I'm sure by now you all know Bristol City are top again, but many of you will be unsure what that actually means. Inter alia, it means these things.
The division we're top of is the Championship. Each team in the Championship plays 46 games. You can see from the table that we've got 5 games left. There's three points for a win and one for a draw, we've got 70 points now, so our maximum total is 85.
Apart from West Brom, no other side has a higher maximum than us. The top two teams are automatically promoted to the Premiership, the Major League of English soccer for my American readers (welcome back Major League, by the way), so if we win all our remaining games no-one can stop us. This situation is always described by players and managers in interviews with the following sentence. It's in our own hands. It's kind of the law that they have to say that. Especially managers, who have to toe the rhetorical line in case they lose the dressing room.
At the end of the season, the clubs placed third to sixth play off in their own little miniature tournament, and the winner gets promoted with the top two. The three bottom teams in the Premiership replace them in the Championship. The word for this is relegation, which originally meant being exiled from Rome to somewhere a bit more basic in the provinces, as happened to Ovid. This captures the sense of the event very nicely.
Of course, smartarse commentators predict exactly this for City next season, should they be so impertinent as to actually get promoted. In fact, they regard this as so likely it's considered hardly worth our playing the actual games. They forget one thing though.
They forget that it actually doesn't matter so much that we're highly likely to get dismembered by Man Utd and Arsenal, because Man Utd and Arsenal dismember everybody. They're the giant hornets of football, cutting all the lesser teams apart with mechanical efficiency.
So as Dave pointed out earlier in the month, survival isn't about those games. It's about doing well against Middlesbrough, or Birmingham City. It's also about beating the teams that come up with us.
For let us be frank, the Championship hasn't produced any world beaters this season. To see this, compare our division with League 1 and League 2. The top teams in those divisions have 82 and 85 points, as compared with our 70. No-one in the Championship has dominated. As a result it's still very exciting, but it's made some people think the promoted teams will go straight back down again. This ignores the poor quality of football being played at the lower end of the Premiership, where the number of points needed to avoid relegation this season may well be the lowest number ever.
It's a sign of the narrow range of teams in our division that we're top, despite having a goal difference of only +2. We've scored 49 goals, but we've let in 47. The bottom team, Colchester, has actually scored more goals than us, 55. It's just that they've let in 76.
Some ignoramuses have tried to argue that this shows we've been lucky. How shallow they are. In fact, it just shows the brilliant success of the City gameplan, as orchestrated by our managing wunderkind, Gary Johnson (I love him).
For the typical City game goes like this. Lots of effort and attacking play in the first half an hour, a goal up, but hanging on until half time as the midfield run out of puff. The half-time tea and cocaine make for a zestful resumption, but then they come down, and it's all hands to the hatches until the final whistle. In the rare event that we're not winning, a big rush in the last five minutes to grap a last ditch winner.
Not that I'm recommending cocaine for sporting endeavour, you understand, and this is one reason why. Thanks to Glenn for the link.
The point though is that somehow, week after week, we scrape out of games with a narrow victory. Unfortunately, we've lost a few away games by three, four or even five goals, and that's what's done for our goal difference. What might at first glance appear to be a sign of vulnerability, when understood more deeply can be seen as a testimony to Johnson's almost magical ability (don't start - I said almost) to extract the best from his squad.
So who's going up? Well, the team with the easiest run in is Watford, but they've been in terrible form recently. Wolves are down in sixth, and play four of their last five games against teams in the top half of the table, so can probably be discounted. That leaves three from four. My guess is West Brom, Hull and us, with Stoke missing out, but then again I've got a terrible record in these matters. Last World Cup I predicted a final between Brazil and Argentina, only to see both eliminated in the next round, and wrote off losing finalists France early on.
Incidentally, inter alia just means among other things. It's a literal translation which adds nothing to the phrase at all, and I could just as easily have said it in English.
Which is a statement of intent. I've decided it's time to relax my eternal vigilance against the least hint of bombast, and start to indulge myself a little. I'm sure there are times when you weary of my constant obsession with plain English as much as I do. From now on I'm going to cut my prose loose from its quotidian moorings.
Why just say things are turning red, when you could have them rubesce? It isn't even a word, but rubescent is, and I know I can trust you to work it out. In fact, I may just skip the Renaissance middle men altogether, and start posting entirely in Latin. It's not like I've got a dressing room to lose. Just my lovely readers, and you're not going anywhere, are you?
Vale, amice. Plus pila quam primum.