Championship season review: Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton & HA, Cardiff

Bournemouth: 1st

Just six years after they overcame severe financial problems and a 17-point deduction to stay in the Football League, Bournemouth were miraculously promoted to the top-flight for the first time. It represents the crowning glory on the growing list of amazing achievements during Eddie Howe’s two spells as manager.

They meant business from the moment the season began, scoring within seconds of an opening day 4-0 victory at Huddersfield Town. And although their form dipped a little until the end of September, that performance would be a sign of things to come, with the Cherries racking up the goals relentlessly as numerous oppositions teams were put to the sword.

Lightning-quick striker Callum Wilson and flair midfielder Matt Ritchie were particularly influential as they soared to the top of the Championship by the beginning of November, playing a hugely entertaining brand of football; free-flowing and very attack-minded.

Never overcome by pressure or nerves as the season wore on, they remained composed in what became an intense four-way battle for automatic promotion. The top two positions changed hands several times in the final months, but a 3-0 home win over rivals Middlesbrough gave them the momentum they needed.

From then on they never dropped below second, and Bournemouth’s big night came on April 27 when they comfortably saw off Bolton Wanderers at the Goldsands Stadium to claim their place in the Premier League. It got even better the following weekend as they clinched the title, while taking their goals tally to a massive 98.

Brentford: 5th

Many believed that merely consolidating their position in the Championship would represent a successful season for Brentford, but not only did they manage to do that; they emerged as realistic promotion contenders only to have their Premier League dream ended by Middlesbrough in the play-offs.

Their team was made up of a mixture of long-serving stars and new signings that came in as a result of a superb summer recruitment drive. Technically gifted winger Alex Pritchard came in on loan from Tottenham and was outstanding throughout, Spanish forward Jota came up with many a vital contribution, while striker Andre Gray ably made the step-up from the Conference.

The Bees played enterprising football from the start, but it took them until November to reap the rewards as a dramatic stoppage time winner against then-leaders Derby County began a five-match winning streak which earned Mark Warburton the Manager of the Month award.

They were to remain in the shake-up for the remainder of the season, but some costly dropped points at home meant they eventually faced a battle to secure a play-off place. Going into the final day they were seventh, but beat relegated Wigan Athletic to overtake Derby.

Middlesbrough proved to be a cut above in the play-offs, but it was still another memorable season for Brentford. Warburton has left a great foundation for his successor, as he leaves in somewhat controversial circumstances with owner Matthew Benham restructuring the coaching setup at Griffin Park.

Brighton & HA: 20th

Having come up short in the play-offs in each of the previous two seasons, Brighton did not expect to be a side battling relegation in 2014-15. They ended up thankful of retaining Championship status, with Chris Hughton taking over during the festive period and just about guiding them to safety.

Sami Hyypia was the man who began the season in charge in what was his first managerial role in England, but everything went horribly wrong for the Finn as he oversaw just three league wins before resigning just before Christmas, having come in for fierce criticism from supporters.

Under Hughton – out of work since being sacked by Norwich City in April 2014, results quickly improved as they went on a run of just one defeat in six games. That streak effectively saved the Seagulls as they continued to labour in the final months of the season.

The main reason behind their struggles was a severe lack of firepower, with summer signings Sam Baldock and Chris O’Grady not hitting the heights. Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira was one of the few bright sparks along with central defender Lewis Dunk. The fact that his seven goals ensured he finished as the club’s top scorer rather sums up the mediocrity of their campaign.

Cardiff City: 11th

Installed as pre-season favourites to make an instant return to the Premier League, things did not go completely to plan for Cardiff as they spent most of 2014-15 in mid-table obscurity, blighted by inconsistent results and performances.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had failed to keep the Welsh club in the top-flight, and it did not take him long to lose his job this time around as an indifferent start to the season belied the quality they were able to add to the squad in the summer, when Anthony Pilkington, Sean Morrison and Adam Le Fondre among others arrived at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Leyton Orient boss Russell Slade was installed as the new manager in October and made a reasonable start, but a poor run from December until the end of February ended any hopes of making the play-offs and even raised slight fears of being dragged into a relegation battle as some fans became increasingly disgruntled, with some harshly calling for Slade to be sacked.

Defeats to Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town aside, the Bluebirds did turn things around somewhat in the final weeks to claim a top half finish, and Slade will be backed by owner Vincent Tan this summer. As for the Malaysian owner, he went some way to repairing his own relationship with supporters, agreeing to revert the club’s home kit to its traditional blue.

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