In what was a close season, Cardiff eventually pipped Hull and Watford to the title to become the 2nd Welsh side in the Premier League next season. Hull were 8 points further back, narrowly beating Watford to the final automatic promotion place. Elsewhere in the league, Wolves, who had just come down from the Premier League, finished in an astonishing 23rd place to continue the slide through the tiers of English Football!
Cardiff dominated the league and were in the top 4 for the majority of the season, picking up vital points against rivals and winning ugly when it mattered. They picked up form towards the end of the campaign and raced away in the final few weeks. Hull were resolute as ever, drawing a lot of games, but most importantly winning home games. It wasn’t pretty, but they got there in the end!
Watford, whose owner also owns Udinese and Granada, cheated the system and were allowed to have 11 players on loan, most International standard players like Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri, as well as Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea. Under Gianfranco Zola they struggled at times, as many of these players are used to limitless time on the ball in Serie A and La Liga, so were brought down earth in the hard-tackling 2nd tier of English Football. They lost in the Play-off final to Crystal Palace, who at every point of the season looked like outsiders for promotion, but with help from Wilfried Zaha, after his £15m move to Man Utd, they achieved the ultimate goal, with many thanks going to the underrated Glenn Murray, who led the league’s scoring charts with 30, although 8 were penalties.
Brighton and Leicester completed the top 6, Leicester always messing up and the vital point, despite sneaking into the play-offs. Brighton had a good season, and looked like possibly winning it, but fell away, and fell out with manager Gus Poyet, with Poyet eventually being sacked live on BBC Television! Rising from League One are a trio of Doncaster, relegated the season before this one, Bournemouth and Yeovil, who defeated Brentford in the play-off final.
At the wrong end, Wolves ended the season with back to back relegations. Bristol City were down with weeks left, and Peterborough went down on the final day with the highest number of points to be relegated in history, 54. Amazingly there were 13 points between 6th and 21st – it was that tight! Both of the other relegated sides struggled, Blackburn went through many a manager with Venky’s in charge and were the laughing (Chicken) stock of the league, sacking manager after manager, with Steve Kean, Henning Berg and Michael Appleton coming and going. They finished 16th. Bolton finished 8th, fairing slightly better but with the squad they had promotion should have been realistic.
Teams to impress this season were Crystal Palace, who turned a 17th place finish in 11/12 into 5th, and promotion. Watford rose 8 places from 11th to 3rd, Nottingham Forest an amazing 11 places from 19th to 8th. Cardiff jumped from 6th to top, meaning a huge payday for the club.
Clubs that receded this season were Birmingham, who financially are struggling, dropping from 4th to 12th. Bolton and Blackburn, as mentioned, ended 8th and 16th respectively. Wolves had a torrid season, sacking Stale Solbakken in January after he spend a considerable amount of money on foreign players who didn’t adapt, bar Bakary Sako, who did very well for them. League 1 beckons for manager Dean Saunders, and with Portsmouth going into League 2, the fans and all concerned will hope they fair better in a tough league.
In terms of Top Scorers’, as previously mention Murray won with 30 (Two Hat-tricks, but scored 4 in both of those), followed by Blackburn’s’ Jordan Rhodes with 29 and Burnley’s Charlie Austin with 25, including two hat-tricks. Other honourable mentions go to Matej Vydra and Chris Wood, who scored 22 apiece. As far as assists go, Thomas Ince topped the pile with 14, Hull youngster Robbie Brady 2nd with 13 and Bolton’s Chris Eagles with 12 – the latter two ex-Man Utd youth team players.
A big part of any successful team to build from the back – Cardiff ended the year with 18 clean sheets, the most. The least was 5, with, no surprise, Bristol City – just 5, and with their lack of firepower, bar Albert Adomah, they were destined to fall out of the division.
Our player of the season award goes to Charlie Austin – with his 25 goals keeping Burnley in the league, without him they didn’t have a talismanic forward to bang the goals in, with the old fashioned number 9 doing just that. We were impressed with his presence, power, pace and cut-throat finishing that many look for in a striker!