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It's almost done and dusted at the top of the Championship, but there's the small matter of play-off qualification, a trip to Wembley and for one club the ultimate prize, still up for grabs. Emyr Price looks at the play-off picture and beyond.
The business end of the table is beginning to look rather final. Two of the much coveted play-off berths now are filled, WBA are up and only a volcanic ash induced type disaster will stop Champions Newcastle from smashing the 100 points barrier.
Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, flirted with the idea of going up automatically but Billy Davies’ charges decided to buy their ticket for the lottery that is the play-offs instead. No doubt the City Ground faithful will be delighted with that decision.
In all seriousness, their followers can have no complaints with what has been a pretty terrific season by all accounts. Relegation fodder last year, Davies has transformed them into a well organised bunch bursting with creativity throughout. They will be favourites to triumph at Wembley, and rightly so.
Cardiff also laid to rest the demons of last season’s horrendous end of season capitulation by beating QPR at Loftus Road to clinch a play-off place on Saturday. Like Forest, they have achieved this feat with a relatively small squad. Quality rather than quantity has been the key for Dave Jones’ Bluebirds.
Cardiff and Swansea could meet in the playoffs - could be fiesty...
Given the off-field problems that have besieged the club – and, it must be noted there is still the small matter of a hefty tax bill that needs settling imminently to avoid, well, complete meltdown – the Cardiff playing and coaching staff really should be applauded.
If it’s form you’re looking for ahead of the play-off’s then look no further than the South Walians. They have finished the season in positively Usain Bolt-esque fashion and won six from their last nine, as well as being unbeaten for that run.
Like Forest, Cardiff will fancy their chances. Experience at the new Wembley (if –and it’s a huge if - they negotiate the semi-final first) could be a big plus come the big day. Cardiff have it in spades compared to the other potential finalists.
Leicester and Swansea are in the box seats, but Swansea especially aren't sitting comfortably.
Blackpool just carry on winning and should the Swans fall from their perch, they look set to pounce. If Ian Holloway manages to take them up, then it’d be an achievement of possibly even greater magnitude than Burnley’s unlikely heroics last term.
Could Ian Holloway be about to step up to the Premier League with Blackpool?
A trip to Bloomfield Road will be the want of no-one come May too. For what it’s worth I think Blackpool will just edge out Swansea, who despite winning at the weekend have shown some alarming jitters in recent times.
We will see, but it looks as if it’s all come a bit quick for Paulo Sousa’s men. Having said that, the same logic seemingly doesn't apply to Blackpool, who have relished in their nothing-to-lose chasing role.
Any despairing Swansea fans will be pleased to note that this blog’s casual predictions over the course of the season (Preston, QPR and Ipswich to be in the play-off's, Reading to be relegated no less), have hardly been a roaring success. I reckon I'm due a correct one though.
It goes without saying that all of the five teams in with a shout of promotion via the play-off’s this term are unlikely Premier League survivors. Cardiff might not survive full stop.
But Forest could make a good fist of it, in much the same way that last year’s automatically promoted teams, Wolves and Birmingham, have done this season.
Billy Davies deserves a chance to prove himself in the top flight, having been given short shrift at Derby, and with the right additions Forest have the makings of a Premier League outfit.
They are a club used to being at the top level as well and as I'm sure their fans will tell you: they used to be pretty good a few years ago as well, y'know.
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