SOME 36 weeks ago I predicted Manchester United would win the Premiership and that Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal would qualify for the Champions League.
I am sad to report that the forecast was accurate.
Any fool can state the obvious, and it is an indictment on the modern game that the outcome of an entire season has become boringly predictable.
We always used to sneer at the Scottish domination of Rangers and Celtic, at the regularity with which Ajax, Benfica and either Real Madrid or Barcelona won their domestic competitions, and now we’re just as bad in England – if not worse!
That’s why the foot of the table is more interesting and a lot of clubs will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing Newcastle in the Championship next season.
Unless the Magpies win at Aston Villa on Sunday they will be planning trips to Plymouth and Peterborough, and quite frankly the majority of their performances this season have been so abject that’s what they deserve.
They might also be gracing Glanford Park, Scunthorpe, if Nigel Adkins’ side win at Wembley at the second attempt, having lost the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final to Luton.
It is a momentous achievement for a club with limited resources like Scunthorpe to be in this position, while Leeds United with the potential to attract a 37,000 crowd are not.
Football was all the better for having genuine competition in the days when an Ipswich or a Blackburn could win the title, and old romantics like me love to see a Scunthorpe upsetting the odds.
Play-offs weekend encapsulates all the drama of an English season and there will be equal measures of support for Burnley and Sheffield United, the latter evoking sympathy for the Carlos Tevez affair, the former because they’ve spent almost half-a-century wallowing in mediocrity.
When the final whistle blows on Monday we’ll all welcome a summer break.
FOR me the summer break will have to wait a little bit longer.
There’s the small matter of the last UEFA Cup final in Istanbul tonight and next week’s Champions League Final in Rome.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Werder Bremen may not raise the heartbeat for you, but it’s my job to try and make it exciting.
Quite honestly, UEFA Cup finals tend to be more invigorating than the Champions League equivalents.
There have been some classics in recent years. Remember Liverpool 5 Deportivo Alves 4?
Soviet domination has become noticeable in recent years, with CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg claiming the title which, next season, becomes the Europa Cup.
This is partly because they seem to have more entrants than any other block of nations, and partly because of the incredible amount of money that has been thrown at players in Russia and Ukraine.
Brazilians abound thanks to the generous oligarchs, so I expect the streets of Istanbul to be filled with Soviet supporters with tall, dolly birds on their arms.
THERE are some very tall sporting specimens plying their trade on the European Ladies Golf Tour these days – and here is a body working hard to improve its image.
There’s nothing sexist in this, merely a realisation that the good-looking sports personalities sell papers.
Wimbledon revels in extolling the various virtues of the like of Kournikova and Sharapova, and a golf magazine called Golf Punk, run by former Liverpool footballer Phil Babb, has been running a feature entitled Bunker Babes.
Maria Verchenova – you've guessed it from Russia – is their No1 pin-up, but importantly she’s also an excellent golfer who has had a few top 10 finishes and was 55th on the European Order of Merit last season.
Maria might not make the Solheim Cup team this time round, but she won’t be far short.
Incidentally, Sheffield’s Alison Nicholas is Europe’s captain for the match v USA at Rich Harvest Farm in Illinois and she has learned a lot about what NOT to do from Nick Faldo’s lamentable performance at the Ryder Cup.
Speaking to me at last week’s Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open she said: “I think I will be the best prepared European captain there has ever been.
“We’ll go into the match as underdogs but I like it like that. We have more strength in depth these days and some of the young players coming in have shown the sort of toughness and mental strength you need to be winners.”
Let’s hope so.