Saturday, 2 June 2012

Championship: 2011/12 season review

It may have been a cracking season in the Premier League, but throughout the three divisions in the football league, fans have not been disappointed with the levels of excitement throughout the season. In the Championship we saw Reading crowned as champions of the Championship with Southampton and West Ham joining them in the top flight next year. Joy for some clubs meant tears for others as Portsmouth, Coventry and Doncaster were relegated from the league. The fight for a play off place also took centre stage as a number of clubs fought for a place to give them a chance of promotion to the top division.

Having been relegated from the Premier League last season, West Ham were strong favourites to make an immediate return to the top flight. New boss Sam Alladyce brought in an array of talent throughout the season which included Nicky Maynard, Kevin Nolan, Matty Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te. With the added experience, the Hammers had one of the strongest squads in the division. Having hovered around the top two for much of the season, a dip in form saw them slip down to third behind Reading and Southampton, meaning if they were to go up, they'd have to go through the play off's. Having beaten Cardiff in the semi finals, it was Blackpool standing in the way of the Hammers. However a late Vaz Te goal secured victory at Wembley and an immediate return for Alladyce's men.

The fight for a play off position was as exciting as ever, as a number of clubs fought for a chance to gain promotion to the Premier League. Cardiff City were again in the mix and after finishing fifth, were given the difficult task of facing West Ham. Relegated from the Premier League last season, Birmingham City and Blackpool faced each other in the other semi final. The likes of Middlesbrough and Brighton were amongst the play off's throughout the season, but eventually fell short meaning another season in the Championship for them. It was West Ham and Blackpool who made it through to the final at Wembley, and it was the Hammers who won beating the Seasiders 2-1.

Despite the excitement at the top of the table, teams lower down the league were fighting it out to avoid relegation. Having been deducted ten points due to administration, Portsmouth were caught up in the relegation scrap. Having put up a valiant effort, Pompey couldn't overturn the deficit and were relegated with fellow sides Doncaster Rovers and Coventry City. Both Doncaster and Coventry spent the majority of the season in the bottom two and struggled to put any form together. Coventry only mastered up a poor nine wins throughout the whole season while Doncaster could only win eight games out of 46. Newly promoted side Peterborough United were relegated the last time they were in the Championship but after some astute signings, Darren Ferguson's side finished with a very respectable 50 points finishing in 18th position. Brighton who were also promoted with The Posh last season and enjoyed a good season, missing out on the play off's finishing in tenth position.

Scoring an impressive 27 goals, Southampton striker Rickie Lambert took away the golden boot for the Championship. The centre forward continued to show what a finisher he is and guided the Saints to second place where they gained promotion to the Premier League. His goals though, weren't enough for Southampton to claim the title having been favourites to take top spot. They were pipped to the title by Reading whose excellent second half of the season, saw the Royals finish the season as champions. Losing only two of the last 19 league games, Brian McDermott's side enjoyed victories on the road against both Southampton and West Ham. Goals were a plenty throughout the season, as the Championship saw a number of high scoring games. In particular Nottingham Forest's 7-3 win at Leeds, and Peterborough United's 7-1 home drubbing of Ipswich the stand out games.

After another exciting season, next year will be sure to be as entertaining. The Championship will welcome Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn, who were relegated from the Premier League. The division will also welcome Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield after they gained promotion from League One.

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