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Weekend of drama looms in the Football League

Paul Fletcher | 12:46 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

Nine months of dreams, disappointment, hope and joy will draw to a close this weekend with the end of the regular season in the Football League.*

Each team has played 4,050 minutes of football over 45 games - and for many all their hard work, endeavour, desire and commitment boils down to one gut-wrenching afternoon.

In short, what will unfold this weekend is the drama of the final day of the season. Or, as a mate of mine put it, we are about to go split-screen.

Over the course of this season I have visited grounds that ought to host Premier League football and others that felt more like a homely social club.

For me, this is a central part of the beauty of the Football League, the fact that its 72 clubs take us across a rich and varied footballing spectrum. Rich and poor often exist cheek by jowl (they certainly will in League One next season) and, refreshingly, the wealthy don't always end up drinking the end-of-season champagne.

What I have discovered over the last nine months is that all are united by their incredible work ethic and an unwavering desire to succeed - but some will end the weekend nursing a disappointment of staggering proportions.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish, Sheffield United's Kevin Blackwell and Steve Coppell of Reading

Starting at the top, Sunday is the final day of the Championship season and a three-way tussle for the Promised Land.

Birmingham, Sheffield United and Reading all harbour hopes of snatching the second automatic promotion spot.

It would already belong to Blues had they not surrendered a one-goal lead to Preston last weekend. Instead they now face a tricky trip to Reading, who are three points behind Alex McLeish's side but have a vastly superior goal difference.

I'll be there on Sunday, trying to capture the emotions of the victorious and the vanquished. The Royals must win to have any chance, while a draw might be enough for Blues.

The joker in the pack is Sheffield United.

The Blades are one point behind Birmingham and two above Reading. If Kevin Blackwell's team win and Birmingham don't it will be up, up and away for the Yorkshire club who are still hurting about the role Carlos Tevez played in their downfall the last time they were in the Premier League.

And who are they playing? Crystal Palace, wedged in the comforting if slightly underwhelming safety of mid-table and managed by lifelong Blades fan Neil Warnock, who was in charge at Bramall Lane during their fateful Premier League season two years ago.

Palace chairman Simon Jordan, to be frank, cannot stand the board at Birmingham, while Blades boss Kevin Blackwell used to be assistant to Warnock at Bramall Lane.

Warnock's claim this week that if Sheffield United play to their potential they will win has only added fuel to the fire of those who love a good conspiracy theory.

Equally intriguing is the three-way tussle for the last two play-off places.

Cardiff are in the box seat - a point for them at Sheffield Wednesday will do it - and a win for Burnley at home to Bristol City will guarantee that all the excellent work done by Owen Coyle and his team does not end this weekend.

Preston are hoping one of the other two will slip up.

North End are an excellent point in case as to why you should never give up. After losing to Blackpool on 11 April, the home fans trudged out of Deepdale groggy from the knockout blow their deadliest rivals had seemingly delivered to their play-off hopes.

Three straight wins later and they are poised to pounce on any last-day slip, providing of course they overcome the shambles that currently goes by the name of QPR.

Incidentally, if Cardiff lose and Preston win, North End will pip them on goal difference - a direct result of their 6-0 thrashing of the Bluebirds two weeks ago. Unbelievable - where did that one come from?

The relegation worries belong to Norwich and Barnsley. Any sort of positive result for the Tykes at Plymouth will condemn the Canaries to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960. Jeremy Goss scoring against Bayern Munich seems a long time ago but, then again, this has been a season of unremitting misery for supporters of some of the Championship's supposed big-hitters.

Norwich boss Bryan Gunn

Saturday is the final day of both the League One and League Two seasons - and each division features a straight shoot out for the final play-off place. Scunthorpe host Tranmere, who need a win to snatch sixth place from the Iron. Likewise, Shrewsbury travel to Dagenham & Redbridge knowing victory will see them move above their opponents. Sometimes the fixture calendar is a wonderful thing.

There are no other promotion issues in League One but there is trouble at the bottom. Realistically one of Northampton, Brighton and Carlisle will go down. Carlisle need to defeat Millwall at Brunton Park to have any chance of survival and hope one of the other two slips up.

Two automatic promotion spots remain up for grabs in League Two, with Wycombe, Exeter and Bury in the mix.

Wycombe have wobbled at times this season but a draw will do for them, while Exeter in third are a point clear of Bury.

I'm going to watch Exeter at Rotherham on Saturday to see whether they can clinch back-to-back promotions. It won't be easy for them against a Rotherham side, who would be considerably higher up the table were it not for the fact they started the season on minus 17 points. If the Grecians do seal promotion it would be a wonderful achievement for a club that has experienced its fair share of relegation and financial problems over recent years. Mind you, the same could be said of Bury, who play Accrington Stanley. Shakers manager Alan Knill must be applauded for the brilliant job he has done at Gigg Lane.

Spare a thought for Luton and, barring a miracle, Chester on Saturday. They will be waving goodbye to the Football League. I spoke to Luton chairman Nick Owen a few weeks ago. Clearly the bitterness they feel at the hands of their treatment by the football authorities, who docked them 30 points before the season started, has not faded over the last nine months.

Following the fortunes of the clubs in the Football League this season has been both fascinating and insightful. I have been amazed by the dedication of virtually all of the people that I have spoken to, all determined to acquire that little edge that might make all the difference. And in a world when the top flight can at times seem to be populated almost exclusively by automatons I like to think that there are plenty of characters left in the Football League.

And next season you'll be able to see a lot more of the Football League on this website. Every goal will be available to UK users to replay again and again (over the seven days after each match anyway), with plenty of divisional packages as well to take you through all the action.

I always think that a season feels like a very long time. It takes a long time for the table to take shape and there are long stretches when results don't seem to matter that much, after all there is always next week. Not any more.

* Unless your team makes the play-offs.
** If you want to predict the final weekend's results and see what difference your predictions would make to the final table, why not use our predictor - which is available for the Championship, League One and League Two.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Fletch - you missed Dagenham & Redbridge v Shrewsbury, Shrews need an away win (and there haven't been too many of them) to clinch the last play off spot.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Sparkly79,

    Fletch has not missed the Dagenham-Shrewsbury game.

    He mentions it in the paragraph alongside the photo of Bryan Gunn - and the fact that amazingly one game will decide the final play-off place in both League Two and also League One.

    Thanks

    Ian W - BBC Sport

  • Comment number 3.

    Nice article here. All the best to Cardiff on the weekend, would be great to see them up against the prem teams, great team with great fans and now a new great stadium

  • Comment number 4.

    As a Wolves fan, all I heard at the start of the season was that Reading and Birmingham would run away with the two automatic promotion spots and Derby or QPR would probably go through in the play-off. It's ironic, there is a good chance none of these teams will make it.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am extremely nervous for my team (Cardiff). After such a great season, with us even contemplating going for automatic promotion not so long ago, we now find our play-off position in jeopardy!!

    I am unsure what has happened to the squad to be honest, yes it is small, but we cant use that as an excuse as Burnley don't have a large squad either and they have played much more games than us.

    Maybe a few people in the team took a play-off position as a given and simply relaxed a little too much. Jay Bothroyd has been immense this year, really proved a few doubters wrong, however him saying 'I want to be on the beach come May time', implying that he doesn't want to deal with play-offs and go up automatically might come back to haunt him and us. He still might be able to be on the beach in May...as we might not get the play-offs at all!!

    I still think we will sneak in...just, but its gonna be a heck of a day on Sunday.

    When we were promoted via the play-offs in 2003 we limped in and were not the form team, so the omens are good!! The play-offs are a complete lottery and as the lottery say 'You gotta be in it to win it!'

  • Comment number 6.

    No predictions then Fletch?

    Can I just point out that under no circumstances would Neil Warnock do anything to allow Sheffield United to take anything from this game. Yes, Blackwell was his assistant for 17 years - but Blackwell left the Blades for our rivals Leeds and Warnock only found this out on teletext. Therefore, they fell out.

    Secondly, yes Warnock is a Blades fan and managed us for 7 years, but we sacked him (by mutual consent, of course). Warnock feels hard done by here and has something to prove to McCabe. Warnock is an extremely bitter bloke and will certainly be up for Sunday.

    "Warnock's claim this week that if Sheffield United play to their potential they will win has only added fuel to the fire of those who love a good conspiracy theory."
    - Spot on. Look at the league table. I hope no lazy journalists (Martin Samuels anyone?) have taken this smoke and turned it into fire.

    UTB - here's to getting back to where we deserve to be.

    P.s. Post 3 - Villa's Tommy Johnson - is that a tongue in cheek comment? You must know Cardiff have a bit of a hooligan problem and the 12th best support in the Championship? Us, on the other hand, are taking 8,000 to South London on Sunday.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good article.

    I will be going to Gigg Lane to hopefully see my beloved Bury overcome Accrington Stanley and hope that Rotherham do us a favour against Exeter.

    If not it is the lottery that is the Play-Offs, GULP!!!

    However whatever the outcome all the credit in the world to Alan Knill for turning the club around, the last few seasons we have gone into the closing weeks of the season staring at the oblivion that is the Conference. So it makes a very welcome change to be involved at the right end of the table.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article - and good to see some grown up coverage of "real football" (not the over-paid primadonnas that cover the back pages of the papers). As for League One, now that Stockport have gone into admin and had ten points deducted, the match at the Withdean suddenly looks less than straight-forward. Both teams deserve to survive, so perhaps there could be another conspiracy?

  • Comment number 9.

    Reading deserve the second automatic place for playing the most attractive football.

    Like most people i am a fan of Kevin Blackwell - just a pity he has to be at Sheff Utd!!

    I cant see Norwich beating the drop even with Gunn there, 3 massive clubs to drop out of the Championship with at least 2 of them in financial difficulties - not a good sign for times to come

  • Comment number 10.

    Reading think they can go up automatically? haha mark my words - NO CHANCE

  • Comment number 11.

    Good luck Barnsley, all of Suffolk will be willing you to get the point you need. Lots of Town supporters have a soft spot for yourselves after the 2000 Play-off final at Wembley.

    It is just a shame that your survival will mean the relegation of our main rivals, but some you win, some you lose. :-)

  • Comment number 12.

    Post # 6 - Cardiff a bit of a hooligan problem?

    Maybe a few years back I would have said yes, but no longer. We, as a club, have worked really hard to eradicate the small minority of fans who tarnished the name of the club.

    Every team has its small section of idiots, but anything Cardiff do gets highlighted in the media ten-fold.

    No doubt you will mention the recent coin-throwing incident. This was a disgraceful act and the culprit has been caught and dealt with appropriatly. The fact is that it also happened at Aston Villa AND Chelsea but nobody carries on going on about these incidents like they do with Cardiff.

    People need to give us a chance and realise that we have made massive strides to rid the hooligan element.

    Ask Ipswich fans what they think of us as a club after last weeks match. Was a great atmosphere between the sets of fans, a lot of mutual respect.

  • Comment number 13.

    # 12 - Fair enough, every team does have these problems. Obivously Cardiff have had more than their fair share in recent years. I was just stating it because #3 singled you out for having 'great' support. No mention of us averaging 26,000 this year to your 17,000.

  • Comment number 14.

    As a Cardiff fan, my blood pressure is nearing the point when my heart explodes. Sunday is gonna be hell!

  • Comment number 15.

    If Southampton had survived they would have been deducted 10 pts. and thus relegated. As it is they are already down so will begin life in league one with a 10 pt penalty. Stockport are safe even with a 10 pt deduction delivered in the final week of the season. So next season Stockport and The Saints will both be in league one but the former will begin with a 10 pt advantage over the latter. It doesn't seem fair. As for the Championship you can't help but think all three contenders have thrown away chances for that final automatic spot, and although I think Burnley deserve something for a fantastic season, to lose in a play-off final might just be too cruel.

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 - Surely you have to look at crowd sizes in perspective. Your capacity is 32,000 odd, ours is only 20,000. We have sold out the majority of matches at home this season, the lower average is to do with other clubs bringing less than their allocation!

    I'm sure the crowd averages will be even higher next season with our increased capacity in the new ground!

  • Comment number 17.

    QPR a shambles? Sorry? Eh? What sort of shambles shows a drastic improvement of league position compared to the previous 3 seasons? Last year, and the two seasons before that QPR had real reasons to worry about relegation. This year, QPR haven't dropped outside of the top half all season, and only lost sight of the playoffs in April. The real shambles are the ones down the bottom of the table who've gone from being high-flying premiership clubs to looking out of place in League One next season. QPR have been building and consolidating in the Championship for the last five years, progressing slowly, but steadily since getting promoted in 2004.

    One might lazily just look at the rich owners, assume that loads of money has been pumped into the team, and that they've failed because they haven't got promotion. That's really not the case. Most of the money spent has gone on paying off debts and improving corporate facilities in the ground - oh and paying off sacked managers. That may look a shambles, but it has nothing to do with the team, who despite being inconsistent have proven themselves capable of beating anyone this season. Just ask Birmingham, Wolves, Aston Villa, Cardiff, or Preston. In fact even Man United didn't find themselves up against a shambles back in November.

    I demand that you retract that comment!

  • Comment number 18.

    Whilst I do not think the fans should suffer at all for the mismanaement of any football club & I feel sorry for Stockport, the fact that Brighton would have trained all week to play against a team with nothing to play for and now within forty eigh hours they are playing a team coming to play for a draw is nothing short of scandalous, no team should be permitted to go into administration so late in the season, however I do wish to add that apart from Saturday I wish Stockport all the best for the future, and how uncanny that we are the club Jim Ganon turned down only a few weeks ago

  • Comment number 19.

    #16 - So the away end leave 3,000 seats empty do they? I thought you only gave away fans that little corner?

    What do you think your average attendance would be if you had a 32,000 seater stadium?

  • Comment number 20.

    Mike-Jnr, post 4, I'd love to know where you heard Derby were going up through the play offs! I never heard that from anyone other than Paul Jewell who lead us to believe we'd win all 46 games! To be fair, we should have murdered you on Easter Monday though!!

  • Comment number 21.

    A nervous Exeter fan here, who'll probably end up without fingernails by 5 on Saturday. At the beginning of the season I'd have been happy with a solid mid table finish, but the club have exceeded my expectations by far this year, and I would love to see us promoted in back to back seasons, our troubles well and truly behind us. Paul Tisdale has proved to be a cracking manager, not perfect, but he's kept faith with the players, and they've got us here.
    So I'll be loudly cheering on Exeter and Accrington tomorrow.

  • Comment number 22.

    # 19 - Arses on seats is not the only way of measuring a teams support.

    Take the example of Stoke City, a smaller capacity (and average attendance) than Manchester United, Arsenal etc, but the most vocal supporters in the Premiership.

    Our average attendance is up on last season, which is good enough for me. The new stadium is open for next season and this will increase our support even more hopefully.

    As long as we show progress each season, on and off the pitch, I am happy.

  • Comment number 23.

    Come on the Daggers! Given the form they are in at present, surely Dagenham and Redbridge can get the point they need, against Shrewsbury on Saturday, to secure the last play-off place in league two. And who would bet against John Still masterminding a subsequent victory at Wembley to take his side to League One, after only two seasons in the football league. For the small club near Dagenham East it would be a fairy tale.

  • Comment number 24.

    If you are coming to Don Valley Stadium tomorrow I would advise you to bring your thickest winter coat Paul. It is just about the coldest place on earth and even when the sun is out a thick coat is the order of the day.
    As for the game, only nerves can ruin the day for Exeter. Rotherham's players have been on the beach for the last three weeks and will roll over if a decent committed side attacks them. Having said that, if they are up for it, then Exeter might have to rely on Accrington.

  • Comment number 25.

    "I demand that you retract that comment!"

    And if not? ;)

  • Comment number 26.

    As a Wolves fan, it might be nice to have some reflection on the BBC that the media generally kept telling us Reading were the best team in the division and they and Blues would be going up (even when we'd been top since October).

    I truly feel for all involved in the last day drama - it makes a change for us to be able to relax and enjoy automatic promotion and not fretting over a place in the play off lottery.

  • Comment number 27.

    To call Sheffield United 'the joker in the pack' inbetween a tussle of Birmingham and Reading is disingenuous.
    We've been just about the best team through 2009 and fully deserve our crack at auto on the last day.
    Reading have been putting a bit of form together and hopefully Brum will choke, if they don't and bag the three points, then it will be deserved.
    Re:the Warnock comments about the blades should beat Palace. Well, it's true,as often the case with Warnock he's just saying what most people think.
    On current form, squad etc we should win the game. That doesn't mean Palace/Warnock are going to throw the game does it?

    Should be a great end to the season.(Well, hopefully an end for us!)
    UTB!

  • Comment number 28.

    Birmingham blue it at preston.

  • Comment number 29.

    We at Birmingham have a job to do at Reading and if we do it we need not worry about any conspiracy theories.

    However, say we draw and a soft last minute goal gives Sheffield the win and with it promotion, I for one will probably be grabbing a tin-foil hat and screaming to high heaven in wailing tones about teenage like 'unfairness'.

    All joking aside, we don't go up, we've only ourselves to blame. Good luck to all involved.

  • Comment number 30.

    Did you actually watch the Brum v PNE game? Brum didn't surrender a 1 goal lead North End upped their game after going behind and took it form them by simply outclassing them for the remainder of the game.

    As for the sending off of Williamson for trying to get away from Bowyer's dirty tactics that was ridiculous. EVEN MORE ridiculous was that Brum appealed on Bowyer's behalf. I'd hate to have him at my club he's a disgrace to football and life in general.

  • Comment number 31.

    C'mon Wycombe!

  • Comment number 32.

    Cambridge R

    Don't waste your time. That comment is just typical, lazy BBC journalism.

    And they expect us to pay an over the top licence fee for it??

  • Comment number 33.

    sorry paul dont you think regarding league one relegation you could have mentioned that Crewe Alex have a chance to stay up? all we need it for Carlise and brighton to lose by 2 goals or more and we need to win at least 2-0 (albeit against an already champions leicester). Unlikley but you could have given us a mention seeing as it would be the most remarkable escape from relegation given our form before new year!

  • Comment number 34.

    Cambridge R and QPR4Me - I thought long and hard before choosing to describe QPR at the moment. In the time I have lived in London I have always enjoyed a trip to Loftus Road - great atmosphere and top fans. Why a shambles? Iain Dowie leaving to a backdrop of interference over team selection for one. Then look what happened to Sousa - hardly got a fair go at it. All this why ticket prices are going through the roof for your average fan as the club's owners try to build a boutique club.

    I would hate you to think that I have just pulled the word shambles out of thin air without even thinking about it - please have a look at this if you doubt what I say:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulfletcher/2008/12/times_of_change_at_qpr.html#051792

    It is a bit out of date now but highlights a few things that figure prominently whenever I talk all matters QPR with a few of their fans.

    Tony2060 (post 24) - Thanks for dress. I've had a rethink on the weekend wardrobe - not that there is all that much option.

  • Comment number 35.

    Tony2060 - Make that, thanks for the dress advice.

  • Comment number 36.

    Nice summary of the promotion races. Hard to keep up week-in week-out.
    Will any of them bring something extra to the Premiership? I wonder.

  • Comment number 37.

    i think we might go down

  • Comment number 38.

    i cannot believe the Bluebirds are in this position - not so long ago we had 3 games in hand and where looking comfortable but now we will be twitching all Sunday afternoon. come on lads dont bottle it now.

    "it's a funny old game" never sounded more true.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Incidentally, if Cardiff lose and Preston win, North End will pip them on goal difference" - really?

    If Cardiff lose 1-0 and Preston win 1-0, then that leaves both teams with a +12 goal difference, and with both teams having scored 65. At this point you'd think that it would go on the result of the games between the sides, however the championship rules appear to suggest that it would be settled by a play off.

    Hmm.. a play off game to determine who is in the play ofs

  • Comment number 41.

    #19 - I feel compelled to point out that as recently as the 2004/05 season you were averaging around 20,000 attendances.

    Ours is growing too. You weren't always that well supported!

  • Comment number 42.

    preston. now there's a team. perrennial playoff hopefuls. up north end. cantanker, you heard it hear.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think the word 'shambles' is a very fitting adjective to describe the present state at QPR.

    Briatore has such a big ego and he doesn't give any manager time to get a team together and gel as a unit.

    He needs to realise that players need time to gain an nderstanding of each others play, that it won't happen over night. You can clearly tell that he is not a football man.

    Why does he have to interfere with team selection?? If he thinks he knows best, why doesn't he take over with the postion of manager on a full-time basis!?

    Ticket prices are ludicrously high, just because he is a billionaire, doesnt mean the fans can afford billionaire prices.

    The other problem that QPR will have now is that they will attract a lot of mercenaries, such as Wayne Routledge. He had it good at Cardiff, if we had kept him I beleive we would have been promoted automatically, but as it was, he chased the money, as he has done throughout his career. A team full of mercenaries and big egos will not work.

    Inevitably it'll be the fans that pay the price.

    I feel sorry that they will have to witness all this.

  • Comment number 44.

    qpr hmmm. going nowhere quietly or going nowhere loudly. tough one. cantanker the bringer of dreams.

  • Comment number 45.

    Ah May! What a great month, nice article. Would be fun to have both Coppell and McCarthy back in the Premiership, they won't make much of an impression, the big 6 or 7 ( decide who for yourselves) are pulling further and further away, due to profits, and big players for big wages..if they can't match the bankroll it's mid table mediocrity at best.
    As for QPR, all you have to do is look at the rule changes in F1 for the last 10 years to understand that F1 guys may be fast, they might know machines, but they don't understand consistency or what to do with their millions. Calling them a shambles was being nice.

  • Comment number 46.

    my surname is ousbarstered. cantanker i am 1 bishop short of a chess set.
    up the hatters

  • Comment number 47.

    I beleive that Sheffield United should have the right of the second spot. They have been the most consistant team out of Reading and Birmingham

    United by claiming the second automatic promotion spot so they can banish away the Tevez situation. Kevin Blackwell has done an absoultly fantastic job turning the club around since the releagtion back in 2007

    Good luck To kevin and the boys

  • Comment number 48.

    Good blog Fletch - just a shame the BBC can't provide this kind of detailed analysis and opinion on football league throughout the season. Having said that it's great to hear you'll be showing all the goals from the league next season. If you can back it up with some more comment and analysis along the lines of Gavin Strachan's excellent bloggage, I think a lot of genuine football fans will appreciate it.

    Anyway, i'm looking forward to watching all Bournemouth's goals next season as we work our way back to where we belong.

  • Comment number 49.

    Paul Fletcher

    Most of whqat you refer to is nothing more than speculation. No proveable facts about interference in team selection have ever come out. The fans generally backed the outing of Dowie as his football was ugly and ineffective. Sousa shot himself in the foot after blabbing to a website, having won only 7 out of the 26 matches that he was in charge for, whilst also playing some very negative football. 4-5-1 at home is painful to watch.

    Briatore will bring success, I don't think that the word failure is in his lexicon. He just won't do it in the coarse way that our neighbours did.

    If you want shambles, have a look at Charlton, Norwich and Southampton.

  • Comment number 50.

    As a Reading fan going into this last game of the season, I make us 3rd favourites to go up automatically. First off we have to win and rely on the other result, not to mention hte fact we have t obeat 2nd team in the league, always a challenge.

    But can anyone else see this happening, it's a draw at Selhurst Park, it's a draw at the Madejski with 2 minutes 2 go, Reading are pressing for a winner to take them up only for Birmingham to counter attack and nick the win at the death. It wouldn't be the first time this season now would it?

    Can I just add I'm not having a dig at Birmingham there, they have done well to secure so many extra late points, had we done the same we would probably be already promoted. good teams fight to the end.

  • Comment number 51.

    As a Reading fanatic I would have to admit that the fact we have any chance of automatic promotion is more to do with how inconsistent and poor most teams have been this season rather than about our own good form - which at times has been terrible since Christmas. Much is made about the last game at the 'business end' of the season, but its hard not to remember those silly results - losing to Sheff Utd at home, and being thrashed by Southampton. I just hope we turn up on Sunday.

    However it would be poetic justice if having been relegated on goal difference that we went back up by the same route.

  • Comment number 52.

    as a blades fan obviously i would love it if utd did go up, but watching utd is like watchin england flatter to decieve for a while then a swift kick in the ooobedooes.
    my moneys on birmingham last minute winner (96th minute )

  • Comment number 53.

    amazing how these debates all go the same way!
    someone gets upset at a comment about their team and then spends a good portion of their day defending the team with others justifying the comment!

  • Comment number 54.

    Just reading who would finish in the highest position out of Cardiff and Preston. If Cardiff score same or more than Preston, and Cardiff lose and Preston win (a 1 goal margin in both games)e.g Preston win 1-0 and Cardiff lose 2-1, Cardiff would get a higher position on goals scored (with same goal difference +12). If both teams finish with the same scoeline and with a 1 goal margin (cardiff winning by that scoreline and preston losing by that scoreline) then Preston would finish higher due to the aggregate score against each other which was 6-2 to Preston.

  • Comment number 55.

    #54. If Preston win 1-0 and Cardiff lose 1-0 then they play a playoff.

  • Comment number 56.

    Sheffield United have got to be favourites, even if it is in Birmingham's hands. Can't see Brum taking 3 points from Reading. The Warnock situation is intriguing, you've just got to trust him to be professional, even though everyone knows where his heart lies. Him saying that if SUFC play their best they'll win shouldn't be blown out of proportion, it's just a fact.

    I really want Reading to do it, seeing as I'm no fan of the Blades or Brum and they did us a favour at Norwich. Come on the Royals!

  • Comment number 57.

    I got that off football league website, they say aggregate score after goal difference and goal scored and if that's the same then a playoff

  • Comment number 58.

    oh i see fair enough wont happen though

  • Comment number 59.

    Well as a Sheff united fan i have to say that i think we are going to do it, i cannot see brum beating reading at the madejski even though i couldnt see us going to reading and winning but we did. The fact of the matter is is that united are the team in form away from home, before we lost at burnley we hadn't lost since the 19th of october in the league, funnily enough it was against the blue lot from the other side of town, but all in all it was 15 away games. Surely that fact alone has to give us some sort of boost going into the palace game. Both brum and reading have been somewhat inconsistent towards the later end of the season.

    Looking at the whole warnock situation i think that none of it will matter in the end. yes he may be a united fan and managed us for 7 years, bt he is a proffessional and im sure would love to have us in the championship to play against next season.

    COME ON YOU BLAAAAAAAAAAAADES!!!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Where have all the Burnley fans gone?

    We're a great shout for the playoffs this year, after all Owen Coyle is a master of cup football - If and when we beat Bristol City to ensure our playoff spot we've definitely got the class to overcome Sheff Utd, Birmingham or Reading over 2 legs.

    My only concern is Preston in the final - Massive local serby with so much at stake - it'd be nearly impossible to watch!

    Up the clarets - a bit of mindless optimism never hurt anyone!

  • Comment number 61.

    #55 it would go straight on head to head between pne n cardiff, read this article

    http://www.football-league.co.uk/page/News/ChampionshipNewsDetail/0,,10794~1628683,00.html

    #60 that would b too much for a neutral, never mind me n u

  • Comment number 62.

    When are you going to allow your loyal International viewers, a chance to watch the weeks football replays?

    Best regards.

  • Comment number 63.

    #61 Tell me about it - always love the Preston derby and you guys have deserved to be promoted so many times over the last 9 years (back to back play off finals I was cheering my heart out for you).

    Obviously though I hope your lads do us a massive favour on sunday and cement our playoff spot by slipping up against QPR!

    Best of luck though - can't have Blackburn being the only top-flight club from our part of the world anymore! (Manchester's obviously excluded!)

    UTC

  • Comment number 64.

    I'd be very surprised if Alan Knill isn't on the want list of some clubs higher up in the league. What he has achieved since starting at Bury is bordering on the miraculous.

  • Comment number 65.

    Wolves fans - you deserve to be champions, I doubt anyone would dispute that. So let it go about Brum and Royals being media favourites at start of season (that is automatic for any relegated PL sides, they don't ask the media to put them on a pedestal) - I do recall Wolves getting a fair old mention too, you are a very famous club with a popular manager and some very good players. Good luck next season in PL, reckon you'll be okay.

    Sheff Utd - deserve more credit for getting where they are. Good luck to all 3 teams on Sunday - hats off to whoever it is that takes second spot. It's a shame not everyone on this blog can adopt the same approach.

    The Warnock comments are the usual self-promoting ones he always makes, anyone with half a footballing brain will see through that and ignore them. He says what he thinks I'll give him that, but he's very cute about how he goes about it.

  • Comment number 66.

    As long as Brighton stay up, that is all that matters (to me)
    Russel Slade has got them playing well now - proving that we do have the quality after all...

    Up the Albion !

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Oh the Irony of it !! excuse the pun, but my daughter a lifelong Liverpool fan and also supports Tranmere, now lives in Scunthorpe with mad Iron fan !!! what does one do to placate her partner and satisfy her own pleasure of seing TRanmere make the play-offs !!! I told her to just hope Man U slip up against City, Arsenal and Midllesbrough and life will be sweet !!

  • Comment number 69.

    just like to congratulate the mighty grimsby for staying up and i would just like to add about the comment paul made about sheffield united still hurting from that tevez saga but to be quite honest its not tevez fault and sheff u couldnt face the fact they wasnt good enough that season the simple matter of the fact is that west ham won enough games to stay up and sheff united didnt

  • Comment number 70.

    Fletch i've enjoyed alot of the lower leagues blogs and think there is something distinctly different about the passion and knowledge displayed by supporters of lower league clubs. As a nervous Norwich supporter i'm in for 3 predictions this weekend;

    Norwich to survive,
    Hatton to knock out Pac Man,
    Robertson to win the snooker,

  • Comment number 71.

    2. At 08:15am on 01 May 2009, Ian W - BBC Sport wrote:
    Hi Sparkly79,

    Fletch has not missed the Dagenham-Shrewsbury game.

    He mentions it in the paragraph alongside the photo of Bryan Gunn - and the fact that amazingly one game will decide the final play-off place in both League Two and also League One.

    Thanks

    Ian W - BBC Sport




    Very very sorry have just re read and indeed he does - just goes to show I can't multi task, should just have concentrated on getting ready for work!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    Good luck to the Albion tomorrow. One more victory should will see us through. What a wonderful run Russell Slade and the team have managed - just at the right time to lift us away from what seemed just a few weeks ago as certain relegation. However, it could still all go wrong tomorrow!

  • Comment number 73.

    Wonderful story. Although I root for Arsenal, the Football League is truly the more exciting competition. I've developed a supporters feeling for Burnley and enjoy Owen Coyle's command of the game. As a Yank fan who watches the Football League Championship on Setanta Sports USA most Saturday's, it has been a pleasure to witness the ups and downs of this most mercurial of all football competitions.

  • Comment number 74.

    #45 who is the big 7 then i mean the top 6 at the moment in the PL seem to have a buffer and will be the same for 2 years in a row but 7th is wide open, anyway as for my Football league intrest being from rochdale and living in swansea ive seen a fair few games this season, gutted the swans didnt make the playoffs and hope the dale can win at wembley this season, as for QPR couldnt agree more with paul

  • Comment number 75.

    #69 - By that twisted logic drug cheat Dwayne Chambers should have kept all his medals because the other runners 'didn't do enough' to beat him.

  • Comment number 76.

    richard 342 (post 40) and the various other posters talking about the goal difference between PNE and Cardiff - you are quite right to point out they could end up on the same goal difference. My point is that North End shouldn't have had any chance of challenging or equalling the Bluebirds in terms of goal difference. The 6-0 result was effectively a 12-goal swing. A play-off for the play-offs would definitely be something else.

    AlexofAlexia - Glad you are looking forward to the goals next season. Though there have been plenty of blogs about the Football League this season, lots of interviews and analysis on this blog. Hope you haven't only just found it!

  • Comment number 77.

    None of this is about how good you are, it's about how bad you're not. That is not to excuse anyone or any team but it does sum up how things are. Wolves are up as champs; deservedly, Blues/SheffU/Reading as automatic second?; serves them all right. However my point is fair play to all the other teams who are coming to the fray and are in with a shout ie PNE, Burley etc. Wouldn't like to be in their shoes necessarily but great to see them in with a shout [sorry if that sounds facetious]. Amazing how, at least in this division, when all are given a 'level playing field', even with 'advantages' from the onset, things never go exactly to plan and true grit and 'fan-base'/support plays such a large part. Terrible to see how teams are treated at the wrong end of the table; rather like an old aunt or uncle that no one wants around and suddenly finds out they can get rid of them 'legally', please...section me. Doubt this would/will happen to the likes of Noocassell Noolungeraprumierklub, because face it, the drama, the poigniancy, the history of such a club would preclude them from ever being in danger of such a position, even if they were in such a position...

  • Comment number 78.

    I'm a blade and I cannot see the Brum getting 3 points and I will be amazed if the the Brum squad think otherwise! BCFC have totally bottled it! They will not beat Reading - RFC will win the game on Sunday and if we don't beat Palace then we don't deserve to go up!!!

    My prediction:

    Reading 2 - 0 Brum
    Palace 1 - 2 Blades

    If Utd don't do it then I hope that Reading do!
    Failing auto then I seriously the ball is in our court :-)

    Ian - www.free-console.com

  • Comment number 79.

    Who will join us in the promised land? As a Wolves fan I'm just loving the fact we are already there and the rest of you have to sweat it out. Makes a pleasant change

  • Comment number 80.

    Reading have at times this season been absolutely brilliant then at others rubbish. We've beaten Wolves home and away and then been played off the park by relegation doomed Charlton and Southampton. I don't really think anyone is good enough to go up and see all 3 doing a Derby unless they seriously invest in better players. Still what an exciting end to the season - I'll be at the Mad Stad cheering them on - who needs the boringly predictable Premiership? So sorry Mr Warnock for all the abuse you've got over the years - we like you really and were just having a laugh - come on Palace and stuff the Blades!!!! UUURRRZZZ!

  • Comment number 81.

    I'm a Rotherham Utd season ticket holder, my son was born here and a big fan. Applauded the team at Bradford last week, said my goodbyes for this season. I was born in Scunthorpe and supported them as a child. Took my dad(75) to the Scunny v Cheltenham game on Tuesday night, he tells us of the days in the 1950's when he watched the Iron play Newcastle.
    Hoping Rotherham 'we can't wait for the end of the season' United do ex Rotherham manager and Scunny player Alan Knill, a favour by beating Exeter while Scunny can spoil ex Rotherham legend player and manager Ronnie Moore's day.
    I'm going to Glandford Park with my son and dad for the atmosphere and maybe next season my dad can watch the Iron play Newcastle again while I'm back at the empty athletics stadium that is Don Valley.

  • Comment number 82.

    Lets face it, much as I like to see both Sheffield clubs do well, and can even admit to a tiny pang of sympathy with the blades over the tevez affair, are they really good enough to survive in the premier league? Good enough over the whole season is good enough to go up. Thats its! surviving in the top flight is another issue, and from what I've seen of them this season, I can see them coming straight back down if they dont some investment in the playering staff.
    I wish and hope they do do it on the last day of the season, I cant see Brum doing it at Reading and United do have a track record of pulling rabbits from hats!
    Anyway, As a lifelong Owl the highlight of the season has to be the double thrashing of the arch enemy. If the only way they can escape the same next season is to be promoted..........
    Looking forward to Newcastle in the Championship !

  • Comment number 83.

    Well, for what my tuppence-worth is actually worth (a ha'penny?) I see Wolves & Sheffield United going up from Championship, with Birmingham, Reading, Preston & Cardiff playing off. I fancy Birmingham to win that, and go up.

    In league one, it is obviously Leicester & Peterborough going up, with Dons, Millwall, Leeds and Tranmere in the playoff. Unfortunately, I see futher disappointment for Leeds, with Dons to go up.

    Whatever happens . . . . . don't you just love this stage of the season?

  • Comment number 84.

    Disappointment for Leeds? Isn't that more wishful thinking? lol

  • Comment number 85.

    To royal-roger, As a blues fan I honestly think we have blown it, your team is in form we're not and I think that unless we're two goals up at half time and don't keep attacking, you will overhaul us, we have not played particularly well all season, but have got some gutsy results, but I think that although we played well against Preston, those two fine goals finished us off, either way good luck to both teams one match does not make a season and although I am sceptical stranger things have happened.Perhaps Sheffield will have a say yet!

  • Comment number 86.

    Why no mention of Wolves/Mick McCarthy??? Oh that's right, we're already up!!! hahahahahahaha..

  • Comment number 87.

    As a Blade, i would like another crack at the Premier league simply because of the Tevez affair which ended it last time.
    Its all very well saying "Didnt win enough games" But as has now been proven, West Ham should have been deducted points and we would have been in that division for the next season.Im not saying we would have been there for the third season, and im not saying we deserve to be there, but we shouldnt have gone down as we did.
    Perhaps the Grim Grimsby fan at comment #69 didnt ought to mention us not winning enough games that season.Perhaps if his team won a few more games they wouldnt be where they are now.Stones and glass houses and all that.
    Fair play to Wolves.They deserve the Championship title.
    I think we will win at Palace [watch the conspiracy nutters start if we do] and i just cant see Birmingham winning at Reading which will put us up and give us another chance in the top flight.
    Survive there??
    Very very hard.
    But we have a Premiership standard ground and Premiership crowds.
    We will see!!!!
    Up The Blades...............................

  • Comment number 88.

    Nice blog Paul.

    I can see Reading beating Birmingham and Sheff Utd winning, I think Birmingham will do well in the play-offs, so 3 going up Wolves, Sheff Utd and Birmingham. Preston to beat QPR also, and Burnley drawing with Bristol City, therefore Preston finishing 6th in the play-offs on goal difference and will be playing Birmingham in the play-offs. Should be exciting for the neutral :)

  • Comment number 89.

    You write of "the role Carlos Tevez played in their (Sheff Utd's) downfall".
    Tevez had a blinding end to the season which has blinded everyone to the facts of the case.
    Carlos Tevez arrived at West Ham on 31st August 2006.
    Before his arrival, West Ham had scored four points from three games.
    In the six games after his arrival, West Ham scored one point.
    Tevez played sixteen league games before scoring. In those sixteen games, West Ham recorded two wins, two draws and 12 defeats and during that period, also lost to League One (now League Two) Chesterfield, oh, and had their manager sacked.
    Tevez also played in two UEFA Cup legs against Palermo, both of which West Ham lost.
    All in all, Tevez scored in just six games, only THREE of which West Ham actually won.
    On the other hand Bobby Zamora scored five goals in West Ham's first four games and then having been demoted, didn't score for the next eighteen games.
    I think that it's reasonable to argue that if Tevez hadn't arrived and Zamora hadn't been usurped, West Ham would never have been in relegation trouble in the first place and wouldn't have had to pay a £5.5m fine either.
    In the twelve league games West Ham played without Tevez they recorded four wins and three draws = 15 points. Since those four wins included victories over Man U. and Arsenal, I believe that it's reasonable to extrapolate those performances over the season, which would give a points total in excess of 45 which would of course mean that Sheffield United would have still been relegated but wouldn't have had anything to bitch about.

 

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