Jim Lyon - I would take seventh over fifth any day

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

‘After you Claude’ would be the most appropriate motto for a selection of Premier League clubs as the season reaches its climax.

A timely loss of form would certainly help in the long term for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur especially.

Okay ‘long-term’ might not be an expression David Moyes and Tim Sherwood are too worried about at the moment, but finishing outside the Europa League qualification places should be considered more of a success than actually claiming a spot in the, er, prestigious competition.

Michel Platini, the UEFA president, may well believe it is a “competition of the heart, deeply appreciated all over the continent” but in truth it is a problem well avoided.

In terms of cold, hard cash – which, let’s face it, drives sport these days – there is not a great deal to taken from it.

Yes, there will be marketing and gate receipts and sponsorship and the like, but the most any side is likely to claim in prize money is around 10m euros.

For that you would have to win every game which, presuming you had the good fortune to go straight in to the group stage and avoid the preliminaries, would total 15 matches.

But then, to complete your domestic league and cup campaign as well as European requirements, you would need three of four squad players – probably costing at the very least £3m or £4m each – so you are already down on the deal anyway.

There is the glamour of European football under lights for clashes which could take you to clubs like Kuban Krasnodar, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Estoril Praia or Wigan.

I mean, come on, how else would you want to spend your Thursday night?

Oh yes, Thursday nights.

That means by the time you have arrived back from some godforsaken place in the deepest, darkest enclaves of Russia at 7am on Friday morning you have very little time to recover for your match at the weekend.

This will be a game that Stoke City or Crystal Palace or Fulham or whichever side it is that eventually pulls off that ‘shock’ victory over you has spent all week preparing for.

Spurs will point to the statistic that they failed to win eight of their 12 post-Europa League fixtures this season and suffered heavy or, supposedly, surprising losses on six occasions.

Which comes to the knock-on effect to your league form.

Liverpool might well have been as effective this year had they been able to sample the delights of Pandurii Târgu Jiu and Shakhter Karagandy but I am sure Brendan Rogers would not have asked for the extra workload.

The Reds have played 39 games so far this season, Spurs have clocked up 50 – and a few airmiles to boot.

The Reds are fresh and playing amazing football – Spurs aren’t.

So who finished last season better placed? The side in fifth or the side seventh?

Which is why it might be best for Messrs Moyes and Sherwood – job security permitting, of course – to not grieve hugely if they ‘miss out’.

So perhaps Mr Platini is both right and wrong. The competition is not ‘deeply appreciated’ but it is probably of the heart.

Let’s face it, like most things that are done from the heart, it takes an awful lot of effort but offers very little reward.