And that, dear readers, is that.
The Premier League season is over, and we are now all faced with two daunting months of baseless transfer speculation followed by that worst of tortures: pre-season friendlies. All utterly joyless, I'm sure you'll agree, and this time we don't even have the mercy of an international tournament to give our hollow, pitiful lives the illusion of focus, enjoyment or meaning.
And on that positive note, I'm going to leave you be. I'm off to make me some dinner. Cheerio all!
skipper Michael Dawson
has said that he and his teammates only have themselves to blame for consigning themselves to another campaign of Thursday night fixtures against clubs like Udinese, Marseille and Fenerbace as opposed to Champions League glamour ties with the likes of BATE Borisov, Nordsjaelland and CFR Cluj.Here's what Dawson had to say, in full
Here's a lovely little gallery of all the high-profile figures who were making their final bow this afternoon.Come this way, people
And here is that man Lukaku
, in all his weird-haired glory. Drink it in:
There have also been a couple of performances that may have just slipped under the radar today. Listen up.
First and foremost, Romelu Lukaku got a second half hattrick against the champions. Although everyone is presuming that Chelsea will be in the market for a Falcao-esque superstriker in the summer, they do boast three forwards of decent pedigree in Lukaku, Fernando Torres (don't laugh) and Demba Ba. None are of a title-winning standard, perhaps, but all could well hold down a place in the squad. If I were to keep hold of one to play a prominent part in next season's first-team, it wouldn't be Ba or Torres.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa's Darren Bent took advantage of Christian Benteke's suspension by grabbing a goal. He'll certainly be seeking new employment in the summer, and it shouldn't be forgotten that Bent is as close as there is to a goal-guarunteeing striker as you could find in the lower echlons of the division.
Let's not forget that today was also the final appearance of horse-breeder and occasional football Michael Owen, who departed in typical fashion - with an undistinguished few minutes off the bench.
In all seriousness, though, Owen was, once upon a time, a truly marvellous footballer. Playing for a fairly middling Liverpool side throughout the late-90s and early 00s, Owen in his prime was a genuinely thrilling sight.
Though various factors - his own injuries, the increased athleticism of his peers, the gradual extinction of the predator-striker - contributed to the largely underwhelming latter stages of his career, Owen will best be remembered for that goal in 1998, and rightly so. Let's forget what could have been, and just enjoy what was.
Rafa Benitez has been spotted in a full Liverpool kit, with 'Luis Garcia 10' printed on the back, sneaking into the home dugout at Stamford Bridge and leaving stink bombs and whoopee cushions on the manager's chair for whoever his successor at the Bridge might be.*
*May or may not be true
Here are Samuel Allardyce's full sentiments on Mr Andrew Carroll. I've read these quotes a few time, and I can't quite work out if he wants to keep Carroll of not. See what you make of them:
"It is our target to try and make it a permanent situation. Hopefully we can get somewhere in the near future to do that.
"It's our main priority at the moment. We have to pursue that to the vey end. We'll find out quickly whether it's a yes or no, so that will be the first priority. If we can start [the transfer market] with Andy Carroll that'll be a great achievement for us.
"The young age that he is, he can only get more and more in terms of his playing prowess. And then we can build around that with what we want to improve around next, building the squad, not bigger, but non terms of quality is my priority.
"There's negotiation between the club and Liverpool, yes.
"He's a player who is wanting to enjoy his football. He wants to play every game, he wants to enjoy himself when he goes out on the field. He want to use his strengths and score as many goals as he can, but also work hard for the team. There was a 60-yard chase back today, and I think that says it all.
"He'd be disappointed he didn't score today but his all-round ability is showing more and more in every game he plays. It's not just about his aerial prowess in the box, it's his hold-up play, his quality on the ball, retaining possession, fighting for 50-50 balls that make life difficult for centre-backs. His all-round game is getting better and better."
Here's some more from Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, who skilfully avoids admitting that he'll be fleeing the club as soon as he damn well can:
"It’s been an emotional week, we are a unique football club we’ve doing that season after season, even in relegation we have to do it in the unique way. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions this week. We need to get stronger and regain our Premier League status.
"We’ll enjoy that tomorrow (FA Cup parade), and after that we’ll sit down with the chairman and decide what’s best for Wigan, I can guarantee you whoever is the manager has got a bright future.
"It’s going to be a big summer, we have to bring (in) more players than go out, I think this season we had a squad of 22 players, 24 with the youngsters, next season we need 27 players and a lot older than the ones we had this season because we’ll be playing Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday in games that all have strong meaning, we have to be prepared for that.
"I wouldn’t expect any of the players that are out of contract to stay at the club now. Every season we lost players, that happens everywhere, that’s the nature of the modern game. If we lose players its not because we are in a difficulty financially, we want to keep every player at the club who is under contract. We are ready to re-invest and get in a stronger position than where we were before. Losing players in the modern game is not a fear, you need to prepared as a football club to get stronger."
Music to Brendan Rodgers' ears here, as Sam 'Tiki-taka' Allardyce addresses the issue of West Ham making a permanent move for on-loan striker Andy Carroll
"It's our main priority. we have to pursue that to the vey end. We'll find out quickly whether it's a yes or no. If we can start [the transfer window] with Andy Carroll that'll be a great achievement."
Pig's head incident news from St Mary's:
Stoke boss Tony Pulis admitted in his press conference that he left Kenwyne Jones and Glenn Whelan out of the squad after the now infamous prank where a pig's head was left in the forward's locker, but was upset with some of the reporting of the incident.
He said: "We kept Kenwyne and Glenn away today becuase of that distraction. We'll deal with it in house and let you know, they'll be a club statement. Today one newspaper brings religion into it, and that had nothing to do with it whatsoever. I was very, very disappointed to read that."
He also paid tribute to Michael Owen, who played the final game of his career this afternoon, adding: "I thought the reception was fantastic, but it was all deserved. He's had a fantastic career and been a top, top player in this country."
QPR, meanwhile, were relegated weeks ago, because they're rubbish. This is what their boss, the ever-loveable Harry Redknapp, had to say about the future of the club:
"I really couldn't care less, Geoff, as I'll be doing what I do best - riding off into the sunset leaving only scorched earth and a pile of IOU-notes in my wake."
Only joking. This is what he actually said:
“I want to get a good group in that are pleased to play football, pleased to make a living, willing to come in every day and learn.
“You’ve got people like that today, Clint Hill gives everything, Shaun Derry gives everything. It’s a good group, but we need to get some in and some out, get some new blood in.”
“The problem is, is we’ve been short on quality; it’s a squad that wasn’t good enough. It was a squad whose strikers got injured at the start of the season, so you had a season without any strikers. I’ve played Abel Tarrabt up on his own, and he’s not even a striker. That’s how it’s been; it’s been a miss-match.”
Just a reminder: Redknapp spent well over £20million in the January transfer window, on established top-level players.
Cuddly Spaniard Rafa Benitez has been snared by Sky Sports, and has offered them the following:
"Yeah [I've changed the minds of] some people. You cannot convince everybody, but I think the majority of them were sending positive messages and that is good for us.
[Will he manage against against today's opponent David Moyes next season?]
"You never know, at least I wish him all the best for the future but I do not know where I will go next year.
"It's not just what we achieved, but it's the team with which we achieved these things. With all the young players and the circumstances around. The staff did a very good job. We didn't have too many injuries or too many other problems. We finished where we wanted to finish so I think it's quite good for everyone."
David Moyes, on his last game as Everton gaffer:
"I thought it was a really good game and that we played excellent. The result was very harsh on us but in a game where there wasn’t a lot riding on it, I thought the attitude from the players and the performance levels were as good as we have had at times this season. But for a few misses we could quite easily have come away with a draw, we at least deserved it.
"Everton have had a great season. The players have had a great season, near enough, from the first day to the last, we’ve competed and been very close. So I’ve got to say congratulations , the players have had a brilliant season.
"It’s difficult to sum up in a couple words but I’d have to say that I’m grateful for being given the opportunity and thankful that the chairman gave me that chance. I hope that I’m leaving the club in a better condition than when I took over. I think the good of players they’ve got are a top group. They’ve got a real chance, they’re good players. I thought they deserved a lot of credit.
"I’m sad I’m leaving Everton. Look at the players. I’ve said to them all, I’ve bought every one of them except Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman, who were already here. I hope everyone of them thinks it was worthwhile joining Everton. We’ve had a real good go at it with what we’ve had. I’m moving on but I’m leaving a lot of really good colleagues and a lot of really good professionals.
"In truth we’ve probably done as well as we can do at Everton. We’ve pushed close and tried to break into the top four up until probably three weeks ago it just started to get away from us. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham went on a great run in the last 6-8 games. We couldn’t quite hang in there right to the end."
While Wigan's Roberto Martinez, who will almost certainly be on the first train out of Lancashire having seen his side relegated, provides us with the following noncommittal soundbite:
"I'll sit down with the chairman and discuss the future, whoever is manager will have a bright future."
"Whoever is manager"
Depression's (and Aston Villa's) Paul Lambert speaks!
"It’s been a really hard [season], tough, especially around Christmas where we couldn’t get a win, the big thing for me was the crowd stayed with us. Because we were in a transitional period we knew we had to come through it, if we hadn’t done what we’ve done I think the club would have kept on sliding, we had to strip it right back and get it going. Randy [Lerner]’s been absolutely fantastic, he knows the philosophy, what we’re trying to do at the club."
"Some of the lads have played well over 30 games so they’ll know what to expect next year, it augers well for the future, the philosophy is set in the club and we’ll keep driving it on. I’m delighted for everybody at the football club."
On bringing players in - "Every club will be busy trying to do things, we have set a standard that we’ve got to try and maintain and get better, to do that you’ve got to try and keep building your squad and keep the belief in your own philosophy. That’s what I’ll try to do. The club was in a transitional period, everybody knows what’s happening. I think the biggest yardstick is the supporters, they’ve been fantastic with us and I think they’ll know we’ll keep on building."
On Stiliyan Petrov, who came onto the pitch at the end - "That was nearly a tear jerker that one, it was tough, it was great, everyone gave him a great reception. It was an emotional moment, you can see how he feels about the crowd, everyone gave him a richly deserved round of applause. I wanted him around, he came into the dressing room before the game, to give him the feeling what it’s like to be in a dressing room again."
In the capital, Frank Lampard takes to the Stamford Bridge centre circle to address the fans.
"Thanks for your support this year, you've been absolutely brilliant. You're the best fans in the world, no doubt," he says to the supporters who rigourous booed their own club's manager for weeks and weeks, before variously engaging in clumsy post-silverware U-turns over the last few days.