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Two Former Wales Stars . . . One Big Scrap To Avoid Premier League Relegation

By Graham Thomas

Two coaches – both former Welsh Football internationals – will walk the Premier League relegation tightrope this weekend, desperate to avoid the drop. Craig Bellamy and Rob Edwards were once Wales teammates, but they are now both fighting for survival on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Bellamy’s Burnley – where he is assistant manager to Vincent Kompany – are big outsiders to stay up, while the odds for Luton Town boss Edwards are slightly more favourable.

Sheffield United are already down and two from Burnley, Luton and Nottingham Forest will join them.

A glance at the foot of the table shows the trouble all three are in.

Burnley are in 19th spot with 24 points, Luton are just above them in 18th, with 26 points, while Forest – who have Welsh interest in the shape of defender Neco Williams – are just above the drop zone with 29 points.

With only two games to go, Burnley look like they need a minor miracle, Luton just a whole lot of luck, and Forest require only to hold their nerve. They are the only one of the trio not relying on help from others.

That’s all reflected in the DragonBet odds that have Burnley at 1/200 to be relegated, with Luton at 1/20, and Forest at 7/1.

Burnley are 6/1 outsiders to win at Tottenham on Saturday, with Luton more fancied at earn a victory at West Ham, where they are 11/4.

Forest are at home, but outsiders at 5/2 to beat in-form Chelsea.

Burnley will be relegated if they fail to beat Spurs, whatever happens elsewhere.

Even should they spring a surprise and win, they will still go down if Forest beat Chelsea. If Burnley win and Forest draw, then Bellamy’s men would need a massive swing in goal difference to survive on the final day.

Edwards has defied most predictions even getting Luton to still have their heads above water at this point. But they will be down on Saturday evening if they have lost at West Ham and Forest avoid defeat.

Even if Forest lose, Luton would still be down if they lose and Burnley should win, or if Luton draw and Forest win.

Should Forest match any Luton result, then Edwards’ side would need a massive swing on goal difference on the final day.

So, either Bellamy or Edwards are going back down to the Championship – and most likely, both.

Should the current bottom three – Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton – all tumble through the trap door, then it will mean all three promoted clubs from the Championship last season will be going straight back down.

What that would mean for the futures of Edwards and Bellamy is hard to determine, but it seems there is little demand among either sets of supporters or owners to get rid of the regimes at either club.

Burnley have actually only lost twice in their last nine matches, but the claret and blue goose was probably cooked when they failed to win a game between October 3 and December 2 last year.

Bellamy was once dubbed “The Nutter with a Putter” and even in his own autobiography describes himself as “The Human Snarl.”

But Edwards, for one, is a big admirer of the former Wales striker and says: “I was involved in a lot of Wales squads with Craig. He was an outstanding player, one of the team’s best at that time and that team included some proper legends.  

“He had a great career and I’ve heard a lot of positive things about him as a coach as well.”

Luton also only won once during that same period, but then recovered well with notable back-to-back wins against Newcastle and Sheffield United.

But even though they have dug in for occasional draws, the damning statistic is just one victory in their last 16 matches.

Even so, it is hard to imagine Edwards will be ditched by the Hatters, who will build again under the former Wales defender this summer for another crack at an immediate bounce back from the Championship.

Edwards, himself, sounds very much like he wants to remain and told a meeting of Luton fans this week, “As long as you’ll have me, I would love to be here and be your manager as I love it here. 

“No other club’s fans have been like you have this year, on your feet, standing ovations home and away, every single game.

“You are by far and away the most loyal, the most understanding group of supporters that I’ve ever known and I don’t want this bond to ever break, really.”

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