A Fantastic Finale

April was almost over…the end of another domestic football season was upon us, and already one high profile manager was out of a job. David Moyes’ departure from Manchester United was not a shock, although the timing was surprising. The club turned to a familiar face to guide them through the last few matches in the form of Ryan Giggs.

The ‘Peter Pan’ of professional football, Giggs ensured his side would play exciting football to finish the season on a positive note. They needed to play without fear, to remind the Old Trafford crowd what the club stood for, and what it should be like to watch a Man Utd team play a home game.

Their first home game following Giggs’ appointment was against struggling Norwich City, themselves eager to produce a decent display, but with the added necessity of coming away with some points to help guarantee their Premier League survival come May 11th. Norwich’s desperate need for success at the bottom of the table was mirrored by Manchester City at the top, who already looked to have one hand on the trophy once again. Liverpool’s slip-ups had meant City’s fate was now in their own hands.

The final few weeks of the season are always a tense and exciting affair. As a photographer, your approach to each game swings much more in favour of ‘the result’. The emotions that go with it ensure there are plenty of pictures to be had…you just have to keep your eyes open and hope lady luck deals you a pleasant hand…

 

A woman kisses her partner, himself wearing a mask bearing the face of Ryan Giggs
A woman kisses her partner, himself wearing a mask bearing the face of Ryan Giggs

 

Man Utd's new interim player-manager Ryan Giggs applauds the crowd before his first game in charge
Man Utd’s new interim player-manager Ryan Giggs applauds the crowd before his first game in charge

 

Man Utd's new interim player-manager Ryan Giggs takes his seat in the dugout
Man Utd’s new interim player-manager Ryan Giggs takes his seat in the dugout

 

Wayne Rooney of Man Utd scores their 1st goal against Norwich City with a penalty
Wayne Rooney of Man Utd scores their 1st goal against Norwich City with a penalty

 

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring Man Utd's 1st goal against Norwich
Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring Man Utd’s 1st goal against Norwich

 

Juan Mata celebrates after scoring a goal against Norwich
Juan Mata celebrates after scoring a goal against Norwich

 

The misery in Manchester was met with delight on Merseyside, as Liverpool fans celebrated finishing what looked like it would be streets ahead of their famous rivals in the race for the title. Always first onto a story, bookmakers Paddy Power kicked off festivities prior to Sunday’s game between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield, by erecting a statue of recently-departed Man Utd manager David Moyes outside the ground before kick-off…

 

Bookmakers Paddy Power unveil a statue of former Man Utd manager David Moyes outside Anfield
Fans pose for pictures after bookmakers Paddy Power unveiled a statue of former Man Utd manager David Moyes outside Anfield, home of Liverpool FC

 

A young girl wades through streams of litter on Anfield Road after returning from her honeymoon
A young girl wades through streams of litter on Anfield Road after returning from her hen do

 

Demba Ba of Chelsea battles with Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool
Demba Ba of Chelsea battles with Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool

 

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool tries to retrieve the ball from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Steven Gerrard of Liverpool tries to retrieve the ball from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

 

Steven Gerrard looks dejected as Liverpool lose to Chelsea
Steven Gerrard looks dejected as Liverpool lose to Chelsea

 

The Reebok Stadium in Bolton was to play host to a game of extreme importance to everyone connected with Birmingham City. Having been relegated from the Premier League only a couple of seasons earlier, the club were staring down the barrel of League One and potential financial ruin. Cue the storybook ending they all hoped for…

 

A general view of the Reebok Stadium, home to Bolton Wanderers FC
A general view of the Reebok Stadium, home to Bolton Wanderers FC

 

Andy Kellett of Bolton battles with Jonathan Spector of Birmingham
Andy Kellett of Bolton battles with Jonathan Spector of Birmingham

 

A Birmingham City prays as his side struggle to get the point they need for Championship survival
A Birmingham City prays as his side struggle against Bolton to get the point they need for Championship survival

 

Paul Caddis of Birmingham scores their 2nd goal to ensure their survival
Paul Caddis of Birmingham scores their 2nd goal to ensure their survival

 

Birmingham fans celebrate their late, late equaliser that ensured they avoided relegation
Birmingham fans celebrate their late, late equaliser that ensured they avoided relegation

 

Birmingham manager Lee Clark sprints away in celebration after his side's last-gasp goal ensured Championship survival
Birmingham manager Lee Clark sprints away in celebration as his side’s last-gasp goal ensured Championship survival

 

Birmingham manager Lee Clark embraces the fans following their Championship survival
Birmingham manager Lee Clark embraces the fans following their Championship survival

 

A portly Birmingham fan refuses to let manager Lee Clark go as he celebrates their survival
A portly Birmingham fan refuses to let manager Lee Clark go as he celebrates their survival

 

After photographing Birmingham’s survival and the subsequent euphoria that followed, I packed up my gear and headed straight over to Merseyside to cover Everton’s home game with Manchester City. Liverpool’s defeat to Chelsea meant that a victory here would give the visitors just the tilt they needed to go on and win the league…

 

Ross Barkley celebrate after scoring Everton's opening goal against Manchester City
Ross Barkley celebrate after scoring Everton’s opening goal against Manchester City

 

Edin Dzeko celebrates with provider Samir Nasri after scoring the winning goal for Man City against Everton
Edin Dzeko celebrates with provider Samir Nasri after scoring the winning goal for Man City against Everton

 

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard looks dejected as they slide to a home defeat
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard looks dejected as they slide to a home defeat

 

Manchester United’s final home game of the season proved also to be Nemanja Vidic’s too – it had been announced earlier that his contract wouldn’t be renewed in the summer, and so the club captain would be on his way. Couple this with Ryan Giggs’ probably retirement, and this turned out to be a day of goodbyes…

 

Man Utd mascot Fred The Red embraces Nemanja Vidic before the defender's last home game for the club
Man Utd mascot Fred The Red embraces Nemanja Vidic before the defender’s last home game for the club

 

Sir Bobby Charlton presents Nemanja Vidic with an award before the defender's last home game for the club
Sir Bobby Charlton presents Nemanja Vidic with an award before the defender’s last home game for the club

 

Adnan Januzaj of Man Utd shoots
Adnan Januzaj of Man Utd shoots against Hull City

 

Phil Jones of Man Utd lies holding his injured shoulder just weeks before the World Cup
Phil Jones of Man Utd lies holding his injured shoulder just weeks before the start of the World Cup

 

Ryan Giggs of Man Utd waves farewell to the crowd after his last home game for the club
Ryan Giggs of Man Utd waves farewell to the crowd after his last home game for the club

 

Nemanja Vidic is surrounded by teammates as he says farewell to the club and it's supporters
Nemanja Vidic is surrounded by teammates as he says farewell to the club and it’s supporters

 

Next up was Man City’s home game to Aston Villa. It was a wet day, and was only getting wetter. A DJ manned the decks in the usually-bustling City Square before the match, this time playing only to a handful of spectators and some soggy cardboard hot dog packets. This was the scene before the game had even started, and it got worse…

 

Monsoon conditions envelop the photographers' pit in front of the away fans at the Etihad Stadium
Monsoon conditions envelop the photographers’ pit in front of the away fans at the Etihad Stadium (PHOTO: Paul Ellis)

 

A soaking wet City Square is more or less empty before Man City's match against Aston Villa
A DJ plays to a soaking wet City Square, more or less empty before Man City’s match against Aston Villa

 

Matthew Lowton of Villa holds off Aleksandar Kolarov of Man City
Matthew Lowton of Villa holds off Aleksandar Kolarov of Man City

 

Samir Nasri fires just wide for Man City during an edgy 1st half
Samir Nasri fires just wide for Man City during an edgy 1st half

 

Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart prays for victory as the heavy rain beats down on him
Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart prays for victory as the heavy rain beats down on him

 

The next evening was an altogether drier affair, as I journeyed through the Shropshire countryside down to Greenhous Meadow, where England Women were taking on Ukraine in a World Cup qualifier…

 

England Womens' manager Mark Sampson looks on before their international qualifier against Ukraine
England Womens’ manager Mark Sampson looks on before their international qualifier against Ukraine

 

England Women line up for the national anthems as the low sun creeps through
England Women line up for the national anthems as the low sun creeps through behind them

 

Alex Scott of England battles with Tetiana Romanenko of Ukraine
Alex Scott of England battles with Tetiana Romanenko of Ukraine

 

Eniola Aluko of England gets away from a trio of Ukraine defenders
Eniola Aluko of England gets away from a trio of Ukraine defenders

 

Natasha Dowie of England (C) celebrates with teammates Steph Houghton (L) and Lianne Sanderson
Natasha Dowie of England (C) celebrates with teammates Steph Houghton (L) and Lianne Sanderson

 

A grid of stock pictures from England Women's match against Ukraine
A grid of stock pictures from England Women’s match against Ukraine

 

A general view of the Greenhous Meadow at Shresbury, as the sky goes red at sunset
A general view of the Greenhous Meadow at Shrewsbury, as the sky goes red at sunset

 

A found myself at Anfield on the last day of the Barclays Premier League season, as the ever-optimistic Liverpool were hoping for a miracle in Manchester that would see them crowned champions. They had to beat Newcastle on the way though, which was never going to be straightforward task. Regardless, the fans gave it their all and showed their support to the very end…

 

Liverpool fans wave their scarves outside The Kop at Anfield before their final match of the season
Liverpool fans wave their scarves outside The Kop at Anfield before their final match of the season

 

A plane flies over Anfield with a message reading 'United 20 Gerrard 0'
A plane flies over Anfield with a message reading ‘United 20 Gerrard 0’

 

Steven Taylor of Newcastle tries to calm an emotional Luis Suarez of Liverpool
Steven Taylor of Newcastle tries to calm an emotional Luis Suarez of Liverpool

 

Luis Suarez of Liverpool looks dejected as his side face up to the inevitable
Luis Suarez of Liverpool looks dejected as his side face up to the inevitable

 

Steven Gerard of Liverpool applauds the fans after finishing 2nd in the Premier League
Steven Gerard of Liverpool applauds the fans after finishing 2nd in the Premier League

 

The Barclays U21 Premier League also reached it’s climax just a few days after it’s bigger sister. A final was played out between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford. The stars of the future were on show, so it was just as much about stocking up on them as it was covering the winning celebrations…

 

Charni Ekangamene of Man Utd battles with John Swift of Chelsea during the U21 Premier League Final
Charni Ekangamene of Man Utd holds off John Swift of Chelsea in the U21 Premier League Final

 

A grid of stick pictures from the U21 Premier League Final between Man Utd and Chelsea
A grid of stick pictures from the U21 Premier League Final between Man Utd and Chelsea

 

Chelsea's U21 players celebrate after beating Man Utd U21 to clinch the title
Chelsea’s U21 players celebrate after beating Man Utd U21 to clinch the title

 

AS EVER, ALL THE SPORTS PICTURES SHOWN HERE ARE AVAILABLE TO PROFESSIONAL PICTURE BUYERS VIA * OFFSIDE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY *

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