5 teams that spectacularly chucked away promotion from the top of the Championship
Being good is awful, isn't it? The pressure to win week after week, knowing that if you don't, the other lot below you definitely will to crush all of your hopes and dreams. Yes: better to be mediocre and live a life of peace, we say.
The 2018/19 Championship has been a bit like that for Norwich, Leeds and Sheffield United, who have assumed the top three positions for the last eight weeks. The latter pair are switching like fidgety children with seven games to go, while the Canaries above them continue to glide clear at the summit.
Saturday evening's crucial 1-0 win at Middlesbrough, coupled with Sheffield United's disastrous defeat against Bristol City, means Norwich have a seven-point lead over the third-placed Blades. But beware, Canaries: things don't always go to plan...
Ipswich 1998/99 (3 points clear)
With Sunderland well on their way to winning the First Division title with a then-record haul of 105 points, there was only one automatic promotion spot up for grabs with eight games left to play in 1998/99. George Burley’s Ipswich held a three-point advantage over Paul Jewell’s Bradford heading into the March international break, and they did their position no harm by beating Swindon 6-0 and QPR 3-1 following the resumption of domestic action.
A subsequent goalless draw against rivals Norwich represented a minor blip, but that soon descended into full-blown crisis when the Tractor Boys lost three of their next four matches. A final-day victory over Sheffield United proved futile thanks to Bradford’s win at Wolves, and Ipswich went on to lose a thrilling play-off semi-final to Bolton on away goals.
Middlesbrough 2014/15 (2 points)
Bournemouth won the three-horse race to be crowned Championship champions in 2014/15, but they were at a disadvantage after 38 games. Watford and Middlesbrough had each amassed two more points than Eddie Howe’s side at that stage of the campaign, but whereas the Hornets held on to secure second spot, Boro slumped to fourth and lost 2-0 to Norwich in the play-off final.
Aitor Karanka’s men could have no complaints, though, having lost 3-0 to Bournemouth and 2-0 to Watford in the run-in. Those reverses, together with a 4-3 defeat by Fulham and a 0-0 draw with Brighton, saw Boro miss out on the top two by four points.
Blackburn 1987/88 (4 points)
Blackburn weren’t the only guilty party in 1987/88, but they were certainly the worst offenders. With eight fixtures left to fulfil, Rovers were sitting pretty at the summit of the standings, a point clear of second-placed Aston Villa and a further three ahead of Middlesbrough in third. But a sorry sequence of two wins, three draws and three defeats sent them tumbling down to fifth, before Chelsea sent them packing in the play-off semi-finals.
Neither Villa, Middlesbrough nor Bradford – third with eight games left – were able to take advantage, largely because of an astonishing late-season charge which saw Millwall collect 21 points from a possible 24 to scoop the title. Villa pipped Boro to second on goal difference, but Bruce Rioch’s charges joined them in the top flight thanks to a triumphant play-off campaign.
NEXT PAGE: A 10-point lead wiped out – and the one team that held on