There’s one thing you can’t fault about Milan Mandaric, his ambition. But the elation/relief (delete as appropriate) of promotion might have some people getting a little ahead of themselves. Not since Manchester City won successive promotions to land themselves back in the Premier league for the 2000/01 season has a side climbed directly from the third tier of English football to the first.
Since the turn of the century just four promoted sides from the third tier have made it to the play-offs, and whilst Bristol City managed this last season they were the first team to extend their season for five years. Over time teams from the third tier have reached the Premier League – Reading, Stoke, Wigan and Hull have all managed it, but in the same space of time 11 of the 24 promoted teams have since been relegated. If Nottingham Forest, Barnsley or Plymouth drop this season it’ll be 12 from 25.
The Championship has a wealth of teams who all see themselves as Premier League material – 18 of the 24 sides in the division this season had spent at least one year in the promised land. So City’s first challenge in The Championship might actually be to achieve something which they did not manage in any season between 2004 and 2008, to win more games than they lose.
When the Foxes last met the Iron top spot was the prize on offer for the winner. Andy King’s late winner was the difference between the sides in November and City never surrendered first place. Scunthorpe, after a great start to the season are now losing their way.
Nigel Adkins’ side were the second best League One team in January, and the second worst in February. They picked up two points per game in March, but have managed just four points from their four games in April. Locked in a battle with Tranmere Rovers for the final play-off spot seemingly destined to go to the final day when the pair meet, the Iron will be desperate for points.
Scunthorpe are free scorers both at home and away, many of them down to the impressive Gary Hooper who has bagged more than a third (24) already this season. But sadly for the Iron their opponents too have found the net often, a total of 60 so far.
This year Scunthorpe have resembled the Laurie Sanchez era Fulham side which powered past teams in the first half and wilted in the second. The Iron’s goal difference in the first half is 21, in the second it is -5. How the Scunny Bunny has wept at leads squandered, culminating in a loss of 28 points from winning positions this season. If City can keep it tight for the first 45 minutes then the sell-out crowd at the Walkers should be able to enjoy a victory to go with the trophy presentation.