Even with its champion decided three weeks ago and its Champions League spots decided last Sunday, the Premier League delivered drama on the final day
Here’s how things shook out.
Jonás Gutiérrez — Forget his club for a second. This man played in the Premier League the same season he beat testicular cancer. Moreover, he proved to be the key contributor in clinching another season of top-flight soccer for Newcastle, providing a sumptuous cross on the first goal before scoring the second himself. Whatever acrimony that may exist between Gutiérrez and the club, the Argentine is a big, big winner. Just ask Maradona.
Newcastle United — The Magpies went 10 matches and 85 days without a win before beating West Ham 2-0 on the final day of the season, but it was enough to stave off relegation and ultimately vault them up to 15th. Moussa Sissoko headed home the first goal in the 54th minute before Gutiérrez finished off the Hammers. Still, bitterly unpopular owner Mike Ashley has promised not to sell the club until Newcastle wins a major trophy (which it hasn’t done since 1955) or qualifies for the Champions League.
Hull City supporters — A total of 24,745 fans packed the KC Stadium on Sunday, and nearly all of them stayed until the final whistle despite Hull being relegated. Every fan has a bit of crazy jerk in them, and no region of the world is immune to bandwagoners, but this kind of passion and loyalty amid dire circumstances is endemic to English soccer and helps make the game great.
Theo Walcott — The forgotten Arsenal winger scored three times in a 4-1 win against West Brom, wowing and poking and poaching his way to a hat trick at the Emirates. Injured for much of the season, Walcott reminded everyone how talented and dangerous he can be. His performance earned him strong first-choice consideration for next season, or it boosted his transfer value. Either way, Walcott wins.
Hull City — A tumultuous couple of weeks for Hull culminated in relegation following a scoreless draw against Manchester United on Sunday. While Newcastle’s strong second half all but sealed the Tigers’ demise, they couldn’t capitalize on a man advantage after Marouane Fellaini was sent off in the 77th minute for an ugly challenge. The last time Hull was relegated, it took three seasons to get back to the Premier League. Will it be a quicker return this time?
Steve Bruce’s fondness for Manchester United — Bruce has always been classy in discussing his departure from United, which was rather abrupt and ungraceful. But Hull needed a win on Sunday to have any hope of staying in the Premier League, and who prevented that from happening? Manchester United. It’s not the Red Devils’ job to lie down, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Bruce is a bit sour toward them today.
Southampton — The Saints recorded their most wins, most points and highest finish ever in the Premier League, so they’re winners on pretty much every other day. But boy oh boy did Southampton miss a sitter in its quest to qualify for European competition for the first time in 11 years. With Liverpool flailing at the Britannia (see below), Southampton lost 2-0 at Manchester City to finish seventh, one spot shy of automatic qualification for the Europa League. Despite winning just twice in the final two months of the season, the Saints can still qualify if Arsenal wins the FA Cup next Saturday.
Liverpool — Somehow, some way, Liverpool found a way to make the final day miserable despite finishing 27 points clear of safety. The Reds were listless in a 6-1 destruction at the hands of Stoke City, falling behind 5-0 at halftime and conceding six goals in a league game for the first time in 52 years. Tabloid mainstay Raheem Sterling spent the game on the bench, Steven Gerrard scored his side’s only goal in his final game in a Liverpool shirt, and the Reds entered a critical summer on a humiliating note.