The EFL concluded its fixtures at the weekend and congratulations go to Norwich City, Hull City and Cheltenham Town for finishing as league champions of the three EFL divisions.
20 years ago, Charlton was talked of by many as a model club, and a number of clubs came to The Valley to discuss the business model employed including clubs like Swansea City who went on to achieve good success. It could be argued that Norwich City is the modern-day model club and they have been rewarded for maintaining stability post relegation last season and keeping Daniel Farke as manager and they have also managed their finances exceptionally well. You will be hard pressed to find two nicer people in football than Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones and whenever I went to Carrow Road you could be guaranteed a warm welcome although Delia’s insistence on her guests matching her on the Pinot Grigio front was a challenge in itself!!
Watford were my pre-season tip for the title, but they had to settle for the runner up spot. Bournemouth, Brentford, Barnsley, and Swansea City will now battle it out in the play offs. Barnsley were minutes from being relegated to League One on the last day of last season, so their achievement is quite remarkable. Notwithstanding that I expect Brentford to make up for their disappointment last season and to make it to the Premier League. Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday, and Rotherham fell through the trap door to League One. With Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United coming down from the Premier League I expect them to carry on a trend of relegated clubs next season by bouncing straight back because of the sheer distortion in finances that now exists.
Hull City dusted themselves down after last year’s relegation from the Championship and won League One comfortably. They were joined by Peterborough United who were well organised by Darren Ferguson and scored a more than respectable 83 goals. Portsmouth went into the final day needing a win to secure promotion but fell at the final hurdle. Oxford United and Charlton did what they had to do but a superior goal difference meant Oxford and former Charlton manger Karl Robinson nabbed the final promotion place.
League One could turn out to be the most difficult league to get out of next season. With Bolton coming up from League Two and Wycombe, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday coming down from the Championship and big clubs like Portsmouth, Charlton, Ipswich and maybe even Sunderland competing for promotion as I expect Blackpool to win the play offs.
League Two was won by Cheltenham with Cambridge Utd and Bolton Wanderers joining them. It has been a miserable few years at Bolton and it is good to see them on the way back and Ian Evatt has followed up his success at Barrow to prove that was no fluke. Tranmere Rovers Morecambe, Newport County and Forest Green Rovers will now battle out the play offs and I expect Morecambe to come out on top.
The Premier League will now take centre stage. My pre-season tip for the title Manchester City should be confirmed as champions in the next two weeks and I also had them down to win the Champions League and I expect them to do that. Hopefully common sense will prevail, and Wembley will host the final as it makes no sense to force two English teams to travel to Turkey where no fans can attend.
Once the Premier League concludes we can all look forward to the Summer and the Euros and I fully expect England’s young team to win it which will be a great boost for our national game going forward and I expect players like Phil Foden to arrive on the European stage in some style. Let’s hope so.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
Image – Sky Sports