In what would have to be considered the second most important soccer story of the past weekend, Sheffield United’s 2-1 loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday ensured the former’s relegation from the top flight on goal difference, with West Ham United — 1-0 victors over nothing-to-play-for Manchester United — narrowly avoiding the drop. Not so fast, explain the Guardian’s Michael Walker and Daniel Taylor.
Representatives from Sheffield United, Wigan, Fulham and Charlton will meet again today to consider their legal challenge to the decision not to dock West Ham points over the illegal registration of Carlos Tevez (above, left) and Wigan’s chairman, Dave Whelan, said after his team sealed their survival with a win at Bramall Lane: “We have got legal advice and the legal advice is yes, we have a good, strong case. But it has to be done quickly.”
The exact nature of the clubs’ next step is uncertain but the Premier League is bracing itself for a fight – which could force its chief executive, Richard Scudamore, to consider his position – over Tevez’s eligibility to play and the fact that West Ham were merely fined, albeit £5.5m, for the illegality. “West Ham should have points deducted and should not be able to play next season in the Premier League,” said Whelan. “I am sorry for Sheffield United. We set off down the road for justice and we will not come off the road until we get it. I have just seen the chairman of Sheffield United [Kevin McCabe] and said, ‘You get stuck into them’.”Any legal action will have to be initiated soon. Serie A had a delayed start last season because of legal action but there is no precedent in England. There will be no widespread belief that the “gang of four” will succeed, as Neil Warnock admits. “West Ham are a big club with big reputations and obviously good solicitors,” said the Sheffield United manager. “I’m bound to feel bitter about the circumstances but by Tuesday it’s fish-and-chip paper. ‘It’s Sheffield United, so what?’
“I think it’s for the directors and the board, this, but I was disappointed with the timing of it. When you read the 36-page [Premier League inquiry] dossier, it’s only human to look and not understand why they haven’t had any points deducted. That is why you do get disappointed.”
Warnock, who was non-committal about his Bramall Lane future, also expressed “disappointment” in the Manchester United team fielded by Sir Alex Ferguson against West Ham yesterday – “Sir Alex probably sold me a dummy” - and was displeased with the Liverpool manager, Rafael BenÃtez, for the side he put out at Fulham nine days ago. “A foreign manager like Rafa probably doesn’t give two hoots about Sheffield United. At least I recognised the United team; there were one or two of Liverpool’s I hadn’t even heard of.”