Saturday, 9 April 2011

Promotion, Relegation and Unfulfilled Potential - Life in the Championship

Right the next few days blogs are going to be me looking the the 4 main leagues in English football and trying to make some informed predictions about how i think they're going to pan out as they enter the final month of the season.

I'm going to start with the Championship rather than the Premiership for the simple reason that it is where the majority of my attention is focussed as i'm a Nottingham Forest fan.

It looks now like Forest aren't even going to make the play offs this season which is disappointing considering both how close we came to promotion last season and how promising the season looked only a month or so ago, when we were closing in on 2nd place and it seemed very possible that we might get automatic promotion. That's now pretty much impossible and even 6th place and a chance to go up through the play offs is beginning to look a little overly optimistic. The basis for our previously reasonable looking promotion bid was the strength of our defence; we weren't scoring a huge number of goals but we were barely conceding either. Now both trends have been reversed, in the last 3 games we've scored 6 and conceded 11. I watched two of those games (A 3-2 defeat away to Swansea and a 4-1 defeat at Leeds) and listened to the other (today's 4-3 home defeat to Reading) and i don't think we were totally outplayed in any of those games, even the Swansea game where we were second best for the majority of the game we very nearly stole a point at the death when Anderson hit the post with a header. However we're simply not clinical enough going forward and our defence is suddenly worryingly leaky. Add in a bit of bad luck in terms of injuries and suspensions and it's easy to spot the reasons why we've fallen off the pace. The way we're playing at the moment simply isn't good enough to merit promotion and there are several teams above and around us who are playing much better, much more consistently.

Of those teams QPR are pretty much guaranteed promotion despite their shock 4-1 defeat away at bottom club Scunthorpe. That is unless the FA hits them hard with a sizable points deduction for fielding an ineligible player earlier in the season. However it seems most likely that they will have maybe 5 points deducted which i don't think would be enough for any of the chasing pack to catch them so i reckon they'll be champions.

I think 2nd place is between Swansea and Norwich and on the basis of today's game you'd have to back Swansea to win that particular race. The game was much more even than the 3-0 score line suggested, if Norwich had been a tiny bit more clinical or the Swansea keeper Doris De Vries had had an even slightly off day the result would have been very different. What impressed me was the quality of the passing football that both teams played today and have played most of the times i've seen them this season.

Out of the other chasing group of Reading, Cardiff, Leeds and Millwall i suspect Reading are the only ones who might challenge for 2nd spot as they're on a very impressive run right now and have an arguably easier run in than some of the teams around them. I say arguably because the beauty of the Championship when compared to the Premiership is how often shock results are thrown up.

So if i had to make a prediction i'd say the top 6 will look like this at 3 o'clock on May 7th.

  1. QPR
  2. Swansea
  3. Norwich
  4. Reading
  5. Cardiff
  6. Leeds
That'd mean Norwich v Leeds and Reading v Cardiff in the play offs, leading i'd guess to a Reading v Norwich final, but who'd win that i have no idea, or real preference.

At the other end of the table i believe the 3 teams currently in the relegation zone, Scunthorpe, Preston and Sheffield United are going down. Preston and Scunthorpe are putting up a good fight and it wouldn't entirely shock me if one of them managed to escape dragging either Crystal Palace or Doncaster into the relegation zone in their place, but i suspect neither quite has the quality to match their admirable spirit. United are surprising me this season for all the wrong reasons, i just don't understand why it's gone quite so wrong for them this year and i'm almost annoyed with myself because i've realised i'll be a little sad if they go down this year. As someone who's from Sheffield and has a lot of Unitedite mates there is a definite part of me that is revelling in their misfortune after all the crap i've had to put up with from them over the years, but in the end i do enjoy the banter and the rivalry, as well as the convenient away games and if, as looks almost certain now, neither Sheffield team is in the Championship i miss out on that side of the game which is a shame. I just can't see them saving themselves now.

Tomorrow's blog will look at the Premiership, but to finish this one i'll post a song by a band i've only discovered recently, one i'm not entirely decided on, but i know i like this song so i'll share it with you. The song's called 'Elephant' and it's by a 4 piece band from LA called 'Warpaint'. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Really good blog, been reading a couple of them now keep them coming.

    Looking at your predictions can't believe that there could be two teams based in Wales in the Premiership next year.

    Although I don't follow football very much anymore seems to me the clubs that are having success recently are teams that have built new stadiums and have really worked hard to attract local fans.