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Worthy Champions On the final Saturday of the season, Manchester City manager Manuel
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Worthy Champions On the final Saturday of the season, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini signed autographs and posed with fans for pictures. Air Max 97 Store . Less than 24 hours later, the Chilean was being thrown into the air by his jubilant players underneath him, the unlikeliest Premier League champion. A year ago to the day many of those players walked off the famous Wembley pitch as losers, to lowly Wigan in the FA Cup final. Many said then that manager Roberto Mancini should be given another year but no one in Manchester cares about the Italians whereabouts today. Citys title victory signaled their second in three years; the start, perhaps, of a dynasty in the Premier League but, in truth, their second one was very different to their first. This is a different kind of City. The noisy neighbors, as once dubbed by a rude, naïve Sir Alex Ferguson, beat United two years ago in the most narrow of circumstances, goal difference. That year City were abysmal for over three months on the field while allowing the petulant Carlos Tevez to stay in Argentina, the immature Mario Balotelli to continue to disobey team rules and the mouthpiece Mancini to comment far too aggressively on far too many topics. City were champions but didnt stand for what they felt they should stand for. Enter Chief Executive Ferran Soriano and Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain. For a year, much like they did at Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard before getting Pep Guardiola, they watched and took it all in. Last season City never looked like winning the title, falling behind by 12pts by the end of February and by 15pts at the end of March. They lacked width, had no real identity and creative players like Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri looked lost. Enter Pellegrini. City needed a manager who would never be bigger than the club, whose calmness and belief in his players would help the team on the pitch. His first test regularly came away from home. In September he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head in disbelief when his team lost at Aston Villa. Theyd played three away games and won none of them. By the fifth away game, at Chelsea, Citys latest setback was called a crisis by the media. The team was, supposedly, not a good side away from home but Pellegrini knew just how incorrect that statement was. Results are crucial, of course, but losses at Cardiff and Aston Villa should have been victories and City were outstanding in the second half at Stamford Bridge before Joe Hart lost his mind for a second and allowed Fernando Torres to score a late winner. Pellegrini kept his head and believed in his team. Quietly results started to match performances, yet it would be months before City would be top again. On the morning of April 21st, City woke up nine points back of Liverpool. In 21 days the season would be over and they had five leagues games remaining to Liverpools three. A win against West Brom that night started a run of five straight victories that culminated in a much-deserved title. It is easy to say City bought another trophy but this Premier League powerhouse is not at a level, yet, where they are easily unlikeable. Their style of play has to be admired, dictated by genuine world-class stars like David Silva, Yaya Toure and, when healthy, Sergio Aguero. Right now City is responsible for bringing such wonderful talents to the English game. It is clear their place at the top table of English football is here to stay but, so far, their inconsistencies have meant they havent always laid claim to the giant throne. Until now. Smart, shrewd leadership has made its way from the boardroom to the dugout and on to the pitch. Noisy neighbors? More like ruthless, quiet assassins led by a real gentleman in Pellegrini. Champions League Qualifiers Liverpools season had a cruel, unfortunate final act dubbed ‘the collapse by some but it is all too simple to say that without Steven Gerrards slip against Chelsea and the ‘Cyrstanbul 3-3 the Reds would have won the league. It was a year that Liverpool locked up talisman Luis Suarez and then spent the rest of the campaign showing him just why he should stay. Just quite what the striker decides to do next is anyones guess, after all he did turn his back on the club last summer after they had gone out of their way to support him in his darkest hours. Thankfully, for the club, Suarez, and the sport, once he returned from his suspension in September, dark days disappeared and the Uruguayan shone brighter than any other player in the league, on his way to matching Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer on 31 league goals. Chelseas year was, naturally, all about Jose Mourinho. He started the season proclaiming ‘this is a team of kids, it is not a team to win tomorrow and he spent the season proving himself right. He also remolded the side, making them much more difficult to break down, while selling on Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne, Tomorrow came and went for the Blues and next season, with presumably one very good new striker, they will be much stronger, not least in central midfield where the likes of Nemanja Matic, Ramires, Marco Van Ginkel, and possibly, Paulinho can take over games at a level that Eden Hazard and Willian did this year. Arsenal spent more days than any team at the top of the table but were out of the title hunt with two months to go. Again. The Gunners blew away many teams in the bottom half of the league, helping them race to 22pts through the first nine games. Arsene Wenger still kept his job despite three humiliating performances away from home at the teams above Arsenal and after allowing the club to go through the entire campaign with one legitimate striker. Of the 20 teams in the league this season, only Everton and Newcastle have spent (net) less than Arsenal in the past five years. Some feel the club continues to overachieve based on this but for a team that is supposed to be big, surely it is time for the club to find a man who puts pressure on rich owners to spend more money and take such a fantastic club to a position it deserves. Europa League Qualifiers Everton finished fifth under the magnificent Roberto Martinez after another entertaining season on the pitch and a tremendously smart campaign in the transfer market. The same could not be said for Tottenham who threw away the season the moment Andre Vilas Boas was sacked. This wonderful club, that has had so many flamboyant, skillful artists play for them lost its way this year and end the season without a real manager or identity. Hull City, under a calm Steve Bruce, were welcome arrivals to the league and never looked in danger of dropping down to the Championship. Their successful season was rewarded with a spot in the FA Cup final and although their league campaign took a turn for the worse late in the season they should be applauded for targeting Premier League caliber players who helped them stay up. The good, the bad and the ugly of mid-table Manchester United finally had the season all the detractors dreamed of. Their worst campaign for 25 years hit rock bottom in April when David Moyes was sacked. It was time, after far too many woeful performances, but at least he showed just how poor many of United players are. No matter which Scotsman was in charge at United, it was clear changes were needed and now it will be interesting to see what the Glazers do after being backed into a corner, one where piles of paper are stashed in a box labeled ‘bad contracts. Southampton finished a wonderful eighth place and brought a fresh, vibrant attacking style to the league. Many of those behind it were, surprisingly, English and the national team manager Roy Hodgson could do worse than send Mauricio Pocchetino a bottle of his favourite red wine for helping some of his players improve dramatically over the cause of a season. Stoke City moved on without Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes rescued his career as they finished a record high ninth, just ahead of Newcastle United who, unlike Stoke, had a tumultuous campaign. It is hard to take club chairman Mike Ashley seriously anymore. Many of his decisions form a moronic pattern. He didnt change the name of the stadium this season but the hiring of Joe Kinnear was a disgrace, as was the latters interview, soon after, on national radio where he mispronounced many of the players at his team. It was like a scene from a comedy show. The episode continued for the Magpies as they spent no money on players, sold their best player in the final week of the window, didnt replace him, let go of Kinnear, watched their manager head-butt an opposing player and then saw the team fall to pieces, claiming just 16pts from their last 19. As the season ended, this proud, historic club, supported by brilliant football fans, who deserve far more, was in the gutter. For Ashley, of course, it was a successful season as they made lots of money and finished mid-table. Many clubs would have swapped with Newcastle but, in truth, all ten teams in the bottom half of the league were below average.Crystal Palace were the best of the rest, a remarkable climb from the mess Ian Holloway had left them in. when they had just three points at the end of October.  “We didnt keep the same spirit, with some of the new lads coming in, some of their attitudes I am finding very annoying. Someone else can come in and make that right,” said Holloway as he resigned. Pulis came in and did exactly that. The Relegation Battle The race to mediocrity and the prize of safety that came with it was long, exhausting and very frustrating for many other teams who battled with their own identities. Swansea let go of Michael Laudrup and appointed Garry Monk to get back to the way Huw Jenkins demanded, Sam Allardyce bored his own fans towards safety with a brand of football they disliked. While outsiders told them to be thankful for survival, the intelligent fans, paying good money to watch their beloved Hammers, hit back with hours upon hours of evidence in their favor. Sunderland performed a miracle, winning four in a row in late April and early May after losing five in a row in late March and early April. Aston Villa, one of just three teams in the bottom ten who didnt change their manager, actually went backwards after a dreadful season that was even worse than last year. This once big club has paid a heavy price for previous managers spending money freely and is fortunate to still be in the top flight after three woeful campaigns in a row. Spare a thought for their home fans, whove now watched just 15 wins from their last 57 home games during that stretch. West Brom fans knew too well just how bad ‘the Villa were but had an even worse season, finishing just one spot off the bottom three after finishing eighth just one year ago. The sacking of Steve Clarke in December seemed premature and his just over one point per game ratio wasnt bettered by his successor, Pepe Mel, who took over a team in 16th and finished 17th. Down into the Championship went Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff. All had very different stories of woe. Cardiff, forced to play in the wrong colour all season, were in shambles under owner Vincent Tan, Fulham copied the QPR model for signing too many players and having no identity while Norwich, quite simply, couldnt score goals. No one wants to see their team relegated but, quietly, some Norwich fans will surely be excited at the prospect of playing at a level next season that they will be able to cope with, where they can express themselves and remove the brake that seemed to stunt their progress during their three-year existence in the Premier League. The sport is, after all, in the entertainment business. No matter which side you supported the 2013/14 Premier League certainly did bring entertainment. In the end it came down to a battle between two clubs who scored over 100 goals! In a sport that can be often over regulated, shackled by tactical systems and ‘parked buses, two North West teams exploded with wonderful precision making the hardest thing in the game look easy, time and time again. Kevin Keegans Newcastle was once the reference point for an attacking team in the historical world of the Premier League. They wouldnt have come close to handling these two.   Air Force 1 Store . Tony Parker had 33 points and nine assists and San Antonio never trailed in a resounding 116-92 victory over Portland, bullying the younger Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. Air Max Outlet Online Store . While hell be dialed in to that tournament on a course he loves, you can forgive him if his eyes glance down the calendar just a bit, towards April. http://www.cheapestairmaxstore.com/fake-...cheap.html . Moments after his Brooklyn Nets teammates ran out onto the court to congratulate him following their 100-98 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, Johnson could only shake his head at scoring only 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting.The Jets are back to an even 13-13-4 on the season, 6-7-1 on the road and 3-2 on their current six-game road trip after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Florida Panthers. These are frustrating games for players, coaches and fans - games where you know you are the better team but where "any team can beat you on any given night" comes into play.  Panthers meanwhile snapped a three-game losing streak. The Jets got off to the good start with Andrew Ladds goal just 5:27 in giving them the early 1-0 lead. It was Ladds eighth goal of the year with assists going to Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler on the marker. Little now has gone seven without a goal, but in his last 18 games, he has seven goals and 12 assists. In the last 18 games, he has not gone back-to-back games without a point and continues to lead the Jets in scoring. Eric Gudbranson later tied the game with his second of the year in a period where the Jets outshot the Panthers 12-9. In the second, a play that started with a big hit by Gudbranson on Toby Enstrom in the Panthers zone led to an odd-man rush and the first NHL goal for Dylan Olsen. That came at 3:21 of the period and, despite a number of great chances, the Jets couldnt get the tying goal past Tim Thomas before Tomas Fleischmann at 17:59 made it 3-1. Fleischmann, battling an offensive slump, has always put up good numbers against the Jets. In fact, he now has 53 career multiple-point games with 11 of them against the Jets. The Jets outshot the Panthers 11-10 in for the period. Nick Bjugstad made it a 4-1 game before former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen, with his seventh of the year, made it 4-2. Seven goals matches his goal total from last season and  Jokinen now has four points in two games (two goals and two assists,) while the assist by Devin Setoguchi gives him five points iin his last five games (three goals and two assists. Cheapest Jordan 1 Store. ) Chris Thorburn hit a goal post shortly thereafter, but that is as close as the Jets would get as Jimmy Hayes ended the scoring at 17:16 for a 5-2 final. The Jets outshot the Panthers 31-26. It was the first time on this trip the Jets have allowed more than two goals against. The Jets outhit the Panthers 46-19. Players were first to step up after the game and admit that they were not ready to play. But "why" is the question as to which that there did not seem to be a consistent answer. "The game wasnt very good," said a frustrated Jets coach Claude Noel to open his post-game news conference. "We didnt have very many good players," continued Noel. "We played way differently tonight that we did Monday in New York. It was a hard time getting the guys going, getting them engaged in the game." Despite players having said for two days that the "one step forward and two steps back" pattern is not acceptable, it appears they underestimated their opponent. "Why we cant take that next step, I dont know," explained Noel. "We made bad decisions. We have success playing a certain way and then decide to play differently." A win Saturday in Tampa to close out the trip would make it a 4-2 trip and a good six games. A loss, and to go home at .500 after being three and one,  it would be disappointing. You can catch that game live on TSN 1290 Winnipeg at 6pm ct. The Jets played without Evander Kane (day-to-day with a lower body injury,) and Michael Frolik (day-to-day with the flu.) Eric Tangradi played in Froliks spot and had five hits in 15:06 of ice time. After Saturday, the Jets return home for games against St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas. ' ' '
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