Why not give the play-offs a shake-up?
THE play-offs are a topic that never cease to stir up a bit of controversy. Some people love them, others hate them. However, it’s fair to say that the genie is out of the bottle and they are here to stay.
As Graham Westley (page 13) points out, even Mansfield Town in 12th still had a chance of getting into the League Two play-offs heading into yesterday’s final round of regular season games.
The big plus is that more teams have something to play for, instead of featuring in dead rubbers, in the latter stages of the season.
However, can we do things to improve the current set-up? One of the complaints about the play-offs is that the teams finishing in the higher positions don’t receive any real advantage, barring a home second leg.
And Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler (page 20) points out that he’s not convinced having the second leg at home is a plus. While his team went to Bradford and back for the first leg, the Bantams only have one journey – to Fleetwood – before the second leg.
Rest is vital in professional sport and Rosler reckons his side will have been hampered by the extra travel. It’s an interesting point.
Is there anything that can be done? Westley suggests the semi-finals should be single-leg games and that’s not a bad call. The sides finishing in the higher positions get a home semi-final, giving them a definite reward for doing better in the regular season.
Here’s another idea. If the semis are over two legs, the higher-placed team goes through if the tie finishes all-square. This is another concrete advantage for being more successful over the whole campaign.
There is another positive to these suggestions. If you make it more attractive to finish, say, third or fourth in the Championship, it is less likely that clubs, such as Huddersfield against relegation-threatened Birmingham last week, would rest players in the final games, angering clubs fighting to stay up.
WHILE Brighton and Newcastle battle it out for the Championship title this afternoon, most attention will be on the other end of the division. It promises to be a nail-biting 90 minutes for the fans of Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City...