No more than once a year do I write about football. I consider myself fully unqualified to make insightful comments about the game itself, so I leave that to those who at the start of the season were certain that Chelsea would be champions and Leicester City relegated. The 2015-2016 Premier League left them with lots to write about, but we need to talk about a match that is being played today, in Hull.
In this evening’s Championship play-off semi-final, Hull City defends a 3-0 lead over Derby County. People who regularly write about football have assured me that Derby are unlikely to overturn this, in which case Hull would proceed to the play-off final – a match that sees the winner grab the last ticket to the 2016-2017 Premier League. Sheffield Wednesday will be the other team in that final; they qualified yesterday.
Should things go as widely expected – not much of a guarantee these days – then the play-off final will be a kind of derby, as both teams are based in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. This circumstance is unlikely to trouble any of the fans supporting their teams at Wembley on the 28th of May, but whoever wins will be the sole team representing their region at the top flight of English football.
A little over a year ago, Hull City seemed well-placed to prolong their stay in the Premier League, but an unexpected (there’s a theme here) renaissance of Leicester City and a typical narrow escape by Sunderland saw them relegated on the final day of the season, ruining the scenario I had so carefully devised. My wish for the Premier League to include teams from all English regions plus Wales had almost been realised, but then Yorkshire and the Humber failed to play ball.
Despite the Yorkshire fiasco, the total number of regions represented in this year’s competition was a record-breaking nine, up one from the year before and more than double the 2010-2011 region count. Somehow, all nine regions managed to keep at least one of their teams up – hats off to Bournemouth – and with Burnley and Middlesbrough taking the automatic promotion spots, Yorkshire and the Humber looked at risk of being the only absentee for a second consecutive season.
Now, however, their teams appear to dominate the play-offs, and in some 45 minutes the prospect of an all-region Premier League may have materialised. For the first time since its establishment in 1992! How very fitting that it would be Hull City delivering it, after their very unfortunate relegation last year. And still it may not be them getting promoted. I’m easy about that though, as long as they win tonight to write football geography history.
Live update: as I was writing, the match got underway and currently Hull City are 0-2 down, Derby County needing only one more goal to take the match to extra time. Come on Hull, don’t do this to me and my regionalist dream again!
Post-match update: Derby County didn’t manage a third and Hull City are through! There will be teams from all regions in the 2016-2017 Premier League.