EFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 3

Note: This is the third of four posts about the 24 teams competing in the Championship, which is Tier 2 of English Association football. Teams are presented in alphabetical order with a bit of their history and some expectations for this season. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Norwich City

Nickname: The Canaries
Founded: 1902
Location: Norwich
Team Colors: Yellow / Green
Kit Manufacturer: Erreà
Kit Sponsor: LeoVegas
Ground: Carrow Road (1935-Present)
Capacity:  27,244
Manager: Daniel Farke (since 2017)
Website: www.canaries.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 14th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Eight, last in 2015-2016

The Canaries scored 60 points last season, which tied them with Ipswich Town and Leeds United. They even had fewer losses than either team. However, a worse goal differential resulted in a 14th-place finish, which was not helped by a 5-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the season. Had they secured even a draw in that final game, to go along with the 15 other draws they had during the season, they would have been alone in 12th place, and locked into the last spot of the top half of the league.

I don’t really expect Norwich City to improve much on last season’s finish, though with three teams above them now in the Premier League, they may be able to move into that top half of the league that eluded them last season. To do so, they will have to turn more of those 15 draws into victories, as well as score more than 49 goals, which was the 6th lowest in the Championship.

Read moreEFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 3

EFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 2

Note: This is the second of four posts about the 24 teams competing in the Championship, which is Tier 2 of English Association football. Teams are presented in alphabetical order with a bit of their history and some expectations for this season. You can read Part 1 here.

Derby County

Nickname: The Rams
Founded: 1884
Location: Derby
Team Colors: Black / White
Kit Manufacturer: Umbro
Kit Sponsor: 32Red
Ground: Pride Park Stadium (1997-Present)
Capacity:  33,600
Manager: Frank Lampard (since 2018)
Website: www.dcfc.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 6th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Seven, last in 2007-2008

The Rams locked themselves into a playoff spot last season in Week 44 with against second-place finisher Cardiff City, and held on with a win and a draw in their final two games, finishing two points ahead of seventh-place Preston North End, who remained out of the playoff despite their own unbeaten string to end the season. With the departure of three clubs to the Premier League via promotion, I don’t see any reason why Derby County can’t yet again compete for promotion this season, though they will probably want to be a bit more consistent over the course of the season instead of holding off until the end.

This will be the Rams 51st overall season at Tier 2, with four championships to boot. But I imagine they want to return to the Premier League sooner rather than later, if only to try and get the “one-and-done” taste out of their mouth following their most recent go of it in 2007-2008, a season in which they finished in 20th place and were the second club in Tier 1 history to secure relegation in March. Their only other time in the Premier League was a six season run from 1996-2002, but they have spent more total seasons at Tier 1 – 65 seasons with an average finish of 10th. They currently have 13-to-8 odds of finishing in the top 6, so maybe they’ll be spending 2019-2020 back in the Premiership.

Read moreEFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 2

EFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 1

Note: Unless something newsworthy happens, chances are that we will not be talking about The Championship or any other division beneath the Premier League, though as the season progresses and we approach promotion/relegation that may change. This piece is a brief look at where the Championship teams finished last year, some important players, and who might be fighting for promotion/relegation at the end of the season. Plus, since these teams will be competing in the EFL and FA Cups in England, it might be nice to know if they’ll have any chance when competing against their Premier League brethren.

This is the first of four posts about the 24 teams that will be competing for the Championship this season. Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and will feature a bit about the teams history, as well as simple expectations for this season.

Aston Villa

Nickname: The Lions
Founded: 1874
Location: Birmingham
Team Colors: Claret/Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Luke Sports
Kit Sponsor: 32Red
Ground: Villa Park (1897-Present)
Capacity:  42,682
Manager: Steve Bruce (sacked 3 October 2018) Dean Smith (since 10 October 2018)
Website: www.avfc.co.uk
2017-18 Season: 4th in Championship (lost promotion play-off to Fulham)
Seasons in Premier League: 24, last in 2015-2016

The Lions came as close as any team last year of getting promoted to the Premier League, losing to Fulham in the Championship Playoff 1-0. They finished fourth overall in the Championship, five points behind Fulham and seven points away from automatic promotion. They reached as high as second in the table after seven match win streak in the middle of the season, sitting with 17 wins, eight draws, and only six losses after 31 matches. However, they finished the season on a but of a slide, winning only seven more times over their final 15 games – as well as three more draws and five losses – which led to their finish in the playoffs. Though the team beat the teams it was supposed to based on table position, a loss to 21st-place finisher (one spot out of relegation) Bolton Wanderers saved the Wanderers season while probably dooming the Lions to the playoffs.

As the current leader in Premier League seasons among current Championship teams, as well as a team that has only spent 13 seasons at Tier 2, Aston Villa hopes that with all the teams above them last season now in the Premier League that they can climb to the top of the table this season and earn an automatic promotion as champions.

Birmingham City

Nickname: Blues
Founded: 1874
Location: Birmingham
Team Colors: Blue/White
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas
Kit Sponsor: 888sport
Ground: St. Andrew’s (1906-Present)
Capacity:  30,015
Manager: Garry Monk (since 2018)
Website: www.bcfc.com
2017-18 Season: 19th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Seven, last in 2010-2011

Of the 24 teams currently in the Championship, only Hull City has spent more total seasons at Tier 2 than the Blues, who have spent a total of 55 seasons in the tier. Those seven seasons in the Premier League haven’t featured much success either, with a best finish of 9th place (in 2009-2010) and an average finish around 14th. While I don’t think they will complete for the title – especially considering that Birmingham City is currently under a transfer embargo after “having failed to convince the Championship’s governing body that they were working within Financial Fair Play guidelines” – chances are that they avoid relegation, but early season struggles could indicate otherwise. It will be worth keeping an eye on the team to see if the embargo truly has an effect.

Read moreEFL Championship Teams Primer: 2018-2019 Season – Part 1

Picking a Football Club – Finals

We’ve reached the end.
What started as a journey to football fandom has morphed into something else, and I am perfectly okay with that. I have read more about English football this week than almost any other subject in a very long time.
As an American, it’s hard to move away from the way sports work in this country, but I have also grown in appreciation of the way that association football works in Europe and around the world. The United States will probably never change – even Major League Soccer, the youngest (major) professional league in the country cannot be incentivized to change – and I fear that it will be one of the major reasons that USA Soccer will continue to lag the rest of the world in football. We can’t even qualify for the World Cup currently, and our best young players, the future of our domestic team, don’t play in their domestic league.

Read morePicking a Football Club – Finals

Football Association Cup Primer

There are a couple of intra-season tournaments played by teams in the English football association, including the Championship League and Europa League for teams that qualify for those specific tournaments. While the Championship League is limited to the top teams from the Premier League, it is technically possible for a lower-tier team to qualify for the Europa League tournament, even though it hasn’t happened for over in the Premier League era of English football.
Two of the qualifying spots in Europa League, at least for English association football, are awarded to the winners of two English-only Cup competitions: the Football Association Cup – also know as the FA Cup – and the English League Cup (ELC).* However, as mentioned previously, a non-tier 1 team hasn’t won either cup since 1991, when Sheffield Wednesday managed to secure the EFL Cup. The last team from outside the top division to win the FA Cup was West Ham United way back in 1980 (though Cardiff City, while a member of the Championship, did lose in the final to Portsmouth in 2008).
*I’ll cover the English League Cup in a subsequent post.

Read moreFootball Association Cup Primer

Where World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing

Now that World Cup 2018 has been over for some time, with France coming out on top against an upstart Croatia team, you might be wondering where you can find all the stars from the tournament across the various football associations.
You’ve come to the right place!
FIFA doesn’t announce a Best XI from the tournament, which made this a little more difficult to complete. They did, however, give out four individual awards to seven individuals:

  • Golden Ball (best overall player) (gold, silver, and bronze)
  • Golden Ball (top scorer) (gold, silver, bronze)
  • Golden Glove (best goalkeeper)
  • Best Young Player

We’ll cover these seven players first, and most of these players have shown up on the various “best of the tournament” lists that I’ve seen floating around the internet.

Read moreWhere World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing