by David Triggs
Ups: Reading, Southampton and the play-off final winner (West Ham or Blackpool)
After a poor start to the season, a 16 match unbeaten run saw Reading crowned champions and a return to the Premier League, Southampton finished Second following a last day demolition of Coventry and will also play their trade in the top flight next year. West Ham’s poor home form cost them an automatic promotion spot, but they still have a chance of getting an immediate return to the Premier League providing they can beat Blackpool at Wembley this coming Saturday. Taking their place in the Championship from the Premier League will be Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton.
Downs: Coventry, Portsmouth and Doncaster
These three teams will all be playing in League 1 next year following their relegation. Doncaster finished bottom on 36, and although they had a glimmer of hope in the goals of Billy Sharp, his sale to Southampton in January practically condemned them to Relegation. Coventry had a late surge to try and stay in the league but Andy Thorn’s men fell short, a key result being the loss away to relegation rivals Bristol City towards the end of the season. It was always going to be an uphill task for Michael Appleton to keep Portsmouth in the Championship next season following their points deduction, and the ever-present financial struggle at Fratton Park would signal tough times ahead for Pompey.
One to watch next year: Burnley. The Clarets were a tad hit and miss this season finishing in Mid-table. However, with a young manager in Eddie Howe, and goals flowing through Charlie Austin, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them contesting the Play-Off’s next year.
The Ups: Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and the play-off final winner (Sheffield United or Huddersfield)
Charlton’s dominance of the league this year meant they never looked like losing it. Chris Powell brought in a huge amount of players over the summer, and it would appear that the squad gelled perfectly and they go up as champions finishing on 101points. The second place race went down to the wire with Sheffield Wednesday beating their cross-city rivals to the spot following a win at home against relgated Wycombe Wanderers. The sacking of Gary Megson seemed a strange decision at the time; however his replacement Dave Jones dropped just 2 points during his time as manager, and secured automatic promotion for The Owls. The play-off final between Sheffield United and Huddersfield should be an excellent encounter. Huddersfield, who always appear to fall at the final hurdle in the play-offs now have Simon Grayson in charge who’s record in that competition is second to none. Sheffield United will have to make do without Ched Evans and James Beattie in the final as their both missing and they may turn once again to Chris Porter who scored in the 1-0 victory over Stevenage on Monday.
Downs: Wycombe, Exeter, Chesterfield and Rochdale
Despite runs of good form towards the end of the season, Wycombe and Exeter are both relegated to League 2, and both sides will more than likely lose their main goal-scorers with Danny Nardiello reportedly ready to sign for Rotherham, and a number of clubs chasing Wycombe’s Stuart Beavon. Chesterfield and Rochdale both needed miracles to stay up following their early season form, and unfortunately neither side could pull it off.
One to watch next year: Preston. Graham Westley has had a disappointing start to his time at Deepdale, however, with a squad overhaul in process and 3 new signings already confirmed, Preston could well be promotion contenders next year.
The Ups: Swindon, Shrewsbury, Crawley and play-off final winner between Crewe and the winner of Cheltenham vs Torquay
Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon were crowned champions of League 2 after the former West Ham star guided them to 93 points. Shrewsbury finished second after years of knocking on the door of League 1, with football league new boys, Crawley finishing 3rd. As for the play-off final, the young guns of Crewe have already pulled of an upset by beating Southend and could well be playing in League 1 next season.
The Downs: Hereford, Macclesfield
Macc finished rock bottom of the Football League and will drop down to the Blue Square Premier next season with Hereford joining them due to Barnet’s last day heroics under Martin Allen (yet again). Fleetwood and the winner of York and Luton will take their place in the Football league next season.
One to watch next year: New boys Fleetwood came out on top in the BSP this year despite being pushed all the way by Wrexham, and should they be able to keep hold of goal machine Jamie Vardy, I think they’ll be a shoe in for a double promotion.
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