Championship Analysis – Southampton clinch promotion with a resounding win over Coventry

Southampton were promoted to the Premier League in style on Saturday after a 4-0 win over a Coventry City side already preparing for life in League One next season. It was the perfect end to what has been a dream season for the Saints, who were forced into administration just three years ago, and the club will be back in the top flight after an absence of seven seasons. Their achievement also marks the second successive season in which a club has earned back-to-back promotions following Norwich City this time last year. Newcomers Charlton Athletic should have nothing to fear.

Having been in the top two for virtually the whole season, Southampton undoubtedly deserved to savour the party atmosphere at St Mary’s on Saturday, especially as the game still needed to be won with West Ham in a position to pounce. The Hammers deserve credit for taking the race to the final day in the first place, having successfully negotiated a tricky fixture at Leicester during midweek, and in the end only three points separated the top three after Reading’s final fixture ended in a 2-0 defeat at Birmingham.

Despite the usually boisterous Nigel Adkins looking a jaded figure after the post-match celebrations, the Southampton boss insisted he is already looking to next season and planning to improve the squad.

“We are always looking at the evolution of the squad. Next season we will need a certain calibre of player,” Adkins told BBC Sport.

“We are working diligently to find players who will improve us and who are better than the ones we have. It is natural evolution and we will work hard in the summer to improve the squad,” he added.

Coventry’s Andy Thorn, who looks set to remain in charge at the Ricoh Arena next season, put on a brave face in reply after his side failed miserably in their bid to be potential party poopers at St Mary’s.

“I want to freshen things up, I want a winning mentality from the players, I want a more positive sort of player,” the Sky Blues manager told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.

“The season’s gone now. There’s no point looking back. We’ve got to look forward. Those who want to come along for the ride can. Those that haven’t got that mentality can go and play somewhere else,” he added.

Fellow relegation victims Doncaster and Portsmouth also ended their seasons with a whimper, but in truth there were several other clubs who endured campaigns to forget, not least Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, who both finished in the top seven in 2010/2011 but barely scratched the surface of mid-table this time around following what were arguably the harsh respective sackings of Simon Grayson and Billy Davies.

With West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool having already booked a place in the play-offs, the identity of the team to complete the top six was the only other remaining issue to be resolved on Saturday. Cardiff City duly obliged thanks to a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace, a result that bettered Middlesbrough’s 2-1 defeat at Watford. The Bluebirds will now compete in the play-offs for the third consecutive season, and take on the Hammers in the first semi-final encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday evening.

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