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Fulham vs Newcastle on final day is a Prem relegation shootout and £200m Championship play-off final in reverse

IT looks like being ‘game on’ now — Fulham versus Newcastle in an unprecedented final-day loser-goes-down shootout.

A £200million Championship play-off final in reverse. The most agonising fixture in Premier League history.

Scott Parker’s Fulham could face a £200m final day shootout with Newcastle
Newcastle fans are desperate to force Steve Bruce out of the club

Back-to-back victories for Brighton, including Saturday’s 3-0 stuffing of Newcastle, leave the Toon in a straight fight with Scott Parker’s side to avoid the final relegation place.

Newcastle lead Fulham by two points, have a game in hand and still get to play Sheffield United’s whipping boys, while Fulham do not.

Fulham have the top-flight’s worst home record and have scored just 23 goals in 30 games.

The Geordies have a proven Premier League goalscorer in Callum Wilson, soon to return from injury, while Fulham do not.

And yet all major bookmakers make Newcastle odds-on to go down, Fulham odds-on to stay up.

The bookies, unusually, are listening to mood music, not cold facts.

Fulham may have reduced the gap on Newcastle from ten points to two — but both clubs have taken just three points from their last four games.

Parker’s men were as comprehensively outplayed by Leeds on Friday as Newcastle were at Brighton.


Arsenal ace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a new deal at the club

Yet a thick fog of negativity shrouding Steve Bruce’s Tyneside reign has most observers convinced Newcastle are zombieing their way to relegation.

The one eventuality which would cause concern — even panic — at  Fulham would be the exit of Bruce.

When Newcastle turned in a display rightly described by Alan Shearer as ‘abysmal’ in a relegation six-pointer at the Amex, it felt like a cast-iron, ‘lost-the-dressing-room’, sacking result.

Newcastle have won twice in 18 Premier League games and Bruce admitted to a training-ground fight with Matt Ritchie.

He has turned on the local media and we head into an international break — the prime time for a sacking.

It is rare for the manager of an established Premier League club, who had not got that club promoted in the first place, to be allowed all season to take them down.

David Moyes at Sunderland in 2017 and Avram Grant at West Ham in 2011 are the only two recent examples.

Mike Ashley sacked managers during both his previous relegation campaigns as Newcastle owner. So while Bruce is a likeable man, with some significant successes on his CV, it was staggering to hear Newcastle briefing on Sunday that the Geordie will keep his job.

Graeme Jones joined Newcastle’s coaching staff in January

It feels, not for the first time, as if Ashley is deliberately goading the locals who loathe him.

When Graeme Jones was appointed to Bruce’s coaching team in January, and credited with a brief upturn in performances, he became the obvious short-term successor.

Yet Ashley will not even make that internal appointment — and Newcastle appear on a sleepwalk to the cliff’s edge.

They have far more Premier League experience than Fulham.

Yet 11 first-teamers have been relegated from the top flight — Paul Dummett, Jonjo Shelvey, Jamaal  Lascelles, Karl Darlow and Andy Carroll with Newcastle, Wilson and Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth, plus Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Federico Fernandez (Swansea), Javi Manquillo (Sunderland) and Jamal Lewis (Norwich).

Once you have suffered that slide before, you recognise the negative momentum. And some Newcastle players clearly want a management change.

Parker’s own relegation experiences have been unusual — he was Footballer of the Year in a rock-bottom West Ham team.

And he earned the Fulham job by improving performances as caretaker boss after taking over when their last relegation was virtually assured.

Mike Ashley appears to be sticking by the under-pressure Steve Bruce

This season, Parker has — just­ifiably — been lauded while managing a team rarely out of the bottom three.

Parker transformed a shambolic rabble into a side which became both hard to beat and watchable — largely through moulding seven strong loan players and a few cheap transfers into a proper Premier League unit.

Yet Fulham have consistently tossed away points through penalty misses, red cards, VAR blunders and rank-bad finishing.

One VAR howler came in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle in December when Wilson dived to win an equalising penalty, with Fulham skipper Joachim Andersen sent off — a decision  retrospectively overturned.

That would prove to be the season’s most-significant refereeing mistake, if Fulham drop.

In their last game and a half, Fulham’s defensive solidity crumbled as Manchester City and Leeds tore into them.

Parker’s Fulham are not quite as good as they are cracked up to be, while Newcastle’s predicament is not as hopeless as often suggested. But Ashley could have shifted momentum by sacking Bruce.

That he has not, raises the prospect of the squeakiest bum time of all, at Craven Cottage on May 23.

Harry Kane controversially won Tottenham a penalty at Aston Villa


WHEN a foreigner dives to win a penalty they are ‘cheats’ or, at best, streetwise, bad-assed dark-artists.

When the captain of England, Harry Kane, cunningly ‘wins’ a penalty at Aston Villa, we are told on Match of the Day that he has shown ‘great skill’.

And if he does it to win a game at the Euros, we will probably say the same . . . 


ASKED by the media whether finishing fifth in the Six Nations had ‘made him question himself’, England’s chippy rugby boss Eddie Jones replied ‘No, not at all’.

Presumably, Jones’ RFU bosses will ask him the same question privately, and if they get the same response, that should be the end of him.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United were dumped out of the FA Cup on Sunday


WHAT do Maurizio Sarri, Antonio Conte, Louis van Gaal, Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho, Kenny Dalglish, Roberto Di Matteo, Michael Laudrup and Juande Ramos have in common?

Since 2008, they have all been axed as Premier League managers while being the holders of a major trophy.

So Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wasn’t necessarily wrong to suggest league form, rather than trophies, are the measure of success — before he rested Bruno Fernandes and saw Manchester United dumped out of the FA Cup by Leicester.

Most football club owners clearly agree with him. But very few fans feel the same.


WHEN Gareth Southgate was asked about Trent Alexander- Arnold’s omission from the England squad, which includes Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Reece James, he referenced his wealth of right-back options.

He name-checked Luke Ayling of Leeds and Aston Villa’s Matty Cash, without mentioning Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

To be first-choice for Manchester United and seventh for England is a bizarre anomaly — and could see Wan-Bissaka play for DR Congo soon.

Joe Hart was left red-faced after a social media own goal last week


YOU’VE got to love the idea that Joe Hart employs a ‘social media team’, who were blamed for mistakenly posting a message reading ‘Job done’ when Tottenham were dumped out of  the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb.

I’m imagining a five-strong ‘team’, akin to Alan Partridge’s Pear Tree Productions, working in a ‘creative hub’, sipping smoothies and brainstorming ideas for the Spurs keeper’s Instagram posts — which average around two per week.

Hart, by the way, last played league football on Boxing Day 2018, when his Burnley side lost 5-1 to Everton.


THERE have been countless killjoy VAR moments — but we reached new depths at Craven Cottage on Friday.

Leeds’ Luke Ayling scored his first  Premier League ‘goal’, released his man-bun, played a lengthy head-banging air-guitar solo, then saw his effort ruled out as an arm was a fraction offside in the build-up.

Imagine the smug look on the moosh of the Stockley Park operative who detected that one.

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