If £100 million is at stake, would you take your chance or let it slip? That is exactly what was at stake for last season’s Championship play off winners QPR. They didn’t however get this in one big lump sum, this total was calculated by TV rights for the play off semi finals (both legs) and final, league payment for promotion to the Premiership, TV rights for the next season and various other media deals and sponsorships. This season the prize pot has increased but no figure has been released to date to how much it has increased to. How and why has the prize funds increased? The only reason is because of the new £5.14bn TV deal that was concluded back in early February.
The final day of the Sky Bet Championship had one of the most dramatic twist and turns in recent years. The biggest story was of course Bournemouth, not just for getting promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history but also for finishing off as Champions. They beat Charlton 3-0 away at the Valley whilst Watford who topped the table before kick off, conceded in the last moments of the game to draw 1-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The results meant that Bournemouth finished top by only a point, and having the distinction of being the top goalscorers in English professional football. Another shock was Derby losing out on a play off place after being settled in the top 6 for most of the season, they slumped to a defeat on the final day resulting in them not making the grade.
So, what teams are in the play offs this season? Here’s a quick and brief outline;
Final league position: 3rd
Norwich are looking at getting back to the summit of English football again. They brought in the likes of Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, both had great track records with their previous clubs, both with many Premier League suitors. In addition they also brought in experienced ex-Bolton player Elmander, but none of them could set the world alight whilst with the Canaries. For the majority or if not the entire season, Chelsea captain John Terry had scored more goals than the three strikers, Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel and Elmander had combined together during Norwich’s last season in the Premiership.
Final league position: 4th
Middlesbrough got so close yet have to settle for 4th. Patrick Bamford has spent the season on loan from Chelsea and to thunderous effect scoring 17 goals for them. They had won the Carling Cup (League Cup) last in 2004 just 11 years ago and had gradually fallen from grace since. Without Bamford goals and play, Middlesbrough wouldn’t have finished as high as they did this season and Bamford has gone on to win the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Year.
Final league position: 5th
Brentford, like Bournemouth have had a brilliant year. They have only just been promoted to the Championship this season after a 21 year absence but yet find themselves within touching distance of the holy grail, the Premier League. Brentford’s star man this campaign has been Alex Pritchard who is on loan from Tottenham. Brentford sneaked into the play offs largely thanks to winning 3-0 at home to already relegated Wigan Athletic and Derby’s final day slip up.
Final league position: 6th
Joint on 78 points with Brentford and Wolves, Ipswich just pipped Wolves to the final play off spot thanks to scoring 4 more goals than them. Between the three clubs there was only 5 goals separating them. Ipswich finished their final league fixture with a 3-2 defeat away to Blackburn at Ewood Park..
Who is playing who in the semi-finals and when?
Friday, May 8, 2015 (7.45pm) – Brentford v Middlesbrough (1st leg)
Saturday, May 9, 2015 (7.45pm) – Ipswich Town vs Norwich City (1st leg)
Friday, May 15, 2015 (7.45pm) – Middlesbrough v Brentford (2nd Leg)
Saturday, May 16, 2015 (12.15pm) – Norwich City v Ipswich Town (2nd Leg)
Winners of both ties after the two legs (home and away) will play the final at Wembley where we will find out who will be third and final team joining the Barclay’s Premier League for the 2015/2016 season.