The Championship is renowned for being the hardest league to get out of, and this season is looking to be no different, in fact, if anything it may be a bit harder.
The Coronavirus outbreak brought the league to a standstill on the 13th March, leaving the 24 teams uncertain of what their future might hold.
Where nothing is certain, anything is possible, and with seven teams only needing six points or less to gain a spot in the playoffs, and three teams just staying afloat from the relegation zone by two points, anything could happen in the closing weeks.
Before the drama restarts, here is a recap of what we have already seen this season...
Start as you mean to go on
Leeds started off the season strong, living up to their name of being pre-season favourites and perhaps trying to redeem their misfortune after they failed to achieve promotion last season.
West Brom didn’t give them any breathing space though, and stayed hot their tails, not losing a single league game until October.
Below the table toppers, the play-off race began to heat up with
Nottingham Forest and Fulham getting themselves in early doors.
Fulham, who were relegated last season, had arguably the best striker in the league, Aleksander Mitrovic, upfront to their advantage from the off, but the West London side struggled to keep a clean sheet which hindered their chances of climbing into the automatic promotion places.
Keeping up the theme of not being able to string together a series of wins, or keep a clean sheet, but still somehow picking up the all-important points was Nottingham Forest.
Forest lost their opening game of the season away to West Brom 2-1, before going on to draw three of their next five games.
At the other end of the table, the ‘start as you mean to go on’ message didn’t quite reach, with Wigan Athletic and Barnsley both only winning one of their first seven league games.
The festive curse
The heavy period of games over Christmas means it is always a make or break time for the league leaders, and a time that shows no remorse for the league strugglers.
This season was no different, with both current table toppers, West Brom and second place Leeds being met with the standard mid-season blip.
West Brom, had been in the top two since October, but throughout December and January only won one of their eight games.
The spirit of Christmas past then came back to haunt Leeds, who after going seven league games unbeaten up until the 14th December, went onto win only two games throughout the rest of December and January.
This was all too familiar for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, who ran out of steam
last year missing out on automatic promotion by three points, before not capitalising on the playoffs, leaving them back where they started.
Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City and Preston North End occupied the middle of the table, almost looking as though they were trying to repeat the success story of Aston Villa.
Villa sat in the bottom half of the table after 34 games last season, but then went on a 10-game run and gate-crashed the playoffs, before securing promotion on their big (expensive) day out at Wembley.
The Villa way didn’t look like it was going to work for Wednesday, or Hull though, as they became the next victims of the festive curse.
Wednesday suffered three consecutive defeats over the period, before restoring some faith with a 2-0 win over Leeds, and things weren’t looking much better for Hull who was set to lose their top striker, Jarrod Bowen, to the Premier League.
Whilst the stress of fighting for a spot in the Premier League adorned on some, elsewhere the fear set in for the new kids on the block, Barnsley and Luton Town, that they might be dropped back to where they came from.
Luton lost seven of their ten league games throughout December and January cementing their place in the bottom two, however, Barnsley capitalised on the busy season, getting two wins a row for the first time this season over QPR and Millwall.
Barnsley beat QPR 5-3 – In probably my worst game of the season, as a QPR fan – with a Conor Chaplin hattrick, ensuring Luke Amos’ double wasn’t enough.
New, new, new
‘New year, new you’, the words that we cringe at when the new year comes along, but never-the-less they are words that ring so true in the Championship.
Whether you want the new year to be different, or not, it always is, with new players and managers coming in across the sides.
QPR – to my heartbreak – were starved of their loanee top goal scorer, Nahki Wells, as Burnley recalled him and sold him onto Bristol City. The striker's first game for his new side, saw him return to West London and play his part in beating his former team 1-0.
However, since that victory, City has only won one more league game, seeing them currently sit in 7th, one point off the playoff places that they had been flirting with all season.
The nightmare before Christmas then became true for Hull City, as Jarrod Bowen departed for West Ham, in a deal thought to be worth £25 million, leaving them now two points from safety.
As always, it wasn’t just players moving in January, the Championship saw some new managers too.
Wayne Rooney joined struggling Derby County as player/coach, making an impressive debut that saw the Rams beat Charlton 2-1, after failing to win their previous seven games in the league.
We are all guilty of not always being aware of the talent in the Championship, and concentrating too much on the Premier League.
However, the second tier is never short of goals, with players always using it as a league to showcase their individual talents.
West London seems to be the place to be this season if you want to see goals, with Alexander Mitrovic of Fulham and Ollie Watkins of Brentford, topping the charts as the highest league goal scorers, with 23 and 22 goals respectively.
Mitrovic and Joe Bryan have built up a strong partnership this season, with the left-back, Bryan, always being on hand for the assist, as well as helping Fulham keep 13 clean sheets – the second highest in the division.
Elsewhere in West London, at QPR, you’ll find the duo I have enjoyed watching most this season, Ebere Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel, who have scored 18 goals and provided 12 assists between them.
Both players were part of QPR’s best win since the 1998/99 season against Crystal Palace, as they beat Cardiff 6-1 on New Years Day, showcasing what they do best – assisting and scoring goals.
As the season restarts on the 20th June and the playoffs loom, you are sure to see goals galore in the Championship.
At one end of the table Charlton Athletic begin their climb out of the relegation zone with a trip to Hull that could see them swap places with a win, and at the other end Leeds fight to keep the top spot from West Brom, with a trip to Cardiff.
Sky Sports will be broadcasting 30 of the remaining games, and the rest can be found on the EFL’s iFollow stream or the clubs’ equivalent.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.