Championship season review: Norwich, Nottm For, Reading, Rotherham

Norwich City: 3rd (promoted via Play-offs)

Despite all the parachute payments that come their way, it is always difficult for a side relegated from the Premier League to bounce straight back the following season, so Norwich deserve immense credit for their success, which came via the play-offs.

Keeping several players was vital to their success, with experienced duo Sebastien Bassong and captain Russell Martin making up a strong defensive pairing with full-backs Martin Olsson and Steven Whitaker either side. In midfield, Alexander Tettey and Jonathan Howson were superb alongside Player of the Season Bradley Johnson, while new signing Cameron Jerome rediscovered his best form in attack.

Neil Adams began the season in charge after failing to keep the Canaries in the top-flight, and they recovered from an opening day loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers to embark on a fine run which saw them top the league by mid-September.

But that form could not be maintained as they gradually fell down the table and out of the top six, and a failure to regain consistency saw Adams resign shortly after the turn of the year. The response of the hierarchy was to appoint 33-year-old Alex Neil, who had worked wonders in Scotland with Hamilton Academical.

His impact was immediate, with victory in his first game at Bournemouth the first of 17 wins in 25 games up to and including the play-off final. After narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, they eventually saw off arch rivals Ipswich Town in the semis before beating Middlesbrough in a one-sided final. It will be intriguing to see what Neil can achieve at the highest level.

Nottingham Forest: 14th

It seems that season after season, Nottingham Forest promise so much yet deliver very little, as their hugely talented squad frequently flatters to deceive. This term turned out to be a tale of severe decline, as they started well only to finish in the bottom half and change managers for the umpteenth time in recent years.

Everything was rosy in August as a host of quality summer signings including striker Matt Fryatt and wingers Chris Burke and Michail Antonio flourished, and manager Stuart Pearce was receiving the acclaim of his adoring supporters at the City Ground. Victory at Sheffield Wednesday provided them with their fourth win in five outings to lift them to the top of the Championship going into September.

That was when their latest addition, prolific frontman Britt Assombalonga made his mark. The former Peterborough United star hit a superb goal against rivals Derby County which began a typical purple patch, but an injury that saw him ruled out for a year proved to be a major turning point.

The downturn began with defeat at Cardiff City in mid-October, and despite a brief revival in November, there was no stopping the nosedive down the table as Forest were soon left trailing in the wake of the top six, and Pearce’s position was hanging by a thread. A spirited victory at Derby bought him a little time, he was soon shown the door after defeat to lowly Millwall.

Dougie Freedman was appointed as his successor and also made a good start to his reign, raising slight hopes of a late run towards the play-offs. However, that was always unlikely and they fell away again towards the end to finish a disappointing 14th.

Reading: 19th

On their day, Reading are a very capable side that can match the best sides in the Championship, but unfortunately they were not able to produce the goods anywhere near enough as they laboured to a massively disappointing 19th place, their lowest position for over a decade.

Nigel Adkins was in charge as the Royals looked to bounce back from being edged out in the race for a play-off spot last season, but they made an inconsistent start and were never able to put a run of good form together in the early months despite the goals of on-loan Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray.

Wins were becoming increasingly hard to come by as they entered December among the strugglers, and a dreadful 6-1 defeat at Birmingham City saw Adkins lose his job. Former West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke took his place.

The Scot was unable to improve Reading’s poor league form; if anything it was even worse than under Adkins as they limped over the line. A 3-0 win at Derby County on the final day did at least see the season end on a high note, but their greatest success came in the FA Cup where only a howling error from goalkeeper Adam Federici led to defeat against Arsenal in the semi-finals at Wembley.

Rotherham United: 21st

After two straight promotions, survival would have represented success for Rotherham as they featured in the Championship for the first time since 2004-05. Outspoken manager Steve Evans adopted a siege mentality in order to achieve that target, which they managed to achieve in their penultimate game despite a late season scare.

A host of summer signings helped the Yorkshire club to an acceptable start, which may have been even better had they been able to convert some of their dominance at home into goals. Defensive errors then began to creep in during a run of just one win from 11 games up until mid-December, which left them looking over their shoulders somewhat.

It looked set to be a very close battle to avoid the drop and the Millers were just about keeping their heads above water until they met Millwall at the end of February. There, they came from behind to win what was a pivotal game in the relegation battle that played a massive role in them eventually staying up.

The bottom three soon appeared to be cast adrift, but a late twist saw Rotherham deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player in their Easter Monday victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. It led to a late scramble for points as Millwall and Wigan Athletic rallied, but victory over Reading on the final Tuesday saw them over the line.

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