On Saturday Doncaster take on Leeds in the League One Play-Off Final, with the winner obviously getting a place in the Championship next season, and the high honour of visiting Carrow Road that accompanies it (:)).
The thing is, I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot, and it’s tricky. Real tricky. Last week I said I was disappointed that Leeds beat Carlisle and spent the next couple of days receiving very friendly emails and comments so for the final I’ve decided to take a more scientific approach – I’m not making that mistake twice.
The best way to do it is to judge the clubs in several categories, much like I did for Manager of the Year:
- Who would add the best value to the league?
- Who are City more likely to do better against?
- This season’s performance against expectations.
- X-Factor (no cheating this time).
Let’s see how we get on…
Round One: Adding value to the league
I define “adding value” as adding value to the competition as a whole, and by bringing in bigger crowds (and therefore money) to other clubs in the league.
City are in the fortunate position of being able to sell out Carrow Road for pretty much every game regardless of how we are doing in the league (as has been proven in the last couple of seasons), but not too many other Championship clubs can say the same thing.
Doncaster have a decent following but with all due respect it can’t really be compared to that of Leeds. The Leeds United “brand” also has a much bigger appeal that that of Rovers (despite their recent “troubles”), so for me Leeds win this round by a country mile. 1-0 Leeds.
Round Two: Who are City more likely to do better against?
It’s a tough one to answer this. In all likelihood regardless of who came up we’d lose away and probably win at home, so it’s all square. The better question is probably “who is more likely to finish above us?”, and you’d have to think we’d be more likely to finish above Doncaster than we would Leeds, so it’s Doncaster’s round. 1-1.
Round Three: Performance compared to expectations
No doubt about it, Leeds expected to go up this season – and then the 15 point penalty was confirmed. My own expectation following that was for Leeds to probably end up finishing mid-table and having to spend another year in League One – with their squad likely to be considerably weakened as a result.
If you asked a Doncaster fan what their expectation was at the start of the season and they would probably have said mid-table, so to finish third – and just two points off the automatic promotion places – was a fantastic achievement.
Both clubs probably performed better than expected all things considered, but for me it’s Doncaster’s round. 2-1 Rovers.
Round Four: The X-Factor
If you’re thinking I was a little hard on Leeds saying they Doncaster out-performed them compared to expectations then ask yourself this question: At the start of the season (or before the 15 point deduction was confirmed), where did you think Leeds would finish? Chances are you thought either in the play-offs or in one of the automatic promotion places.
That said, making up a 15 point deficit is hardly an easy thing to do. If you look at the Championship table City would have finished in the play-off places with 15 more points and the goal difference that went with it.
So for that reason alone this has to be Leed’s round, making our final score – Leeds 2 Doncaster 2.
B*gger. Something’s got to give and we need to have a winner, and I guess it comes down to a straight choice –
Would we rather the league was stronger in general, or would we rather give ourselves as good a chance as possible to finish higher in the league?
Not an easy one to answer is it? I like to think of myself as a football fan first and foremost, but I can’t usually resist a good underdog. I guess the simple answer for me is that I don’t really mind. It’ll be a hell of a story whoever wins, and I think Leeds will.
What do you think? You can have your say in the poll, or leave a comment…