Championship season review: Birmingham, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton

Birmingham City: 10th

Only a dramatic stoppage time goal at Bolton Wanderers on the final day kept Birmingham City in the Championship by the skin of their teeth in 2014. A year on, they were able to head to the Macron Stadium again to bring their season to a close with no such relegation concerns; indeed they pulled off an impressive win to secure a top 10 finish.

It was an amazing achievement, as in the early weeks of the season it looked like nothing could stop them from dropping to League One despite the summer additions of striker Clayton Donaldson and playmaker Stephen Gleeson among others.

The bad start eventually accounted for manager Lee Clark, and caretaker-boss Malcolm Crosby’s hopes of becoming his successor were tarnished at the first attempt by a shambolic 8-0 home loss to rampant Bournemouth. Instead, they chose to go for a former player, with Gary Rowett earning recognition for his fine work at Burton Albion.

And he had an immediate impact, tightening up their leaky defence before getting the best out of Donaldson and implementing a steely determination into the squad. A stunning run of form lifted them into a comfortable mid-table position by the turn of the year, and they then proceeded to coast through the remainder of the season and finish with 63 points.

Blackburn Rovers: 9th

Coming into the season, Blackburn looked to be a side very much on the up, with their industrious side looking very capable of mounting a significant promotion challenge. However, they fell short in the play-off race for the second season running due to their inconsistency, and that was despite strikers Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes both reaching 20 goals.

Across the entire season they produced some very strong performances which suggested they can match the best sides in the Championship, but other showings such as the ones which saw them lose 2-0 at Rotherham United and 1-0 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion let them down, although most of their defeats came against sides who finished above them.

With Gary Bowyer remaining in charge, there is at least continued stability now at Ewood Park, although a transfer embargo imposed due to Financial Fair Play breaches robbed them of the opportunity to strengthen in January.

The match that proved the turning point in Rovers’ play-off aspirations was the 3-2 home loss to fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford, as after that their FA Cup run took centre stage. Impressive wins over Premier League duo Swansea City and Stoke City earned them a quarter-final tie with Liverpool, which they lost narrowly after deservedly gaining a draw at Anfield. For next season, they cannot fall short in the league again.

Blackpool: 24th

In absolute turmoil from the end of 2013-14, Blackpool were relegated before this season even began, possessing a squad of only eight players just days before the season began. They were able to cobble together a team in the nick of time, but one that had had no pre-season and was far from good enough to be competitive in the Championship.

It was a thankless task for newly appointed boss Jose Riga, who handled himself admirably amid all the farcical goings on at Bloomfield Road. They lost their first five league games of the season and also went out of the Capital One Cup to Shrewsbury Town of League Two, until finally getting their first win at the 11th attempt against Cardiff City in early October.

It was one of just four that the beleaguered Seasiders would achieve all season, and they ended up as the only one of the 92 league clubs to go the whole season without winning away. Riga was harshly shown the door in November 2014, and he was replaced by Lee Clark; recently sacked by Birmingham City.

Things did not improve on the field and Clark resigned at the end of the season, having seen their final match against Huddersfield Town abandoned due to crowd protests. Anger towards owner Karl Oyston has been a recurring theme for some time, and rarely did a home game pass without some form of demonstration against his negligible running of the club. Next season promises to be tough in League One.

Bolton Wanderers: 18th

It was another disappointing season for Bolton, who have made little impression on the Championship since being relegated in 2012. However, it could have been disastrous were it not for the arrival of Neil Lennon as their new manager in October, as he guided them away from a perilous position in the bottom three to relative comfort.

A 3-0 opening day defeat at eventual promotion winners Watford set the tone for a miserable start to the season under Dougie Freedman, who had recruited poorly over the summer and found wins so hard to come by to the degree that they were languishing in the drop zone until his arguably overdue sacking.

Lennon made a good start by winning at Birmingham City, but that would prove to be a rare away win in a disappointing season on their travels. Instead, most of their success came on home turf at the newly renamed Macron Stadium, with a 3-1 victory over Brentford beginning a nine-game unbeaten run which went a long way to banishing any relegation concerns.

Great experience was added to the squad in the shape of Eidur Gudjonsson and Emile Heskey, who almost contributed to knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup. At the opposite end of the age spectrum, young striker Zach Clough showed real promise, but the general lack of quality in the squad resulted in a poor finish to the season, after which Lennon released 13 players.

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