truly shaken off the collective backs of club and supporters after 29 years of hurt.
It was a sweet way to wrap up regular season proceedings with a fine and unusual hat-trick from newly-crowned Player of the Season and all-round renaissance figure Bradley Johnson.
Statues of the man will be erected if he can maintain his performances over the last two months into the play-off period, with a little help from his team mates of course.
Ah, the play-offs. We’ve known for a week or so that our fate was to be decided in that manner. Some call it a lottery, others disagree.
QPR triumphed in last year’s edition; their jammy victory over Derby adding weight to the lottery argument… certainly the final anyway. But they will be back in the Championship next season – once more, and justice has been served.
Derby fell short again on Saturday. At the risk of over-working the boxing analogies, it’s no good landing a few early blows if you run out of stamina and fall out of the ring at the final bell. Theirs was a knockout blow which may be hard to come back from.
Middlesbrough are a tough nut to crack, as we found out only recently, but by the look of their wild celebrations at the final whistle in Norfolk they seemed to think the finishing line had already been crossed.
Fulham and Brighton were maybe under-estimated as Boro blew up in the home straight (apologies for straying into athletics analogies), and a nod to Chris Hughton for firing his team up on the last day. Their clean sheet at the Riverside partly set up the play-off fixtures.
Although Boro did the double over Brentford (4-0 and 1-0), the Bees are more than capable of seeing off Karanka’s Teeside timewasters and would be a whole different kettle of fish in a Wembley showdown challenge.
Surely though we can’t have Hornets and Bees getting promoted together? Thankfully, Wasps didn’t triumph in the rugby.
Of course, the next few days will see plenty of goading and prodding and ‘weigh-in’-style bravado from both sides of the Norfolk-Suffolk divide.
Ipswich are the weakest side in the play-offs. Take their Irish striker out of the Tractor Boys and there’s not a lot left other than honest endeavour and a wily old fox on the sidelines.
But McCarthy knows how to get out of this division and Portman Road will be unusually full and noisy on Saturday. The locals have been starved of such events and not since the Texaco Cup of 1973 have they tasted a two-leg success over City.
All of that though is just fog-bound memory with little relevance to the next two Saturday lunchtime slug-outs. They promise to be bruising encounters. We are maybe the Mayweather to Ipswich’s Pacquiao-like gritty underdog – but underdogs do sometimes triumph.
Over two legs, you’d hope that with Alex Neil in our corner, there will be no complacency, no under-estimation and no nasty surprises at the end of the day.
History is on our side. Over the past 15 seasons, the winner of the Championship play-offs finished third in the table on seven occasions. A team finishing fourth has won them only once, fifth place has seen victory four times and sixth place just three times.
The play-off record for the respective managers reads: Neil – played one, won one (with Hamilton) and McCarthy – played three, lost three (Millwall, Sunderland and Wolves). MM has got the play-off T-shirt and washed it several times.
But has big Mick found a four leaf clover this season?
Boxing has had its ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and ‘Thriller in Manila’. Maybe the first-leg will be the ‘Sizzler in Suffolk’ and the second, the ‘Norfolk Needle’?
The prize is huge – financially a bit of pocket-money to Floyd Mayweather maybe – but football is so much more than the money. Especially when neighbours are involved.