|(C) PA/Getty Images|
Hull came into the season after a landmark campaign the previous year, which included a memorable run to Wembley. However, early promise has evaporated and a bad run of results means their fate depends on a final home game against Manchester United, of all teams. If they survive then the club's manager, a man of the North East, may end up relegating the club he supported as a youngster, as a by-product of his success.
Newcastle's season has taken place against a backdrop of huge supporter unrest mostly against the running of the club by owner Mike Ashley. Yet it looked around February as if they would be ok, following a steady run of results during the winter months. However, there was an enforced managerial change. A Geordie, a Newcastle United man through and through, was brought in at the helm, despite having very little outright managerial experience. Despite his best efforts, results have plummeted, meaning that he now may need three points against those boys in claret 'n' blue, though their opponents' star has faded since they were battling for the Champions' League places earlier in the campaign. The other professional clubs in North East England are also having a busy time of it. Sunderland, despite parting company with their manager mid-season, are still not mathematically safe and are looking over their shoulder, with a formidable Chelsea lying in wait on Sunday should things get that far. Middlesbrough, too, are in the headlines as a club fighting frantically for a Premier League future.
So the question is: what will be the final outcome? And the answer, I think you'll find, is as follows: Hull, Newcastle and Sunderland all lost their final games. Thus it came to pass, ladies and gentlemen, that on Sunday, 24th May 2009, Hull City stayed up in 17th place on 35 points, despite losing 1-0 to Manchester United at the KC Stadium. Despite falling away at an alarming rate in the second half of the 2008-09 Premier League season, survival was still a commendable achievement for a club who had never played in English football's top division before their promotion the previous season, achieved after beating Bristol City 1-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley. Manager Phil Brown, a boyhood Sunderland fan, felt sufficiently moved by Hull's survival to belt out an adapted rendition of The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" at the final whistle.
|Will any of this year's relegation-battled managers burst into|
(improvised) song if their club survives? (C) John Giles/PA
Fast forward six years and I do find it staggering how history has managed to repeat itself here (right in time with the calendar repeating, no less). Of course, Middlesbrough are fighting a different fight to that of six years ago; a play-off final with Norwich City on Monday (May 25th) and a chance of promotion, rather than staving off relegation. But the others are all in very similar positions, though Sunderland would be safe with a point at Arsenal (their game in hand) later this mid-week. The big difference, for me, could be that it is Newcastle - managed by lifelong fan John Carver - occupying the 17th place rather than, in 2008-09, Hull. However, looking at the Magpies' run of results and brittle confidence, one suspects that they will be relying on Hull (whose manager Steve Bruce, grew up supporting Newcastle!) to fail to beat Man United to survive. And, on balance of probability, that appears to be the most likely of the outcomes, for Bruce's record against his former club is not that great. However, that can always change, and I wouldn't want to be a fan of any of the teams, should they be relying on results elsewhere to go their way on Sunday.
Whatever happens, it looks as though history will repeat itself; in all likelihood, either the 17th placed team going into the final day will survive again, or Hull City - last season's FA Cup Finalists - will survive at the expense of Newcastle again. Which history, though, will it be? Or will they both prevail, say if they both win and Sunderland lose? By around 5pm on Sunday, 24th May 2015, the watching public should find out.
 - Generally, I have used "North East England" here to encompass a wider geographical area (including Humberside, where Hull is) than the term "the North East", which in my view has a more geographically specific meaning and starts further north than Humberside (though the exact area it spans is often the subject of debate in university halls!).
 - In fact, I think Hull - full name Kingston upon Hull - was before 2008 the biggest city (by postcode area?) in England not to have had representation in top-flight football.
 - For the avoidance of doubt, I do not intend, by bringing these up, to question the professional integrity of Steve Bruce or Phil Brown in any way; both are (or were) totally committed to getting a win for the team they are (were) managing. It's just that I noticed it added an extra layer of intrigue, and of similarity between the two years.