The English Premier League has never been so financially lucrative. The Championship has probably never been so competitive to promote from. Both of these statements serve to add even more happiness to the already positive fact that, at the time of writing, four out of the top eight placed teams in the English second division are based in Yorkshire. Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday occupy the last three play-off spots meanwhile Barnsley are in eighth place. Now, it seems unlikely, even at this stage of the season, that Newcastle and Brighton won’t gain automatic promotion, thus meaning that only one, realistically, of these four teams can hope to join Hull – that’s if they stay up – in the big time representing Yorkshire. However, if 2016, both in and outside of football, proved anything, it’s what David Cameron stated on his last day as Prime Minister, that nothing is impossible.
Leeds United, under the careful stewardship of former Swansea City manager Garry Monk, are in a good place to return to the place that many people believe they naturally belong, that is, the top-flight. Having lost only one match in eight – and that was against top of the league Brighton – and with Chris Wood’s excellent goal scoring form, coupled with solid defensive displays, Leeds United are building a competent, consistent side in all areas of the pitch. With Pablo Hernandez about to sign permanently, and Massimo Cellino selling 50% of his stake at the club, Leeds have certainly had some New Year festive cheer.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, have had an equally impressive first half of the campaign. After racing to a six-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the season, David Wagner’s side slipped to a form that saw them win only one win in eight games, leaving them in eight place and thus outside of the play-off positions. Recent form has heavily improved, though, as the club are currently on a seven match streak without losing. More good news has come recently, with Head Coach David Wagner rejecting the chance to think about managing German side Wolfsburg. A fine testament to Huddersfield’s season. If, however, they are to promote, they are going to have to be a lot more consistent until May.
Sheffield Wednesday, after signing Steven Fletcher and Ahmed Abdi, and loaning in Callum McMannamen and Will Buckley, have added more Premier League experience to their ranks with a squad that already included Gary Hooper, Ross Wallace and Barry Bannan. Although they haven’t been in the play-offs for as long as the previous two sides, Carlos Carvalhal’s side are starting to become a real force in the heated race for promotion. Nine matches without losing, Hillsborough could indeed witness Premier League football next season for the first time since the turn of the century.
Barnsley, just like the aforementioned sides, are currently in a positive positon in the league due to the recent good form they have shown. Losing only once in their last seven has left Paul Heckingbottom’s side within touching distance of the play-offs, with plenty of matches left of the season. Aside from a brief spell in 3rd place in September, Barnsley have not really been a contender for promotion, but have recently gone shot up from mid-table form to eighth place. Although the reality is that they are only three points ahead of Birmingham, who are as low down as 13th place. In fact, they are as close in points to Brighton as they are to Blackburn, who occupy a relegation spot. Such is the competitive nature of the league.
These four sides are among several who can dare to dream of promoting to the Premier League. With a January transfer window, a busy Easter period, distractions of the FA Cup and international breaks, there is still a long way to go during the last 21 matches of the season. As mentioned earlier, anything can happen. Hopefully, though, there will be at least one team from Yorkshire in the Premier League along with Hull City (though as a Swansea fan I unashamedly hope they get relegated). After Yorkshire success in the Olympics, Cricket and Rugby League, who is to say that this isn’t football’s turn.
Featured Image: Simon Davies