Has YOUR club benefited from a break in the season?

Financially, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a real sucker punch to every club in the Championship.

For many, it will have made an unstable situation even worse.

But on the pitch, it'll be a different story for each club.

Some sides were on their worst runs of the season prior to fixtures being postponed, for others it was the complete opposite.

There were squads who had been decimated by an injury crisis, or maybe were missing their best player who was presumed to be out for the remainder of the season before it got put back 3 months.

The circumstances for each club is very different so let's have a look at it for each side...


Have they benefited? No

Consistency has been a real issue for Gerhard Struber's side throughout the season, however they've certainly picked up since he took charge.

Prior to his appointment in mid November, Barnsley had won once in 16 league games.

Since then, they've picked up 7 wins.

It's an improvement, but it needs to be better for them to have any chance of staying up.

Just before the break in the season they went on a winning run of three games for the first time this campaign.

Time will only tell if Struber can keep Barnsley's slow improvement going but it might not be enough to keep them up anyway.


Have they benefited? Yes

Birmingham probably have the biggest claim for their season being over already, however Pep Clotet will still want to end his spell at St Andrews on a high.

Luckily for Pep, just before the season was put on pause, Blues were on their joint-longest winless run (five games).

On the spin-side though, Scott Hogan was banging them in for fun (7 goals in 8 league games), so he'll be praying that his on-loan hitman hasn't lost his scoring touch over the last three months.


Have they benefited? No

Since mid-November, Blackburn have managed to put together a healthy Playoff push.

Just four losses in 21 games before the season was put on pause saw them amongst the chasing pack.

There were signs that the momentum was fading, with no wins in their last four and their most recent result saw them on the receiving end of a 3-0 thumping away at Derby.

They would have been better off having the chance to bounce back as soon as possible and keeping that momentum going.

They'll also be hoping that Adam Armstrong can continue his red-hot form post-lockdown.


Have they benefited? Yes

Only one name needs to be said here: Pontus Jansson.

The Swede's injury has coincided with Brentford's drop-off in form just before the season was put on hold (1 win in 6).

We kept being told he was nearly back in action but it kept being put off for whatever reason.

Now that he's had three months to regain his fitness, he'll provide the leadership and steel in defence that the Bees so badly missed.

It seems too late to push for the automatics now but they can get some much needed momentum heading into the Playoffs.

Bristol City

Have they benefited? Yes

Bristol City had a tough run of games prior to lockdown (including the top in their last five) so it's hard to say whether they were out of form or not, but the fact remains they failed to win in their last five.

They've got an intriguing run-in which sees them face just about every side who's still challenging for the top 6.

They'll be looking ahead to those games because they could end up with having a deadly strike partnership of Benik Afobe and Nakhi Wells.

Afobe started the season brightly but it seemed his campaign came to an early end after suffering a nasty injury.

But the Robins could have the opportunity to play two proven goalscorers at Championship level in the same side.

Whether they'll be able to play together is another question but it's an exciting prospect.


Have they benefited? Yes

Cardiff were struggling to put together a set of consistent results.

Well actually that might be a lie because they were consistently drawing a lot.

Their form was neither good or bad and maybe the break will give them chance to reorganise their slightly shaky defence for when the season's back.

More importantly, Lee Tomlin will be back fully fit for when the season restarts.

He looked set to miss a large chunk of Cardiff's remaining games but should be available for all of them now.

Considering how many times he's got them out of jail this season, he'll be crucial to their Playoff push.


Have they benefited? No

After a rather miserable period halfway through the season, Charlton showed signs of fight with wins over Barnsley, Forest and Luton.

This was followed up by three losses but it's still an improvement on how things were.

More significantly, leading goalscorer Lyle Taylor has told the club he doesn't want to play for them when the season resumes.

His contract expires this summer and he doesn't want to get injured in case it jeopardises a big move.

Chris Solly and David Davis have also asked not to be considered for selection.

Add in how the boardroom situation at the Valley seems to have got worse since lockdown began and it means things could be pretty tough for a Charlton side fighting for survival.


Have they benefited? No

The Rams were one of the Championship's form teams before the coronavirus pandemic.

The turn of the year saw them win half of their games and gave them a chance of a late Playoff push, albeit a slim one.

The highly-rated youngster Louie Sibley also scored a blinder on his first and so far only start.

Phillip Cocu will be hoping the break hasn't damaged their momentum.


Have they benefited? Yes

Fulham fans know the odds aren't in their favour in terms of automatic promotion.

However, they'll be hoping that the break will disrupt the momentum that Leeds and West Brom had.

Both seemed to be cruising towards sealing their place in the Premier League.

It's unlikely to make much of a difference but we can be cautiously optimistic right?


Have they benefited? No

Another side who had seemingly turned the corner, Huddersfield looked to be slowly, but surely, moving away from the bottom three.

Danny Cowley's side can't afford for their momentum to be halted.

Relegation is still very much a possibility and even though their in a healthy position compared to those below them, they'll need to hit the ground running.

Karlan Grant will be key to that happening.

He was just finding the back of the net again before lockdown after a quiet spell by his standards.

The Terriers will need him to has scoring boots firmly on.


Have they benefited? No

Initially when I started writing this piece, there was no doubt that Hull were the side who benefited more than anyone from the break in the season.

They were in the midst of an injury crisis and were dropping like a stone.

Actually, you could argue a stone doesn't do it justice how badly they were playing.

2 points from a possible 33 would indicate that Hull were on a shortcut to League One.

The break meant they had a chance to reset, but four key players (Eric Lichaj, Jackson Irvine, Stephen Kingsley and Marcus Maddison) have all decided they won't be at the club for the remainder of the season.

Their threadbare squad looks even more threadbare post-lockdown.


Have they benefited? No

Leeds were coasting to the Premier League before the season had to be stopped.

Five straight wins matched their consistently dominant performances and it looked as if their absence from the top flight was soon to be over.

That should still very well be the case, even if they were falter in the final few games of the season.

The three-month break could very well make them do that, but it would take one hell of a slip-up now to stop them from going up, especially since none of the chasing pack have looked consistent enough to catch them.


Have they benefited? Yes

The coronavirus pandemic has led to clubs struggling financially, and when Luton got rid of Graeme Jones as their manager, the excuse was cost-saving.

But that's just led to him being replaced by his predecessor, Nathan Jones.

Under Nathan, Luton were a club progressing rapidly until he left for Stoke.

Graeme took over and things weren't the same.

He wasn't helped by star full back Jack Stacey and James Justin leaving but that's now a problem Nathan Jones has to tackle.

It might be too much to ask for him to save Luton from relegation, but the coronavirus pandemic has given the club chance to bring in a new (old) man and start building for next season early.


Have they benefited? Yes

Similar to Hull, Boro were seriously struggling to get points on the board.

They managed to win on the final game before the break, but before that they hadn't managed three points since New Years Day.

The fans had massively begun to lose patience in Jonathan Woodgate as well, with relegation looking a serious possibility.

This isn't a completely hopeless Boro side though.

We saw around December time what they can do, and they'll want to reuse the restart as a chance to get back to those winning ways.

A massive blow is Daniel Ayala deciding he won't play again for the club (he's been offered a new deal but, at the time of writing, it's unlikely he'll agree to it).


Have they benefited? No

The Lions are prime contenders for a top 6 place this season.

Since Gary Rowett took over they've been given a new lease of life and they've been riding the crest of a wave.

They'll be hoping that the wave is still going when the season resumes.

More unfortunately though, a lot of Millwall's Playoff rivals have got key players returning from injury, who would have otherwise missed multiple games had the season not been paused.

It looks likely that three Playoff places are pretty much secure (Brentford, Fulham, Forest) so with one spot left, Millwall would have taken any help they could get in an extremely tight race.

Nottingham Forest

Have they benefited? Yes

Forest were majorly faltering before lockdown.

They picked up 1 win in 6 and if that form had continued for much longer, their seemingly secure Playoff place could have been in jeopardy.

The break should have given them chance to start fresh.

An individual who would have welcomed an opportunity to break away from poor form would be top scorer Lewis Grabban.

He's been in deadly form this season for Forest and incredibly important to their promotion push.

But he'd managed to score just once in his last 8 games before the break and will need to get back in form when football returns.


Have they benefited? No

As previously mentioned, the likes of Bristol City and Cardiff are welcoming back some key players from injury, who would have missed plenty of games had the season gone on as usual.

That's good news for Preston as they try to cling onto that final Playoff place.

However, it could be argued that the break is beneficial.

Alex Neil's side weren't in bad form before lockdown but it wasn't great either.

They managed 7 losses in their first 24 games of the season.

They picked up that many defeats in their previous 13 before lockdown.

So there's been a decline that needed arresting and Preston fans will hope the break has given them chance to do that.


Have they benefited? No

QPR were looking pretty good before lockdown.

They were unbeaten in 6 which meant their slim hopes of getting in the Playoffs were still alive.

There were plenty of draws in there which meant the form wasn't outstanding, but it did give Rangers a platform to build on in the final few games.

If lockdown has disrupted the flow though, then there'll be no chance of them getting in the top 6.

Especially since teams ahead of them have now got key players back from injury.


Have they benefited? Does it matter?

Reading are probably the first answer you'd give if someone asked "Which team's season is over already?"

Along with Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday, they're only aim for the next few weeks is to finish as high as possible.

That could be difficult though.

After all, would you be motivated to get back up to being fully match fit if you've not got anything to play for for the rest of the season.

Sheffield Wednesday

Have they benefited? No

Wednesday's situation is very similar to Reading's, with the added caveat that it's unclear who's going to still be at the club next month.

They've got a number of players out of contract, including top scorer Steven Fletcher, and how many of them will be there come the end of the season is anyone's guess.

The focus for many at Hillsborough will be looking ahead to next season and nailing down some players.


Have they benefited? No

This is a harsh "no".

The only reason why is because Stoke looked to be pulling away from the relegation battle after being in it for the majority of the season.

Unbeaten in four, including a thumping 5-1 win over Hull, makes you think that if the season hadn't been paused then the Potters would have continued to create some breathing room.

There's nothing to indicate that won't be the case, but Michael O'Neill would have preferred to have kept going.


Have they benefited? Yes

Despite having a talented, young squad; Swansea weren't performing to their capabilities.

Just three wins since the turn of the year and sloppy results (including being one of the only sides to drop points to Hull) meant they were dropping out of the Playoff race and fast.

Now they've got the opportunity to reset and they've still very much got a chance for a top 6 place.

In addition, they've managed to nail down all their loan stars for the rest of the season when a lot of sides are losing players.

There's also speculation that the tremendous Mike van der Hoorn could play again after his season seemed to be over in January.

His contract's up though so it's more hopeful than probable.

West Brom

Have they benefited? Yes

I'm not saying West Brom wouldn't have got promoted if there wasn't a break, but losing to Wigan and then drawing to an out of form Swansea side wasn't great before the season was paused.

It could very well have been a blip but the Baggies can now head into the final few games with a fresh start and a squad that's ready to nail down an automatic promotion spot.


Have they benefited? No

Wigan's form was stupendous prior to lockdown.

They picked up 18 points from a possible 27 just before the season was curtailed, and only Leeds were above them in the form table.

They managed to pull themselves out of the relegation zone and nearly out of the whole battle to avoid the drop.

Lockdown arguably couldn't have come at a worse time.

However, they managed to do enough over that run of results to create a cushion between them and the bottom three.

One massive positive is that the three sides around them (Charlton, Hull and Middlesbrough) have all suffered from key players leaving their clubs before the season's ended.

Charlton and Hull in particular look to have a much poorer squad that the Latics and relegation at this point would be a shock.


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