In a football season of highs and lows three teams plumbed the depths: Tottenham, West Ham and Aston Villa
How was the football season for you? Was it a long one? Bet it wasn't as long as Wigan Athletic's. Last season's FA Cup winners began the season in the Europa League as a result of their Wembley success, played 46 domestic league games through falling back into the Championship, then reached the semi-final of this year's FA Cup where they lost on penalties to Arsenal.
That was the second occasion in the competition they had been obliged to play extra time, the first being in an earlier round against MK Dons that went to a replay, and the Latics' last game of the season also went into extra time in the play-off at Loftus Road earlier this week, where Uwe Rösler finally admitted he was a little bit relieved to be able to look forward to a break.
Including the Community Shield game against Manchester United the total of Wigan games this season stands at 62, and that's not counting the game at Sheffield Wednesday that lasted for an hour before being abandoned and having to be replayed. Wigan reckon they spent more than 5,700 minutes on the pitch in 2013-14, which may not be a record, given that Manchester United played 63 games and three extra times in their treble season, but must come close. Liverpool, to take an obvious contrast, played 43 games in the season just finished, one of which went to extra time, for a total of 3,900 minutes.
Please do not write in to say those figures are inaccurate because they do not take account of added time. You get the general idea. Some club seasons are longer than others. And even within an enclosed contest such as the Premier League, where in theory every team plays exactly the same number of matches and minutes, some seasons seem longer than others. So for the sake of an end-of-season argument, which set of Premier League supporters has suffered the most this season? Who has been waiting most eagerly for the dismal proceedings to come to an end?
The easy, glib answer might be Manchester United, but in the spirit of end-of-season jollity this column proposes to give their supporters the benefit of the doubt and assume they enjoyed a change from the usual. At least a little bit. All the ones I met certainly enjoyed moaning about David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini, and now they have a Europe-free season to look forward to next time, a new manager to welcome and the chance to emulate Liverpool and launch a title challenge from seventh place.
It might have been an unsatisfactory season at Old Trafford but it was never a dull one, and amid all the upheaval Adnan Januzaj came through as a major talent, so given the riches they have enjoyed in the past it is difficult to see why United supporters had that much to sulk about. Anyone would think they were, you know, entitled to win prizes every year.
No reason for despondency either for followers of Manchester City, who won the league; Chelsea fans, who welcomed their darling José Mourinho back and saw solid performances until close to the end; or supporters of the two resurgent clubs on Merseyside. Stoke finished in their highest ever Premier League position and began to adjust their style of play, Crystal Palace fans must still be pinching themselves over the astonishing turnaround under Tony Pulis, Hull City are safe with an FA Cup final to look forward to and Sunderland had a harrowing time but could never have imagined how positively the season would end. Not everyone was completely happy with Southampton's season, it was felt they could have shown more enthusiasm for the FA Cup once a mid-table placing was successfully achieved, though compared to where the club has been recently eighth place with a coveted young manager and half the team on the plane to Brazil does not appear to represent a lack of progress.
Turning to the bottom half of what might be termed the consumer satisfaction league table, or possibly the top half of the consumer discontent version, the going gets tougher. To deal with the usual suspects first, Arsenal have nothing to complain about, not really. They have a talented group of players and a Champions League play-off place and by this time next week they could have something in the trophy cupboard so, while this opinion might have to be revised should Hull pull off a shock at Wembley, dissatisfaction over season after season tailing off in a familiar pattern does not compare to the bleakness being suffered elsewhere.
Tottenham Hotspur, for instance, who have just got through another two managers and spent all the Gareth Bale money without anyone being able to notice the difference. As Brendan Rodgers rather cheekily keeps saying, for the money Spurs spent they must have been expecting to be up there fighting for the title. They certainly weren't expecting Liverpool to stick nine goals past them to no reply, Manchester City to hit them for six at the Etihad and even strikerless West Ham to win 3-0 at White Hart Lane. That's painful, and for Spurs the situation seems to be an ongoing one.
West Ham themselves have had a fairly miserable season, mainly because their supporters are fed up with Sam Allardyce telling them they don't know how lucky they are to be watching Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan every week.
That, too, seems a continuing situation, a fundamental clash of personalities unlikely to result in a happy ending for either party. The same goes for Newcastle, where peace is unlikely to break out until Mike Ashley manages to sell the club. What is more painful, watching an inadequate team like Norwich or Fulham all season and resigning oneself to the inevitability of relegation, or watching a vibrant side such as Newcastle take 32 points from the first half of the season and only 17 from the second, complete with a six-match losing run at the end? Don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question. If was probably more painful being a Cardiff fan and witnessing the sad removal of Malky Mackay along with most of the side's survival hopes. Swansea had their rocky moments too but survived comfortably in the end, while West Brom managed to survive without any element of comfort and Pepe Mel has already paid the price.
Here, without further ado, are some stabs at the sets of fans who endured the longest Premier League season in 2013-14. They are only guesses, and they do not necessarily correspond to the three worst performers of the season, because the relegation positions do that quite effectively. But if glum expressions could somehow be totted up and rated for the season – there's an idea for the Sky cameras, instead of filling the screen with blubbing scousers or Geordies try putting Hughie Green's old clapometer into reverse – here's how the top three might look. Or perhaps the bottom three.
Third most glum Tottenham, just stealing in ahead of West Ham. Such big expectations at the start of the season, such huge disappointments along the way.
Second most glum Cardiff. Might not have stayed up under Mackay, of course, but the supporters will never know now. A real feelgood spirit squandered along with a perfectly good blue strip.
Most glum Aston Villa. Dreadful most of the time, at best dreadfully inconsistent. Apart from the bit in the first part of the season where they lost four in a row to Fulham, Stoke, Palace and Manchester United, and then managed to repeat exactly the same dire sequence of results in the run-in immediately after beating Chelsea at home. Glimpses of class and ability against teams of the calibre of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, not to mention that wholly misleading first day victory at Arsenal, just made the suffocating mediocrity harder to bear. Paul Lambert has been hinting for a while that the fans do not know the full story. Now that the club are up for sale with almost nothing to show from Randy Lerner's considerable investment, maybe it is about time they were told.