THE SEASON may not yet be over for Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town but, for the majority of Yorkshire’s Football League clubs, it has been one to forget.
Apart from Sheffield Wednesday – who won automatic promotion to the Championship – the others have endured frustration and even misery.
Only two managers survived the full season, namely Danny Wilson of United and Keith Hill of Barnsley, and there were a total of eight departures.
Doncaster Rovers were relegated to League One, Barnsley only survived in the Championship thanks to Portsmouth’s points deduction, and Bradford City flirted with the drop from League Two.
Leeds United, Hull City, Middlesbrough and Rotherham United all missed out on the target of play-off qualification.
The next few weeks will give everyone time to reflect on what went wrong and where things will need to be improved upon for next season.
Significantly, the summer will also bring a first ‘pre-season’ in the job for new managers and an opportunity to stamp their mark on their team.
Leeds manager Neil Warnock and Rotherham’s Steve Evans have already begun signing new players. Hull City, meanwhile, are in the process of finding a replacement for Nick Barmby.
It is now two years since Hull’s relegation from the Premier League left Yorkshire without a single top-flight representative.
All eyes were on the Championship at the start of the season but although Hull, Leeds and Boro spent time in the top six all failed to go the distance.
It eventually fell on the clubs in League One to provide the missing drama and the battle for second spot between Sheffield neighbours United and Wednesday turned into a scrap that will live long in the memory.
With just three games to go, the Blades were four points clear and in firm control. The jailing of 35-goal striker Ched Evans on April 20, however, put the brakes on the Blades’ momentum.
That allowed the Owls, who were now back on a roll, to claw back the deficit and move ahead, sealing promotion in the final game of the season amid emotional scenes at Hillsborough.
The sacking of Leeds manager Simon Grayson was just one of three shock departures from Yorkshire clubs during a crazy February.
Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle was next to swing the axe – turfing Lee Clark out of the Galpharm Stadium despite the team sitting fourth in the table and setting a Football League record of 43 consecutive unbeaten games.
If that was harsh, there were even more eyebrows raised when Wednesday sacked Gary Megson just days after victory over Sheffield United in the Steel City derby.
Chairman Milan Mandaric copped plenty of flak – dispensing with the services of a proud Owls supporter like Megson – but his decision was vindicated as the club won promotion under new manager Dave Jones.
Doncaster’s relegation from the Championship was the product of a failed experiment which saw agent Willie McKay supplying a string of short-term signings to the club.
Week after week it seemed manager Dean Saunders was parading another new face; usually players who viewed the move to the Keepmoat Stadium as a stepping stone back to the top.
Whatever they may have done in the past, it is unlikely that any of the players involved will get a move to the Premier League now.
Rotherham’s target was automatic promotion, which would have been perfect ahead of this summer’s move to the New York Stadium.
After a promising start, the Millers lost their way under Andy Scott and Crawley Town’s Evans took over with six games to go.
By this stage, it was too late to even make the play-offs but Evans has promised big things next time around.
Bradford never got going and manager Peter Jackson resigned just five games into the campaign. The Bantams eventually finished six points clear of the League Two relegation zone but had so nearly become the first club to slip all the way from the Premier League to the Conference.
The Yorkshire Post has given a supporter from each club the opportunity to deliver his own personal view on events this season. Today, we present their ‘End of Term’ reports.
Paul Taylor, 51, of Doncaster
Leeds United finished 14th place in the Championship
Verdict: To be honest, the most I expected was a flirtation with the play-offs but we fell sadly short of even that. Our defence continued to let us down and was at the root of our problems. Simon Grayson staved off the inevitable for so long, largely by means of a series of fortunate late wins (Burnley must hate us) but he eventually paid the price with his job. Neil Warnock had little time to change things and the season ended with a whimper. The season was definitely a step back from last year.
Key player: Robert Snodgrass. Touches of quality among a sea of mediocrity.
Biggest disappointment: Danny Pugh. We didn’t get much return on the only sizeable bit of investment made.
Best moment: Becchio’s last-minute winner at home to Doncaster Rovers to make it 3-2.
Best game: The 4-0 win at Forest. It looked as if we might actually achieve something.
Worst game: A difficult choice, but the 7-3 home defeat to Forest was pure comedy, although the 5-0 home defeat to Blackpool was a close second.
Where it all went right/wrong: It went wrong before a ball was even kicked. It was obvious that we lacked quality compared with the top teams in the division.
Advice to manager: Neil Warnock must demand the wherewithal to acquire players of quality, primarily in defence, but also in midfield. If he does not get the funding, retirement in Cornwall will start early.
Paul Gallagher, 38, of Pogmoor, Barnsley
Barnsley finished in 21st place in the Championship
Verdict: A season of two halves… again. We started slowly but by Christmas time we had a team that was playing attractive football and winning games. As January ended, we’d lost a significant part of this team to long-term injury, Butterfield crocked at Leeds, and with Drinkwater and Vaz Te joining new clubs we lacked the creativity and goals in the second half of the season as Keith Hill was unable to find adequate replacements. Since the turn of the year, we’ve slipped down the table, winning only three games since we hammered Leeds 4-1 on the last day of 2011. A mostly dire second half of the season. The season was a success because we survived – but rather fortuitously due to Portsmouth’s points deduction.
Key player: Ricardo Vaz Te for his creativity and goals – but his sale almost cost us survival.
Biggest disappointment: Chris Dagnell – Hasn’t made the step up to Championship football.
Best moment: Double over ‘dirty’ Leeds.
Best game: Peterborough away. Had everything.
Worst game: Plenty of bad games to choose from, especially second half of the season, but I’d go for the capitulation to Ipswich at home in front of the Sky TV cameras. 2-0 up at half time and conceding five in the second half.
Where it all went right/wrong: Injuries to key players like Butterfield, O’Brien and Perkins, losing Vaz Te and Drinkwater in the transfer window, and not bringing in quality replacements. No plan B.
Advice to manager: Sign some players with Championship experience. Stop moaning about having no money as it’s getting very boring and it’s always been like that at Barnsley, and please try and work to get the fans behind you rather than the little digs and throw-away comments that only result in divisions in the fanbase. PS Brian Howard is available. He’d make a great replacement for Butterfield.
Gareth Richardson, 33, of Beverley
Hull City finished in 8th place in the Championship
verdict: I haven’t been able to get my head round the last couple of weeks with Nick Barmby and Adam Pearson leaving. What Nick said doesn’t seem grounds for a sacking so it makes me wonder what really has gone on. The season itself was disappointing, particularly in terms of goals. Not enough players chipped in, with only Matty Fryatt and Robert Koren finding the net on a regular basis. That has to change next season or we will end up falling short again. I think this season was a missed opportunity.
Key player: Robert Koren. The five-game losing run that ultimately cost us came when he was injured.
Biggest disappointment: Cameron Stewart. I wanted to sell him in January when Leicester came in as he simply doesn’t do enough.
Best moment: The late winners against Leicester and Middlesbrough, for different reasons, as it was nice to beat Nigel Pearson and nice to stop Boro getting in the play-offs.
Best game: I did enjoy our 3-2 win over Watford when Koren got the 90th-minute winner.
Worst game: Losing 1-0 at home to Derby County was a poor way to start 2012.
Where it all went right/wrong: We didn’t invest in January.
Advice to manager: Whoever takes on the job over the summer, we have to score more goals from out wide and we need a second striker to play with Matty Fryatt.
Gareth Thomas, 57, of Reading, Berkshire
Doncaster finished in 24th place in the Championship and were relegated
Verdict: A season that started full of promise, only to be shattered by a poor referee and serious injuries to our key players Sharp and Hayter. We went downhill from there, lost our long-term manager O’Driscoll, who really had been unable to put together a squad that could win a few games on the bounce, and we were fighting relegation worries after just a few games. The arrival of Dean Saunders and Willie McKay offered some hope, and I thought it might just make a difference. If we could have kept Sharp and Fortune together as a strike duo, I think we could have avoided the drop.
Key player : Billy Sharp – until he left. Shows how important it is to have a reliable goalscorer/hitman. We never really replaced him.
Biggest disappointment: James Coppinger. I know some fans will disagree but, although he is a quality player, on too many occasions he just didn’t stamp his authority on a game. He seemed to let the play pass him by.
Best moment: Billy Sharp’s goal in the days following his son’s death. A great sporting moment and a great example to footballers everywhere. Some Premier League players should take note.
Best game: Southampton at the Keepmoat. We played like we were top of the league, not Southampton. A great team effort and begs the question what we might have done if we had replicated that form for a few more games.
Worst game: Away at Barnsley. We never turned up and against our big rivals too.
Where it all went right/wrong: It started with the loss of Sharp to injury in the first game followed by a string of poor results. It put too much pressure on the team from there.
Advice to manager: We need strengthening in all areas but Dean, please carefully consider recruits, get them in early, and give us all a reason to believe again.
Martin Wilkes, 66, of Rotherham
Rotherham United finished in 10th place in League Two
Verdict: On reflection, our flying start to the season, which saw 13 points taken from the first six games, was the worst thing that could have happened. We flattered to deceive. We began to leak goals at an alarming rate and, by the end of October, the goals-against column read 29 from 16 – relegation form. By the time the manager had sorted things it was too late and the promotion chance was gone – along with his job.
Key player: Johnny Mullins. He was the only defender who looked promotion material.
Biggest disappointment: Michael Raynes. Probably the poorest of Andy Scott’s signings.
Best moment: The final whistle at the last game. The Don Valley Stadium helped us out of a hole but we can’t wait to play at the New York Stadium.
Best game: The home win over Gillingham at the end of August before the cracks appeared.
Worst game: Probably the heavy home defeat by Southend.
Where it all went right/wrong: The manager did not replace the poor defenders, signed a poor goalkeeper and a poor centre-half. He also signed far too many loan players.
Advice to manager: Sign a new goalkeeper, two new full-backs, and a new centre-half.
Mike Harrison, 50, Editor of ‘City Gent’
Bradford City finished in 18th place in League Two
Verdict: It sounds daft for a side that finished seventh bottom of the entire Football League but I found it an interesting season with more highlights than lowlights. For one, it was never dull and, second, we had good runs in the FA Cup and JPT. In terms of the league, we started badly and then stuttered into life before having a good run in December. Despite that, we still couldn’t get properly clear of trouble until near the end. One thing for sure, it is going to be a fascinating summer as to who Phil Parkinson is able to bring in.
Key player: Luke Oliver was Player of the Year.
Biggest disappointment: Craig Fagan, I was expecting a lot more from him.
Best moment: Nahki Wells getting a hat-trick at Northampton to more or less make us safe.
Best game: Northampton away or Crewe at home on Boxing Day when we won 3-0.
Worst game: Too many to mention, though losing at Accrington in August was miserable.
Where it all went right/wrong: It went right in so far as Phil Parkinson was appointed.
Advice to manager: Find the right players to add to the squad you’ve decided to keep.
John Plumtree, 54, of Dore, Sheffield
Sheffield United finished in 3rd place in League One
Verdict: Great to see proper football played by players like Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Evans, Doyle, Wiliamson and McDonald who have blossomed under Wilson. We would surely have gained automatic but for Evans (being jailed) and our bad luck with Hoskins etc. We will prevail and this time gain success on the big stage of an important match. Wilson has given us our football team back and it is something that all Blades are proud of.
Key player: Neil Collins is a rock at the back who has proved his doubters wrong.
Biggest disappointment: Steve Simonsen’s command of the box unfortunately finds him sadly wanting.
Best moment: Porter’s goal against Stevenage in the second leg of the play-offs. Meant so much.
Best game: Huddersfield away (1-0 win), we played a good team off the park.
Worst game: Oldham at home. Two goals up and we lost 3-2.
Where it all went right/wrong: Wednesday won promotion, we did not lose it. Dave Jones has, in all honesty, been phenomenal.
advice to manager: Try to hang onto Lowton, Maguire, McDonald and Williamson. Get rid of Simonsen, Monty, Quinn, Hill, Williams, Ertl, Beattie.
Nick Hallam, 29, of Woodseats, Sheffield
The Owls finished 2nd place in League One and were promoted
Verdict: It’s absolutely fantastic to get out of this horrible league and to pip United made it even sweeter. We can really move forward now with this chairman and manager. The squad will need strengthening but we have a great foundation. A big mention needs to go out to Gary Megson who did a great job and was unlucky to get the boot. It has certainly been a season I’ll remember forever.
Key player: Jose Semedo has been immense and will become a Wednesday legend.
Biggest disappointment: I can’t single out one player. All earned their stripes this season.
Best moment: The final whistle on the last game against Wycombe to secure promotion. Truly unbelievable scenes.
Best game: For the quality of the game, I would say the 4-4 draw against Huddersfield.
Worst game: Losing to Chesterfield which ultimately cost Megson his job.
Where it all went right/wrong: Even though I was against Megson’s sacking at the time, I would say Mr Mandaric made the right decision in appointing Dave Jones.
Advice to manager: If Norwich and Southampton can do back-to-back promotions, then we certainly can.
Andrew Pearce, 67, of Huddersfield
Huddersfield Town finished in 4th place in League One
Verdict: With the biggest game still to come in the form of the League One play-off final, assessing the season is difficult. I had been hoping we could go straight up but if we beat Sheffield United then it has been a success. I am hoping our top scorer being available and theirs otherwise engaged will make all the difference at Wembley. In the two league games, we ‘murdered’ them at Bramall Lane 3-0 and they did the same to us at the Galpharm even though there was only one goal in it. It pretty much summed up our season, good away but disappointing at home.
Key player: Jordan Rhodes, though Jack Hunt has done well.
Biggest disappointment: Apart from Damien Johnson in the last couple of weeks, pick any central midfielder.
Best moment: Jordan Rhodes making it 4-4 at Wednesday.
Best game: Beating MK Dons 2-0 in the play-off first leg.
Worst game: Stevenage at home was awful because of how the visitors played.
Where it all went right/wrong: The season has never quite taken off.
Advice to manager: He must try to sort central midfield out and stop us from giving away so many needless free-kicks in our own half.
Graeme Bandeira, 37, of Harrogate
Middlesbrough finished in 7th place in the Championship
Verdict: On the whole, the season was better than expected. Flirting with the play-offs was an optimistic target after more cost-cutting in pre-season. However, a storming start should have seen us cement a play-off spot – a place that we maintained for most of the season only to tumble out with a few weeks remaining. Tony Mowbray set the team up to play posession football, suited to counter-attack. Our away form was impressive, but our home form was dismal.
Key player: Barry Robson. The heartbeat of the team and a driving force through midfield.
Biggest disappointment: Kevin Thompson. Big things were expected of him.
Best moment: Robson’s goal at home against Hull on Boxing Day.
Best game: Our 3-1 victory at Barnsley. After conceding early we brushed them aside with ease.
Worst game: Leeds at the Riverside. We made an erratic team look like Barcelona.
Where it all went right/wrong: The season was ticking along quite nicely until Nicky Bailey was forced out through injury. We never functioned the same in his absence.
Advice to manager: Inject some pace and creativity into midfield. Plus, give the captain’s armband to Bailey.