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The Championship Season Review
It has always been said that the hardest league to get out of is The Championship.
Whilst it has players and attendances that most of other top divisions in the world would be proud of, the gap between the Premiership and the Championship is vast.
With promotion to the Premiership earning teams approximately £120 million it is always one of the hardest fought battles in football, and this season proved no different, with numerous titles changes, including a change in injury time of the final game of the season.
When the dust had settled Bournemouth (who over performed to achieve a position of 10th last season) were top of the heap, narrowly piping Watford to the title.
It really is an amazing turnaround for a team that had to win its final game of the season in 2009 just to retain its place in the Football League. 3 promotions in the next 5 seasons have now followed in what is a great example of a feel-good story, and all under the management of still only 37 year old Eddie Howe. Quite remarkable.
The Cherries actually entered October sitting in a lowly 15th position, but 11 victories in the next 3 months including huge 8-0 and 6-1 away wins saw them steadily rise up to the table to head it going into the New Year.
Mirror that in reverse with Nottingham Forrest’s fortunes who went from a promotion place in mid-October to 14th by the first game of January, which eventually saw to the dismissal of manager Stuart Pearce.
Watford meanwhile (who secured promotion along with Bournemouth) were a steady factor for the whole season. They were only out of the top 6 for stone island round neck jumper 4 games all season, which is no small feat, especially early on when they went through 4 managers in the space of 37 days. They would have won the title too, but for a 91st minute equaliser in the final game against Sheff Wed.
At the other end the writing had been on the wall for the bottom 3 for some time. Blackpool never got going, and with only 4 victories (all 1-0) all season, and just as many problems off the field as well as on it they were doomed way before the end.
The other 2 relegations may have come as some what of a surprise. Millwall were expected to struggle, but a great start to the season saw them in a promotion place and raised expectations, only to slip rapidly down the table. The demise of Wigan was much more of a shock. The FA Cup winners only 2 seasons ago will find themselves in the third tier of English Football after recording only 3 home wins in the league.
This isn’t the end of season though, as we still have the excitement of the play offs to contend with. It features 2 established Championship teams, a newly relegated team, and a newly promoted team.
Norwich were always going to be there or there abouts, and but for an indifferent start that saw Neil Adams lose his job they could well have secured automatic promotion well before the end. Instead under the guidance of little know manager Alex Neil they finished 3 points shy of the promised land.
They will face local rivals Ipswich in the play offs, who have performed above expectations to secure 6th spot with a team put together for no money whatsoever (ok 1 player cost money).
The other match will see the much fancied Middlesbrough take on another surprise package in the form of Brentford.
Boro were again one of the teams that topped the league at points during the season in what was Aitor Karanka’s first full season in charge. The Spaniard used his connection to Jose Mourinho well in bringing in several Chelsea players, including their top scorer of Patrick Bamford.
They will have their work cut out though against one of the form teams (having only lost 1 of their last 9 games) in the Brentford. The Bees story is one of the most intriguing that having only won promotion from League One last season they could actually be promoted to the Premiership in what would be manager Mark Warburton’s last game in charge, as it was announced by the Brentford board back in February that he will be suprisingly replaced as manager come the end of the season. This as you might imagine has not gone down well with the fans.
The first leg of the play offs will be on the 8th and 9th May with the return legs on the 15th and 16th, and the final at Wembley Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday for the chance to play with the big boys.