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Three talking points from the final day of the Sky Bet Championship

Jake Jackman

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The last day of the Championship always provides thrills and spills, with this year being no different.

It has been an excellent division this season, especially after the addition of Newcastle United and Aston Villa, two huge clubs in this country.

The injection of money in the Premier League has resulted in the lower divisions improving as well and the Championship is easily the best second tier in the world.

Here are three talking points from the final day of Championship action…

Newcastle United are champions

They were huge favourites to win the division at the beginning of the season and they managed to do that on the final day, but it was much more difficult than many predicted. It took a last minute goal from Aston Villa to hand the title to the Magpies, as a Jack Grealish effort was deflected past David Stockdale.

It looked like the trophy would be going to the Amex Stadium after Glenn Murray scored from the spot to give the Seagulls a lead, but ten-man Villa fought back and provided one more twist in the battle for first place.

Newcastle did their bit with a convincing 3-0 win over Barnsley and have turned around a seven-point deficit during the last three matches of the season.

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The two clubs have been by far the best teams in the division and won promotion with relative comfort, but it took the full 46 matches to split them at the top. They have switched the top two places all season long and Brighton will feel desperately unlucky after dropping eight points during the last three matches.

However, after leading the league for 137 days, the Magpies will feel that they deserve to win the title and returned to their rampant best after promotion was secured. They scored nine goals and conceded only once in their last three matches, which gives them a lot of momentum to take into the Premier League.

Blackburn Rovers were relegated

There were three teams that could have taken the final relegation spot on the final day, but it was Blackburn Rovers that dropped to the third tier, despite an excellent away performance at Brentford.

After moving into a two-goal lead after just 16 minutes, the mood was jubilant in the away end. However, Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest both picked up three points, which meant that Rovers remained in the bottom three.

They become the first former Premier League champions to drop to the third tier and their nightmare under the Venkys continues.

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Tony Mowbray has done a good job at Ewood Park and his team didn’t lose during the last five matches, but the damage had been done earlier in the campaign. Rovers have only spent 35 days outside of the relegation zone this season and that underlines why they will be playing in League One next season.

If the owners had dismissed Owen Coyle sooner, they may have stayed up. That said, credit should be given to both Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City. Both clubs had no margin for error on Sunday and they delivered the performances required to retain their Championship status.

The play-off semi-finals were confirmed

There four play-off spots were taken before the final day, with Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Fulham set to battle it out for the last Premier League place on offer. However, the actual finishing positions weren’t confirmed and for that reason, there was still something to play for on the final day.

The first semi-final will be Reading versus Fulham, after both teams secured victories on the final day, while the second semi-final will be Sheffield Wednesday against Huddersfield. Both ties should be great to watch for the neutral and all four teams will feel confident that they can go up.

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Fulham are the team taking real momentum into the play-offs as they have spent the least time in the top six, but they have secured wins in crucial matches and play some of the best football in the division.  On the final day, they beat play-off rivals Sheffield Wednesday and that should give them a lot of confidence to take into the following weeks.

It is Huddersfield that have lost momentum, as they have won only one of their last five matches and lost convincingly on the final day to Cardiff. Also, their goalkeeper Danny Ward was sent off for handling the ball outside of the box and will, therefore, be suspended for the tie against Sheffield Wednesday.

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Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Birmingham City

Three managers that Birmingham City should target to replace Harry Redknapp

Jake Jackman

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Birmingham City

Birmingham City are on the lookout for a new manager after deciding to sack Harry Redknapp after the team’s loss to Preston North End. Many supporters believe that the decision was a premature one, but the side had taken only four points from eight matches. The Blues are currently in the bottom three and facing a difficult task to make up the ground to the play-off places.

They have struggled since the sacking of Gary Rowett and two managers have failed since then. Gianfranco Zola was a complete disaster after taking the job. Redknapp did well to keep them up last season, but he wasn’t the right man long-term. It is crucial that they now find a good fit as they can’t afford any more upheaval. There are a number of managers in the running, with Steve McClaren, Gus Poyet and Nigel Adkins all mentioned in the media. Lee Carsley is the favourite and has been placed in temporary charge.

There are good managers that could take Birmingham forward. Here are three managers that they should target:

Aitor Karanka

The former Middlesbrough manager is an eye-catching name in the betting and he would be an ambitious appointment by the club. He may have failed in the Premier League, but he showed himself to be an effective manager in the second tier. The Spaniard managed to get Boro back to the top-flight and played some attractive football in the process. Although he switched back to a more defensive set-up in the Premier League, he can coach a team to play an exciting style.

Birmingham did bring in some very talented players during the transfer window and they have the potential to make significant progress up the table with the right coach. Karanka could be the perfect fit. He will make them tough to beat to begin with and provide a foundation for the flair players to do their thing. Last season wasn’t one to be remembered, but he will have learnt from it and is a name that would get the fans on board.

Alan Pardew

This will be filed under unlikely, but the former Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager will be keen to return to the game after nearly a year out of a job. There are a lot of negative opinions about Pardew, but he has made an impact at most of the clubs he has managed. He guided the Magpies to fifth in the Premier League and got to the FA Cup final with Palace.

It would require him to drop down from the Premier League and return to the second tier. This won’t be what he would want in an ideal world, but he needs to rebuild his reputation and this could be the perfect opportunity to do that. Birmingham have a decent squad and money to spend in future windows. If he wanted a project that had a good chance of being successful, this could be a good fit for him.

Nigel Clough

The current Burton Albion manager hasn’t been mentioned, but if Birmingham want a manager that is tailor-made for the Championship, Nigel Clough would be a good appointment. He has performed miracles at the Pirelli Stadium and knows how to get results in this division. Birmingham need to appoint a good manager, rather than a big name and the 51-year-old should be under consideration.

Clough may not be interested in a move to Birmingham as he is settled at Burton, but it would be difficult to turn down the greater chance of success. He would get respect based on his recent achievements in the Championship, which neither of the previous two managers had. It seems like players enjoy working under Clough and he would be a worthy candidate for the post.

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Birmingham City

How Twitter reacted to Birmingham City signing Jota from Brentford

Jake Jackman

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Jota

Birmingham City have completed one of the deals of the day in the Championship as they have signed Jota from Brentford. The official site confirms that they have broken their club-record fee to bring him to the Midlands on a four-year deal. The Spaniard had been linked to Premier League this summer, while the Bees had rejected offers from Middlesbrough and Hull City. It is seen as a huge coup for the Blues to land him.

Harry Redknapp was delighted with the transfer and the following quotes were reported by the Evening Standard:

“There will not be many better players in the Championship than him, that is for sure. He has got great ability. We are very pleased to have got that one done.”

The Blues manager has always pulled out big deadline day deals throughout his career, but this could be one of his finest. He isn’t wrong when he says that the Spaniard is one of the best players in the division and he will provide the spark that their attack has been lacking during the opening weeks of the season.

Last season, he was excellent during the second half of the season, contributing 12 goals and five assists. Brentford had one of the better attacks after his return and Birmingham will be hoping that he can have a similar impact on their front-line.

Jota is an intelligent player, who takes up good positions in the final third and is capable of producing end product on a consistent basis. It is rare to have a player like him in the Championship and the Blues will have to be seen as one of the favourites for promotion now.

Here is how Twitter reacted to the news:

https://twitter.com/gyazza/status/903166150070161408

Birmingham fans were pleased with the news:

Brentford fans were disappointed, but couldn’t see why he wanted to move to Birmingham:

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Arsenal

Birmingham City linked with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere – would he be a good signing?

Jake Jackman

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Wilshere

Birmingham City are making a number of ambitious moves on deadline day and they have been linked with Jack Wilshere. The Mirror report that the midfielder has emerged as a surprise deadline day target as they investigate the possibility of taking him on loan. Arsenal are unlikely to use him often this season and could be tempted to let him go down to the Championship.

The wages being commanded by the England international could be a problem. He currently earns £90,000-a-week and that is huge for the Championship. Birmingham wouldn’t be able to pay them in full and they will be hoping that a compromise can be found with Arsenal. If they managed to complete a deal, it would be a huge statement of intent and they would emerge as one of the favourites for promotion. Harry Redknapp has pulled off several big deals on deadline day, but this could be one of his most impressive.

Would he be a good signing?

The last couple of years have seen Wilshere go backwards in his career. He is no longer a regular in the England squad as injuries have hampered him. During his loan spell at Bournemouth, he showed flashes of his ability, but he was unable to make the impression that everyone had expected. The midfielder had lost the ability to burst past players in the middle of the park and that hindered his effectiveness.

However, Wilshere remains a huge talent and it would be a coup if Birmingham were able to bring him to the Championship. The midfielder was once one of the best English players and he would have the talent to take the division by storm. If they could keep him fit, it could be the signing that propels them to promotion.

How likely is a deal?

Harry Redknapp will be spinning lots of plates and seeing what is available on the market. A move for Wilshere would be difficult to pull off, but it is exciting for supporters that he is trying to sign the midfielder. If Arsenal want him to leave the club, it is possible that he drops down to the Championship and joins Birmingham. There would have to be an arrangement found for his wages as they look to be the main stumbling block at this stage. It is ambitious, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.

Jack Wilshere to Birmingham City
2.5
Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
This will be a tough deal to pull off, but Harry Redknapp has form for surprising on deadline day.
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