WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP!
After being in the play-offs last season (narrowly losing to Newcastle United over 2 legs) and being predicted to finish 7th, promotion wasn’t necessarily the biggest surprise in the world (our promotion from League One to the Championship was far more unlikely), but it’s great to achieve it. Our form in the first half of the season (we went unbeaten in 19 games) was the key to promotion; when we struggled to score in December and January, we were able to stay in the mix and finally achieved promotion with a game to spare. It was a little disappointing to not win the title after such a strong start, but promotion was the main aim; the title would have been a bonus.
It’s always difficult to pick key games, but I think that there were a couple of important victories through the season. The first was away at Birmingham in November when we won 2-1. That win extended our lead to 8 points and was probably the first point that I genuinely thought promotion was achievable. The second was the 6-1 away win at Derby in April. We went into the game having been outplayed by Birmingham at home in the previous match and a 6 point lead over Blackburn in third with 5 games to go; the result and performance showed that we were able to move on from that and I felt confident that we would get the job done in the final games.
In the wider world, the play-off final saw Leeds United take on West Ham United. Joining ourselves and Birmingham in the Premier League is… Leeds United. Although the better side throughout, they required extra time to beat West Ham 3-1. The F.A. Cup saw Tottenham Hotspur take on Chelsea in the final, with Spurs lifting the trophy after a 3-1 win.
Inevitably, some managers lost their jobs at the end of the season. Barnsley sack Keith Hill (they appoint Steve Eyre), Crystal Palace sack Nigel Clough (they appoint Andy Thorn), Middlesbrough sack Dean Smith (they appoint Paul Jewell) and Peterborough United sack Ian Craney (they appoint David Moyes). In Germany, Mainz sack Michael Frontzeck and the media make me favourite for the job, but I tell them I have no interest. Southampton sack Peter Grant following their relegation from the Premier League and I’m made favourite to replace him. I tell the media I have no interest in the job, but it doesn’t deter Southampton and they offer me the job. I reject the offer.
The end of season awards are made:
Championship Player of the Season: Ignacio Scocco (Blackburn Rovers)
Championship Young Player of the Season: Kenny Mulready (Bristol City, on loan from Manchester United)
Championship Goal of the Season: Pablo Berrera (West Ham United). Oliver Norwood’s strike against Norwich City comes second.
Championship Leading Goalscorer: Federico Cenci – 31 goals.
Championship Manager of the Season: Me
Jagos Vukovic, Jonny Hayes and Federico Cenci are named in the Championship Team of the Season.
Jay Spearing and Federico Cenci are inducted into the Exeter City Overall Best XI, although only on the bench. I would suspect that as long as Cenci stays and his form continues, he will be named in the Overall Best starting XI at the end of next season. Unsurprisingly, Cenci is named Fans Player of the Year. His average rating of 7.49 from 44 games sets a new Exeter City record, beating the previous record of 7.44 from 37 games by Michel in the 2015/16 season. What will next season bring?