BANK HOLIDAY WEDNESDAY
With the Football League playoff semi-finals having proved themselves – yet again – over the past few weeks to be just about the best set of fixtures in the entire football calendar, the finals were somewhat more jittery, stodgy affairs over the bank holiday weekend. Four goals were spread across the first 362 minutes of showpiece action at Wembley, with two 1-1 draws going all the way to penalties … then Josh Windass popped up with one of the more dramatic winners you’ll ever see in the 363rd, sending Sheffield Wednesday up to the Championship at the expense of South Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley.
“That was probably the worst standard of game you’ll ever watch,” said Windass in the immediate aftermath, not entirely capturing the mood of the 40-odd thousand in blue and white going spare behind him at Wembley. “The standard from both teams was shocking, to be honest. There was no real quality on show but luckily we got the winning goal.” There was nothing lucky about his header – a bullet from 12 yards – 15 years on from his dad, Dean, scoring his own playoff final Wembley winner for Hull. Windass Sr was rather pleased for his lad.
So, Wednesday head up with Plymouth and Ipswich, and with Leeds, Leicester and Southampton joining them there are plenty of what people like to call Big Clubs knocking around in the division next year. Big Clubs, of course, are those with large average attendances. Or ones that won something once. Or were in the top flight at some point in the 1990s. Though the most important aspect of being a Big Club is people being prepared to argue over whether you, a Big Club, are Bigger than them, another Big Club.
No such worries for Luton, who are more likely to spend the next 12 months being patronised to within an inch of their lives, having beaten Coventry from the spot. In doing so, they equalled Wimbledon’s record for the fastest rise from the fifth tier to the top flight – nine seasons. At the victory parade on Monday, manager Rob Edwards provided one of the more surreal moments of the long weekend, taking to the stage to sing an acapella rendition of Bon Jovi’s Always for the assembled Hatters, keeping a promise he had made when joining the club in November. It’s really not that bad. Or at least not as bad as suggested by the words, “Luton manager Rob Edwards takes to the stage to sing an acapella rendition of Bon Jovi’s Always”.
And on Sunday, with League Two acting as the cheese in the final sandwich, Carlisle had their own singalong – to popular Liverpudlian songsmith Jamie Webster – after they squeezed past Stockport on penalties to seal promotion to League One. “I don’t know what it means, I don’t know who we’re playing,” said dazed United manager Paul Simpson afterwards. “I didn’t want to look until we got there, and we’ve got there.” Roll on next season.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’ve always said Manchester feels like home away from home. I enjoy coming in every day and training with the group, vibing with the girls and I also have family here, so Manchester has felt like home ever since I arrived” – WSL hot-shot Khadija “Bunny” Shaw after signing a two-year extension at Manchester City.
Football Weekly is here! Max and Barry are joined by Ali Maxwell, Sanny Rudravajhala, Faye Carruthers and Archie Rhind-Tutt to talk Luton Town and a weekend of high drama in Germany. Also fresh today: Women’s Football Weekly reviews the WSL season and Chelsea’s march to a fourth title.
TODD’S PLAN: ONE YEAR IN
It was on this day in 2022 that Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital completed their £2.5bn Chelsea takeover, promising to “build on a remarkable history of success” and “make the fans proud”. It’s safe to say, things haven’t quite gone as planned. Boehly is on to his fourth manager, and the new owners have spent close to £600m to achieve Chelsea’s lowest finish since 1996. As Big Paper’s Jacob Steinberg succinctly puts it, “there has never been anything like it.” Still, on the bright side, Boehly’s Blues have fuelled around 1,057 cheap jabs in Football Daily this year. Long may it continue.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
“Liverpool juggernaut James Milner is a special player who has got what others don’t. Most departing players simply get shown the door marked Do One, but as he departs the training ground, he leaves behind The James Milner Door” – Peter Oh.
“Ardent fans of nominative determinism would have been fascinated to see the unstoppable-force-meets-immovable-object clash in the Bolivian Primera Division last night, with Always Ready taking on The Strongest and triumphing 2-0. Having said that, The Strongest remain top of the table, as you would hope” – Noble Francis.
“Football is a beautiful and simple game. But try telling that to the uninitiated. Bayern Munich win their 11th consecutive league title and immediately give the boot to a couple of top executives. Meanwhile in England, a gaggle of failed managers are briefly employed in failed rescue missions, when they appear better suited to being pub landlords. Can’t wait for the new season” – Lindsay Williams.
“So it turns out that one of the presiding geniuses at Chelsea is a certain José Feliciano. Music-lovers of a certain age may well wonder at his inability to get the team to Light My Fire. Among his lesser known hits, though, was Once There Was A Love, which might suit circumstances rather better” – Charles Antaki.
“I know I’m a cynical old b@stard but I’ll never understand people celebrating being the fourth worst team in the league. Why not go down for a season, rebuild and come back up? As it is, the chances are next season will be nothing to look forward to” – Sean Dych David Wilbur.
Send your letters to email@example.com. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Peter Oh.
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