Football: No Time For Change

23 May 2001 14:10 GMT

NOW Sport writer Andy McKenzie takes a tongue-in-cheek look at another Premiership season where Manchester United stood tall.

Sheringham: The players' favorite
Sheringham: The players' favorite
©Stephen Munday
Players and managers came and went, fans shed tears of joy and tears of sorrow, but by the end of the season, one thing stayed the same - Manchester United remained on top.

Teddy Sheringham was awarded player-of-the-year honours, Dwight Yorke scored more off the field than on, Andy Cole was reborn Andrew Cole and rewarded with an England call-up, and United finished clear winners once again.

However, things didn't go all their own way. United struggled in Europe, Roy Keane lambasted fans for their choice of sandwiches - and his teammates for being average, and was then condemned for attempting to remove Alf-Inge Haaland's leg.

Arsenal's attempts at forming a new-look backline didn't get much further than David Seaman's ponytail, and the Gunners again finished the season firing blanks and trophy-less.

Liverpool showed sometimes second is good enough, being outplayed in three cup finals and ending up the winning side on each occasion.

Houllier: Delighted?
Houllier: Delighted?
©Clive Brunskill
Manager Gerrard Houllier led his side to a unique treble on foreign ground by winning the Worthington Cup and FA Cup in Cardiff, and the UEFA Cup in Dortmund. But in the league, they were again off the pace, with only a strong finish allowing them to scoop the third and final Champions League spot.

Leeds' title challenge was over before it even began, with the young and inexperienced (copyright David O'Leary) Yorkshire side saving their best performances for the cream of Europe.

Chelsea decided a change of direction was what was needed after three trophy-winning seasons under Gianluca Vialli.

Claudio Ranieri was chosen as the man to lead that change of direction, and at first, it seemed something must have got lost in the translation.

The Blues eventually began to understand each other and found their form at the end of the season, largely thanks to Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, who finished as the Premiership's top marksman, to sneak into Europe courtesy of Liverpool's monopoly of the domestic cups.

It was another good season for the sides promoted to the Premiership. Well, for two of them anyway.

Burley: Success story
Burley: Success story
©Ben Radford
Ipswich reached heights not even their most optimistic followers could have dreamed of at the start of the campaign. George Burley managed to turn his Tractor Boys into Rolls Royces and they had all but ensured their safety by Christmas, helping to earn him the Ferguson of the Year award.

Storming finishes by Leeds and Liverpool nudged Ipswich into fifth, but a place in next year's UEFA Cup was a reasonable consolation for a team expected to struggle.

Ipswich took the plaudits but Charlton also enjoyed a successful return to the Premiership after three years of yo-yoing between divisions, with a respectable top-half finish.

While Ipswich and Charlton showed they deserved a place at the top of the table, Manchester City were forced to eat and run.

Joe Royle departed with City relegated and labeled a pub side, prompting local clubs all around the country to seek legal advice.

At the bottom of the table, the teams also contrived to create an utterly anti-climatic climax to the season. City went with a whimper, while Coventry's annual great escape never arrived and their 34-year grip on top-flight football was relaxed.

Bradford put their hopes in the hands of Chris Hutchings and soon saw it evaporate through his fingers.

Bryan Robson kept Middlesbrough up with a little help from his friends, while Peter Taylor showed why he's tipped as a future England boss by leading Leicester to nine consecutive defeats and an FA Cup exit at the hands of the mighty Wycombe Wanderers.

Southampton celebrated the end of The Dell with a Matt Le Tissier special. Glenn Hoddle also decided it was time for a move, jumping ship to return to Tottenham, who found their savior after ridding themselves of devil-in-disguise George Graham.

Everton's Alex Nyarko gave fans hope everywhere when he substituted himself and announced his retirement after being confronted by a fan after a typically inept and apathetic performance. If only politicians would give in so easily.

Collymore: The end
Collymore: The end
©Ross Kinnaird

The year also saw the end of a player who makes even Nyarko look committed - Stan Collymore. The sulking striker started the season at Leicester and ended it in early retirement.

Along the way, he had brief and relatively unsuccessful stints - even by his standards - at Bradford and Spain's Real Oviedo, before finally calling it a day for a well-earned rest and escape from the pressures of fame and misfortune.

And as the final whistle is blown on the season, there's the best news of all - it's only a few months until all the fun and games begin again.

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