As the season whirs into the final street-fight, clubs are presented with the truth of what their season will mean. Teams have found themselves in the positions which will decide how their toil will be rewarded or punished—having to now gear up for a bitter scrap at the bottom of the table, or the quest for glory at the top.
As the season draws closer to an end, those in the middle will begin to realize they are not really anywhere, and begin to play accordingly. Often, in the coming weeks, they will do enough to survive, and not much more.
Pity their fans, who have to put up with such stale fare.
The inconsistency they have displayed is enough to keep them out of the death scrap at the foot of the table, but it also puts them out of the quest for potential European competition next season, and, of course, the trophies.
Their season will pass into memory as one that could have been meaningful, but instead is just a series of highs punctuated by too many lows. They have cost themselves the chance to really feel the blood pump through their veins as they take the pitch.
Those who find themselves near the bottom of the table find themselves in an equally ferocious fight as those at the top.
At the bottom of the standings they realize that if they do not grab onto the adrenalin and the fervor that grips the fans, as they the players walk out onto the pitch to represent those fans, they will soon pass into ignominious anonymity as representatives who could not keep the club in the top flight.
And potentially they become pariahs, forever doomed to drift from club to club until they can again play for something meaningful again.
At the top of the standings the chance to become legends brings the highs of adrenal action. The gift they have given themselves and their fans is something that is enough to suspend the mediocrity of the numb existence that working from nine to five in a job you detest can bring.
If anything, the woeful form of the last few months can be forgotten by those in the bottom half of the table by focusing on the fight to stay in the division and be there to engage again next season in the tussle for recognition as footballers.
They have to now put aside the petty disagreements and team disharmony and truly get behind the cause, or they will feel the sickly pang of regret that comes as the whistle blows on their season, and they realize that they are now slipping out of the elite...and that it is nobody's fault but their own.
Again, they have at least given the fans something to believe in, a cause to embrace, a chance to forget the slog of day-to-day existence, though the potential horror of relegation comes if they do not avoid the pitfalls that have led them into the relegation scrap in the first place.
Moments in time that could have had meaning become regrets and woes at what might have been.
The free-kick that struck the bar, the open goal that was inexplicably missed, the penalty that was given away, the header that was missed, be it for a goal or a clearance—all of these things will now come back to haunt them, maybe even for the rest of their days.
Equally, at the top of the table the same things can potentially haunt players. The missed penalty, the cross off the mark in the dying minutes of a must-win game...these things can define a career, or break a player forever.
At the end of it all, though, one thing is true: mid table mediocrity is boring, and glory or desperation, at the two extremes of the table, gives more excitement and life than the stale realization that you are playing for nought but the beginning of next season. Safety will be a comfort, but it never really makes you feel alive.
On to the scrap, for trophies or survival, this is where it all comes into view. The human energy, the fight, the glory, the desperation, tally ho chaps, once more into the breach, last man standing and no quarter given, no mercy shown, endgame, death or exaltation...what will it be?