Premier League ~ The absurdity of the "player of the season" award
Although he has only scored a penalty against Wolves in his last seven games, Robin Van Persie deserved to win the PFA player of the year award last night. But with the voting held so early in the year, the players are setting themselves up for some odd choices. Ian Holloway suggested in his Independent column yesterday that Paul Scholes should win the prize, but he was barely out of retirement when the votes were cast. In an age when footballers spout their thoughts on Twitter so quickly they don't even use a spellchecker, surely they could organise a quick poll at the end of the season.
Ched Evans, who was voted into the League One team of the year, will not be available to play for Sheffield United in their last few games of the season as he is now serving a five-year prison sentence for rape.
Championship ~ Relegation settled as Portsmouth and Coventry drop
Relegation matters were sewn up in the Championship on Saturday as home defeats for Portsmouth and Coventry City consigned both clubs to League One next season. Coventry, who lost 2-0 to already-relegated Doncaster Rovers, will play in English football's third tier for the first time since 1964. Andy Thorn, the Coventry manager, has confirmed that he has been asked to continue in the role next season but he is waiting for assurances from the board before agreeing. "The club has asked me if I will stay and I have asked for assurance that they will give me some help with some good players coming in," he said. "We'll just take it from there. I've spoken to them and said that it needs to be restructured and sometimes out of this you can come back stronger, but the player side needs addressing massively and they have assured me they will."
Portsmouth, who lost 2-1 to Derby at Fratton Park, will also have a rebuilding job on their hands in League One. Their manager, Michael Appleton, is expecting a large part of their current squad to leave over the summer but is not yet sure if the clubs will be able to sign replacements. "We need to regroup and have a think about what needs to be done for next season," he said. "It's frustrating because, from my point of view, I can't offer someone a new contract or tell them if they will be here next season because we don't have owners."
League One ~ Rochdale relegated as others fight on
Rochdale's stay in League One was ended after just two seasons following their defeat away at Chesterfield. Next season they will return to the division they spent 18 years in between 1992 and 2010. Rochdale boss John Coleman blamed his side's relegation on their inability to win away from home. They have the second worst away record in the division but they had a glimmer of hope when Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro put them ahead in the 73rd minute. Chesterfield then scored twice in the final ten minutes to seal the win and give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop. Walsall, in 20th place, lost 4-2 at 23rd-place Exeter, meaning the final three relegation places will go down to the last two games of the season.
League Two ~ Swindon promoted despite their defeat
Paolo Di Canio's Swindon side lost back-to-back league games for the first time since August, but were still promoted to League One because Torquay lost at AFC Wimbledon. Di Canio made eight changes from their midweek defeat at Aldershot but his team still lost 3-1 to Gillingham. The changes were made after members of the Swindon squad angered their manager by getting drunk after the previous Saturday's victory over Plymouth.
The Italian had threatened to field the youth team, but claimed they had an equally poor attitude. He questioned his players' behaviour, even after they had secured promotion: "Now we must win the title. Four teams go up from this league, but only one can be champions, and we want to be the best. If we keep going like we perform it will be difficult to become champions," he said. "We have to celebrate, but they do not have to go out and be drunk. You can celebrate with one, two or three glasses of red wine or champagne, but why go drunk? I do not understand it. You cannot feel and live your moment if you go blurry, I do not see why, and I prefer to stay cool. I want to feel the atmosphere and celebrate with my family."
La Liga ~ Ronaldo's winning goal is all he deserves
It is a shame that Cristiano Ronaldo is viewed so often through the prism of Lionel Messi. Ronaldo's story is so much more interesting than his relationship with the Barcelona player. Ronaldo is rightly criticised for his posing, diving and self-indulgent goal celebrations. Tony Cascarino's once said of Glenn Hoddle that "if he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself", and the same seems to apply for Ronaldo. But beneath the gaudy exterior lies a player who has worked incessantly to develop his talent.
When he arrived at Manchester United nine years ago he was a scrawny teenager more interested in stepping over the ball than kicking it. But as shown in the documentary Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit, he has developed his body and technique to the point where he can run quicker than an Olympic sprinter, jump as high as an NBA basketball player and move his feet fast enough to avoid being shot by trained snipers. In a scene that must be seen to be believed, Ronaldo uses his spatial awareness to score from a cross that is struck as the lights are switched off in the room.
When we think of players who have made the most of their ability, we tend to think of defenders like Gary Neville, who use their brains and graft to make up for a lack of natural gifts. Ronaldo can be placed at the very top of that group. He has transformed his body shape, become two-footed and is now both strong enough to bully centre-backs and fast enough to embarrass full-backs. When asked to imagine a perfect footballer, Rio Ferdinand said he would choose Ronaldo not for his speed, strength or goalscoring, but for his "mentality". His decisive goal in the game that will take the Liga trophy back to Madrid from Barcelona is so much more than one over Messi, his supposed nemesis. It is the reward for those thousands of hours of practice. Tom Hocking and Paul Campbell