LOWER LEAGUE MADNESS
No one knows the roller-coaster ride that is management in the lower tiers of English football more than Frank Sinclair. In the last fortnight, Sinclair experienced agony and ecstasy with his Hednesford Town team. The Vanarama League North side lost away at Curzon 3-2 on April 2nd. The visitors had battled back from 2-0 only to concede the match winner in the 84th minute. On April 9th, it was Hednesford who came back to win at home to Tamworth. Those three points may not be enough to keep Sinclair's men up, though. The Pitmen are 21st, 6 points and a tonne of goal difference away from safety.
Towards the top of the table, Kevin Wilson's Nuneaton Town (née Nuneaton Borough) are edging closer to a shot at promotion. The Boro drew 0-0 at home to Telford on the 2nd, but then hammered Stalybridge 5-2 on the 9th. Nuneaton sits 7th just 4 points away from the playoff positions. Next up for them is a massive game against 4th placed Harrogate.
Lower down the leagues (much lower) you'll find the Spartan South Midlands Football League/Premier Division - which is home to Hertfordshire's Hadley FC. Hadley are managed by Micky Hazard, who played 103 games and scored 19 goals in Chelsea's midfield between 1985 and 1990. Hazard's side has faltered as of late, losing three in a row to Leverstock Green, AFC Dunstable, and Holmer Green. This has seen the team drop to 9th in the table, more than safe from relegation, but a long way from promotion. On their tails are Biggleswade United, for whom Enrique De Lucas plays (what?!), as well as north London side Cockfosters...
The arcane spell that somebody cast upon Queens Park Rangers and Fulham is going strong as the two Championship sides continue to mirror each other's results in eerie fashion. On April 9th, both sides won 2-1 at home, both scoring the winning goal past the 93rd minute. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's Hoops beat Charlton, whereas Slavisa Jokanovic's Cottagers defeated Cardiff (thanks to a goal from Scott Parker).
For Fulham, this was their third 2-1 win a row (having beat Preston away on the 5th and MK Dons at home on the 2nd). The fantastic run of results has seen them jump from 21st to 17th in the table and may have very well saved Fulham from relegation this year.
Prior to their comeback win, QPR stumbled versus two of Hasselbaink's former clubs. They drew 1-1 away at Leeds on the 5th and lost 3-2 at home to Middlesbrough on the 1st. QPR remains 11th in the league, safe from relegation but most likely out of the promotion race.
Things are getting interesting for Gus Poyet in Greece, but not because of the games AEK played these past two weeks. AEK Athens phoned in a 0-0 draw with already-relegated Kalloni on April 3rd and then beat Panionis 2-0 on the 10th. Poyet's contract with second-place AEK Athens expires this summer and, according to the Nottingham Post, the Uruguayan is now the bookies' favourite to take over at Nottingham Forest. Poyet spoke to The Sun last month about his frustrations with the state of scandal-ridden Greek football. Will those hang-ups be enough for Poyet to trade a shot at Champions League football for a return to England's second (or possibly third) tier?
In China, Dan Petrescu is still top of the league (by a point). On the road, Jiangsu Suning drew 1-1 against Hebei on April 2nd before beating Henan Jianye 1-0 on the 9th. In the Asia Champions League, Jiangsu lost 2-1 at home to Tokyo FC on the 6th, dropping them to 3rd in a tight Group E.
Gianfranco Zola and Al Arabi are continuing to stutter in the Qatari Stars League. The Doha side lost to Umm-Salal 1-0 at home on April 2nd, and drew away at Al Mesaimeer 0-0 on the 9th. They are 6th in the table.
Hernan Crespo-less Modena lost 4-1 at home to Trapani on the 9th, seeing two men sent off. In the same week in which the Argentine got his walking papers, another former Chelsea player was fired in Serie B. Christian Panucci, who featured in just 10 games for the Blues while on loan from Inter in 2000-2001, was booted from AS Livorno Calcio after a year and 4 days in charge.
Another former Blue plying his trade in the dugout is David Hopkin. Known much more for his Crystal Palace days, Hopkin played 46 games for Chelsea between 1992 and 1995, scoring a solitary goal. On January 5th, 2016 Hopkin was hired as manager of Livingston FC. The Scottish Championship side are currently 9th place in the 10 team league after consecutive losses to Hibernian and Morton. ‘Livi' are only two points from safety, but the team ahead of them (Dumbarton) has two games in hand.
In International friendlies, Didier Deschamps' French side whomped Russia 4-2 in Paris on March 29th (Yuri Zhirkov netted for the visitors) and assistant coach Andriy Shevchenko saw the Ukraine beat Wales 1-0 in Kiev on March 30th.
Lazio aren't the only team allegedly interested in Roberto Di Matteo. Turkish-Football.com reports that Super Lig outfit Trabzonspor are also coveting the Chelsea legend. Trabzonspor are currently placed 10thin the table. The club, which currently includes Jose Bosingwa and Marko Marin in its ranks, last won the league in 1984.