April 2017 has been a terrible month for the teams and people that I favour in four different sports.
The form of Leeds United, a team that I have followed for well over forty years, has been the biggest disappointment. The team has slipped from a play-off place in the top six of the Championship, and after today’s results are certain to stay there. Mathematically we could swap places with Fulham in sixth but their goal difference is 13 better than ours. If Leeds win the final game 7-0 and Fulham lose their final game 7-0 we would overtake them. It’s not going to happen.
One bad month can undo all the good work of the previous six. On 1 April Leeds remained where they had been for many months, looking comfortable in the top six. It’s been our best season for over ten years (since reaching the play-off final in 2006). We then lost two games in four days, away at Reading and Brentford. We beat Preston 3-0 the following Saturday, 8 April, and haven’t won since. On Good Friday (14 April this year) there was a 1-1 draw at Newcastle, thanks to a 95th minute equalizer with our first shot on target. We were still in the top six and as long as we kept winning would stay there.
On Easter Monday we lost at home to Wolves. I was out for a walk with my 12-year-old son and checked my phone increasingly frequently as other results went against us and we dropped to seventh. It affected my post-Easter mood, but at least the team’s future was still in the players’ hands. If we could win our remaining matches we would be sure of a top six finish: Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday, our main rivals for the two remaining places in the play-offs, are due to play each other in the final game of the season. They can’t both win.
And then we lost our next game, away at Burton Albion, and matters were no longer in the team’s hands. Unfortunately all the other teams in the play-off places kept winning, and today’s result, a 3-3 draw at home to Norwich, leaves us with only that mathematical chance of overtaking Fulham that I noted in the second paragraph of this piece.
Elsewhere in the sports that I keep an eye on, the Kilkenny hurling team, having topped the National League in March, managed to lose their first game in the knock-out stages, to Wexford. I can’t remember the last time Wexford beat Kilkenny. On the same day (Sunday 2 April) Cambridge lost the boat race to Oxford. And a few days ago Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out of the World Snooker Championships. O’Sullivan is the only player who will make me rearrange my time to watch an hour or two of snooker uninterrupted. I’ll keep an eye on the final over the weekend (Mark Selby plays John Higgins) but it’s not the same. At least my wife and daughter, Arsenal fans both, can look forward to an FA Cup Final next month, after their team beat Manchester City in the semi-final. For me, though, the season is over.