IT'S TIME TO GO DOWN THE MEMORY LANE AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE 10 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS IN THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL'S SECOND DIVISION
Championship playoff finals is a game that can easily help you win big bucks if you end up lifting the silverware. One of the most expensive games in the history of football, it had one of the best final matches ever.
With the opportunity to get money, a trophy, and Premier League promotion each finalist goes into the match all guns blazing
FootTheBall takes a look at some of the best finals in the competition’s history:
1998: Charlton Athletic 4-4 Sunderland (8-7 on penalties)
Charlton’s match-up against Sunderland had all the ingredients to make the perfect Championship playoff final recipe. A boosted Charlton faced an energetic and overjoyed Sunderland. But who knew that Alan Curbishley’s squad would end up winning the championship in one of the most dramatic styles one could imagine.
The Addicks were the first team to lead the game as they went in front before half-time. But Sunderland pulled a few strings to take the lead from Curbishley’s team.
All the fans in the stadium thought that the Black Cats would end up lifting the trophy. But Mendonca had other plans as he bagged his brace. Sunderland once again took their lead back from their rivals but Mendonca was there again to spoil Sunderland’s party. Another equalizer and a hattrick in the final- he was surely living a dream.
And with the blink of an eye, the referee blew the whistle for penalties as extra-time also couldn’t split the two teams. But a match with this much spectacle wouldn’t end without another twist. Both the teams scored 7 penalties each before Michael Gray missed a decisive spot-kick. And there was it, finally!! The Addicks were gonna be a part of the Premier League next campaign. A Championship Trophy and promotion seemed like an icing on the cake.
(1990/00) Ipswich Town 4-2 Barnsley
Another final from the 90’s decade features in this list. The 90s was one of the golden decades that produced one of the best moments in English football. A few instances could easily be inscribed in the history books with golden letters. Ipswich Town’s final against Barnsley made football fanatics scream “What a Match!”.
The Tykes were celebrating their 103rd anniversary as they managed to steam their way into the final of England’s second division. And who can forget the legendary Ipswich team who had found a way to get into the Championship playoffs. It was the fourth timing run that the Blues had gotten into the playoffs but interestingly it was the only time they were featured in the final.
But on the day that mattered, Ipswich was too good for their opposition. Right off the bat, they were in charge of the possession and the game. 4 big clubs changed the situation of the club as they defeated the Colliers 4-2. A match that would surely stay in the minds of Ipswich Town fans for ages.
(2002/03) LINCOLN CITY FC 3-5 BOURNEMOUTH
Remember the time Leicester City won the Premier League when everyone thought they would be relegated or when Ajax demolished strong European teams to get to the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League.
Everyone loves an underdog story and one such came in the 2002-03 Championship campaign. Every popular football pundit and fanatic had predicted that Lincoln City FC would be thrown out of the 2nd division of English football. But proving the world wrong is what Lincoln City FC had decided even before the campaign kicked off.
An unimaginable run to the finals of the competition shut the mouth of all the haters who doubted their ability. But unfortunately, The Imps didn’t emerge victorious as the Cherries ran riot at Wembley defeating Lincoln 5-3. But the fairytale journey of the Imps never came to an end. For almost half a decade they were making their way into the finals but every time faltered at the final step.
(2010) BLACKPOOL 3-2 CARDIFF CITY
Rarely, a Championship final doesn’t produce a second-half goal. But the 2010 final between Blackpool and Cardiff City was once again a final full of surprises. Both the teams scored their goals in the first 45 minutes of the match. Cardiff City and Micheal Chopra were the first ones to get on the scoresheet as Chopra netted a goal 9 minutes into the game.
📽 We're into the fifth minute of added time…. and there goes the final whistle.
🏆 The Seasiders have done it!!!
⚽️ Blackpool 3 Cardiff City 2
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) May 22, 2020
But Blackpool wasn’t here to back down. A wave of attacks from The Seasiders saw them equal the scoreline. Charlie Adam equalized for his team with a mouth-watering freekick. A goal that left Blackpool manager and fans screaming WOW! But Cardiff City adapted to the fast-track gameplay as they restored their lead.
But once again Blackpool pulled out all the tricks from their hat. A goal-line clearance from Cardiff’s goalkeeper saw the ball land on Fletcher’s feet who didn’t need a second invitation to get on the score sheet as he equalized.
Ryan Ormerod scored another goal just 4 minutes later as the referee blew for half-time. The second-half produced a few attacks but the goalkeepers didn’t have to move an inch as Blackpool got another shot at Premier League football.
(1992/93) Swindon Town 4-3 Leicester City
Swindon Town was once a popular name in English football. But with time, the quality of football at the club has just gone down the drain. But back in the days, they were a strong team and an outfit to beat.
The Robins locked horns with the Foxes in one of the best Championship League play-off finals. The first half of the match was a mismatch in every way. Swindon was leading the game 3-0 and it felt it was a man vs boys game. But the Foxes had a different dose of enthusiasm in the next 45 minutes of the match. And just with the blink of an eye, Leicester had netted in three goals, equalling the game.
But Swindon got the last laugh as Paul Bodin scored from the spot-kick to give them the lead and the Championship title. Oh! They also got promoted to the Premier League.
(1994/95) BOLTON WANDERERS 4-3 READING
Another 4-3 scoreline features in this list but this time it’s Bolton Wanderers who enjoyed all the perks of winning the second division. The first 12 minutes of the game swung heavily in Reading’s favour.
Reading got a two-goal advantage after just a few minutes into the game and a penalty soon after the clock struck 30 minutes. But unfortunately, Reading failed to convert their spot-kick as they were left dejected. An inspiring second-half team talk by the coach helped Wanderers to dominate the game on the pitch. With 15 minutes remaining, Bolton’s comeback began.
Two goals in the last 15 minutes saw the game go into extra time. Mixu Paatelainen gave the Whites the lead for the very first time in the tie and de Freita completed the unimaginable story. The outfit in White had demolished their rivals as they won a hard-fought battle at Wembley.
(2008) HULL CITY 1-0 BRISTOL CITY
The 2008 final between Hull City and Bristol City was a match where new records were about to be made. The Premier League would have one of these two teams for the very first time in either club’s history.
The Cider Army was up against the Tigers in one of the most fascinating matches in Championship football history. The Tigers scored the all-important goal thanks to Dean Windass. A cross that came from the goal line was sweetly met by Windass on the volley as a million fans at Wembley jumped in joy.
And when the referee blew the final whistle, the Hull City players couldn’t control their emotions as the Tigers got a chance to finally roar and hunt in England’s top division.
(1987) CHARLTON 2-1 LEEDS UNITED
Charlton was the very first team who have crowned Champions of England’s second division. But they had to play a total of 3 finals before making it through. Championship football had a different set of rules in the early days. According to the old rules, Charlton was up against Leeds in the showdown.
But interestingly both the legs finished 1-0 with the home team edging ahead. A reserve day was used to conduct the momentous match. Again 90 minutes couldn’t decide the winner of the competition and they had to go into extra time. But it was Charlton who emerged victorious on the day it mattered. 2 beautiful goals from Peter Shirtliff saw Charlton remain in the top-flight for another season.
(1989) Crystal Palace 4-3 Blackburn (on aggregate)
What will happen if Messi is not marked for just one minute of the game? The Argentine would turn the game on its head without the opposition realizing what happened. Some teams already know that players like Messi should always be marked while some learn after they concede a few goals. 1989 final was nothing short of magic for Crystal Palace.
The Eagles were 3-1 down after the first leg and it seemed that there was no way back. But Blackburn, unfortunately, forgot about Ian Wright’s presence on the pitch. And Satchmo Wrighty took full advantage of the space awarded to him. Wright controlled the game and soon rejuvenated a sense of energy in Palace. And before Blackburn could realize he and Palace had turned the game on its head spoiling Blackburn’s party.
1994: LEICESTER CITY 2-1 DERBY COUNTY
The Foxes weren’t able to lift the trophy for ages now. Making it to the Championship play-off final seemed like an easy task but lifting the trophy was very difficult. Leicester was once again down by one goal as Tommy Johnson gave The Rams the well-deserved lead. But the Foxes were lucky this time out as Steve Walsh gave them the lead.
Both the goals scored came under the scanner and it was pretty clear that the trophy belonged to Derby and not Leicester. But like the existence of VAR helped the Foxes against Chelsea last week, they were lucky that the technology wasn’t there in 1994.