The richest game in football*

Blah, blah, blah…”The richest game in football”….blah, blah, blah.

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all had the “theory” pushed down our throats but it doesn’t stop the speculators keep raising the value of the npower Championship Play Off Final every year. This year, the “biggest mouth in football”, © Sam Allardyce even went as far as saying it was the “Bigger than the Champions League Final”. Yeah, whatever Sam. A global audience of 500 million will probably disagree on that point.

The game is supposedly worth £45 million to the winners for the next two seasons. If that is the case it has hardly done the winners over the past decade any good has it? With such an injection of money surely it would make them a shoe-in to keep their place in the elite? Statistics tell us otherwise.

2002 Winner – Birmingham City – 4th in Championship last season – 4 seasons in Premier League after play off final
2003 Winner – Wolverhampton Wanderers – Relegated from Premier League in 20th Place – Relegated following season
2004 Winner – Crystal Palace – 17th in Championship – Relegated following season
2005 Winner – West Ham United – 3rd in Championship & Play Off Final contender – Relegated in 2011
2006 Winner – Watford – 11th in Championship – Relegated following season
2007 Winner – Derby County – 12th in Championship – Relegated following season
2008 Winner – Hull City – 8th in Championship – Relegated after two seasons
2009 Winner – Burnley – 13th in Championship – Relegated following season
2010 Winner – Blackpool – 5th in Championship & Play Off Final contender – Relegated following season
2011 Winner – Swansea City – 11th in Premier League

So the winners of the “richest club game in the world” in 6 of the past 10 Play off finals have been relegated after just one season in the Premier League. Wolverhampton Wanderers are the only one of these who has since managed to get back into the Premier League (Blackpool could make it two if they beat West Ham) proving that money is not all that it takes to stay in the Premier League. Continue reading

Phillips to prove invaluable to Blackpool’s hopes

Good strikers never lose the scoring touch as Kevin Phillips proved in the Championship on Saturday. The evergreen goalscorer opened his goal account with new club Blackpool at the weekend, with two finishes that have been the striker’s trademark for so many years.

The two goals were the difference as Blackpool overcame recently promoted Peterborough by a 2-1 scoreline at Bloomfield Road, George Boyd grabbing a goal back eight minutes from the end for the visitors, ensuring a nervy ending for Ian Holloway’s men.

The 38-year-old grabbed his first with a clinical header from an Alex Baptiste cross, planting the finish into the top corner from 12 yards to grab his first goal in a Blackpool shirt. Three minutes into the second half and the veteran had doubled his tally and his side’s lead, once again showing the predatory instincts of a player half his age. Keith Southern’s powerful strike from 20 yards couldn’t be held by Posh keeper Phil Jones, Phillips making no mistake with the rebound. Those who bet on Championship football would have been impressed by his eye for goal.

The former England striker joined the club in the summer, signing a one-year deal after his parting of ways with Birmingham. Phillips’ spell in the Midlands hadn’t been one in which he had spent the sort of time he would have wanted, especially at this point in his career. With a promise from Holloway that he would be given the chances in the first team of which he craved, Phillips decided to join the Seasiders. People who bet on Premier League football might be surprised that he didn’t get another chance in the top flight.

Holloway will be toasting a deal well done after seeing his new signing open his account. The striker will be essential to Blackpool’s plans this season and on this sort of form, his goals could well help this side challenge for a place back in the big time come the end of the campaign. Something that Holloway is certainly of the belief of.

“You cannot put a price on people like Kevin Phillips,” he said.

“He’s scored goals throughout his career and if he does it throughout this season for us, we’ll make a real statement in this league.”

With Phillips still capable of winning games in a single moment of quality, Blackpool could well be a major threat in this year’s Championship campaign.

Rock bottom

At 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon I was handed my “Get out of jail free” card.  This was supposed to be a treat for Lolly, but my little battle hardened football daughter finally admitted defeat on her heavy cold and declared herself unfit to go to West Ham versus Blackpool.  I had a five minute window to decide.  Go to Upton Park and undoubtably come home as depressed as Avram Grant on a good day, head down the M23 to watch Lewes amongst the Lewes Lunatic Fringe as they played St Albans City or even pop down the road to Thamesmead Town for a new adventure.

And what did I chose?  Yes you have guessed it – I simply never learn – I headed off to Upton Park.  My afternoon in the end cost me almost £200.  However, if it turns out to be the last time we have to experience the clueless management of Avram Grant it will be worth it. Continue reading