Cannon Fodder Or The Surprise Package ?
Reading take on Huddersfield Town in the world’s richest game but what fate awaits the victors?
Monday’s Championship Play-Off Final between Reading and Huddersfield Town is widely regarded as the most lucrative fixture on the football calendar, with Premier League riches awaiting the winner.
However, since the play-offs were introduced in 1992, 15 of the 25 teams that gained promotion this way lasted just one season in the Premier League. So, if they are successful on Monday, Reading or Huddersfield Town will be looking to buck that trend but neither team boasts particularly impressive stats, suggesting that this year’s play-off winners could easily become cannon fodder for the Premier League giants next season.
Reading scored 68 goals in their run to the play-offs but a goal difference of just plus 4 really sets the alarm bells ringing, while the Terriers fared even worse, qualifying for the play-offs despite having a negative goal difference!
Monday’s encounter does, however, give Fantasy Premier League managers the opportunity to cast their eye over players from both clubs, so we’ve taken a look at one player from each side, as we attempt to unearth a hidden gem in the process.
Reading fantasy player to watch – Ali Al-Habsi
Reading’s player of the season Ali Al-Habsi is no stranger to the Premier League and he was also on the bench for Wigan Athletic when they pulled off a shock victory over Manchester City in the 2012/13 FA Cup Final,
Sam Allardyce, who has been hogging the headlines again this week, deserves credit for recognising the talent of Al-Habsi. The outgoing Crystal Palace boss brought the Omani international to Bolton Wanderers in 2006 but the transfer was not without controversy, subsequently featuring in the Stevens report, following an investigation into corruption within the game.
Al-Habsi has been ever-present for the Royals during their 2016/17 Championship campaign, pulling off 166 saves in the process, a figure only bettered by Barnsley’s Adam Davies. He denied Huddersfield’s Rajiv van La Parra from the spot in February, enhancing his reputation as one of the best penalty kick shot-stoppers around and figures from Transfermarkt certainly support this, evident by the fact that he has stopped 15 of the 52 penalties he has faced in his career.
Huddersfield Town fantasy player to watch – Tommy Smith
Quite how the Terriers find themselves in the play-off final is anyone’s guess but 22 victories by a solitary one-goal margin, a Football League record, does help to paint a pretty clear picture and one player who has been instrumental in that sequence is right-back Tommy Smith.
He joined Huddersfield in 2012, after failing to make a senior appearance during his time at Manchester City but his rampaging forward runs have not gone unnoticed in a team that only averaged 4.17 shots on target per game during their league campaign. Smith scored 4 times while chipping in with 10 assists, a tremendous return for a full-back and it’s his ability to find that key pass, something that is highlighted by his WhoScored profile, that is sure to just catch the eye of fantasy football managers.
Monday’s encounter promises to be a keenly contested affair and the victorious team can spend the summer dreaming about being next season’s surprise package.
Don’t bank on it though – the stats would suggest otherwise!