With only the play-off final left to play, the next campaign will already be on the minds of many following a gruelling 46 game season which has seen Newcastle and Brighton promoted to the Premier League while Blackburn Rovers lost out in the relegation dogfight dropping down by virtue of goal difference, joining Wigan and Rotherham in League One next season. As ever there’s been clubs who have surpassed expectations and others that have simply failed to deliver. I give my verdict on each club in a four part piece. Links to each part can be found at the bottom of each article.
Aston Villa – 13th – Grade: F
It was never going to be that easy for Villa to galvanise themselves and bounce back at the first time of asking after a shocking Premier League relegation. However with the money they’ve spent it’s been a shocking campaign started off by Roberto Di Matteo where a whole host of draws meant the club never really came close to promotion, a shocking feat when you look at the resources and players at their disposal. It’s probably boring for their fans to hear but spending over £10 million on three different strikers is absurd and to get the results they have been is not good enough. They’ve set themselves up nicely for next season though although under Steve Bruce it’s still not been totally convincing. Despite all this it’s not easy to just throw out a team and for it to click straight away, even if they are some of the leading Championship players. Time to find the right formula is now needed before the club go again.
credit Ben Sutherland
Barnsley – 14th – A-
I think Barnsley have had a very productive season, not once have they ever really looked like they would be in real trouble and have consistently been able to pick up points to make sure that was the case. Before January they were in a very healthy position looking as unlikely candidates for a play-off spot before they sold a few key players off to Championship rivals. Even after that when you might have feared a plummet down the league they’ve still managed to grind out results and a 14th place finish is not to be laughed at particularly when they only won one in their last 14 which is pretty horrific going. While that is not a good record in the slightest, the bigger picture has to be one of success.
Birmingham City – 19th – E
No one would’ve seen Birmingham City fighting for their lives on the last day of the season with Gary Rowett in charge. With Rowett being sacked leaving the club just outside the play-offs and in a great position, Gianfranco Zola was the most unsuitable candidate I could think of having been my club’s manager a few years ago. The way they collapsed after this appointment was nothing short of abysmal so to survive by the skin of their teeth is a really alarming prospect for Blues fans. The only defence I have is that the squad at St Andrews is not the strongest in the division, we know Rowett made them overachieve and that being in the bottom half would almost be more appropriate for the quality of the squad. However to find themselves in the position they were in was no where near good enough. Worrying times ahead now for City.
Blackburn Rovers – 22nd – E
Losing out on the final day of the season is a tough pill to swallow. This possibility was always on the cards in my opinion with having such poor owners in charge. Blackburn weren’t blessed with the best setup and consistently struggled to find the wins needed to pull them clear. They were in trouble from the offset not winning in their opening seven matches. Their signings were decent considering they were largely loans and free transfers but it was always going to be a task for the manager and so it proved. A miserable season really when you consider the club flirted with the drop from the start to the end and missed out in the cruellest of circumstances. It would have been hard to see anyone steer them well clear and be safe in mid-table however they still had enough in their ranks to just avoid relegation, they didn’t and so they must get a harsh ‘E’ for their season.
Brentford – 10th – C+
The Bees have got to be the most inconsistent side going in the Championship so being in the ‘C’ category is a must. Easily one of the most eye catching sides on their day, Brentford also have the potential to pull off some poor results highlighted by their final day 3-1 defeat to Blackburn. A team with real potential would’ve been disappointed they never really looked like making the play-offs with the club situated in mid-table largely. You do feel they can push on with some of the football they play and some of the talent Dean Smith has at his disposal but despite this it’s not been a poor season by any means and gives a building block at Griffin Park for them to mount a challenge next season.
credit Gareth Williams
Brighton – 2nd – A
They finally got over the line and there’s no doubting they were the best team in the Championship no matter what the table says. Chris Hughton’s men were again hard to beat with the joint best defensive record and in the end they comfortably secured automatic promotion having been at the upper end of the table pretty much all season. They had setbacks which again might have caused doubts after their unfortunate slip ups in previous seasons but the Seagulls were a tight unit, possessed the Championship player of the season in Anthony Knockaert and had all the ingredients needed for promotion. A great job done at the AMEX.
Do you agree with your clubs grade? Let us know in the comments below!
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here
Part 4 Here