Category Archives: Championship

Brentford meet Fulham in 170 million pound encounter

Following 48 Championship matches, for West London rivals Brentford and Fulham it comes down to one 90-minute game to determine the success or failure of their season. 

For Fulham and Scott Parker it is a chance to bounce straight back up, while for Brentford it is an opportunity for the Bees to play in the top-flight for the first time in 70 years.

Brentford’s season

This season was always going to be an emotional one for the Bees as it was going to be the final one at Griffin Park, which has been their home for 116 years.

Indeed, this campaign has certainly proved to be an eventful one for Tom Frank’s side. The first half of the season started off slowly but they did manage to secure an impressive 7-0 win over Luton Town at the end of November and they did also beat their play-off final opponents at Griffin Park back in December 1-0 thanks to a Bryan Mbeumo goal.

It was the Bee’s Championship restart form that ultimately proved the catalyst for their promotion charge.  They once again managed to beat Fulham, this time 2-0 thanks to their Algerian superstar, Said Benrahma. They followed that result up with an impressive 1-0 win over Slavin Bilic’s West Brom, thanks to a goal from their striker, Ollie Watkins, who has managed 26 goals in all competitions this campaign and will be much sort after by Premier League clubs if Brentford do not go up this time around.

A further five victories in a row over Reading, Wigan, Charlton, Derby and Preston followed, which sparked talk not just a play-off spot but of automatic promotion.  Tom Frank’s side, however, would suffer defeat in their final two matches against Stoke City and Barnsley, which ultimately ensured that they had to make do with a third place finish and a spot in the Play-Offs.

The Play-Offs for the Bee’s fans certainly strike both excitement and trepidation into their hearts.

One hard luck story in particular comes to mind for the West-London club took place seven years ago when they missed a late penalty against Doncaster Rovers in the 90thminute before Rovers would then break upfield to score and go up as League One Champions.  Further heartbreak in the League One Play-off final at Wembley was to follow as Brentford lost 2-1 against Yeovil Town.

It has been, however, a case of so far so good for Tom Frank’s side as they managed to overcome Steve Cooper’s Swansea City team.  Having lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to an Andre Ayew goal, the second leg and last game at Griffin Park saw a dramatic turnaround inspired by Ollie Watkins, who levelled the tie in the 11thminute of the match.

A header from Emiliano Marcondes followed which gave the London side the lead on the night and on aggregate before a volley from Mbeumo gave the hosts a two-goal cushion.  On loan Rhian Brewster managed to pull a goal back for the Welsh side 12 minutes from time to produce a grand stand finish but the visitors ultimately were unable to find that all important goal to take the game to extra time.

Fulham’s Season

For manager Scott Parker’s first season in charge of Fulham the task was simple, bounce straight back up.  Easier said that done, the Cottagers, however, set about this in impressive fashion.  Although they started off with an opening day 1-0 loss to Barnsley, they managed to produce strong league performances particularly in November when they won four and lost just once.

The lockdown, however, did not come at a good time for the London club as they had just come off two straight wins against promotion rivals Swansea City and Preston and secured a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

Indeed, the restart subsequently witnessed the Cottagers loose against Brentford and Leeds United before recapturing some of their form from November by winning against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City and they also emerged on the right end of a 5-3 score line against Sheffield Wednesday thanks to two goals each from Neekaens Kebano and top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.

That result ensured that they would feature in the play-offs and following a 1-1 draw with Wigan they knew they would be up against Welsh side Cardiff City in the Semi-finals.

The Cottagers secured a crucial 2-0 victory in the first leg thanks to a superb individual effort from midfielder Josh Onomah and just before the end Kebano curled in a wonderful free kick.

The second-leg at Craven Cottage saw Fulham ultimately progress to the final at Wembley despite a 2-1 loss and additionally they had to do it without their main man, Mitrovic.  The Welsh side got off to the dream start and they were able to demonstrate their impressive ability from set pieces. A powerful header from Curtis Nelson made it 1-0 before just 30 seconds later Kebano was able to convert an Anthony Knockaert cross.

Cardiff’s Lee Tomlin restored his side’s advantage on the night just after half time and ensured a tense 40 minutes for The Whites. Parker’s team, however, were able to hold out to ensure that they made it to Wembley for the second time in three years.

Indeed, the Whites certainly have fond recent memories when it comes to the Championship play-offs having beat Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final 1-0 thanks to a goal from their captain, Tom Cairney.

Team news

Brentford have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the Play-Off Final.

Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic has managed to overcome a hamstring strain, which kept him out of the semi-final victory over Cardiff. While Harry Arter and Ivan Cavaleiro will also be available meaning that Parker will have a fully fit squad to choose from.

How to watch

The match will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football and is scheduled for a 7:45pm kick-off on Tuesday 4th August. Coverage begins from 7pm.  The match will take place behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium.

Prediction

Only four and half miles separate the sides and only goal difference divided them in the regular season. Tom Frank’s Bees, however, have held the edge over Fulham in their two league encounters this campaign and fancy them to get the job done at Wembley.

 Score Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Fulham

 

Leeds United: the return of one of greats – Part 1

Leeds United have finally returned to the Premier League after a 16 year absence. The club were a force in the Premier League and in Europe in 60’s and early 70’s, as well as the late 90’s and at the beginning of the new century.

However a financial implosion caused them to lose their success and were relegated in the 03/04 Premier League season. They even spent time in the 3rd tier of English football.

They have spent 16 years fighting to get back into the big time and have come close over the past few season, missing out on play-off or automatic promotion.

With the club now well-backed by their owners, led by an influential coach and owners of a talented and youthful squad – we could see a real rise to glory for this famous club.

Whilst getting ahead of themselves is never good (look and Fulham and Aston Villa over recent seasons) if the recruitment is any good this summer we could see another promoted side compete for a top-half finish.

In this two-part article I’ll take a brief look at the history of the club, and review the newly finished campaign. I’ll also take a look at the hopes the club has for their fight in the Premier League.

Leeds United – The History

We’re always told to focus on the present – the ‘now’. In the case of Leeds United , however, it’s important for those who don’t know to look at their history within English football.

Their first taste of footballing success was from the Don Revie era. Having created a side that was voted in the top 50 greatest footballing teams by Total Sport Magazine, he is still one of if not Leeds’ most successful manager.

Revie took over the club in 1961 when they were fighting relegation in the 2nd division of the English football League. A win on the final game of the season kept them up.

Revie then implemented a new youth policy and a change of kit colour to an all-white strip – similarly to Real Madrid, and Leeds soon won promotion to the First Division in 1963-64.

In their first campaign in the top flight they finished second to Manchester United due to only goal difference. They also achieved a place in the FA Cup final, however they lost 2-1 to Liverpool after extra time.

The following season, the club again finished second but reached the semi-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the original Europa League). They lost over two legs to Real Zaragoza, despite Revie asking the fire brigade to flood the pitch at Elland Road for the replay (sneaky tactics).

They struggled domestically again the next season finishing 4th, but they did reach the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final – however they lost to Dinamo Zagreb.

They won their first major domestic trophy under Revie in the 1967-68 season, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the League Cup final. They also reached a second successive Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final against Hungarian team Ferencvarosi.

Leeds won the first leg 1–0, and a month later defended their lead with a 0–0 draw in Budapest. They were finally getting silverware and the club pushed on from there.

Revie left the club in 1974. In his 13 years in charge, Revie guided Leeds to two First Division titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, one Football League Second Division title and one Charity Shield.

He also took them to three more FA Cup Finals, two more FA Cup Semi-finals, one more Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-final.

Alongside this he also reached one European Cup Winners’ Cup Final and one European Cup Semi-final. The team also finished second in the First Division five times, third once and fourth twice.

Post-Don Revie struggles and the Wilkinson revival

The subsequent era was a complete farce as they had huge recruitment issues and sacked several coaches (Brian Clough, Jimmy Armfield, Jimmy Anderson, Allan Clarke) as they slipped down the league and were eventually relegated in the 1981-82 season.

The closest they got to promotion back to the top flight was in the 1986-87 season where they lost the play-off final to Charlton under the guidance of former Revie teammate Billy Bremner.

Howard Wilkinson took over the reigns from Bremner in October 1988. They avoided relegation to the 3rd tier, and with the signing of Gordon Strachan they were promoted back into the top flight in the 1989-90 season.

Under Wilkinson Leeds finished fourth in the following first division campaign, and in the 1991-92 season they won the title of the last ever Division one as the top tier, as the next season it was rebranded into what we know now as the ‘Premier League’.

After that though it was more failure as they finished no higher than 13th in the League, underperformed in Europe and the domestic cups. Wilkinson had his contract terminated in the 96-97 season.

The real change from his time at the club was the him and Paul Hart’s work on the youth system and academy – which still produces fantastic young players.

The Highs before the impending lows

George Graham was appointed as his replacement at the start of the 1997-98 season. Using young players from their youth cup winning team and some good signings, he guided them into the UEFA Cup places (again – the Europa League of old). Despite the success Graham left to manage Tottenham Hotspur in October 1988.

Graham was replaced by his assistant David O’Leary and under him Leeds saw some great success. Under O’Leary Leeds never finished outside the top five in the new Premier League. They also achieved qualification for both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League -enjoying cup runs to the semi-finals in both tournaments. 

However their success was marred by off the field antics, with Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer involved with an attack on an Asian student. The court case took nearly 2 years to resolve. Bowyer escaped a charge but Woodgate was sentenced to community service.

The performances on the field soon plummeted as Leeds went into Financial Implosion. Under Peter Ridsdale they had taken out multiple loans to pay for signings. These were made under the assumption they would stay in the Champions League.

Once they failed to qualify two seasons in a row they couldn’t repay the loans and had to sell players to ease the financial tension. What followed was a fall out between O’leary and Ridsdale, Terry Venables coming in and being sacked after a terrible run of form, and Peter Reid saving them – only to be relegated the next season (2003/04).

In the Championship, Leeds sold their entire squad and had to rebuild using loans and free agents due to the lack of money. They sold the club to Ken Bates as Ridsdale had stepped down, and appointed Peter Reid’s assistant Kevin Blackwell as head coach.

The club didn’t get close to promotion until the 2005/06 season, where they lost the Championship Play-off final to Watford 3-0. After Blackwell had started fairly well with a mid-table and then Play-off reaching season – the loss in the final took its toll and results dropped massively the following season.

With a poor pre-season and difficult start to the 2006/07 campaign – Blackwell was sacked. With Leeds firmly in a relegation battle John Carver was put in place, but his tenure was also unsuccessful and he was later sacked – replaced by Dennis Wise.

The performances didn’t improve under the ex-Chelsea player, and with them seemingly going down they were then placed into administration. The 10 point deduction that followed doomed the club to the third tier of English football. This was the first time the club had dropped below the second tier.

The League One rebuild

During July 2007, Leeds almost faced the possibility of not being allowed to begin their next campaign as HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) placed a legal challenge against them due to unpaid taxes. If they had still been in administration their season wouldn’t have been cleared.

Ken Bates bought the club back off administrators KPMG and HRMC weren’t in agreement with the deal. Despite the takeover being sanctioned the Football League imposed a 15 point sanction due to issues with administration CV.

Despite this deduction, Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet lead Leeds towards a play-off before they left for Newcastle and Tottenham respectively.

Gary McAllister was appointed in January 2008 and he lead them to the Play-off final, however they lost narrowly to Doncaster Rovers.

Simon Grayson came in to replace him, and the club achieved a Play-off spot once again – but were beaten in the semi-finals by Millwall.

The 2009/10 season saw them have their best ever start to a campaign and also knock bitter rivals Manchester United out of the FA Cup. Despite an awful second half of the season (7 points from 24) they went up as runners-up.

Championship return and severe ownership issues

Leeds returned to the Championship in 2010 with renewed vigour, and spent a good part of the season in the play-off race. However, they faltered towards the end of the campaign and finished 7th – a place outside the play-offs. This was to become a theme for the club.

What followed was a succession of botched ownerships and average campaigns. In May 2011, Ken Bates announced he’d taken 100% control of the club.

Protests against this were dismissed, however Bates sold the 100% stake of the club to a Middle-East private equity group (GFH Capital) in December 2012.

In February 2012 Grayson was sacked and replaced by Neil Warnock, with his contract due to last until the end of the 2012/13 season. The following campaign saw them perform well in the domestic cups but also very poorly in the league.

Warnock left the club in April 2013 and Brian McDermott guided them to safety. Ken Bates then stepped down as chairman.

Ownership issues then ensued: In January 2014, Sport Capital (a consortium involving the managing director of Leeds United’s main sponsors, Enterprise Insurance, Andrew Flowers) attempted to purchase a 75% stake in the club.

On the 30th January, Sport Capital’s takeover failed due to a lack of “financial backing”, it was also shown that GFH had invited a rivalling bid from Massimo Cellino, who owned Cagliari at the time, whilst agreements were being finalised.

In the backdrop of all the commotion, Brian McDermott was sacked by Cellino’s lawyer – despite the Italian not even owning the club. The decision was overruled due to this fact.

After agreeing a purchase in February that year, the Football League stopped the deal in March due to Celino having issues with the Italian court.

Leed’s season took a hug dip as they went from fighting for the play-offs to fighting relegation. They stayed up comfortably after a strong end to the campaign but Brian McDermott resigned.

The Cellino Circus

Despite the deal being blocked in March, Cellino formed a successful appeal and gained ownership in April 2014. The circus that followed was disturbingly laughable.

The confusing appointment of the unknown Dave Hockaday lasted only 70 days before he was replaced by Darko Milanic in September 2014. He only lasted until October and was replaced by Neil Redfearn on the 1st November.

As if things couldn’t get much worse than 3 head coaches in around 5 months – Cellino was then disqualified in December that year after the Football League discovered documents detailing his issues with tax evasion. This ban was to continue until April 2015, however Cellino stated he would not return to the club once the ban had ended.

Redfearn was replaced by Uwe Rosler after the 2014/15 season ended, however Rosler, like others, left early and Steve Evans took over the reigns.

In October 2015 Cellion agreed a deal with Leeds Fans United to sell his majority stake, however he went back on his promise.

After Steve Evans had failed to inspire the team to push up the table, he was replaced by Garry Monk in June 2016.

The 2016/17 campaign played out in similar fashion to pervious seasons – the phrase “Leeds are falling apart again” rang out as they missed out on the play-offs with a poor run of form. They were in the play-off places for the majority of the season.

The Radrizzani Era

The change then began at the club when Andrea Radrizzani purchased a 50% stake of in January 2017. In May 2017 he announced a full purchase of the club.

Radrizzani made several positive changes to the club, repurchasing Elland Road for the first time since 2004 and forming the women’s team.

Monk resigned two days after the takeover, and Tomas Christiansen replaced him. With the club sitting in 10thin February, he was sacked and replaced by Paul Heckingbottom – just days after the coach had signed a new contract at rivals Barnsley.

On 24 May 2018, Leeds announced that 49ers Enterprises had bought shares in the club to become a minority investor.

In June 2018 Heckingbottom was sacked after just 4 months. This proved to be the best decision Radrizzani made as he then appointed the highly coveted Marcelo Bielsa.

With Bielsa appointed and renewed vigour the club made a magnificent start to the season and were pushing for automatic promotion. Yet again a poor end to the season mean they dropped out of the automatic promotion places.

Having dropped into the play-offs, they lost over two legs to Derby with another season condemned to the Championship.

The frustration led into the next campaign – one which will be covered in the next part of this story…

What next for AFC Bournemouth and Eddie Howe?

Bournemouth Manager Eddie Howe has left the club following The Cherries relegation from the Premier League. 

The 42 year old led the South Coast club for more than 450 matches that spanned over more than a decade. 

The decision was ultimately made by mutual consent with both parties coming to the conclusion that the time was right for a fresh approach.

Following his departure, Howe has published an open letter to the fans:

“The club motto is Together anything is possible and that is something that we’ve always firmly believed and strived to implement.

“That quote is representative of everything that we have tried to achieve as a club and it reflects the values that we all have tried to install in each other.  We had a vision and a dream with hard work and unrelenting desire to continuously improve we have always strived to achieve our objectives.”

The Journey

It was just five years ago that AFC Bournemouth completed their journey from the depths of League Two to the promise land of the Premier League.  Eddie Howe’s side sealed their promotion with a 3-0 home win over Bolton.

The win was secured through a Callum Wilson late goal, the England striker had only just signed for three million pounds the previous summer from Coventry City.  Subsequently, it meant that the south-coast club were promoted to England’s top flight for the first time in their history.

Indeed, rewind 11 years prior to the club from Dorset’s promotion to the promise land, the Cherries needed a victory just to stay in the Football League, which thankfully they managed against Grimsby Town. This fact alone, however, shows just how remarkable the club’s rise is to arguably one of the ‘the most prestigious and best leagues’ in the world.’

The Cherries this season sadly saw their five-year stay in the top flight come to an end, as they finished 18th just one point and one place below Aston Villa.

There could be a further twist to come, however, as the Dorset club are considering legal action against the goal line technology company, Hawk-Eye because it failed to give Sheffield United a legitimate goal in the first match of Project Restart – the game itself ended 0-0 between the Yorkshire based club and Aston Villa.  A compensation agreement between the two parties could subsequently be reached just like Sheffield United received back in 2006/07 when they narrowly missed out on staying up to West Ham.

Standout performances in the Premier League

Throughout their five-year stay in England’s top flight the Cherries were known for their inventive and easy on the eye attacking style of play, however, they never were quite able to solve their defensive issues that would ultimately come back to haunt them in the 2019/2020 campaign.

In total they played 190 matches, winning 56 and losing 91 times.  Eddie Howe’s side, however, managed just 38 clean sheets out of those 190 games conceding 330 goals.

Their first season in the Premier League, they managed to finish 16th with a total of 42 points from 38 games, one of their stand out moments that season was achieving a 2-1 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United side where winger Junior Stanislas somehow managed to score directly from a corner.

The following season they achieved their highest finish in the division, an impressive ninth place with 46 points that was level with their south coast rivals, Southampton.

Eddie Howe’s men produced a number of impressive displays at the Vitality Stadium that year, including a memorable 4-3 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team, which was only secured in the 93rdminute through the currently in demand Dutch centre back Nathan Ake.

The subsequent two seasons saw finishes of 12thand 14th respectively for the South Coast side, where again they were able produce terrific performances against the ‘established top six’ of the Premier League.  Another standout performance in particular was an impressive 3-0 against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at Stanford Bridge.  They caused more problems for the Blues the following season by securing a 4-0 win over them at the Vitality.

Where did it go wrong?

The final season for the Cherries in the top flight actually began very well for them as they secured notable 3-1 victories over the likes of Southampton and Everton.  While at the start of November they managed their second win over Manchester United at the Vitality Stadium thanks to a former Red Devils reserve team player, King.  They also caused more problems for Chelsea at Stanford Bridge as they managed to hold on to a 1-0 win curtsey of a Dan Gosling goal.

Ultimately, however, it was results in the second half of the campaign that proved Eddie Howe’s sides undoing.  Poor performances against relegation rivals such as West Ham and Watford where they lost 4-0 and 3-0 respectively proving to be particularly costly in January.  While further heavy defeats to the likes of Burnley and Newcastle saw Bournemouth subsequently slide into the relegation zone, before the final nail in the coffin proved to be a 2-0 home defeat to Southampton in their final home game of the season.

They did, however, manage impressive performances towards the end of the season, a 4-1 win over fifth placed Leicester City and a closing 3-1 victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton that ultimately proved in vain as Aston Villa secured the crucial point that they needed to stay up at West Ham.

The benefits of top-flight football

Following the football club’s relegation to The Championship this past the weekend, The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council leader Vikki Slade said:

“Nothing can take away the achievement and meteoric rise of the club that we witnessed five amazing seasons ago.

“The appeal of Premier League football to national and international audiences has helped to put our area firmly on the map for attracting inward investment and tourism.”

While the Dorset Chamber of Commerce president, Liz Willingham was keen to stress:

“Overnight, we were put on a global map in such a positive way; I know for a fact that the area received a much needed boost in profile and awareness as a result of the club’s Premiership status.

“One example of the difference has been Bournemouth University’s ability to attract new students.  A significant increase, particularly in international students, was purely attributed to Bournemouth’s presence on screens all over the world.”

 

What next?

Since their relegation to The Championship as well as losing Eddie Howe, Bournemouth will most likely have to accept the fact that centre back Ake and forward King will move on, while there has already been interest from West Ham and Tottenham in another Cherries striker who helped take them up, the England international striker, Wilson.

For the new manager, the task will inevitably be trying to get The Cherries back to the Premier League.  The Championship, however, is always a notoriously competitive and tough division to predict. Next season will certainly be no different with the likes of fellow relegated sides, Watford and Norwich City looking to bounce straight up as well as previous European Cup winners Nottingham Forest, who narrowly missed out on the play-offs it is sure to be as challenging as ever.

Night of drama in Championship as Bees loose out to Baggies to go up

The best league in the world served up more drama on the final round of matches in the Championship on Wednesday evening.

Before kick off there was plenty of issues still to be decided.  Who would be joining Leeds United in the Premiership?  Who could possibly squeeze into the play-offs? Finally which three sides would be playing in League One next season?

West Brom Manager Slaven Bilic had to suffer 96 minutes of unbearable tension before the Baggies were guaranteed Premiership football next season.

After a two-year absence, they are back in the big time but they were pushed all the way by a resilient QPR side. It was the Londoners who took the lead through Ryan Manning, but West Brom hit back to lead 2-1 before Eberechi Eze levelled for Rangers just over the hour mark to leave the Baggies facing an anxious end to their league campaign.

When the final whistle went, West Brom players waited on the pitch to hear what was happening at Griffin Park. When news came through that Brentford had lost, wild scenes erupted around the Hawthorns as West Brom were confirmed as runners up.

You have to feel sorry for Brentford, who up until the last two results had looked the side likely to join Leeds in the top flight of English Football next season.

However, their surprising defeat to Stoke City at the weekend and last night’s shock 2-1 loss to Barnsley has cost them dearly. It will be play-offs for Thomas Frank’s vibrant side. For Barnsley, thanks to Clarke Oduor’s stoppage time winner, it meant that they had left the bottom three, thanks to Wigan Athletic’s 12-point deduction.

Fulham will have to go through the tough grind of the play-offs after a 1-1 draw against Wigan at the DW Stadium.

The draw meant that the Cottagers finished in fourth place in the table, two points outside second place West Brom.

Before last night’s action there would have been very few people who would have bet on both Welsh sides getting to the play-offs. Following an incredible night of action, however, saw both Cardiff and Swansea book their play-off dates with Nottingham Forest agonisingly missing out.

Cardiff relegated Hull City at the Cardiff City Stadium by securing a 3-0 win, while down the M4 Swansea were doing their best to gate crash the play-off mix by heavily beating Reading 4-1.

At the start of the evening, The Swans had to overcome a five-goal swing with Forest. The Welsh side did their bit, so it was down to what Forest could do against Stoke City at the City Ground.

Forest, in the top six for most of the season, capitulated 4-1 against Stoke and missed out on the play-offs. Swansea pipping the East Midland side on goal difference by a mere one goal.

Leeds celebrated being crowned champions  by hammering Charlton Athletic 4-0 at Elland Road. A result that sent Lee Bowyer’s side down to League One.

Luton Town survived a nervy night and escaped relegation after beating Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

In other matches, Middlesbrough’s impressive form under Neil Warnock continued with a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, while Millwall ended their campaign on a high with a 4-1 victory against Huddersfield, with Derby County winning at Birmingham 3-1.

Championship play-offs

Swansea City vs Brentford first leg Sunday 26th July second leg Wednesday 29th July.

Cardiff City vs Fulham first leg Monday 27th July second leg Thursday 30th July

Final Tuesday 4th August

Shortest turnaround in football history, but are players benefiting from this?

It is already looking like we could be set for the shortest season ever in football history.

When you consider we had to wait patiently for 100 days before we saw a ball kicked, we are now seeing matches played almost every day.

There are likely to be seven weeks between the end of this Premier League season and the start of the next one. In that time there will be only eight days without games in eight selected tournaments.

The Premier League will finish this weekend, with the Championship play-off semi-final matches being played later that week.

The FA Cup final is on the 1st August, which remarkably will be on the same day as the 2020-21 Scottish Premiership begins. It seems like only yesterday that their season re commenced. Wow doesn’t time fly in football!

The Championship play-off final is on the 4th August with Europa League last 16 ties resuming 24 hours later.

Manchester City and Chelsea play their Champions League last 16 second legs on the following two days. The Champions League final will be held on the 23rd August.

Now, who remembers the Nations League? Yes, I thought so, well the good news is it is back again, 11 days after the Champions League final.

The Premier League is, meanwhile, reportedly due to start on the 12th September.

This is great news for the fans watching but surely not for the players. Premier League and Championship players have been forced to return back.  After the restart there were genuine fears for fitness levels of players having to perform for their clubs in such a short tight schedule.

When the Bundesliga returned fitness levels of players was under question. Admittedly, after the first few weeks of the restart few players were getting injured or suffering cramp. The real test was to come when the Premiership restarted on the 20th June.

In terms of the fitness levels of players involved in the Premier League and Championship it has to be said it has been encouraging, with few major worries.

However, having to cram so many games into such a short space of time before a break of a few weeks before next season will hit us. I am sure this won’t benefit anybody at all.

To ask players at any level to play almost a whole year with just a few weeks break will inevitably mean more injuries next season.

Players welfare has to be taken very seriously indeed, otherwise we are going to lose a crop of outstanding young talent along with the cream of the league to the treatment tables and players will get burned out and lose their appetite for the game. This certainly would not be good for football.