Who will win the Championship playoffs?

The Championship had one of the best ever endings to a season with nobody knowing who will be in the playoffs until the last whistle.

Watford, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will be hoping to win the playoffs and gain a place in the Premier League alongside Cardiff City and Hull City. Bolton Wanderers missed out on the playoffs by goal difference and Nottingham Forest only missed out on the last day after losing to Leicester. For me this is one of the most difficult to predict simply because of how close it all was at the end of the season.

Watford finished third and have been one of the most entertaining teams this season but they had such a disappointing end to the final game. They lost 2-1 to Leeds United but in their defence they conceded a late goal from a counter attack. If only they had managed to score a goal they would have actually finished second and gained automatic promotion. Troy Deeney got a red card in that game and so that means there will be more pressure on top goal scorer Matej Vydra. But, he isn’t in the greatest of form himself. Watford have been criticised this season because of all their loan signings but Gianfranco Zola deserves more credit for getting them to perform.

Brighton finished fourth and are going into the playoffs in the best form and with their experience they may be the team to go up. Wayne Bridge and Matthew Upson at the back shows they have a lot of quality and experience and they have been a large part of their rise to towards the top of the league. In midfield they have a lot of young and talented players like Liam Bridcutt , Will Buckley and Kazenga Lua Lua that probably deserve a chance to show their talents in the Premier League. Even though their top scorer only has 11 goals they still have good strikers with the efforts and determination of Craig Mackail-Smith and Jose Ulloa who has had an impressive start to his Brighton career, scoring 9 in 17 league games.

Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway have been very hit and miss and they need to find some form and quickly. Their win over Peterborough on the last day of the season could be crucial as it showed that they can come from behind to win games and still have a lot of quality in their team. Glenn Murray, the top scorer in the Championship scored one of the goals and Kevin Phillips got another so they have players that can score at anytime in a game. Their defence is a little bit of a worry but in midfield they have a lot of talented players like Wilifried Zaha and Jonathan Williams.

Leicester were the last team to qualify for the playoffs and I was really surprised that they got in there because they had to beat Nottingham Forest away and hope Bolton didn’t win. So this could push the team on because they will be very confident and maybe seen as outsiders. They have a lot of talent in their team and this could be Nigel Pearson’s last chance to get promotion with Leicester so there could be extra motivation for the players.

However, I do think Watford will beat Leicester and Brighton will beat Crystal Palace in the semi finals and then it will be a very exciting final. Then I am going to go for Brighton to win the playoffs and compete in the Premier League next season.

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Who will win the League 1 playoffs?

League 1 had a very exciting finish to it with Doncaster Rovers winning the league and Bournemouth also going up automatically.

Now it is time to turn to the playoffs and with Brentford, Yeovil Town, Sheffield United and Swindon Town looking to secure a place in the Championship it will certainly be nail biting for all the fans involved. All of the teams were guaranteed a place in the playoffs before the final game so they didn’t have to worry about that too much and could concentrate on trying to get promotion.

Brentford may be coming into the playoffs in the worse position because they were a penalty kick away from gaining automatic promotion and that might have damaged the confidence of all the players, particularly Marcello Trotta who missed the chance to be a hero. However, this may drive the team on and with them finishing third they should be favourites to go up. A worry I do have about them in the playoffs is simply the fact that manager Uwe Rosler has criticised the whole team for missing the penalty. I don’t think he should have blamed anyone, especially when there is still possibly another three huge games before the end of the season.

Yeovil Town are the surprise team in the playoffs in my opinion because they cannot have a big budget and there are some big teams in the division this year. But under Gary Johnson, who I do think is a good manager, they have been brilliant and even if they don’t manage to go up this year, the fans and the club should be proud of what they have accomplished. Striker Paddy Madden has probably been the signing of the season not only in League 1 but possibly the whole of the Football League and he will be crucial in these playoffs.

Sheffield United will probably be most people’s picks to win promotion through the playoffs this season but they are out of form and certainly need a lift, they haven’t scored for three games and lost two of those. Chris Morgan has recently took over from Danny Wilson as manager and that to me was a very poor decision, Wilson was really unlucky to have missed out on promotion last season and I felt that he would have got them up this year. The problem for them is they are missing a regular goal scorer so will be relying on good defensive displays to win the playoffs.

Swindon Town are also another team that have had to appoint a new manager recently and this could prove to be a problem because they haven’t quite been as good under Kevin MacDonald. Swindon have an amazing goal difference with plus 33 and this is better than both Doncaster and Bournemouth. They lost their last league game to relegated Scunthorpe United 3-1 and this will not have put the team in the best of moods. It was very different under departed Paolo Di Canio and maybe the players just haven’t responded to MacDonald’s training methods.

I think Brentford will beat Swindon and Sheffield United will beat Yeovil in the semi finals and then the final is very difficult to call but I will go for Brentford as they have had a very good season and hopefully they can pick themselves up.

Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be very exciting this year and it is one of the toughest to call.

Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town, Northampton Town and Bradford City are all hoping to get through the semi finals and win the playoff final so they can be competing in League 1 next season. They will be hoping to join Gillingham, Rotherham United and Port Vale in getting promotion this year and now I will look at each team and give my verdict on who I think will go up. Each team could easily win it so it is quite difficult to choose.

Fourth place Burton Albion should be confident going into the playoffs as they were the closest to getting automatic promotion and have just beaten Gillingham 3-2. However, in recent weeks they did also lose 7-1 to Port Vale. I am surprised that they are actually in the playoffs because I expected them to struggle this season but they have proved me and many others wrong. One thing that has been impressive is the amount of goals they have scored, particularly at home. Jacques Maghoma has scored 15 league goals this year with Billy Kee and Calvin Zola also scoring double figures this year.

Next are another team that have a fantastic home record but for a completely different reason. Cheltenham may not score as many goals as their rivals but they certainly have a very good defensive record. They also have some good midfielders and I believe they have the ability to play at a much higher level. Marlon Pack is the standout player for me and has already played over 150 games in his club career even though he is only 22. Darren Carter and Jermaine McGlashan will also be key in these playoffs. The club are hoping to go one better than last year when they were beaten in the final.

Northampton Town are probably the most out of form team in the playoffs but that does not mean you can count them out. With a striker like Adebayo Akinfenwa they will also cause problems to any defence even though he is not in the greatest form himself. Getting a victory over Barnet on the final game of the season will also give the team confidence. They have a good manager in Aidy Boothroyd and I would like to see him managing higher up in the English leagues once again.

Bradford City will be hoping they can visit Wembley for the second time this season after getting to the League Cup Final earlier this year. Phil Parkinson has done a fantastic job and to get a promotion would be just a cap off an amazing season for the fans and the players. I do like their attacking players, especially Nahki Wells who has scored 18 goals in 39 league games. But they also have James Hanson who adds more than just goals to the side and he will be vital. I would like to see Bradford go up and get back to where they once were.

I think Bradford will beat Burton Albion and Cheltenham will beat Northampton in the semi finals. So the final will be against two teams that have lost at Wembley in the last year. But, I think this time Cheltenham will come out on top.

Chesterfield are relegated to League 2

Chesterfield finished 22nd in League 1 this season and got relegated and will therefore be playing in League 2 next year but they have still given their fans some joy this season.

Chesterfield only picked up 42 points from their 46 games

The fans at least got to make the trip to Wembley and see their team lift a trophy which is a fantastic experience for all the fans and players even if the season didn’t go quite as well as hoped. During the season they beat Sheffield Wednesday at home 1-0 which must have given the fans a lot of pride as their rivals from Sheffield went on to win automatic promotion and in recent weeks they beat relegation rivals Wycombe Wanderers 4-0.

The question is can they bounce back from this relegation and return to League 1 at the first time of asking? Well if they stick by their manager John Sheridan which seems very likely, they will have a fantastic chance because he has proven he is a good manager and has more ability than League 2 level. The problem could be if a manager in League 1 gets sacked early on, they may want to give Sheridan the job.

So they have the manager but what about the team? In goal they have Tommy Lee who I rate quite highly because he has produced some stunning saves and will be vital to the squad next season if he stays because there is no doubt he will have teams looking at them as he is better than a lot of League 1 goalkeepers. The defence may need improving though because it wasn’t the greatest and conceded 81 goals throughout their league campaign. But Neal Trotman who was signed permanently in January after an initial loan spell should perform better in League 2 and could even become captain next season.

From the midfield they should get goals as Danny Whitaker has very good instincts and knows when to arrive late in the box. In his Chesterfield career he has scored 23 goals for the club including eight this season which is a good record for a midfielder. Alongside him in the midfield they have Mark Allott who does a lot of the work that goes unnoticed and he does a good job in front of the back four.

In the striking department they do have a good mix of youth and experience. They have Jordan Bowery who at just the age of just 20 has played over 100 games for the club but this has been his real breakthrough season. He has played 48 games this year and has scored 12 goals so if they can hold onto him, I believe he could finish as top scorer in League 2 next season and could interest a lot of clubs in the future and may even have the ability to play in the Premier League one day. Craig Westcarr alongside him up top also added 11 goals this season with eight of them coming in the league. His pace will cause a lot of teams problems and will be a massive threat next season.

The Chesterfield fans have a lot to look forward to next season if they can keep the squad together and this relegation experience may actually do them some good. The fans need to make sure they are right behind the manager and the players because they are a good team but underperformed this year and I personally think it was just a bad year and they will come back stronger.

Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be contested by Southend United, Torquay United, Cheltenham Town and Crew Alexandra with all four teams hoping to end the season on a high.

Southend and Torquay narrowly missed out on the automatic promotion spots and this could have damaged morale within the squad as Crawley Town took the final spot but I am sure they would have already put that behind them and will be hoping for a chance to play in League 1 next season. Cheltenham Town were out of the automatic promotion race and were safely in the playoffs so they have had a lot of time to prepare for these games coming up and Crewe had to secure their place on the final day.

Southend under Paul Sturrock have been magnificent this season and their form towards the end of the season has been sensational with the amount of clean sheets they are keeping, which could be vital in these playoffs. If they keep three clean sheets they are guaranteed promotion in my eyes because they do have goals and enough experience to get them through. The key player for me has got to be Freddy Eastwood who has recently rejoined the club and has the ability to play at a higher level. Although it didn’t quite work out for him at Wolves or Coventry City, I think he has enough to cause teams problems in the playoffs and could just snatch a very important goal.

Torquay lost their last game of the season against Hereford United to end any hopes of finishing in the top three. But, they shouldn’t let this result affect them as they have had a good season under Martin Ling and he will have them well organised for the playoffs, with each individual player knowing exactly what they need to do. Their form going into the playoffs has not been great and there has been worries of fatigue in the squad but there is a big prize at the end of it so I am sure the players will be up for the challenge. Eunan O’Kane is a key player for me as the 21 year old has been playing magnificently all season and looks like a seasoned pro rather than just a youngster. He has remarkably already played 120 games for the club, adding another 49 to that tally this season and has been linked with a move away.

Cheltenham Town have surprised me this season as I did not expect them to be this high up the table but fair play to them as they deserve it and manager Mark Yates also deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club. Their win in the final league game of the season against Plymouth Argyle will have given the fans a little bit of optimism going into the playoffs as they had to work hard for their victory and it won’t be easy to get through to the final. Marlon Pack is someone who I think could be very influential in the possible three games as he is very good on the ball and for someone so young he looks like he could play at a much higher level than League 2. He has scored six times in his 50 games this season and could easily be the one that makes the difference.

Crewe just secured their place in the playoffs on the final day and will be hoping that their players will take confidence from that and use it to their advantage. They have a lot of young talent in their side and this could work out well for them as they will go out onto the pitch with no fear, however, they may not be used to playing in games that are so important and may freeze under the pressure. I don’t think manager Steve Davis will allow that to happen and will make sure they are focused on their football rather than the occasion. It is difficult to choose a key player for Crewe because they have so much talent in their squad but it will be a tough test for them and their inexperience may work against them but Nick Powell is a sensational footballer and will one day I am sure play in the Premier League and if he progresses the way he has so far, then he will surely be an international footballer too.

I think this is the hardest of the playoffs to call as each team has a good chance of winning it but I think Crewe will beat Southend just because Southend may not have got over the disappointment of not getting automatic promotion and if they concede the first goal their heads may drop. The other semi final I just think that Cheltenham will win as Torquay have had problems with fatigue and it seems like the stress will get to them the most. The final will be very interesting but I think Crewe may just take it although I do imagine all the games to be very close and only won by the odd goal.

Who will be Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town have had an interesting few days with their manager leaving and appointing Steve Coppell as their director of football.

This is Crawley Town's first season in League 2

Steve Evans has left for Rotherham which seems a strange decision seen as though Crawley are in 4th and pushing for an automatic promotion spot and Rotherham United are 10th and still have an outside chance of making the playoffs but will need results to go their way if they are to get there. So what are the chances that Rotherham and Crawley will meet each other in the playoffs?

Craig Brewster is the current caretaker manager and he guided the team to a 2-1 victory over Barnet which lets the board know that if he wants the job then he would be a very good candidate. Maybe they will just give him the job until the end of the season and if he gets them promoted, he will get the job permanently. But is Steve Coppell poised to takeover? He is a very experienced manager and throughout his career he has been successful but he had retired from management but he may be tempted into one last go at managing.

So who could Crawley appoint as their new manager if they decide to go in another direction? The current Dover Athletic manager Nicky Forster could be a good choice as he is performing quite well at his current club and did a decent job as caretaker manager of Brentford in 2011 losing only five of his 21 games and maybe should have been given the job permanently. He played most of his football in the lower leagues and therefore will have many contacts and will know a lot about it which will always give a young manager a slight advantage over someone who has been out of the game for a while.

Richard Money is also linked with the job and he has a lot of experience which maybe Forster lacks therefore he could be given the job. In his last job he was sacked by Luton Town which to me was very harsh seen as though his team were third in the league and he actually had the highest win ratio of any manager in Luton’s history. In his 83 games in charge, he won 45 but his downfall was that he couldn’t get the club promoted back to the Football League. However, he has got teams promoted from League 2 before when he was the manager of Walsall. Money, always gets his teams playing good attacking football and this would please the fans.

Finally, I would like to throw Mark Robins name in the mix as he has been out of work for a little while now but always had the potential to be a good manager and with a little guidance he could succeed at a much higher level. With Steve Coppell at the club already it could be a perfect partnership and he has a good record in League 2.

The board have a big decision to make, do they leave it until the end of the season and hope that Brewster is good enough to get them promoted or do they give the job to someone else and hope that they come in and give the squad a little boost. However, it is a very good position to come into a club, the team are near the top of the league and the players should be very confident

Sheffield Wednesday sack Gary Megson

The Sheffield Wednesday fans must be distraught after hearing the news that manager Gary Megson has been sacked, especially when they beat city rivals Sheffield United in their previous game.

He was a fans favourite because of his history with the club and you could see his passion and determination to succeed with Wednesday, he even admitted himself that he is a better manager than League 1 and this was the only job he would drop down to do. His style of football wasn’t the most expansive but the fans didn’t care and the long ball game was sending the club in the right direction. Yes, chairman Milan Mandaric probably did want automatic promotion this season but you have to take other things into consideration, when he took over he inherited a team with a lot of players that did not really care for the club and only wanted to pick up their pay cheque. But he has instilled a sense of belief and willingness to perform in front of thousands of Wednesday fans every week.

The goal celebration from Chris O’Grady against the Blades shows that the players were right behind him and wanted him to continue. Player power is a big thing in football now and over the years that has been a lot of discontent but this team all seemed to be pulling in the same direction and Megson was spearheading this and the squad was following his lead. This filtered down to the fans who affectionately called him the Ginger Mourinho and everything seemed right at Hillsborough but this sacking may have a detrimental effect on their season if they choose the wrong man to replace him.

Milan Mandaric will not be the most liked person in Sheffield today and there will be people that call for him to sell up and leave but he did save the club and if he thinks that the club aren’t performing how they should be, then he has the right to sack the manager. One thing you do need as a chairman is the fans on your side and communication with the supporters has improved dramatically since he took charge. However, this is not saying a lot as it has been very poor for a number of years now. His decision to put a Wednesdayite in charge was seen as a master stoke as he kept on pleasing the fans but it is a disgrace that Megson wasn’t even allowed a full season in charge, the team are in the playoffs and could possibly finish in the automatic places. I hope he know what he is doing or it could be another year in League 1 and yet more money out of his own pocket.

Megson deserves a lot of praise as he always conducted himself properly no matter if the team won, lost or drew and it is a great credit to him for that. But looking at the other side he did so much for Wednesday, he reduced a massive wage bill and got rid of a lot of deadwood and brought in a squad that was capable of promotion which it clearly wasn’t when he arrived. Finances are crucial in football and I thought of all people Mandaric would have understood this but obviously third isn’t good enough for him.

I hope Megson gets back into football and does a good job somewhere else because he is a very capable manager. In my opinion, you do not sack a manger that has his team in the playoffs no matter what but if Wednesday end up getting promoted then the new manager will be praised and will be a fans favourite himself which just shows how quickly football progresses.

Sheffield Wednesday sign Reading winger Michail Antonio

Sheffield Wednesday have signed 21 year old winger Michail Antonio to help get their promotion charge back on track after a miserable couple of weeks.

The winger has signed on loan from Reading until the end of the season after it was revealed that Jermaine Johnson is currently struggling with an injury which could keep him out of action and with the Sheffield Derby just round the corner, the Owls fans know they need some creativity in the midfield if they are to beat the Blades at Hillsborough and this is exactly what Antonio will give them. Megson would have loved to have been able to play both the wingers as they would have scared the life out of any defence in the division with their direct running and pace.

The young winger has played in League 1 before with both Southampton and Colchester and performed quite well, impressing in many games and looking like he could make the difference in crucial games. The fans of every club have taken to him very well even though he has only had short spells there with managers wanting to take him off Reading permanently. But the Royals have rejected any enquiries as they see him as a player with massive potential and one for the future at their club.

He is at Wednesday now and they will be hopeful that between now and the end of the season he can replicate what Ben Marshall did in the first half of the season. He does have the potential and will not be worried about playing in front of large crowds as he has already experienced these in his short career so far. This season he has played 16 games in League 1 and scored four goals which isn’t a bad record for a winger and shows that he can put away chances when he gets the opportunity and is not only in the team to provide assists.

The player and club will be hoping that the team can get themselves into the automatic promotion places by the end of the season but if they don’t and have to go through the playoffs then it could be another chance for Antonio to score on a big stage because he has already scored one goal at Wembley when playing for Southampton in the JP Trophy final in a comfortable 4-1 victory.

The Owls fans needed a lift more than anyone before the Steel City Derby and hopefully this transfer will excite them and make them more confident of victory. The last few weeks have been close to disastrous but maybe this can be the catalyst to a brilliant end to the season and dispel any rumours that Milan Mandaric is losing patience with Gary Megson.

It is getting closer and closer to the big kick off and now United have another player to worry about which they didn’t expect and may have to change their game plan so Antonio doesn’t have a debut that the Wednesday faithful will be talking about for years to come.

Praise for Sheffield Wednesday fans

The support of Sheffield Wednesday has never been in doubt but the Owls have probably even surpassed their own expectations by selling out a game in League 1. Yes it is the Steel City Derby but this is still an astonishing achievement as teams in the Championship and Premier League will be looking at Hillsborough in envy when the two sides take to the field, only wishing they had the same passionate support as the blue and white half of Sheffield.

What makes it even more remarkable is that the game has been sold out a whole month before the fixture is going to be played. League1 will never have seen a fixture like this and will probably never see it again. 12,500 seats were sold within three days of going on general sale which means that the fans know the importance of this game because it is not only a local derby but the two teams are currently level on points in the league and pushing for an automatic promotion place.

This is most certainly the most anticipated derby for a long time as both sides know that it could determine which division they are playing in next season. However, Wednesday need to make sure they keep up their good run at home as lately they have been beaten by Charlton and let a lead slip against Hartlepool, but other than these results their home form has been close to impeccable. Gary Megson though needs to keep his players minds focused because they have some crucial games coming up including games against promotion rivals MK Dons and Stevenage. Also they have a game against Chesterfield scheduled for the week before the big derby which will be their opponents biggest game of the season and therefore they will be up for it.

The January transfer window will be closed by the time the game comes around and the players that are brought in and sold could be vital in which team wins the game. With plenty of Blades players linked away from the club, such as Ched Evans and Stephen Quinn, the team could be substantially weakened for the rest of the season not just for the game against Wednesday.

Wednesday also seem to be linked with a few players and could be in need of a more creative midfielder with the latest being Ferrie Bodde. Who was very influential in getting Swansea promoted from this division but has suffered horribly with injuries in the last couple of years. The long running transfer saga of Ben Marshall needs to be sorted too as they either need to sign him or bring in someone to replace him as they look short on the wings. However, fortunately for the Owls it seems that Jermaine Johnson is beginning to find the kind of form which will frighten the life out of the Sheffield United defenders. With two wonder goals against Hartlepool and Scunthorpe he could be seen by many as the important player in the match. As all Wednesday fans know he can be infuriating with his sometimes poor final ball but they also know that he is one of the few players at the club to get them off their seat and when he gets the ball against United there is always an expectancy from the fans. Which could be crucial when the stadium is full and if Johnsons is flying the crowd will be too.

So back to the fans, this is a tremendous effort for a team that has struggled over recent years but the fans have stuck by the club and continue to support in huge numbers which makes Sheffield Wednesday still one of the biggest clubs in England. The players need to realise how lucky they are to play in front of this magnificent crowd and it is time for them to deliver.