Ex-Norwich City boss in Premier League relegation battle
Former Norwich City boss Peter Grant is facing the possibility of Premier League relegation heartbreak for the second time in three seasons as “Survival Sunday” beckons.
Grant was first-team coach alongside manager Tony Mowbray when West Bromwich Albion dropped out of the top flight at the end of the 2008-09 campaign.
Now the 45-year-old ex-Canary is in danger of another bitter disappointment with Birmingham City, who visit Tottenham Hotspur in tomorrow’s final fixture with their survival hopes hanging by a thread.
The Blues’ joint first-team coach, who also had a brief spell with Mowbray at Celtic last season, experienced a marked upturn in fortunes as Alex McLeish’s team lifted the Carling Cup with victory over Arsenal at Wembley in February, but their form has nosedived since then with just two wins in 11 matches, a painful slump that has brought comparisons with Norwich’s collapse in form after the Milk Cup win of 1985.
Grant’s hopes of meeting the Canaries next season, for the first time since his exit as manager in October 2007, could hinge on Birmingham winning their final match. They must equal or better the results of the two sides immediately below them, Blackpool and Wigan, as they head to White Hart Lane outside the bottom three, but only on goal difference. To make matters worse, they have secured just one point from their last five games, while fifth-placed Spurs will be chasing a win to secure a European place next season.
Grant said before last week’s home game against Fulham that the players had “got the bit between their teeth and are desperate to remain Premier League players” – but a 2-0 defeat at St Andrew’s left them in a perilous position.
Manager McLeish, who condemned the players involved in a late-night drinking session earlier this week, said tomorrow’s game at Spurs was more important than the Carling Cup final.
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“It’s bigger because of the circumstances and because of what’s at stake, it doesn’t take rocket science to evaluate that,” said McLeish.
“We accept that. We can take the positives from what happened at Wembley. We went to the Carling Cup final and the odds were stacked against us but we prevailed.”
There is more ex-Canary interest in tomorrow’s crunch fixtures with Blackpool goalkeeper Matthew Gilks set to face champions Manchester United at Old Trafford and former City loan winger David Carney flying back from Australia, where he underwent a shoulder operation, to watch his Seasiders team-mates try to complete a great escape after a win and three draws in their four previous matches.
Striker Sam Vokes, who featured briefly in City’s promotion run-in during a loan spell and scored a vital goal in the 2-2 draw at Watford, is back with Wolves, who play Blackburn at Molineux, but has not figured on the bench in the last two matches.
Tomorrow’s results will enable Norwich supporters to complete their list of Premier League away-day destinations for next season, with one exception, the one remaining trip to be determined by the play-off final between Swansea and Reading at Wembley on May 30.
• Wolves (40pts) v Blackburn (40)
Victory for either side at Molineux would guarantee survival, while defeat would leave the losers sweating on results elsewhere. With in-form Wolves playing at home and targeting a third successive league win, they are in the driving seat. If the game is drawn, both teams could still go down if Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan all win.
• Tottenham v Birmingham (39)
Birmingham must equal or better the results of both Blackpool and Wigan as they head to White Hart Lane outside the bottom three on goal difference alone. They have secured just one point from their last five games and have a mounting injury list after their dire performance against Fulham at the weekend, while facing a Tottenham side aiming to protect their European place from the challenge of Liverpool.
• Manchester United v Blackpool (39)
No visiting team has won at Old Trafford this season – indeed, United have dropped just two points at home - leaving Blackpool with an ominous challenge to retain their top-flight status. However, United’s involvement in the Champions League final could work in Ian Holloway’s favour. All eyes will be on United’s teamsheet.
• Stoke v Wigan (39)
Wigan threw themselves a lifeline with their remarkable injury-time victory over West Ham, but their goal difference is the worst of the five clubs in the mix. Stoke have enjoyed an outstanding season but may struggle to raise themselves after Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat, which was followed by another defeat by Manchester City in midweek.