Sheffield Wednesday: History favours Seagulls in race to go up

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Brighton supporters may be miserable about missing out on automatic promotion to the Premier League, but history indicates that finishing third provides the best chance of going up via the Championship Play-Offs.

Eight teams who have finished third in the second tier in the last 20 seasons from 1995-96 up to and including the 2014-15 campaign were able to win promotion, which runs contrary to the common idea that the team which just misses out on the top two is at a psychological disadvantage to the other three teams in contention.

Brighton face Sheffield Wednesday in the first leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final on Friday.

All eight of the successful third-placed sides have come in the new millennium - Ipswich (2000), Bolton (2001), Watford (2006), Derby (2007), Hull (2008), Swansea (2011), West Ham (2012) and Norwich (2015).

Seagulls boss Chris Hughton said: “I know a lot of people will say the team finishing third invariably doesn’t go up but Norwich finished third last season.”

History suggests the Owls will have it all to do against Brighton - only four sides finishing sixth in the last 20 seasons have been promoted.

The idea that the team in sixth have the least to lose and have ‘come up on the rails’ is not borne out by the statistics, with only Crystal Palace (1997 and 2004), West Ham (2005) and Blackpool (2010) promoted from the lowest position.

Derby will hope to become the seventh team to be promoted after finishing fifth, although they would be the first to do it in seven years. The previous teams promoted from that position are Leicester (1996), Watford (1999), Birmingham (2002), Wolves (2003) and Burnley (2009).

The data suggests Hull have the toughest task of all, with only two fourth-placed sides having been promoted from the play-offs over the last 20 seasons.

Only Charlton (1998) and QPR (2014) provide any recent precedent for the Tigers.