TRUE SPORT: THESE THREE EFL STORYS SHOW WHAT FOOTBALL IS REALLY ABOUT
The business end of the season: where kings are crowned, heroes arise, and teams rise like a phoenix out from the ashes of relegation.
Football has had a massive shake up recently with the announcement of the ‘European Super League’, and some fans in the football league will be hoping for a change in scenery next season as promotion is on the line.
Here are a few storylines for you to follow as the Championship, League One and League Two go down to the wire.
Barnsley for the Premier League?
Fans of the Championship will be aware of perennial strugglers Barnsley’s excellent season so far. The unexpected upturn of form by the Yorkshire side has been staggering. A surge of nine wins in 10 matches from the end of January, picking up 37 points from the last 51 available has seen the club climb into the play-off places.
Having gone winless in their first seven league matches of the season, and then losing their manager to American side New York Red Bulls; many would have thought The Tykes season would have preceded like normal, stuck in a relegation battle scrapping for their lives.
Fortunes have changed though and under manager Valerien Ismael and American January recruit, Daryl Dike has scored for fun since his arrival from over the pond.
It will be a tough challenge if they are to succeed in the play-offs, but both away wins over Brentford and Bournemouth this season show they can bring it to the more favoured teams.
League One Champion
Hull City had a catastrophic drop last season, which saw them finish bottom of the Championship, after being in the play-off hunt during the festive period. Aseem Allam stuck with Grant McCann as manager, who is now leading a strongly favoured Hull City back to the second tier of English Football.
Top of the League with 82 points from 42 matches, promotion is all but assured. With the meanest defence in the league only conceding 33, and joint most prolific attack, they deserve promotion, but have a fight on for the title.
Peterborough United are the contenders for the title, sat three points behind Hull City, and with a game in hand the title fight may go down to the wire. Joint highest scorers in the league, they have top scorer Johnson Clarke-Harris who has netted 28 goals so far this season, as well as Sammie Szmodics with 14 goals, with Shiriki Dembele having double figures for both goals and assists this year.
Both clubs must play play-off contenders Charlton Athletic and Lincoln City, whilst the Posh have their game in hand at home to Doncaster Rovers who sit five points off the play-off places with two matches in hand.
League Two Play-Off Scramble
The promotion picture in League Two is as unpredictable as ever. With four and five matches to go, there are nine teams realistically in shout for a play-off position. Tranmere Rovers in fifth are only eight points above 13th placed Bradford City. Both teams only four points off being the opposite side of the play-off places. Forest Green Rovers and Newport County currently hold the remaining two spots with 65 and 62 points, respectively. Exeter City and Leyton Orient (both 61), Carlisle United (60), Saltford City and Crawley Town (59) and Bradford City (58) are all in the chasing pack.
Exeter City have the advantage of goal difference having +18, second only to top of the table Cambridge United.
Six of these teams play off against each other tonight (20th April), with a total of nine matches between the chasing pack coming up before the end of the season. With eight of the nine teams (Crawley Town excluded) playing in at least two of the games.
This is not even considering matches against the four going for automatic promotion, which is another unpredictable side story. Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town, Bolton Wanderers and Morecambe will have a major say in the play-off picture, whilst also having to fight for their place in the automatic promotion spots.
In a time where the football world and fans of the ‘big six’ are disgusted with the actions of the richer teams, we should all keep an eye out for the clubs in the lower divisions, because who knows, maybe they will be your knew club.