The decision that everyone knew would come eventually was finally confirmed on 9 June: clubs from League One and Two voted to curtail the 2019/20 season, with the final league table decided by an unweighted points-per-game (PPG) system.
As I said in a previous article for The Boar, this decision seemed to be the only option for the 48 clubs from tiers three and four of the Football League. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that many clubs are in financial peril, and putting on the matches required to finish the season would have put many clubs at risk of going under. This has not meant, however, that the decision has been without controversy.
Although League Two made their decision to end the season a month or so ago, League One has had a far more fraught debate, with many clubs calling for the season to continue, while also proposing other options to terminate the season.
Coventry City and Rotherham United have been promoted to the Championship
Complaints made by Tranmere Rovers and Peterborough United were understandable. Tranmere have been relegated by 0.04 points; Peterborough have fallen out of the play-off places by virtue of having played more games than Wycombe Wanderers. Taking into account the interests of all the clubs in the division, ending the season using PPG does seem to be the fairest option.
The ramifications for this are numerous: Coventry City and Rotherham United have been promoted to the Championship, whilst Bolton, Southend and Tranmere will drop into League Two. The Play-Offs are also set to go ahead. Oxford United face Portsmouth, while Wycombe take on Fleetwood Town for a place in the Play-Off final at Wembley Stadium.
The same is true of League Two, where Swindon Town, Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle have been automatically promoted. Colchester United, Exeter City, Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town will contest the Play-Offs.
Meanwhile, in yet another twist to this complex story, Stevenage Town are set to be the lone team relegated from the Football League. Macclesfield Town could take Stevenage’s place should they be sanctioned for a failure to pay their players. Only one club will be relegated to the National League following the liquidation of Bury FC at the start of the season.
The Sky Blues are the first team to deliver a league title to St. Andrew’s in several decades
From this mirage of protests of confusion, Coventry, Warwick’s local EFL team, have been crowned League One champions. This is a momentous achievement for Coventry, previously giants of English football, as they return to the Championship after eight years.
The Sky Blues are the first team to deliver a league title to St. Andrew’s in several decades; the irony hasn’t been lost on Birmingham supporters.
Unfancied at the start of the season, with their ‘home’ advantage effectively removed throughout the season, under the stewardship of Mark Robins they have upset some of the bigger spenders in the league, such as Ipswich Town and Sunderland, to come away with a fully deserved league title.
Coventry’s success has largely been down to a combination of shrewd recruitment, great team spirit and fantastic management by Robins. Having switched to a three at the back system 15 games into the season, City never looked back, going on an 11-match unbeaten run as they headed into February.
Players such as Matty Godden have also proven to be shrewd acquisitions
Players who have previously never looked completely at home at other clubs have thrived. Dominic Hyam seems to have found his home at the heart of Robins’ defence. Players such as Matty Godden, picked up for rather small fees from those around them in the division, have also proven to be shrewd acquisitions. Having been bought from Peterborough, Gooden led Coventry’s attack superbly notching 14 goals in the league.
What is most remarkable about this team, however, is the fact that there is no absolute stand-out player that drags the rest of the squad along with him. The same could not be said with Ivan Toney at Peterborough, for example. Robins’ side work as a unit, with almost every player in the team chipping in with a goal now and again, defending stoutly and then being ruthless whenever they get the opportunity in front of goal.
For the first time since 2012, Warwick students will have Championship football on their doorsteps. For now, though, as a Colchester fan, I have the small matter of the Play-Offs to get out of the way first.