The Dead Rubber Consolation Cup, Week 2: Everton Streak Ahead
This could be the perfect end of season for Everton, should they play their cards right. They play Manchester United at Wembley next weekend for a place in this year’s FA Cup final against Crystal Palace or Watford, whilst in the Premier League three successive draws have sent them streaking clear at the top of The 200% Dead Rubber Consolation Cup, our competition which celebrates the matches that don’t really matter to either of the two clubs competing in them any more, as well as the mundanity of the end of a domestic league season.
Very briefly – or as briefly as I can manage, such is the convoluted nature of this game, here’s a brief breakdown of the rules. . In order to qualify as a match in the 2016 Dead Rubber Consolation Cup, both teams have to have no realistic (and I understand that this term is subjective) no chance of winning the Premier League, qualifying for the Champions League, qualifying for the Europa League, or being relegated. There’s no limit to the number of teams that can end up in it, though it’s unlikely that all twenty clubs will. And this week, I’ve decided that, since none of this matters and it’s pretty likely that no-one is actually even reading it, I’m going to make the rules completely arbitrary, probably utterly unfair, and that they will most likely be made up as I go along.
Teams taking part will be awarded one point for drawing, lose a point for losing, and get no points for winning, because no-one likes optimism at the end of the season, whilst losing only makes it more likely that a club will end up in a state of CRISIS than anything else. And nothing in the world of football is more exciting than a good CRISIS. In an addendum to last week’s rules, I’ve decided to institute a new rule wherein a match can be given honorary Dead Rubber Consolation Cup status. This week’s first Honorary Dead Rubber Consolation Cup match is yesterday’s Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa, a match so stultifying that Manchester United’s continuing pursuance of a Premier League spot felt like an irrelevance in comparison with season ticket holders having the opportunity to grab a couple of hours shut-eye.
So, what of the last week’s results, then? Well, last Sunday saw three matches, two of which mattered, so the only match that went towards anybody’s totals in this competition was that between Liverpool and Stoke City, which Liverpool won with considerable quiet. There was only one Premier League match this midweek, and it was a match of so little consequence that the conspiracy theorists amongst us might be minded to wonder whether it actually happened at all. After all, BBC radio’s match report for it was made by Orson Welles.
Over the course of the last seven days, Everton have run well clear at the top of the table with three consecutive draws against Watford, Crystal Palace and Southampton. Indeed – and this was an unexpected turn, I guess – it’s entirely possible that they might not be caught between now and the end of the season. The only thing that is preventing the club from having a 100% record in this competition is the fact that they remain in the FA Cup, and even this might be over by this time next week.
Crystal Palace and Watford stay in second and third place, with Palace playing at Arsenal this afternoon – a match that is not included in this competition on account of Arsenal’s remaining outside chances of lifting the Premier League title and fight to hold onto a Champions League place – while Watford won by a goal to nil at West Bromwich Albion, a match from which they might have been able to secure second place in the table had it not been for the performance of Heurelho Gomes, who saved two penalty kicks – one of which he conceded himself – to grant Watford a win.
This week’s Premier League fixtures in the Dead Rubber Consolation Cup have a distinct Merseyside feel about them. Leicester City and Arsenal feature in two of today’s three matches, and both of them have a lot to play for, but seasoned watchers of matches that mean little to either of the competing teams may choose to turn their eyes to the match between Bournemouth and Liverpool, and Liverpool are in action again for no particular competitive reason in a Merseyside derby against the runaway leaders Everton in match that counts for little apart from local pride. In this week’s other Premier League matches, Stoke City play Tottenham Hotspur, whilst Newcastle United play Manchester City. Newcastle might have been expected to be making their Dead Rubber Consolation Cup debut by now, but Sunderland’s win at Norwich yesterday coupled with their own swatting aside of Swansea City means that Newcastle United will have to wait a while to join the ranks of the Premier League’s undead.
A draw for Everton against Liverpool during the week may well wrap up this trophy, especially if Liverpool themselves fail to draw against Bournemouth this afternoon. And perhaps it’s appropriate that the Dead Rubber Consolation Cup should itself end up full of fixtures that are essentially meaningless. Should Liverpool fail to break Bournemouth down this afternoon, however, there could well be nothing to play for in several different senses when the two clubs meet next week. The Dead Rubber Consolation Cup isn’t quite decided yet, but perhaps it would be appropriate if it did end as a meaningful competition with several weeks still to play.
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