Championship season review: Sheffield Wednesday, Watford, Wigan, Yeovil
Sheffield Wednesday recovered from a torrid beginning to the campaign to nestle comfortably in the lower echelons of mid-table and ensure a third Championship season in a row. The season changed upon the appointment of Stuart Gray, under whom the Owls seemed to rediscover their scoring touch.
Up until the end of November, the protection and safe haven of 16th place seemed light years away. Then-manager Dave Jones failed to guide Wednesday to a single victory in the first 12 league matches - a wretched run which eventually cost him his job.
The experienced Stuart Gray replaced him and the appointment paid dividends as the new calendar year came around, with the Owls winning six and losing just twice - against promotion-chasing Derby and Wigan - in the first ten matches of 2014.
Despite the lack of a proven goal scorer, which will need to be addressed ahead of next year, Wednesday made sure of safety with matches to spare. Next season, the aim should be to trouble the top half - though new recruits in forward areas are a must.
Watford will be bitterly disappointed with their 2013/14 campaign having come so close to promotion through the play-offs in the previous season. This time, they had to settle for a sub-standard bottom half finish.
Troy Deeney was once again the star for the Hornets, who could struggle to hold onto their outstanding marksman over the summer months. His 25 goals guaranteed Watford had an outside chance to reach the play-offs until the last few games of the season, but the club paid for their unpredictability.
Particularly notable was their shocking streak at Vicarage Road towards the end of 2013, where Watford lost five straight games on home territory.
It was a sequence that saw Gianfranco Zola pushed from his post as coach, and journeyman Italian boss Giuseppe Sannino was selected as his replacement by the Pozzo family owned club.
He'll be expected to deliver Premier League football swiftly, but the Hornets undoubtedly made progress under his guidance, despite tailing off in the final weeks once the play-offs were out of reach. They showed signs that they could be back among the contenders for promotion next season.
Many anticipated a potentially tricky campaign for Wigan Athletic, having been relegated from the Premier League in the 2012/13 season. The Latics had the added 'burden' of Europa League football to deal with too, without a bottomless squad list to pick and choose from. However, the players they did have suggested that they would pushing for an immediate return to the top-flight
However, Wigan have underlined their role as every football fan's favourite underdog. The early stages of the season were tough, with Owen Coyle unable to balance European and domestic duties and advocating a style of football that the club's supporters had not been used to under previous boss Roberto Martinez. Eventually, Coyle was swapped for Uwe Rosler in December and the German's influence was remarkable.
Not only did he guide the club to the FA Cup semi-finals, where they were cruelly beaten by Arsenal on penalties at Wembley, but Wigan also surged up the Championship table, ending up in 5th place. The play-offs were a bridge too far for Rosler's men as they lost in extra time to Queens Park Rangers but, with some shrewd purchases in the summer months, the Latics will be among the favourites for the title next year.
It wasn't quite an impossible job for manager Gary Johnson, but if little Yeovil Town were to be competitive in the Championship it was going to take a monumental effort. Despite their best efforts, the Glovers couldn't prove the pre-season doom mongers wrong, ending the campaign rock bottom.
Yeovil were surprise League One play-off winners last year and the squad was in need of serious investment in preparation for a ruthless season in the second tier. Johnson brought in 15 players - some permanent and some temporary - but it was clear that he was struggling to attract the calibre of footballer required.
In all, Yeovil spent just seven of the 46 gameweeks outside of the relegation zone; four of those were after the first four games. And while they clung onto their rivals in February and March with some impressive results - including draws at Leicester, Reading and Wigan - 37 points ended up being eight points short of safety. Relegation was confirmed in the penultimate game after a 2-0 defeat at Brighton.
Despite that, they can be proud of their efforts, having been tipped to finish a long way adrift of the rest. They were certainly competitive, but were left to rue the number of points they dropped from winning positions.
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