I had a very full first day back at work after my holiday yesterday, which carried on after I had my dinner. So engrossed was in a research problem that I completely forgot that there was an important football match in the Championship last night. It was only when I finally downed tools – ‘tools’ in this case being pencil and paper – at about 11.30pm that I remembered that I should check the football results.
Last night’s game between Newcastle United and Preston North End (of the Midlands) finished 4-1 in favour of the home side (the one from the North). That result, combined with defeats on Saturday for Huddersfield and Reading in other games of the antepenultimate round of Championship matches, means that Newcastle have now secured promotion to the Premiership next season.
After last night’s match the top of the Championship table looks like this:
You will see that the maximum points total Reading can now reach is 85, Sheffield Wednesday 84, and Huddersfield Town (who have a game in hand) can only get 87, so Newcastle are guaranteed to be no longer than 2nd place.
At one point it looked like Newcastle United were going to take the Championship title by some margin, but they faltered in the last games while Brighton & Hove Albion kept up the pressure. It even looked at one point that Newcastle might fall into the playoff pack, but fortunately none of the chasing teams put together a strong enough run of games to catch them.
It’s anyone’s guess who will get the third promotion spot through the playoffs. Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday are both on good runs, but picking a winner out of those two, Huddersfield, Reading (and possibly Leeds) is very difficult.
Brighton look like being Champions now. They lost 2-0 on Friday away at Norwich City, when a win would have secured top spot, but they still only need 3 points to finish Champions. Mathematically, Newcastle could catch them but I’d say it is rather unlikely.
I do have worries about how well Newcastle might fare in the Premiership next season. Their home form has not been as good as one would have hoped this season, despite the fact that they regularly attract crowds in excess of 50,000 to St James’s Park. Sometimes it seems that this increases the level of anxiety rather than spurring the team on. Moreover, I don’t think the squad has the quality needed to prosper in the top flight. The demands of the Championship are quite different from those of the Premier League. Manager Rafael Benitez knows this very well, so I hope he is given the resources he needs to meet the new challenge. We’ll see.
Coincidentally, Newcastle United are on their travels on Friday for a match against Cardiff City…..Follow @telescoper