While Retirement Homes up and down the country batten down the hatches for Storm Emma and turn the heating low in the hope of freeing up a few beds, Britain’s two most eligible pensioners are keeping themselves warm trading memories of the past. Trophies, champagne and women, this pair have certainly filled their boots in careers that have spanned eight decades. Now, instead of taking the opportunity to have a well-earned rest, they’re back to the frontline of sports reporting, and are here again to provide us with the EFL round-up for February. You’ll have to excuse the endless passing of wind.
Saint: (singing) Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Greavsie, Haaaappy Birthday to yooooou!
Greavsie: Oh, thank you Saint. You shouldn’t ha….
Saint: Hip hip! Hooray! Hip hip! Hooray! Hip hip! Hooray!
Greavsie: No, really Saint. I don’t want a fuss. Just…
Saint: For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good feeeloowww! AND…
Greavsie: THAT’S ENOUGH CARRY ON NOW YOU JAM TART!
Saint: Oh, er, okay. Sorry Jim. Err… did you have a nice birthday?
Greavsie: I’m 78 years old, Saint. What do you reckon?
Saint: Oh I remember my 78th birthday. What a night! A lovely meal, surrounded by friends and family, a few cheeky brandys. A wonderful occasion.
Greavsie: That’s funny…I don’t remember that.
Saint: Ah, no, well. I think you were busy. It was a small affair really. Just close family, and the 1965 FA Cup winners squad. You know.
Greavsie: Oh right, I see.
Saint: What did you do for yours?
Greavsie: I sat on my own, I ate three Fray Bentos pies, drank a bottle of cheap scotch, and passed out in front of Countdown.
Saint: Och, you silly sod. Why didn’t you invite me over? We could have had a game of Mahjong and made inappropriate jokes about the Chinese.
Greavsie: I did, but you said you were busy. Something to do with your granddaughter’s graduation.
Saint: Oh, aye. That’s right. Early graduation. Terribly busy day. Couldn’t make it. Anyway I got you a present.
Greavsie: You soft sod! You shouldn’t have. What is it?
Saint: Go on, open it!
Greavsie: Right you are [opens present]. Oh, Viagra. That’s…thank you.
Saint: I’ve heard incredible things about it. Thought maybe if you plucked up the courage to ask Betty to the dance you might get some use out of it, eh?
Greavsie: Well maybe. Tell you what, I’ll try one now and see how it goes.
Saint: Err, I’m not sure it’s…
Greavsie: [swallows pill] ooft, they’re big aren’t they?
Saint: Aye they are. Well, shall we have a look at the football before you get too amorous?
Greavsie: It’s tighter than a gnat’s chuff at the top of the Championship.
Saint: That it is Jim. Wolves are still running away at the top, but there’s three or four sides vying for that second place. This month, however, Cardiff City have made a real push to make that spot their own, recording four wins and a draw, and extending Neil Warnock’s contract.
Greavsie: Neil Warnock?
Saint: Colin Wanker.
Greavsie: Oh yeah. Of course. So what’s their secret been?
Saint: Well a very mean defence has kept four clean sheets on the bounce, with Sol Bamba and Bruno Manga at the heart of it. Warnock’s reputation for setting up his teams to be hard to beat has certainly been upheld, but an excellent 4-1 win at Elland Road at the start of the month goes to show that they’re more than just bus-parkers.
Greavsie: Aren’t Fulham there or thereabouts?
Saint: They are Jim, and with on-loan striker Aleksander Mitrovic scoring twice in his last two appearances, they may just have happened upon the goalscorer to push Cardiff all the way. Aston Villa will also have a thing or two to say about that second automatic spot come the end of the season if they can continue their good form.
Greavsie: What about the playoffs?
Saint: Well besides Cardiff, Villa and Fulham, Derby County are looking shoo-ins to extend their season, as they sit comfortably in fourth place. Bristol City on the other hand are in danger of dropping out after their excellent start to the season. Losing a three goal lead at home to bottom club Sunderland was the perfect demonstration of a fragile mentality that has set in since their League Cup exit. Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Preston and Brentford are all on standby should the Robins drop out of the playoff places.
Greavsie: Any other London based news?
Saint: Well it’s actually been an excellent month for Millwall.
Greavsie: Ah Millwall. The Lions. The New Den. Raw meat. Circuses. Marvelous.
Saint: Yes, quite. Neil Harris’ side went through February unbeaten in the Championship, registering four wins and a draw. The fixture list may have been a little kind, with four of those five opponents sitting in the bottom half of the table, but its lifted the Lions away from the relegation zone, and they’ve all but secured their place in the league for next season. In fact, if they can keep this form up, they might even be an outside bet for the playoffs.
Greavsie: Strike a light! How’s that happened then?
Saint: Well, much like Cardiff, Millwall’s success has been founded on a tight defence that doesn’t give too much away. They only conceded two goals in February, and tend to play their most effective football in the last quarter of games – five of their seven goals have come after the hour mark. It looks as though Harris’ fitness regime is finally paying dividends.
Greavsie: Any news on QPR?
Saint: Well it was looking like a fairly average month for Ian Holloway’s team – two wins and two draws – before Nottingham Forest arrived last weekend and battered them 5-2. Forest themselves had been on a wretched run of late, but QPR’s hospitality was a little too tempting to pass up, and the result saw the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Hoops. QPR are still nine points above the drop zone though, so should be fine.
Greavsie: Well who’s down there then?
Saint: Still the usual suspects. Sunderland have gone another month without a win and are now bottom of the league, though Burton Albion have shown some fighting spirit in recent weeks, while a good run of results has seen Bolton Wanderers fight their way out of the relegation zone, putting Hull City and Barnsley in trouble in the process.
Greavsie: Anyone looking like they’re in big trouble?
Saint: It was a pretty dreadful month for Birmingham City, despite beginning it with a win at Sheffield Wednesday. Four straight defeats, including a 5-0 walloping at Brentford and a home loss to relegation rivals Barnsley, has put the Blues right back in it, though most worrying for Steve Cotterill will be the side’s lack of goals – they haven’t scored in their last four.
Greavsie: They should never have sacked Harry!…Saint, is it…is it getting hot in here?
Saint: Erm, no I don’t think so Jim.
Greavsie: I suddenly feel flushed. Shall we move on to League One?
Saint: Well it’s been all change at the top this month!
Greavsie: Apart from The Shrews!
Saint: Aye, Shrewsbury Town’s incredible season continues, and they’re still in the automatic places, but Blackburn Rovers are now in top spot, thanks in no small part to Wigan’s cup exploits. The Latics do have three games in hand on the league leaders, but a couple of defeats in recent weeks has rocked confidence at the DW somewhat.
Greavsie: I see Rotherham had another good month. To me!
Saint: To you! They did aye, but they’re not alone. Perhaps one of the most amazing stories in League One this year has been the form of Plymouth Argyle.
Greavsie: Hold on a minute. The old Pilgrims? Weren’t we talking about them going down not so long ago?
Saint: Indeed we were, Jim, but Plymouth are now sat with a big old smile on their face in the final play-off place, having hit an incredible run of form. They recorded five wins in February, and have jumped from mid-table to sixth position, having been bottom of the league in November. The goals from two summer signings, Ruben Lameiras and Ryan Taylor, have proved the catalyst for this run of form, and with their next two fixtures against teams fighting relegation, they could seriously entrench themselves in the play-off spots over the course of the next month.
Greavsie: What a story! I suppose Charlton are still in the mix?
Saint: Well…Plymouth have actually leapfrogged Charlton during that amazing run…
Saint: But the Addicks are still in the race for the playoffs, though they’re not alone – Bradford City, Portsmouth and Peterborough United are close behind, though none of them can string together a run of results.
Greavsie: Sounds like me at a prostate exam.
Saint: What an image. Elsewhere its been quite the month for Southend United and Chris Powell. The new manager took over from Phil Brown after a poor run of results, and is yet to lose a game since taking over in the last week of January. The former Shrimpers full-back, in his first job since being sacked by Huddersfield in 2015, has galvanised the side, and saw his team register three wins and a draw in February. Undoubtedly the highlight of the month was the 3-1 home win against Wigan Athletic, while Powell’s attacking instinct has clearly rubbed off on Southend right-back Jason Demetriou, who registered a brace against Portsmouth. Anything more than the safety of mid-table might be too much to ask at this late stage of the season, but if Powell can instill this winning mentality into his side going into next season, they could mount a serious promotion bid.
Greavsie: Very nice. And let’s not forget his excellent portrayal of Jesus Christ.
Saint: I think you’re thinking of Robert Powell there, Jim.
Greavsie: Potato potarto. What about the stragglers down the bottom?
Saint: Well Rochdale sit at the foot of the table, though they have four games in hand due to their pitch being relayed at the behest of Tottenham Hotspur.
Greavsie: Classic Spurs, that. What a club.
Saint: Meanwhile Bury look, well, buried, and MK Dons have got a struggle on their hands to survive, which will be music to the ears of AFC Wimbledon supporters. The surprise name down the bottom are Fleetwood Town, who reached the playoffs last season but have sunk like a stone this time around. Manager Uwe Rosler was sacked this month after a string of poor results, and five defeats and a draw certainly is relegation form. John Sheridan has been brought in to change the Cod Army’s fortunes, but Oldham Athletic, sitting one place below Fleetwood and just below that relegation line, have them in their sights.
Greavsie: Good grief, it all sounds very dramatic. Now, I’m starting to get a tingling sensation in my underpants, so shall we move on to League Two?
Saint: Well Luton Town are still top of the pack, but Notts County have slipped out of the automatic places after some inconsistent performances during February.
Greavsie: So who’s replaced them? Is it Barnet?!
Saint: No, Jim. It’s not Barnet. They’re still bottom. In fact it’s the Milk Advertising Board’s favourite team Accrington Stanley!
Saint: That never gets old. Stanley have stormed into second this month, having won five and drawn one. Do you know who the only team to stop them this month was, Jim?
Greavsie: Was it Barnet?!
Saint: Yes, actually. Accrington could only manage a point at Underhill, but four wins, the most impressive away at Coventry City, have put them right in the promotion frame. Top scorer Billy Kee has been ably assisted this month with goals from Kayden Jackson and Jordan Clark, while the three clean sheets kept by ‘keeper Aaron Chapman have certainly gone a long way to ensure John Coleman’s side have picked up points. March brings tough trips to Newport and Luton, but if they can keep their heads above the playoffs they might finally earn that promotion this time around.
Greavsie: Good for them. Anyone else doing anything of any note?
Saint: Well Carlisle United are on something of a mini-streak having won their last three, though fixtures against Barnet…
Greavsie: …oh for fu…
Saint: …Chesterfield and Yeovil have hardly been the most testing.
Greavsie: You cheeky sod.
Saint: While it’s also been a decent month from Cambridge United, as wins over Notts County, Yeovil and Chesterfield have seen them edge closer to comfort.
Greavsie: Come on then, what’s going on at the bottom?
Saint: Well Barnet are now six points adrift of safety.
Greavsie: Oh Gordon Bennett!
Saint: But they’re in good company, with Chesterfield sitting just a point ahead of them.
Greavsie: They’ve certainly fallen from grace.
Saint: Indeed, Jim. The Spirites are now looking odds on for back to back relegations.
Greavsie: So what’s happened there then?
Saint: Well the rotating cast of managers certainly hasn’t helped. Current Wigan boss Paul Cook, who got Portsmouth promoted last season and is carving himself something of a reputation in the football league, took Chesterfield up to League One back in 2014. At the end of the following season, with Chesterfield losing out in the playoff semis, Cook left his post to be replaced by Dean Saunders.
Greavsie: Oh. Is he a good manager?
Saint: He’s absolutely bobbins, Jim. Unsurprisingly Saunders didn’t last very long, and Danny Wilson came in halfway through the following season, saving the Spirites from relegation. Wilson went halfway through the season after that, Gary Caldwell took over, and then they got relegated. Now, with Jack Lester in charge, they’ve been floating around the bottom two all season, and with a five point gap between them and Port Vale, it’s not looking promising.
Greavsie: Oh dear oh dear, what a sorry state of affairs.
Saint: I know. And it doesn’t even seem that long ago that they were in an FA Cup semi-final.
Greavsie: No I’m not talking about Chesterfield, Saint. I’m talking about this [points at crotch].
Saint: Oh for Gods sake, Jimmy! Put it away!
Greavsie: I can’t!
Saint: Well, strap it up or something. Jesus Christ.
Greavsie: Right, I’m off to find Betty. It’s now or never!
Saint: Just be careful you don’t give yourself a heart attack. Thanks for joining us readers, and be sure to drop in next time. All the best.