Sheffield Wednesday

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Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Carlos Carvalhal is the third Premier League manager to lose his job this week after paying the price for Swansea's relegation, with the club now in search of their fifth appointment in 19 months. Carvalhal was in talks with Swansea's board on Thursday and has been told he will be leaving the club after just six months in chage. Swansea's drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games, but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure will be confirmed later today. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Swansea will now step up their search for another new manager, as they prepare for the Championship. Ostersunds' Graham Potter, who was interviewed in December, will come into contention again while there could also be support for Brentford's Dean Smith, a target for rivals West Bromwich Albion.
Carlos Carvalhal leaves Swansea as club now searches for fifth new manager in 19 months
Carlos Carvalhal is the third Premier League manager to lose his job this week after paying the price for Swansea's relegation, with the club now in search of their fifth appointment in 19 months. Carvalhal was in talks with Swansea's board on Thursday and has been told he will be leaving the club after just six months in chage. Swansea's drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games, but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure will be confirmed later today. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Swansea will now step up their search for another new manager, as they prepare for the Championship. Ostersunds' Graham Potter, who was interviewed in December, will come into contention again while there could also be support for Brentford's Dean Smith, a target for rivals West Bromwich Albion.
Swansea City are weighing up an approach for Graham Potter, manager of Ostersunds, after Carlos Carvalhal departed the relegated Premier League club. Potter is emerging as a serious contender to replace Carvalhal as Swansea pursue their fifth managerial appointment in 19 months. The former Stoke and West Brom defender has established an excellent reputation at the Swedish club and was interviewed by Swansea before Carvalhal’s appointment in December. Potter, 42, is believed to be open to the prospect of managing in the Championship and Swansea are considering a move as they prepare for a busy summer. Swansea’s drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea’s board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure was confirmed on Friday afternoon. His contract expired at the end of this season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Huw Jenkins, the under-fire chairman, said: “Naturally we are all disappointed with the club’s relegation from the Premier League and, following discussions with Carlos, we felt it was in the best interests of both parties that we move in a new direction.”
Swansea weigh up Graham Potter approach after Carlos Carvalhal exit
Swansea City are weighing up an approach for Graham Potter, manager of Ostersunds, after Carlos Carvalhal departed the relegated Premier League club. Potter is emerging as a serious contender to replace Carvalhal as Swansea pursue their fifth managerial appointment in 19 months. The former Stoke and West Brom defender has established an excellent reputation at the Swedish club and was interviewed by Swansea before Carvalhal’s appointment in December. Potter, 42, is believed to be open to the prospect of managing in the Championship and Swansea are considering a move as they prepare for a busy summer. Swansea’s drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea’s board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure was confirmed on Friday afternoon. His contract expired at the end of this season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Huw Jenkins, the under-fire chairman, said: “Naturally we are all disappointed with the club’s relegation from the Premier League and, following discussions with Carlos, we felt it was in the best interests of both parties that we move in a new direction.”
Swansea City are weighing up an approach for Graham Potter, manager of Ostersunds, after Carlos Carvalhal departed the relegated Premier League club. Potter is emerging as a serious contender to replace Carvalhal as Swansea pursue their fifth managerial appointment in 19 months. The former Stoke and West Brom defender has established an excellent reputation at the Swedish club and was interviewed by Swansea before Carvalhal’s appointment in December. Potter, 42, is believed to be open to the prospect of managing in the Championship and Swansea are considering a move as they prepare for a busy summer. Swansea’s drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea’s board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure was confirmed on Friday afternoon. His contract expired at the end of this season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Huw Jenkins, the under-fire chairman, said: “Naturally we are all disappointed with the club’s relegation from the Premier League and, following discussions with Carlos, we felt it was in the best interests of both parties that we move in a new direction.”
Swansea weigh up Graham Potter approach after Carlos Carvalhal exit
Swansea City are weighing up an approach for Graham Potter, manager of Ostersunds, after Carlos Carvalhal departed the relegated Premier League club. Potter is emerging as a serious contender to replace Carvalhal as Swansea pursue their fifth managerial appointment in 19 months. The former Stoke and West Brom defender has established an excellent reputation at the Swedish club and was interviewed by Swansea before Carvalhal’s appointment in December. Potter, 42, is believed to be open to the prospect of managing in the Championship and Swansea are considering a move as they prepare for a busy summer. Swansea’s drop into the Championship was confirmed last weekend after the 2-1 defeat to Stoke and Carvalhal is departing after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and approach. Carlos Carvalhal told the media he thought he had done a good job Credit: GETTY IMAGES The former Sheffield Wednesday manager, 52, had appeared on course to navigate a route to survival after taking 17 points in his first nine games but results and performances began to unravel in the final months of the campaign. Swansea’s board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward in the second tier and his departure was confirmed on Friday afternoon. His contract expired at the end of this season and an option to extend that deal will now not be activated. Huw Jenkins, the under-fire chairman, said: “Naturally we are all disappointed with the club’s relegation from the Premier League and, following discussions with Carlos, we felt it was in the best interests of both parties that we move in a new direction.”
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
Gareth Southgate lays out bold vision for energetic new England
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
Gareth Southgate lays out bold vision for energetic new England
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
Gareth Southgate lays out bold vision for energetic new England
Be bold. Be brave. Be brutal. Gareth Southgate proved to be all three with the 23-man squad he has selected to represent England at the World Cup in Russia. The unfortunate Adam Lallana, who has failed to prove his fitness during a frustrating season, is the biggest casualty and can be added to other big names left at home: Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand. But at least Lallana is on the five-strong stand-by list and may still make it. It was poignant that the squad was revealed just as the death of Ray Wilson, at the age of 83, was announced. The left-back was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup-winning team and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. After Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, he is the third player from the team to pass away. Southgate has followed his instincts and gone for youth by bringing in the uncapped 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not officially been in the senior squad before but has trained with them and impressed the manager. He will play for Liverpool in the Champions League final. Similarly, Southgate has included Fabian Delph, who has not played for his country for three years, as one of four Englishman who have performed so well in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winning, record-breaking Manchester City side. Fabian Delph last played for England in 2015 but makes the squad after impressing for Manchester City's title-winners Credit: Reuters / Eddie Keogh Southgate has also selected five players from Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur team, and three from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, making it 15 players from the Champions League qualifying top four. The Liverpool contingent would have been higher had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez not been ruled out by injury. Gomez’s absence earned Gary Cahill a reprieve, and with 52 appearances the Chelsea defender has 20 caps more than the next most experienced player, Jordan Henderson. England squad | World Cup 2018 It is, in fact, the first England squad since 1962 with an average of fewer than 20 caps each. Given there are far more internationals nowadays, it is a significant figure. It is also the youngest squad since 1958 (just under 26), although not hugely more youthful than the one Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago (average age 26.5 years; average caps 27). But it is a very different squad from 2014. In fact, only five players – Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Cahill and Henderson – were involved four years ago. Not one has experienced winning a match at a World Cup. That represents a huge cull under Southgate; a revolution rather than an evolution. There is vibrancy, youth and a technical adeptness to a squad featuring several who can play in different roles. England Formation Builder Lallana’s exclusion means there will be no re-run of the injury sagas England have taken into previous major finals – from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Wilshere two years ago at Euro 2016 – and similarly Southgate has not selected on reputation. He has chosen a squad for the system – 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 – that he wants to implement. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we've been looking to develop,” Southgate explained. “The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it. We've also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.” Joe Gomez's injury has earned Gary Cahill, right, a reprieve Credit: Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith A couple of areas of concern are that the three goalkeepers, including uncapped Nick Pope, have just nine caps between them while only two players – Welbeck (with 15) and Harry Kane (12) have reached double figures for goals. Southgate will do it his way and that is a refreshing difference from all his predecessors bar the one he was most influenced by as an England player: Terry Venables. There was also a zeitgeist feel to the announcement with the Football Association using “the nation’s football-mad youth” to reveal the 23 names in a video, released on social media, shot on location throughout the country. They included youngsters from local clubs such as Moorside Rangers in Manchester and Sheffield Wednesday’s Ladies Under-16s. For the nation, by the nation. The #ThreeLions’ official @FIFAWorldCup squad announcement. pic.twitter.com/YecUWPUZfJ— England (@England) May 16, 2018 Meanwhile, players posted heartfelt messages, including Marcus Rashford thanking his mother on Twitter. He wrote: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!” Also on social media, his United team-mate Ashley Young used a photograph of himself as a young boy in an England kit. “Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup … dreams do come true,” he wrote. At 32, Young is one of the older members of the squad but is heading to his first World Cup after, like Delph, fighting his way back for club and country. 2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed. #AlwaysBelieve ������������������������ pic.twitter.com/k3i7lpgRG8— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 16, 2018 It may be a sign of the times but from all the messages that were posted it also seems that there is a genuine excitement about being chosen – which has not always appeared to be the case. Also not included are Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore, although the latter makes the stand-by list along with Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Tom Heaton - who has not even played since last September. The exclusion of Hart signals the end of his international career under Southgate. Southgate will explain his selections – and omissions – at a press conference at Wembley on Thursday. He may well use the opportunity to announce whether Kane or Henderson will be his captain for the tournament. Join Paul Hayward, Jamie Carragher, Alex Scott, Jason Burt, Sam Wallace and Jim White for a special World Cup preview event
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup Fifth Round Replay - Swansea City vs Sheffield Wednesday - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - February 27, 2018 Swansea City's Leon Britton in action with Sheffield Wednesday's David Jones Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
FA Cup Fifth Round Replay - Swansea City vs Sheffield Wednesday
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup Fifth Round Replay - Swansea City vs Sheffield Wednesday - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - February 27, 2018 Swansea City's Leon Britton in action with Sheffield Wednesday's David Jones Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
Predicting the Championship play-off winner: how important are league position, form and experience?
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
Predicting the Championship play-off winner: how important are league position, form and experience?
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
Predicting the Championship play-off winner: how important are league position, form and experience?
The Championship play-offs are a cruel world. The hard work of a 46-game season is put on the line over the course of a two-legged semi-final and then a winner-takes-all final at Wembley at the end of May. For the winners, the prize is the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. For the losers, it's all the way back to square one and at least one more year in the second tier. So what factors have decided the winners of the play-offs in recent years, and based on those facts, which of this years contenders - Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby - should we expect to triumph? League position It would make sense that the team finishing in third place - the highest position outside the automatic promotion spots - would be the best team and therefore the favourites to win the play-offs. Championship - last 10 years Indeed, over the last 10 years, the team finishing third has won the Championship play-offs on five occasions, and the team finishing sixth has only won it once - Blackpool doing so in 2010. In the last seven years, the third-placed team has gained promotion four times, giving a 57 per cent success rate. So the best team over 46 games tends to triumph in the play-offs, giving Fulham an advantage this time around. Form/momentum So often it is said that teams are best off going into the play-offs on a good run of recent form rather than having played well consistently over the entire season. A late storming run up the table to sneak into the play-offs is usually seen as the best preparation, but that could not be further from the truth. Over the past five seasons, the play-off team picking up the most points in their final 10 games has only been promoted once. What's more, in that time, the team that has gained the fewest points in their final 10 games has been promoted twice. Crystal Palace won the 2013 play-offs despite winning only one of their final 10 matches of the regular season Credit: getty images Crystal Palace won just one game and gained only eight points from a possible 30 at the end of the 2012/13 season, but then went on to win the play-off final, while Huddersfield went up last year after losing three of their last four matches and taking just 10 points from the final 10 games. Over the the last years, those are the worst two records of any team going into the play-offs - and both got promoted. Meanwhile, Brighton had the best such record as they entered the 2016 play-offs, with 24 points from their last 10 games, but they didn't even win their semi-final against an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham come into the play-offs on the best form, but that alone doesn't necessarily make them favourites Credit: PA Since 2007/08, the team that has won the play-off final has averaged fewer points per game over their last 10 matches of the regular season than the team they beat at Wembley. Essentially, form means nothing when it comes to the play-offs, so this season, little should be gleaned from the fact that Fulham have taken 23 points from a possible 30 to end the season. Managerial experience Just as there is little proof that 'knowing the Premier League' is a prerequisite for success as a top flight managers, there is nothing to suggest that 'knowing how the play-offs work' gives you an advantage. Championship play-offs 2018 guide Of the last 10 successful managers, seven were experiencing the Championship play-offs for the first time, including David Wagner last season and Ian Holloway with Blackpool in 2010. This season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis and Derby's Gary Rowett are in the Championship play-offs for the first time in their careers, and will be at no disadvantage against Slavisa Jokanovic (in his second play-offs) and Steve Bruce (third).
Carlos Carvalhal is set to leave Swansea after failing in his Premier League survival mission. With Swansea's relegation to the Championship all but confirmed, Carvalhal is heading for the exit after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and mindset. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager provided an initial impact following his appointment in December - taking 17 points from his first nine games - yet a poor run of nine games without a win will force his departure after Sunday's match against Stoke City. Swansea initially appointed Carvalhal with one eye on his experience of the Championship but the club's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward. His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be triggered. Swansea's drop into the Championship is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Swansea's drop into the second tier is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea on Wednesday night. The Welsh club require a huge victory over Stoke and for Southampton to be heavily beaten by Manchester City on the final day, but it appears nigh on impossibe for Swansea to survive. It means Swansea will now be looking for their fifth manager in under 20 months - after sacking Paul Clement late last year they interviewed Aitor Karanka (now at Nottingham Forest) and Ostersunds' Graham Potter, but the club are expected to look at other options as they prepare for next season. There is also growing pressure on Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, after a disastrous period defined by abysmal player recruitment. There could even be protests during Sunday's game against Stoke at the Liberty Stadium.
Carlos Carvalhal to leave Swansea after failing to save club from relegation
Carlos Carvalhal is set to leave Swansea after failing in his Premier League survival mission. With Swansea's relegation to the Championship all but confirmed, Carvalhal is heading for the exit after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and mindset. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager provided an initial impact following his appointment in December - taking 17 points from his first nine games - yet a poor run of nine games without a win will force his departure after Sunday's match against Stoke City. Swansea initially appointed Carvalhal with one eye on his experience of the Championship but the club's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward. His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be triggered. Swansea's drop into the Championship is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Swansea's drop into the second tier is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea on Wednesday night. The Welsh club require a huge victory over Stoke and for Southampton to be heavily beaten by Manchester City on the final day, but it appears nigh on impossibe for Swansea to survive. It means Swansea will now be looking for their fifth manager in under 20 months - after sacking Paul Clement late last year they interviewed Aitor Karanka (now at Nottingham Forest) and Ostersunds' Graham Potter, but the club are expected to look at other options as they prepare for next season. There is also growing pressure on Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, after a disastrous period defined by abysmal player recruitment. There could even be protests during Sunday's game against Stoke at the Liberty Stadium.
Carlos Carvalhal is set to leave Swansea after failing in his Premier League survival mission. With Swansea's relegation to the Championship all but confirmed, Carvalhal is heading for the exit after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and mindset. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager provided an initial impact following his appointment in December - taking 17 points from his first nine games - yet a poor run of nine games without a win will force his departure after Sunday's match against Stoke City. Swansea initially appointed Carvalhal with one eye on his experience of the Championship but the club's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward. His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be triggered. Swansea's drop into the Championship is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Swansea's drop into the second tier is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea on Wednesday night. The Welsh club require a huge victory over Stoke and for Southampton to be heavily beaten by Manchester City on the final day, but it appears nigh on impossibe for Swansea to survive. It means Swansea will now be looking for their fifth manager in under 20 months - after sacking Paul Clement late last year they interviewed Aitor Karanka (now at Nottingham Forest) and Ostersunds' Graham Potter, but the club are expected to look at other options as they prepare for next season. There is also growing pressure on Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, after a disastrous period defined by abysmal player recruitment. There could even be protests during Sunday's game against Stoke at the Liberty Stadium.
Carlos Carvalhal to leave Swansea after failing to save club from relegation
Carlos Carvalhal is set to leave Swansea after failing in his Premier League survival mission. With Swansea's relegation to the Championship all but confirmed, Carvalhal is heading for the exit after a dreadful run of form and huge question marks over his tactics and mindset. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager provided an initial impact following his appointment in December - taking 17 points from his first nine games - yet a poor run of nine games without a win will force his departure after Sunday's match against Stoke City. Swansea initially appointed Carvalhal with one eye on his experience of the Championship but the club's board have now decided he is not the man to take them forward. His contract expires at the end of the season and an option to extend that deal will now not be triggered. Swansea's drop into the Championship is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Swansea's drop into the second tier is virtually guaranteed after Huddersfield's draw at Chelsea on Wednesday night. The Welsh club require a huge victory over Stoke and for Southampton to be heavily beaten by Manchester City on the final day, but it appears nigh on impossibe for Swansea to survive. It means Swansea will now be looking for their fifth manager in under 20 months - after sacking Paul Clement late last year they interviewed Aitor Karanka (now at Nottingham Forest) and Ostersunds' Graham Potter, but the club are expected to look at other options as they prepare for next season. There is also growing pressure on Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, after a disastrous period defined by abysmal player recruitment. There could even be protests during Sunday's game against Stoke at the Liberty Stadium.
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Championship play-offs 2018 guide: Form, star player and prediction
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Championship play-offs 2018 guide: Form, star player and prediction
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Championship play-offs 2018 guide: Form, star player and prediction
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Championship play-offs 2018 guide: Form, star player and prediction
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Championship play-offs 2018 guide: Form, star player and prediction
Ahead of the first legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals between Fulham vs Derby and Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough later this week, we assess the form of the four clubs all vying for promotion back to the promised land and offer our prediction as to how they will play out. Fulham Form guide Slavisa Jokanovic's side would not have been in the play-offs mix had they won or drawn their final Championship match at Birmingham. The Craven Cottage outfit suffered their first league defeat of 2018 at St Andrews as Birmingham staved off relegation. It meant Fulham finished two points off second-placed Cardiff City. The blip at Birmingham aside, Fulham have been in sensational form, winning 18 of their last 26 league games since a 1-0 loss at Sunderland back in mid-December. Goals have been easy to come by for the west Londoners who have struck more than three per game in seven matches this season which also included a 6-0 hammering of Burton. Ryan Sessegnon was the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award Credit: PA Star player Ryan Sessegnon was crowned Championship Player of the Season last month and was the first ever non-Premier League nominee of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The 17-year-old, who made his debut for England Under-21s against Ukraine in March, has scored 14 goals in 43 Championship appearances and has been touted as a potential wildcard for Gareth Southgate's senior squad for Russia this summer. A striker in his youth, then winger, then left-back and now back on the left of midfield, Sessegnon has been linked with moves to Tottenham and PSG even if Fulham win promotion via the play-offs. Play-off record Fulham can use the pain of losing in the Championship play-offs semi-finals last season as a catalyst for going one step further this time around. Jokanovic's side lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading with Ali Al Habsi pulling off a string of saves in the second leg to deny the Cottagers. Their only other appearance in the play-off lottery was back in 1996/97 when they lost in the Old Division Two semi-finals. Odds 13/8 Prediction To beat Derby and win final. Aston Villa Form guide Like Fulham, Steve Bruce's Villa fell to defeat on the final day of the regulation season for their first loss in five league games. Villa have been prolific at home this season, scoring 42 goals at Villa Park and collecting 49 points overall. They have only suffered defeat twice in their back yard this season - against Sheffield Wednesday back in November and QPR in March. Defensively, Villa have been tight, shipping just two goals in their last five matches. Sam Johnstone has been a key figure for Aston Villa this season Credit: Getty Images Star player While captain and defender John Terry has been an influential figure on and off the pitch following his move from Chelsea last summer and Albert Adomah has contributed at the other end with 15 goals, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone just shades the pair. The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at Villa from Manchester United and has arguably been the best keeper in the Championship keeping 20 clean sheets from 45 appearances. He is likely to be a transfer priority of Villa's this summer regardless of whether they secure promotion. Play-off record It is unchartered territory for Aston Villa who have never contested the Championship play-offs before. Odds 11/4 Prediction To beat Boro but lose to Fulham in final. Middlesbrough Form guide Patrick Bamford's 97th-minute header ensured Tony Pulis' men didn't end the regulation season with defeat at Ipswich and stretched their unbeaten run to four matches. Boro's home form has been patchy. They have lost six at the Riverside this term for the joint-worst record of any of the play-off contenders (with Derby). They also have the lowest goal return of the four teams who have extended their season. Boro have struck 33 goals at home, nine fewer than their semi-final opponents Villa. They make up for it on the road, where they have scored one more on their travels but are equally prone to ship a few more than you would expect from a Pulis set-up. Adama Traore has perked up since the arrival of Tony Pulis Credit: Getty Images Star player Adama Traore has enjoyed a stunning second half to the season since the arrival of Pulis. The speedy Spaniard has scored five goals and made 10 assists under the experienced tutelage of Pulis which hasn't gone unnoticed by Chelsea and others. The former Barcelona man has a much improved end product to his game and at 22-years-old still has plenty of time on his side. Play-off record You have to go back 30 years for the last time Middlesbrough won promotion via an altogether different play-off format. Back in 1988 the team that finished in the position above the relegation places in the First Divsion would be thrown into the play-off mix instead of the sixth-place finisher in the Second Division. This threw up a two-legged final between Boro and Chelsea which the Teessiders won 2-1 on aggregate. Boro have since lost in the semi-finals in 1991 and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich in the 2015 final at Wembley. Odds 11/4 Prediction To lose semi-final against Villa. Derby County Form guide The only team of the play-off four to win their final league match of the season, which ultimately sealed their sixth-place finish, Derby are unbeaten in three after suffering a run of three straight losses during April as nerves took hold of Gary Rowett's side. Derby have scored one less than their semi-final opponents Fulham at home this term (41) but only eight wins on the road - the second worst of the top 10 in the division - has been their Achilles heel. Derby secured a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the season but lost the return fixture 2-1 in early March. Matej Vydra won this year's Championship Golden Boot Credit: Getty Images Star player Matej Vydra claimed his 21st league goal of the season, the most in his career, in Derby's 4-1 win over Barnsley on Sunday as the Czech Republic international won the Championship Golden Boot award. It is the most goals any player has managed since Derby moved to Pride Park in 1997 as Vydra's tally surpassed that of Chris Martin's 20 scored in the 2013/14 Championship campaign. Play-off record Derby are familiar to the ways and workings of the play-offs after featuring six times in the last 26 years. Half of those appearances have ended at the semi-final stages and only on one occasion have they won promotion to the Premier League. That was back in 2007 when they edged a narrow final against West Brom 1-0 to return to the top flight after a five-year absence. Odds 9/2 Prediction To lose to Fulham in semi-finals.
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo: Managing expectations key as Wolves now begin preparations for the big time
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo interview: Managing expectations key as Wolves now begin preparations for the big time
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo interview: Managing expectations key as Wolves now begin preparations for the big time
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
Nuno Espirito Santo interview: Managing expectations key as Wolves now begin preparations for the big time
Nuno Espirito Santo has just stepped off the open-top bus and is battling to put the brakes on rising expectations in the Black Country. It is a few hours after the promotion party in Wolverhampton’s city centre, where over 80,000 fans came to celebrate the club clinching a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012. The Nuno revolution has delivered a glorious season of entertainment, with Wolves playing a brand of stylish football that has seen them described as the Manchester City of the Championship. They have already been installed as joint-seventh favourites for the title next season and Nuno is shifting a little uncomfortably in his seat as he reflects on what happens next. “What I feel is that expectations are very high and I am the only one that my expectations aren't so high. I am very cautious of what's going on. The summer is important, to have decisions on the squad and then we will see,” he said. “We have to improve and work hard but we cannot say we are going to fight for the top 10 or fight forever. That will be a big mistake. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with the Championship trophy Credit: ACTION IMAGES “We are one year ahead of schedule. I am not obsessed about making an impression on the Premier League. I want to build a team who can play home and away the same. “It is not my job to restrain their expectations, but just be realistic. If we can achieve what we want sooner, we will go for it.” Nuno will be backed with significant funds by Wolves’ ambitious owners, Fosun, and the ultimate aim is to bring Champions League football to Molineux. It may sound all too familiar, and perhaps even a cautionary tale, but Nuno’s impact in the Black Country has been so remarkable that it seems anything is possible. To navigate a route out of the Championship, in his first season in English football, is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. “It is the toughest league in the world,” he said. “There were a lot of games, but when we played Sheffield Wednesday away [and won 1-0 in December] I said ‘something is happening’. “The big achievement that the boys were able to achieve was that when we had a bad result or a bad performance, the next game we were able to give a better answer. “We bounced back almost 100 per cent of the time. One time we drew after a defeat but the reaction of the team was different. One of the things that is most difficult for a manager is reversing bad results and keeping going. Now the one game I want to see is the Championship play-off, I would like that more than the Champions League Final.” This is Nuno at his most relaxed and open, even stopping mid-sentence to pull out his mobile phone and show a video of him hitting an exploding golf ball, after falling victim to a prank from one of his players. 80,000 fans watch the parade Credit: GETTY IMAGES He is absorbing company, talking about the “identity and the idea” of his teams and how he can often be lonely without his family, who still live in Portugal. He is also obsessed with the small details, such as rearranging the tables in the training ground canteen to encourage team spirit. The only time his mood darkens a little is when the name Jorge Mendes is brought up. Mendes, the super-agent with close links to Fosun and Nuno, has delivered a number of players to Wolves and generated much ill-feeling among their Championship rivals. “I cannot control that and it doesn’t take my mind,” he said, waving away his hand dismissively. “I don’t waste time thinking about it. I don’t care, I really don’t care. Honest. “Jorge doesn’t have any job here. Any job at all. You see him here? Come on. He is a good agent, the best agent. We get what we need from him. If he can provide good players for us? Fantastic. If another guy can give? Fantastic. It is not the job of Jorge doing here.” Super-agent Jorge Mendes has helped Wolves recruit players Credit: GETTY IMAGES Nuno is happier talking about his plans for the future, with a meeting scheduled later this month over Wolves’ strategy for the summer. He will return to Portugal later this week to “lie on the sofa and watch the World Cup” before hopping aboard the rollercoaster again in late June for pre-season training. The joyous scenes on Bank Holiday Monday will certainly be etched in his mind this summer. “It was crazy and is fantastic for us. I have a lot of titles but as a coach it is my first title. When you win you want to repeat it. “We have to take advantage of what happened today - 30,000 people, just to see the faces of the people who were here saying thank you, to the players it means a lot and for me and for us it means a lot. “Of course I am excited about testing myself in the Premier League. It is something really good.”
If the decline in the standard of Carlos Carvalhal’s analogies are anything to go by then Swansea truly are back on the slide at exactly the wrong time in the relegation fight. The maverick Portuguese who arrived at the Liberty at the end of last year delivering delicious bon mots involving sardines, lobsters, Ferraris and crematoriums was at the training ground on Thursday resorting to the “glass half-full” adage. However, perhaps the unoriginality did not matter as this was definitely a cliché he wanted to get off his chest. Carvalhal has heard all the renewed negativity concerning his team’s plight as they sit one point out of the bottom three with three games to go, and knows there are whispers about his ability to finish off the saviour act. Under his management, Sheffield Wednesday fell despairingly short of the play-offs in the previous two seasons and the theory goes that this eccentric character tightens up at the business end. If that is a cruel assessment of the 52-year-old – and it surely is when one considers the competitiveness of the Championship – then perhaps it is nothing to the criticisms of the six-game winless streak that has pulled the Swans back into the dogfight. A trip to Bournemouth awaits on Saturday, followed by home games against the two clubs directly below them in Southampton and Stoke respectively. Yet while the bum may squeak, Carvalhal is adamant the conviction should not waver and demands any doubters remember the position they were in when he took over on Dec 28 following Paul Clement’s sacking. Premier League and Football League relegation, promotion and play-offs “We were five points adrift at the bottom and in last place,” Carvalhal said. “We were dead – nobody believed. So when you get to this moment where we are not in the relegation zone and with it in our hands, it is fantastic, not negative. “We play three games, two at home against teams near us in the table and, when we arrived, 100 per cent of people said this was impossible. Everybody said this would be a kind of miracle. But when you have a glass of water it can be half-full or half-empty. It depends on the eyes.” The problem is three points in 18 tends to drain the vessels, no matter how brimming they happened to be after Carvalhal’s stunning start of 17 in 27, particularly when only two goals have been scored in this spell. “Where have we lost?” Carvalhal said. “At home to Tottenham and Chelsea away to Manchester United, City and we also lose [away] to Brighton. What do you want better than this? I know we’ve not won in six, but I’ve tried to make the players understand, it is not because we did something wrong, like a mistake. Who is your Premier League manager of the year? Our writers have their say “We are on a team who have taken 20 points in half a season, with still games to come and with that form over a whole season, you could almost fight for the Europa League. If the calendar puts us against the strongest teams in this path, it is normal we don’t win and that has not changed my view at all. The way we played against Chelsea [in the 1-0 defeat last Saturday], the way they are training, these are positive feelings, the opposite of nerves… the very opposite.” Doth the manager protest too much? In fairness, the recent run of fixtures was made only more ghastly by the postponement of the home match against Southampton in March. “If we had picked up the points then we could already be safe,” Carvalhal pointed out. Instead, Tuesday’s encounter has the hallmarks of a classic six-pointer and, depending on this weekend’s results, could even send one team down. Carvalhal also refuted the accusations that Swansea have shrunk back into their shells. “We go to United, City, Chelsea and so on and we try to play our football,” he added. “But they have extra quality and we must defend more than we attack. But if you ask me if this is our intention to play like that, it’s not. We are playing with quality and living well with the pressure, and that is why we are optimistic.”
'We were dead when I took over,' says Carlos Carvalhal as he insists Swansea City can beat the drop
If the decline in the standard of Carlos Carvalhal’s analogies are anything to go by then Swansea truly are back on the slide at exactly the wrong time in the relegation fight. The maverick Portuguese who arrived at the Liberty at the end of last year delivering delicious bon mots involving sardines, lobsters, Ferraris and crematoriums was at the training ground on Thursday resorting to the “glass half-full” adage. However, perhaps the unoriginality did not matter as this was definitely a cliché he wanted to get off his chest. Carvalhal has heard all the renewed negativity concerning his team’s plight as they sit one point out of the bottom three with three games to go, and knows there are whispers about his ability to finish off the saviour act. Under his management, Sheffield Wednesday fell despairingly short of the play-offs in the previous two seasons and the theory goes that this eccentric character tightens up at the business end. If that is a cruel assessment of the 52-year-old – and it surely is when one considers the competitiveness of the Championship – then perhaps it is nothing to the criticisms of the six-game winless streak that has pulled the Swans back into the dogfight. A trip to Bournemouth awaits on Saturday, followed by home games against the two clubs directly below them in Southampton and Stoke respectively. Yet while the bum may squeak, Carvalhal is adamant the conviction should not waver and demands any doubters remember the position they were in when he took over on Dec 28 following Paul Clement’s sacking. Premier League and Football League relegation, promotion and play-offs “We were five points adrift at the bottom and in last place,” Carvalhal said. “We were dead – nobody believed. So when you get to this moment where we are not in the relegation zone and with it in our hands, it is fantastic, not negative. “We play three games, two at home against teams near us in the table and, when we arrived, 100 per cent of people said this was impossible. Everybody said this would be a kind of miracle. But when you have a glass of water it can be half-full or half-empty. It depends on the eyes.” The problem is three points in 18 tends to drain the vessels, no matter how brimming they happened to be after Carvalhal’s stunning start of 17 in 27, particularly when only two goals have been scored in this spell. “Where have we lost?” Carvalhal said. “At home to Tottenham and Chelsea away to Manchester United, City and we also lose [away] to Brighton. What do you want better than this? I know we’ve not won in six, but I’ve tried to make the players understand, it is not because we did something wrong, like a mistake. Who is your Premier League manager of the year? Our writers have their say “We are on a team who have taken 20 points in half a season, with still games to come and with that form over a whole season, you could almost fight for the Europa League. If the calendar puts us against the strongest teams in this path, it is normal we don’t win and that has not changed my view at all. The way we played against Chelsea [in the 1-0 defeat last Saturday], the way they are training, these are positive feelings, the opposite of nerves… the very opposite.” Doth the manager protest too much? In fairness, the recent run of fixtures was made only more ghastly by the postponement of the home match against Southampton in March. “If we had picked up the points then we could already be safe,” Carvalhal pointed out. Instead, Tuesday’s encounter has the hallmarks of a classic six-pointer and, depending on this weekend’s results, could even send one team down. Carvalhal also refuted the accusations that Swansea have shrunk back into their shells. “We go to United, City, Chelsea and so on and we try to play our football,” he added. “But they have extra quality and we must defend more than we attack. But if you ask me if this is our intention to play like that, it’s not. We are playing with quality and living well with the pressure, and that is why we are optimistic.”

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