This season has seen near domination of the Football League by Yorkshire football teams. South and West Yorkshire’s finest have taken the Championship, League One and League Two by storm, and with five teams currently in promotion contention, things are looking up in the home of the White Rose. Here, I take a look at the promotion contenders from three divisions:
Huddersfield Town (3rd)
Led by David Wagner, there has been a resurgence at the John Smith’s Stadium this year, after past seasons of relegation worry. The squad has been largely overhauled and Wagner has been able to express his own style of play, similar to that of his mentor, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
New signings in the summer included Elias Kachunga and Aaron Mooy on loan deals from FC Ingolstadt and Manchester City respectively, and they have both impressed, with Mooy scoring the only goal in a 1-0 against West Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, at Elland Road.
Philip Billing has been a revelation in the Terriers midfield this year too, with pundits predicting that he is set for a career in the Premier League. The young Dane put in a performance to remember in a recent FA Cup replay against Manchester City, and more performances like that will see him in the top-flight, whether it be at Huddersfield or not next year.
Aaron Mooy’s performances have improved Town’s fortunes greatly, this goal at Elland Road quickly made him a fan favourite.
Leeds United (4th)
Closely behind Huddersfield are Leeds, again greatly improving this season after years of mid-table disappointment. Owner Massimo Cellino has stuck by manager Garry Monk, Leeds’ SEVENTH managerial appointment in his three-year reign in charge, and the rewards for that are now starting to show.
Monk was thought to have avoided the sack in September, and despite an early season struggle, United are now flying and it looks as though they could be set for a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2004.
Chris Wood has led the way up top, scoring 22 league goals with nine games still to play, a massive improvement on last season’s tally of 13 goals. However, with Leeds’ next top scorer, Souleymane Doukara on just five goals, Leeds will be hoping there isn’t an injury to their star man that could hinder their promotion ambitions.
Chris Wood has led from the front at Elland Road this season, with his 22 league goals meaning he has scored 33% of Leeds’ league goals.
Sheffield Wednesday (6th)
After missing out on promotion back to the Premier League at Wembley, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sheffield Wednesday would struggle to pick themselves up from heartbreak, but with more money given to Carlos Carvalhal to spend, the Owls look like they could be on their way back.
Similar to Leeds, Wednesday had a very slow start to the season, with many calling for Carvalhal’s head in order to get their promotion bid back on track. Chairman Dejphon Chansiri ignored these calls, and the play-offs look to be where Wednesday are heading.
There have been goals from all over the pitch this season, but once again it is Fernando Forestieri who leads the way at Hillsborough. The Italian is a player you love when he’s in your team, but one you hate when he’s lining up with the opposition, and he has been a menace in attack. Jordan Rhodes has also signed from Middlesbrough, and he could prove a crucial player in the coming weeks, having achieved promotion with Boro last season.
Carlos Carvalhal might have had a dream, but will it become reality this season?
Sheffield United (1st)
What a season it has been for the Blades. The last few seasons have been riddled with promotion prospects ending in disappointment, managerial changes and under-performing players not meeting their potential. This season it is all change at Bramall Lane, largely down to Chris Wilder.
Wilder is a Blade through and through. Appointed after the departure of Nigel Adkins in the summer, the former Northampton Town manager landed his dream job in the United hot seat. A local boy and United fan himself, he was the man tasked with finally getting the Blades back to the second tier, and they look well on course to finally achieve this.
Captain Billy Sharp has been instrumental in the success down at the Lane, another childhood supporter of the Blades, in his third spell at the club he loves so much. Given the captaincy on Wilder’s arrival in S2, he has proved to be their key player and he is more determined than anyone at the club to ensure that Sheffield United end the season as Champions and have a place in the Championship for the next campaign. With 10 games left to play and a nine point gap between the Blades and the play-off positions, these are promising times for Wilder’s men.
Bradford City (4th)
After losing in the Play-Off semi final to Millwall, Phil Parkinson decided to leave Valley Parade and headed over to newly-relegated Bolton Wanderers to help their promotion bid. The Bantams chose to appoint a former fans favourite in Stuart McCall and that is a decision that has proved to be a good one so far.
Some thought that City would struggle to replace James Hanson after his January departure to promotion rivals Sheffield United, but not in the slightest. The arrival of Charlie Wyke from Carlisle United shows that the flow of goals won’t be stopping just yet. Bradford beat off Championship teams to land Wyke, and scoring on his debut against Gillingham set him up nicely for the rest of the season.
City currently sit in fourth place, two points behind the second automatic promotion spot, and they will be very hopeful that they can go one better this season and finally make their way back to the Championship. Unbeaten at home and having only lost five games all season, McCall’s Bantams might be ones to watch out for as the promotion race in League One nears the finishing line.
Bantams’ fans will be looking to back their team at Valley Parade, hoping to keep their unbeaten home record intact and secure promotion to the Championship.
Doncaster Rovers (1st)
A managerial change, a 17-game winless run and a shock relegation from League One was the story of Doncaster Rovers season last year. However, just 10 months on from their exit from the third tier, the future is bright under Darren Ferguson and they look on course to make an immediate return, maybe with a league title to boot too.
Like Bradford, they are unbeaten at home, a record they have maintained since March 2015, and they are the top scorers in the league with 68 goals. John Marquis, James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe have played their part in the majority of the goals, Marquis himself hitting 21 for the season, and Rowe joining him in double figures with 11. Rovers are scoring goals all over the pitch, with Coppinger also enjoying his best goal return ever in a Rovers shirt with eight. Marquis has stated that his new target is 30 league goals for the season, and there is no reason why the main man upfront can’t achieve that target.
Rovers face promotion rivals Plymouth at home on March 26, and this will be a game that could seal their fate when it comes to winning the title or not. They are however 14 points clear of the play-off places and picking up maximum points in the next couple of games could give them the opportunity to put one foot back in League One. Winning promotion will finally give the fans something to cheer about, especially after a dismal couple of seasons since relegation from the Championship.
There has been a major contrast in fortunes for teams Rovers have encountered in recent seasons too. AFC Bournemouth, who were runners-up when Rovers won League One in 2013, now play in the Premier League after a surprise Championship title win in 2015. Leicester City, who Rovers played on the final day of the 2013/14 season when they were relegated, are the reigning Champions of England, with a European campaign now well underway. Times are changing and there is reason to be hopeful at the Keepmoat, and Rovers fans will dare to dream of a Bournemouth-esque rise up England’s league pyramid.
John Marquis (L) won the League Two title with Northampton Town last season, and his goals look to have Rovers on course for a similar fate this time around.
Positions in brackets correct at time of writing.