Mike Roberts - Wednesday 19.06.13, 08:16am
All games scheduled for the first weekend in August, although given the precedent of the last couple of seasons I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of these games gets moved to a Friday night TV slot.
Barnsley v Wigan
Birmingham v Watford
Bournemouth v Charlton
Burnley v Bolton
Derby v Blackburn
Doncaster v Blackpool
Leeds v Brighton
Middlesbrough v Leicester
Millwall v Yeovil
Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield
QPR v Sheffield Wednesday
Reading v Ipswich
Mike Roberts - Wednesday 19.06.13, 07:14am
Although the fixtures for the new season aren’t released later, the Carling Cup draw was made earlier this week.
Remarkably, none of the Championship teams have to play each other. Seven teams were drawn against League One sides, with the derbies between Huddersfield and Bradford, Preston and Blackpool and Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday being the pick of those ties.
The rest of the Championship sides face League Two opposition. Bournemouth play Portsmouth in a match between two teams that have spent the last five seasons going in opposite directions, whilst newly promoted Newport County visit Brighton for their first League Cup tie since September 1987.
I’ll be back later with the first league games of the season, but don’t forget that our companion website www.buzzinleague1football.co.uk is now live.
Mike Roberts - Monday 27.05.13, 21:09pm
Congratulations to Crystal Palace – the Eagles were promoted back to the top flight for the first time in almost a decade thanks to an extra time penalty from ancient striker Kevin Phillips. Crystal Palace became the first fifth placed club to be promoted via the playoffs since Burnley beat Sheffield United four years ago and only the second fifth placed finishers to be promoted in the last decade.
Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, Palace have never played more than one season in that competition, but we’ll see how they get on in August. As I pointed out last week, I’d expect that Watford might struggle at the start of next season but for now it’s time to have a couple of weeks off. Unless or until something dramatic happens, the next scheduled post will be in the middle of next month, when next season’s fixtures will be released.
Mike Roberts - Thursday 23.05.13, 15:39pm
The old clichés about the ‘richest game in the world’ will abound on Monday afternoon when Crystal Palace and Watford face each other in the nPower Championship playoff final.
I’m going to start by looking at the game from a slightly different angle. It’s all very well for the media to chuck ridiculous numbers around, but it’s actually quite interesting to see exactly what the winners can expect next season. Six of the last ten playoff winners were relegated immediately, with their average finishing position being 16th. In that time frame, only West Ham (9th, 2006) finished in the top half of the Premier League.
The fate of the losing team is far simpler. I’ll be returning to my own set of well used phrases in the autumn when I start using the term ‘playoff hangover’ to describe Brighton, Leicester and Monday’s losers when they’ve lost to Yeovil or Bournemouth instead of Chelsea and Manchester United. Only six clubs in the last 20 seasons lost the playoff final and were promoted to the Premier League at the end of the following season and another three clubs reached the playoffs but lost in the third round. The good news for the playoff losers: only once in the last 20 seasons has the playoff runner up been relegated (Leeds in 2006)
Watford’s current team isn’t as good as the sides that won promotion in 1999 and 2006, both of which spent one season at the top level before finishing in last place. The current Crystal Palace side is roughly around the same level as the teams that were promoted via the playoffs in 1997 and 2004, but once again, both those squads were relegated after one season.
So who will join Cardiff and Hull in having to buy a new heat transfer machine for replica shirts next season? It’ll have to be another different angle here, as it’s an away game for both teams. As I mentioned in the semi final previews, neither of these teams have exactly been in form recently. Palace’s 2-0 win at the Amex a couple of weeks ago was only their second win in their last ten away games and although they’ve been better defensively of late, the last time the Eagles won consecutive away games was around the time the clocks went back. Watford have managed to win four of their last ten games away from Vicarage Road, but they lost five of the other six – it’s either boom or bust for the Hornets.
From a wider perspective, the Championship playoff final is normally a straightforward game. Sixteen of the last 20 games were settled in normal time and of the four that went into extra time, only half were decided by penalties – the last time that happened was in 2002, when Birmingham beat Norwich at the Millennium Stadium.
In the context of third v fifth finals, the stats are bit cloudier. There have been six games that fit the bill in the last two and the higher placed club has won three of the last five, but the interesting angle here is that these games usually feature a few goals. Here’s the rundown:
1996: Leicester 2-1 Crystal Palace (AET)
2003: Wolves 3-0 Sheffield United
2006: Watford 3-0 Leeds
2009: Burnley 1-0 Sheffield United
2011: Swansea 4-2 Reading
2012: West Ham 2-1 Blackpool
What’s interesting about that is that eight of these clubs are currently still in the Championship – only Swansea and West Ham are still in the Premier League and both the playoff finalists from a decade ago will be playing in League One in August.
Verdict: I’m expecting a cagey half an hour to begin with, but in the fifteen minutes before half time in their last ten away games, Watford have scored three times as many goals as Palace have – this is basically Troy Deeney time. Palace are vulnerable during this period – they’ve conceded five goals in that time frame, including two at Brighton and three at Ipswich. It’s also worth mentioning that in their last ten away games, Palace have only scored twice in the first half, whilst Watford scored seven times.
The fun should start after an hour – this is where Palace could make a breakthrough as Watford have defensive frailties. The Hornets conceded goals at Bristol City and Peterborough in this period, which doesn’t exactly bode well and The Eagles scored twice as many goals in the second half of their most recent away games as they did in the first period.
There’s been a goal in six of Watford’s last ten away games in the last quarter of an hour, but more worryingly for Palace this is another period where they’ve conceded goals. I’m expecting the decisive goal to come at this point in the game.
Verdict: Overall, it’s hard to separate these clubs, but one possibly decisive angle is that Watford were one of the most improved teams away from home last season. The Hornets won twice as many games as Crystal Palace did and their goal difference was the best in the Championship. To put Palace’s away form into some perspective, they averaged less than one goal on the road and Peterborough – who were relegated – had a better goal difference on the road. If this holds true on Monday, it’s possible that this game could a rout and Watford will have earned themselves a lot of money and at least one season in the Premier League.
I’ll be back early next week with some thoughts on the final, but my wife’s younger sister is getting married this weekend. Congratulations to both of them, but in a spectacularly poor show of timing, I’m not going to be able to watch the Champions League final and I’m also not expecting to see much – if any – of the last game of the season in the nPower Championship…
Mike Roberts - Saturday 18.05.13, 15:32pm
Only two places left in the Championship and tomorrow’s League One playoff final is between two sides that will be new to the Championship. Brentford last played in the second tier two decades ago (when it was the old Division One) while this season’s fourth placed finish is Yeovil’s best season in the Football League since they were promoted from the conference ten years ago.
Brentford are the favourites to win promotion, but I think this is going to be a very, very close game that could have a surprise ending. Here’s why:
This is the eight time in the last 20 seasons that the League One playoff final has been contested between the sides that finished third and fourth at the end of the season. However, five of those eight finals have been won by the lower placed team and the last time the third placed team beat the team that finished immediately below them was 13 years ago, when Gillingham beat Wigan.
Additionally, half of those eight finals needed extra time to separate the clubs – including last year’s showdown between Huddersfield and Sheffield United – and finals that go to extra time tend to come in bunches. Between 2007 and 2011, all the games were settled in 90 minutes, but six of the eight finals between 1999 and 2006 were undecided at full time.
League One Playoff Finalists 1997 (lost to Crewe), 2002 (lost to Stoke), losing semi finalists 1991, 1995, 2005 and 2006
Hardly an inspiring record is it? It’s not as if Brentford are going to Wembley with a lot of recent form either. You get the impression that they’re only favourites because they finished two points ahead of Yeovil.
The Bees have won only three of last ten games in League 1, their last win coming in a 3-2 victory against Portsmouth at Griffin Park in the middle of last month. Goals – from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Clayton Donaldson in the last five minutes gave Brentford a come from behind victory.
The West London side been in the playoff positions for half the season but were in with a chance of automatic promotion before the crazy ending to their game against Doncaster at the end of last month. To be honest, the Bees drew far too many games to really be considered auto promotion candidates – only four teams in League One featured in more stalemates this season.
League One Playoff Finalists: 2007 (lost to Blackpool)
The Glovers were looking like a solid mid table team until they went on a run of eight wins between the end of December and the start of February, but since then they’ve manoeuvred themselves into the playoffs by being tough to beat.
This season’s final table is a little misleading: although Yeovil have one of the poorest defensive records of the top ten sides in League One, over the latter half of the season they were much tighter at the back.
Absolutely no problems up front though – only Swindon and Bournemouth scored more goals this season. Irish striker Paddy Madden is League One’s leading scorer and James Hayter scored the winning goal for Doncaster Rovers in the 2008 League One playoff final.
VERDICT: one of the overlooked aspects of this game is that whatever happens next season, Yeovil will be the best team in the West Country if they win promotion. Manager Gary Johnson, left back Jamie McAllister and midfielder Gavin Williams were all involved with Bristol City’s more successful seasons in the Championship.
Having won both league games against Brentford this season, I think Yeovil are underrated. The Bees have one of the worst records in the playoffs at any level and also seem to have acquired the habit of screwing up at the worst possible time this season. Defeat at home against Doncaster was bad enough, but they also let Swindon back into the game in injury time at the end the playoff semi final at Griffin Park and I think they may get found out tomorrow.
Update: congratulations to Yeovil Town, who were promoted to the Championship following their 2-1 win over Brentford yesterday.