The final day of any season usually has its fair share of heartbreak and ecstasy, and the concluding set of regular fixtures of 2016/17 delivered on its promise of high drama, as Newcastle United clinched the title after a slip up late in the day from Brighton.
Ayoze Perez, Chancel Mbemba and Dwight Gayle each scored to make it a routine 3-0 victory over Barnsley at St James’ Park. It looked like their efforts were to be in vain, however, as Brighton were leading Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park with just a few minutes still to play. For Newcastle to lift the title, they would need a Villa equalizer.
Brighton had taken the lead on the 64th minute through a Glenn Murray penalty. Villa defender, Nathan Baker, was sent off for the challenge, and the top spot advantage looked firmly with the Seagulls. They weren’t able to further capitalize on having an extra man, and Jack Grealish broke Brighton hearts with just a minute to spare of normal time. It was an especially cruel way to lose the title, but Brighton have gone into the final three games of the season needing just a win to clinch the title. The Championship is cut-throat, and ever since achieving promotion, they have failed to press on.
For Newcastle it is an immediate return to the Premier League, and their manager Rafa Benitez will demand an extravagant transfer kitty for this summer to take the Tyneside club back into the realms of European football.
If Newcastle were the winners of the day, then for Blackburn Rovers it will be a day their supporters would desperately like to forget, as they will now have League One football to look forward to after being relegated to the third tier of English football. They won 3-1 at Brentford, but with Nottingham Forest beating Ipswich 3-0 and Birmingham City winning 1-0 at Bristol City, their fate was out of their hands, and they go down.
It’s expected to be yet another summer of turmoil at Ewood Park, with relegation only strengthening the chasm between the fans and controversial Indian owners, the Venky’s group. There have been protests all season against their stewardship, and unhappiness at their regime will surely be amplified following relegation. They have shown no signs of budging, with questions over what exactly they are hoping to achieve through their continued control of the club, which has now rolled onto its seventh year.
Local politician Graham Jones blasted the owners following their relegation, saying: “It is really important the owners recognize the damage that’s been done not just to the football team but to the area.
“It’s time the owners started to meet with the fan groups and civic leaders and have a conversation about their intentions.
“They promised to sign Ronaldinho and make Rovers a top four club in the Premier League.
“At the moment they’ll be lucky to make Blackburn a top four club in League One.”
Of course, the season rolls on for those clubs who made the playoffs, and one of Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham will be hoping to triumph at Wembley on the 29th of May and join Newcastle and Brighton in the Premier League.
6th placed Fulham will face 3rd placed Reading, and 4th placed Huddersfield will play 5th placed Sheffield Wednesday, in an all-Yorkshire showdown. The semi-final will be played over two legs, with the first leg taking place this weekend.
May 13 1st leg (5:30 p.m. local time)
Fulham vs. Reading
May 14 1st leg (12 p.m. local time)
Huddersfield vs. Sheffield Wednesday
May 16 2nd leg (7:45 p.m. local)
Reading vs. Fulham
May 17 2nd leg (7:45 p.m. local)
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Huddersfield