Big Points Stash, Pockets Full Of Cash, Its Premiership Saturdays! Oooh Oooh!!!

Martin HillCorrespondent IMay 13, 2008

First and foremost, congratulations to West Brom and Stoke City for securing automatic promotion to the Premiership.

One of the tightest Championship races for a long time saw Watford streak ahead before Christmas only to be pegged back. Into the New Year no team could pull away from the rest of the pack, leaving the title race open into the last few games of the season.

With Tony Mowbray at the helm West Brom have attacking, free flowing football down too a tee and many would be mistaken in believing the man in charge was a tough centre back for 18 years with Middlesbrough, Celtic and Ipswich.

The defense will need improving for the step up as for the 88 goals scored, 60 were let in at the other end, but unlike many teams making the step up West Brom have a solid spine of players who have all played in the Premier League before. Can West Brom beat the drop, or like their neighbours Birmingham City will they become a yo-yo team?

Stoke City's rise to the premiership has been built on some very shrewd loan signings by manager Tony Pulis. No less than 6 premiership based players have worn the Potters red and white stripes maintaining their consistency throughout the league.

Although not showcasing the highlight reel football of a West Brom, Stoke have managed to fit their loanees in around the quality of Liam Lawrence, Ricardo Fuller and Leon Cort all of which have the ability to make an impact in the premiership.

Without doubt Stoke will need to strengthen in all areas to stand a chance of surviving in their return to the top flight, perhaps starting with making some of the loan signings permanent. Can they make an impression and finish above the drop zone? Highly unlikely!

Now the playoffs...

At time of writing Bristol City confirmed their place at Wembley with a 4-2 aggregate win over Crystal Palace and Hull City take a 2-0 lead over Watford to the KC Stadium.

Bristol City have far surpassed any targets they set themselves at the beginning of the season. Throughout the whole campaign it was a case of when will they stumble? But give credit where credits due, they did not and continue to surpass expectation with a solid 2 game performance against a dangerous Palace side.

Gary Johnson, a man with international management under his belt, albeit with Latvia has taken a mid-table team at best and taken them to within 1 game of the premiership. Solid defense has been the key to their success as a +1 goal difference for a team finishing 4th is unheard of.

Like all teams making the leap major improvements will be needed but it'll be a pleasure seeing football league legends Lee Trundle and Dele Adebola finally get a stab at the Premiership. Nothing more than a bottom three finish though!

Since his arrival at Hull City, Phil Browns win percentage is at a very mediocre 42%, but yet here his team lies on the verge of a playoff final, so like Bristol City definitely a team surpassing all expectations.

With veterans Nicky Barmby and Dean Windass leading the way this could be their final swansong with one final crack at the premiership.

Likely to be a major struggle should they make it through the playoffs, the Tigers will be looking to strengthen everywhere and add a few young legs to do the running for the old boys.

Even the magic of Jay Jay (so good they named him twice) Okocha it's very much likely the tigers will be looking at a bottom three finish and likely to be the worst performers of the 3 promoted clubs.

I must mention Watford as they are still in with a shout. Aide Boothroyds men have been on a slow downward spiral since the new year and were very lucky to make the playoffs pipping Wolves by a goal difference of one.

Since the loss of Marlon King they have lost their ability to score goals. Had they kept him they'd have finished higher, probably beating Stoke to 2nd.

As it stands they would have a chance of survival in the premier league with the majority of their team who made no disgrace of themselves during their last premiership campaign. Also as the team coming straight back up after relegation, they have a strange ability to then beat the drop and begin to establish themselves in the league.

Should they make it, minus a target man it's likely to be a very tough time, so again a bottom 3 finish...

Overall an unexpected finish to another exciting Championship campaign.