Like the bingo caller in God’s waiting room who still dreams of making it as an actor in the West End regardless of the fact that he’s been stuck in this semi-regular gig for the past twenty years, Saint and Greavsie are back in an attempt to remain relevant in an every changing world. With Easter weekend bringing two lots of fixtures, the septuagenarian pair have arrived a day early to pore over the majority of March’s EFL action and cast their cataract inflicted views over the movers and shakers.
Saint: (singing) You make me feel so young…
Greavsie: Oh, is that right Saint?
Saint: …you make me feel like spring has sprung…
Greavsie: It has, did you put your clocks forward?
Saint: …everytime I see you grin…
Greavsie: Leave off, you know how self-conscious I am about my Hampstead Heath.
Saint: …I’m such a happy individual.
Greavsie: Well that’s very sweet of you to say, Saint. Though I should tell you that I’m not that way inclined.
Saint: The moment that you speak…
Greavsie: What, right now?
Saint: …I want to run and play hide-and-seek…
Greavsie: Yeah, halitosis. Need to see the dentist about that.
Saint: …I want to go and bounce on the moon…
Greavsie: That’s probably a bit too far.
Saint: …Just like a big balloon.
Greavsie: No, it’s made of cheese, Saint. I saw it on the news.
Saint: And even when I’m old and grey…
Greavsie: I’m sorry to break this to you but, you are.
Saint: …I’m gonna feel the way I do today…
Greavsie: Drunk, by the looks of it.
Saint: …cos you make me feel so young!
Greavsie: Well, thank you. That was lovely.
Saint: Oh, spring is here, Jim. Chicks and lambs and chocolate eggs. Light nights and long days, and what’s more the climax of the football season. I’m so excited!
Greavsie: I didn’t realise you were such a fan.
Saint: Its just a relief to get through another winter Jim. Those cold, dark and lonely nights do drag when you get to our age. I think I might have SAD.
Greavsie: Sad what? Bollocks? Yeah I’ve seen them.
Saint: No, no, you daft aphid. SAD. S-A-D. Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Greavsie: Sounds like another one of those namby pamby diseases all these millennials get. ADHD or BSE or HIV. Load of old nonsense.
Saint: Well you think what you like Jim, all I know is I feel great now the sun’s out.
Greavsie: I’m pleased for you Saint. Shall we, you know, get on with some football?
Saint: Aye, absolutely. I’ve got a meeting in about twenty minutes so we’d better make a start.
Greavsie: A meeting? With the Arabs?
Saint: No, no, no, nothing like that. I’m not Andy Gray! No, no. It’s nothing to concern you.
Greavsie: Oh. Okay. Let’s have a look at Endsleigh Division One then.
Greavsie: Looks like its been another good month for those Bluebirds.
Saint: It has indeed, Jim. Another three weeks for Colin’s boys has extended the lead over third placed Fulham, who themselves have remained unbeaten in March. There’s plenty of football still to play, but I’d stick my neck out and say Wolves and Cardiff will be playing Premier League football next season.
Greavsie: So who are the contenders for that third promotion spot? QPR? Brentford? Millwall?!
Saint: While it’s not mathematically impossible for any of those sides to sneak into the playoffs, you’d have to say only Millwall have an outside chance. Third and fourth spot look pretty much sewn up, and Aston Villa supporters will be disappointed having been part of the chasing pack for automatic promotion a couple of months ago.
Greavsie: What happened?
Saint: After starting the month with two comprehensive victories – the first a 3-0 win at bottom side Sunderland and the second a fantastic 4-1 victory over league leaders Wolves, it seems that a spot of complacency set in, and three days after the Wolves victory, Villa were well beaten by QPR…
Greavsie: You can’t rule out QPR!
Saint: …who’ve largely been awful this season.
Saint: They followed that with a defeat at lowly Bolton, and they face Hull City this evening needing a win to turn the tide a little after a sudden drop in confidence.
Greavsie: So who’s on their tails?
Saint: Well, as usual, Derby County are making a good fist of it, but don’t be surprised if their annual slide out of the play off places begins in earnest this weekend, and just behind them are Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough.
Greavsie: Oh that’s where he is, I had wondered.
Saint: Yep, the long-ball maestro popped up on Teeside earlier this season, and he’s slowly turned Boro into a solid, functional outfit, who might just scrap their way back into the Premier League at the fist attempt.
Greavsie: (spits) Good riddance
Saint: Quite. Three wins and a draw in March helped them leapfrog the neutrals favourites, Bristol City, and a lot of that is down to Patrick Bamford. The former Chelsea youngster has finally found his shooting boots after struggling for goals in the past few seasons, and his five strikes in March, including a hat-trick against Leeds United, played a massive part in Boro’s ten point haul.
Greavsie: Good for him. But we don’t want to be talking about teams going up to that league, do we? How about the stragglers down the bottom.
Saint: Well we said last month that Burton Albion had been resurgent.
Greavsie: Ah yes, the good old Brewers!
Saint: That’s right. Unfortunately, March has seen something of a Brewer’s droop.
Greavsie: Oh dear. We’ve all been there.
Saint: You certainly have. The lowest scorers in the Championship have managed just one goal in March, and that was a consolation strike at Wolves. Three defeats and a goalless draw have seen them slip back down into the depths, though fortunately for them the rest of the sides in the relegation scrap are just as useless, so they’re still only three points from safety.
Greavsie: Who else is in trouble down there?
Saint: I’d say that win for Bolton against Aston Villa might have just made them safe, so it’s three from five between Reading, Barnsley, Birmingham, Burton and Sunderland. The Royals threw their last roll of the dice by sacking Jaap Stam last week – whether that gamble will pay off remains to be seen, while Garry Monk earned his first win as Birmingham boss last time out. If pushed, I’d say Sunderland, Burton and Barnsley will be the ones to drop.
Greavsie: Even more strife for the north. Deary me. At least there’s a few northern sides likely to replace them next season. Let’s have a look at Division Two shall we?
Saint: Back at the top of the league, for the time being at least, its Shrewsbury Town!
Greavsie: The Shrews!
Saint: That’s right, Jim. Blackburn’s stay at the summit of League One didn’t last very long, and though Wigan are sat a point behind them with two games in hand, Shrewsbury head into Easter weekend top of the pile after another excellent month. Three wins and a draw, including a fantastic result away at Scunthorpe has seen the Shrews leapfrog Rovers once again, as the three horse race for those two automatic spots hots up once again. I must say, I didn’t expect Shrewsbury to last the distance, and if they can hang on to a promotion place it will be a marvelous achievement for Paul Hurst and his players.
Greavsie: Good for them. But how are the playoffs shaping up?
Saint: Well whoever misses out on automatic promotion will surely be involved in the playoffs, while Rotherham United look to have secured their place too. The final two playoff spots are up for grabs, and I’d have to say there’s probably six sides vying for them. Bradford and Charlton are outsiders now thanks to both enduring poor runs of form, while it remains to be seen if Plymouth can sustain their surge up the table. The biggest question mark, though, probably hangs over Scunthorpe United.
Greavsie: Language, Timothy!
Saint: Did I say that wrong? Oh I see, its THORPE. That makes more sense. Anyway, the Irons…
Greavsie: West Ham? (Singing) I’m forever blowing bubbles…
Saint: No you stupid Scunthorpe! The Irons of Lincolnshire. Anyway, they’ve just been on an eight game run without a win, so they’ve gone and sacked the manager Graham Alexander.
Greavsie: Seems harsh…
Saint: It is harsh, Jim. They’re in the playoff spots for goodness sake! Though in current form they might not stay there much longer. You have to go back to the start of February for their last win, and the three Ps are closing in on their fifth spot.
Greavsie: Well it all sounds very exciting. How’s it looking down the bottom?
Saint: It’s pretty tight down there too, though John Sheridan seems to have done the job at Fleetwood Town and pulled them away from the drop zone after an unbeaten month. From 18th down, though, you’d have to say everyone’s in a spot of bother.
Greavsie: Anyone looking like getting out of it?
Saint: You’d have to fancy Northampton Town, under the guidance of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, to have a chance of escaping. The Dutch striker has proved his nous in the lower leagues with Burton Albion, and they’ve certainly looked more likely to get out of it since taking over. Rochdale still have a couple of games in hand on their rivals, so they might just squeak over the line, while Oldham and AFC Wimbledon are both looking nervously over their shoulders.
Greavsie: Care to venture any predictions, Saint?
Saint: If you’re going to hold a gun to my head…
Greavsie: I can put it away if you’d prefer?
Saint: Please. I think Wigan and Blackburn will be taking the automatic spots, Rotherham will go up through the playoffs, and Bury, Rochdale, MK Dons and Oldham Athletic will end up relegated.
Greavsie: Right, I’m off down the bookies to put my pension on that! Shall we head over to Division Four?
Saint: It’s very much a case of as you were at the top of the League Two table, Luton Town are still top of the pile, though Accrington Stanley have reeled them in somewhat in recent weeks. Wycombe fill the final automatic place, while its getting tight in the playoffs.
Greavsie: Who’s in there then? Barnet?
Saint: No, not Barnet, Jim. We’ll get to them. Notts County, who’ve been in the automatic places for most of the season, have faltered slightly and now find themselves in fourth, while fifth and sixth are sides we’ve barely discussed this season.
Greavsie: Who’s that then?
Saint: Well in fifth is Exeter City, manged by Paul Tisdale, the longest serving manager in the football league.
Greavsie: Is he the clown with the hats?
Saint: That’s the chap. Tisdale has recently said he’s considering his future at Exeter after this season, particularly if they don’t get promoted, and you can’t blame him, having been down at St James’ Park for 12 years.
Greavsie: Blimey, you get less than that for armed robbery.
Saint: Now, two wins last week have managed to turn a difficult month round for Exeter, but problems at both ends of the pitch have plagued them this season, and you’d have to say they’re probable outsiders when it comes to winning the playoffs. The same can’t be said of Coventry City.
Greavsie: Coventry City are down in Division Four? Bleeding hell. They haven’t seen that kind of bombing since the 1940s.
Saint: That’s a little in poor taste don’t you think? Anyway, three wins and a draw in March have seen the Sky Blues consolidate their spot in the playoff places, and they’re coming into form at just the right time. After a miserable decade, they might be heading in the right direction. Marc McNulty’s four goals in four games has been a big factor in Coventry’s resurgence, and they’re now just two points behind Notts County in third.
Greavsie: Well, good for Coventry City. Now then, let’s talk about Barnet.
Saint: Let’s indeed. Mad Dog Martin Allen is back at The Hive.
Greavsie: Did he ever really leave?
Saint: Yes, four times. Though this time around he’s got a pretty big job on his hands. After bringing the Bees back into the Football League in 2015, he’s now been tasked with keeping them there, but with just seven games to play and seven points separating them from safety, they’re going to need an enormous collapse from Grimsby Town to make it.
Greavsie: Any silver linings, Saint?
Saint: Well they’ve got some handy fixtures coming up, with a trip to Grimsby following the visit of Forest Green Rovers giving Barnet half a chance to get themselves back in touch come the last weekend of the season. A game at home to fellow relegation candidates Chesterfield on the last day could give us a grandstand finish to the season.
Greavsie: So it’s all to play for then!
Saint: For the time being, yes, but if I’m being honest, I can’t see those bottom two escaping the mess they’re in I’m afraid.
Greavsie: Oh. And going up?
Saint: Well Luton Town are shoe-ins, and I fancy Accrington Stanley to get the job done this time around. Notts County may have dropped off but I think they’ve got enough to overtake Wycombe by the end of the season, and as for the playoffs? I fancy Coventry City.
Greavsie: You’re going to make me a millionaire!
Saint: Well just remember to gamble responsibly – speaking of becoming a millionaire, I’d best be off to my meeting.
Greavsie: What’s this meeting all about?
Saint: I say meeting, it’s more an audition really. I’m hoping to get a job on the cruiseships!
Greavsie: What, after dinner speaking?
Saint: No you silly sod. I could stay in this hellhole if I wanted to do that. I’m going to be a singer. Finally I get to walk in the footsteps of my idol, Jane McDonald.
Greavsie: And what about me? What about our column?
Saint: Ach, you’ll be fine Jim. Worst comes to worst you can invite one of your World Cup pals to take my place.
Greavsie: Leave it out. I don’t want any of those ratbags sullying our name. I’d rather die.
Saint: Suit yourself. Anyway, readers, until next time!