Part five of our Championship season review looks at Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. In today’s edition, joy in Steel City and despair for their Yorkshire rivals.
Championship Season Review Part V
Reading – 20th
Since their play-off final defeat in 2017, Reading have seriously struggled. Two years later, they have come out of two relegation battles unscathed but they were both close affairs.
The Reading side of two years ago had the ability to see games off that this team lacks. The Royals only won half of the games in which they led this season, and they will have to learn to stay in games again if they want to avoid another relegation battle next year.
Their struggles in front of goal from last year have continued, the only consolation being Yakou Meite’s bright goalscoring form. With reported interest from Lille, many Reading fans will be nervous at losing their top scorer.
Worse still are their financial problems, showing no signs of ceasing, as the club reported £21 million of losses over the last year. Their lack of funds is clear as day, and fans will most likely have to put up with survival being the yearly goal.
Rotherham – 22nd (Relegation)
Rotherham were destined to struggle in their first season back in the Championship. They did, however, give a much better account of themselves than when they were last in the second division. Paul Warne’s side never gave up, and the fight very nearly went to the final day.
Staying afloat with a side built off the lower leagues was always going to be a tough ask. Though, they managed just one win away from home all season, for which they paid the price.
The side with the worst defence in the league will always struggle, and that was the case with Rotherham (83 goals conceded). As such, their poor defence lead to them throwing away too many points. Warne now has a chance to bounce back in League One and return with an even stronger prospect.
Sheffield United – 2nd (Automatic Promotion)
Chris Wilder’s name will surely go down in Sheffield United folklore. It’s hard to believe that the Blades were in League One only two years ago, escaping from their six-year-long purgatory there.
Now, with much of the same squad, Wilder has achieved his second promotion in three years, returning his boyhood side to the Premier League for the first time since 2006. They finished with the best defensive record in the league (41 goals conceded).
Fellow fan Billy Sharp scored 23 goals for Wilder’s side, earning him a nomination for player of the season. Their home record in the league was unmatched by any other team in the division (15 wins, four draws, four losses).
This record becomes all the more impressive when you realise that the Blades spent more time losing at home to Barnet in the FA Cup (69 minutes) than they did in all their 23 home matches combined (34 minutes). They will have to keep Bramall Lane as their fortress if they are to stand a chance in the top flight.
Some top-flight nous is needed to galvanise what is mainly still their League One conquering side. However, it would be foolish to write off this cohesive Blades just yet.
Sheffield Wednesday – 12th
Sheffield Wednesday will be looking enviously at their Steel City rivals. But while United have had upward momentum for the past three seasons, Wednesday have slipped further from the Premier League. They have enjoyed an uneventful season, never looking at risk of relegation, but not really pushing for promotion.
Jos Luhukay was sacked in December, with the club looking down rather than up. Steve Bruce replaced him, and restored hope of a late playoff push, unbeaten in his first ten games. However, they could not reach a playoff place and their inability to beat the sides around them cost the Owls. Bruce needs to instil determination to fight back in an Owls side that did not win from a losing position.
Wednesday’s main concern of the summer should be shaking their deadwood, with six players already leaving on free transfers. They still have five strikers capable of playing at this level, and it will be impossible to keep them all happy. What is the largest squad in the Championship (36 players) is also one of the oldest (26.8 years old).
They will have to reverse this before it is too late. A more resolute defence to complement Tom Lees is needed, and perhaps a replacement goalkeeper should Keiren Westwood leave. Their spine is certainly the problem at this moment in time. Bruce will have the summer to review his squad and prepare accordingly for the next Championship season.
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