For All You Lower-League Fans Out There…
Admittedly, this is a blog focusing mainly on the Premiership, with occasional Champions League talk and even discussion about the UEFA Cup when the situation calls for it.
I’ve tried to pay as much attention as possible to the promotion, playoff, and relegation races in the lower leagues in English soccer this year, though, and so this update is for those of you are interested but can’t find much coverage of the Coca-Cola Championship, League One, and League Two:
West Bromwich Albion are on the brink of sealing promotion. Only the massively-improbable combination of a final-day loss at QPR coupled with a Hull win over Ipswich, turning over a 12-goal deficit in the process – combined with Stoke getting at least a point – will prevent the Baggies’ return to the top division.
In reality, Stoke and Hull are battling for the right to join West Brom, with Stoke needing a point to deny the Tigers.
Stoke, Hull and Bristol City are guaranteed at least a playoff place.
Watford, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Ipswich and Sheffield United are all in with a chance of joining the playoffs.
If Cardiff City wins the FA Cup, they will qualify for the UEFA Cup after they were approved by the Football Association’s board on April 24 to represent England in the Uefa Cup. (Welsh clubs normally only qualify through their own competitions).
At the bottom, three teams go down. Colchester were relegated on April 9 and Scunthorpe joined them three days later after their defeat by Crystal Palace.
Blackpool, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester and Southampton are battling to avoid filling the third place – with Southampton occupying the dreaded 22nd position going into the final day of the season.
Swansea clinched promotion by beating Gillingham on April 12, and won the title a week later after Carlisle’s defeat to Southend.
The Football League had decided not to hand them the trophy until Leeds’ arbitration hearing over their 15-point deduction was concluded – but Leeds lost their appeal on Thursday, confirming the Swans as champions.
The second automatic spot will be decided on the last day of the regular season. Doncaster will take it if they win at Cheltenham, or match the results of Nottingham Forest and Carlisle. Forest will snatch it if they beat Yeovil at home and Doncaster slip up.
Doncaster, Forest and Carlisle will at least make the playoffs. Southend and Leeds will also be in the playoffs.
Four teams are relegated from this division. Luton and Port Vale both went down on April 12, and two more teams will join them on the final day. Bournemouth will go down if they lose at Carlisle – or if they draw and either Cheltenham avoid defeat at home to Doncaster or Gillingham win at Leeds. Gillingham are also down unless they win and other results go their way – while a Cheltenham win will guarantee their safety, and Crewe need a point at home to Oldham to avoid being drawn into the relegation scrap.
Milton Keynes Dons and Peterborough secured promotion on April 19. Hereford joined them on April 26, when Milton Keynes also clinched the title with victory over Bradford.
Rochdale, Stockport, Darlington and Wycombe will contest the play-offs.
Wrexham were relegated on April 22 and Chester’s draw against Stockport one week later meant that Mansfield also drop out of the Football League.
Got all that? OK, good. Thanks to BBC Sport for all the info.