Leicester City to repeat Leeds United’s cock-up? How Christmas Championship table-toppers finished…

Lewis Oldham
Championship title
Enzo Maresca, Vincent Kompany and Frank Lampard.

Leicester City are already guaranteed to be this season’s Christmas table-toppers in the Championship and barring a Leeds United-esque cock-up, they will get promoted.

History tells us that you tend to go up if you are top at Christmas in the second tier, with Frank Lampard’s Derby County ensuring Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United are the only exception to this rule.

Here’s how the last ten teams finished after sitting pretty at the summit of the Championship when Santa came calling…


2013/14 (Burnley)
Final league position – 2nd

Before this season, Kompany was the cooler alternative but the Clarets were first promoted under the rough-and-ready Sean Dyche.

His side edged out QPR and Leicester City to top the Championship on December 25, 2013.

But Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City only lost one of their next 25 games to end the season as champions on 102 points, while Burnley settled for the runners-up spot.

Missing out on the title to the Foxes that season was not a disaster, as that side was one of the best to ever be seen in the Championship and two years later they were Premier League champions.


2014/15 (AFC Bournemouth)
Final league position – 1st

The Cherries were the dominant side in the division in 2014/15 as they completed their rise from near-bankruptcy to the Premier League.

With the Championship being the wonderful league it is, the title race was hotly contested as four points separated the top six at Christmas.

Eddie Howe’s side drew too many games (12 in 46) so they were unable to move away from their rivals but they still edged out Watford by a single point to clinch the title on 90 points.

Bournemouth were the outstanding team that season as the entertainers came mighty close to scoring 100 goals in the league, though they finished with 98. Looking back, they are probably not too fussed.


2015/16 (Middlesbrough)
Final league position – 2nd

Aitor Karanka – Jose Mourinho’s ex-right-hand man at Real Madrid – has a chequered history of managing in the second tier but his spell at Middlesbrough was largely a success.

After losing in the play-off final in 2014/15, Boro were out to go one better the next season, but they made bloody hard work of it.

Middlesbrough were ahead of Derby County, Brighton and Hull City as they topped the table on December 25.

But a wretched run of form post-New Year led to Karanka walking out on Middlesbrough. After missing one game, he returned with his tail between his legs.

They just about did enough to earn automatic promotion as goal difference separated them and Brighton, while Burnley went up as champions.


2016/17 (Newcastle United)
Final league position – 1st

Newcastle United with Rafael Benitez as their manager in the Championship? Of course, they p*ssed it. How else could that have possibly panned out?!

The adopted Geordie was unable to keep the Magpies up the season before but they were treated to a rare joyous campaign with Mike Ashley at the helm in 2016/17.

Newcastle and Brighton were in a league of their own that season and Benitez’s side edged out the Seagulls by a single point to clinch the title.


2017/18 (Wolves)
Final league position – 1st

The team Leicester had in 2013/14 was pretty special, but Wolves’ side under Nuno Espirito Santo arguably tops it.

The Midlands outfit had an unfair squad for this level with the likes of Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves at the fore.

Wolves made a scintillating start to the campaign and were seven points clear at Christmas. New Nottingham Forest manager Santo had the challenge of competing with Championship specialist Neil Warnock (managing Cardiff) for the title.

The pair of bosses naturally butted heads with the Portuguese former goalkeeper not encountering anyone like Warnock before.

They may not be exchanging Christmas cards this year but they both got promoted in 2017/18. All’s well that ends well.

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2018/19 (Leeds United)
Final league position – 3rd

Here’s when Marcelo Bielsa-mania took the Championship by storm.

The beloved Argentinean put extraordinary demands on his players but he took most of them from being average Championship players to some of the best in the league.

For most of the campaign, Leeds were comfortably the best side in the division. This was until they ran out of steam during a testing run-in.

A poor run of form saw them slip into the play-offs and their hearts were broken by Lampard’s Derby County in the semi-finals.


2019/20 (West Brom)
Final league position – 2nd

Leeds put the mess of the 2018/19 campaign behind them here as they overcame the obstructions caused by Covid-19 to clinch the title behind closed doors.

They actually did not top the table at Christmas as West Brom had that privilege in 2019/20.

The teams led by Slaven Bilic and Bielsa were the outstanding outfits in the division for the first few months.

The Baggies did make a pig’s ear of getting over the line, mind. One loss in 23 ended up as seven defeats in 46 and they also drew 17 times. This gave Brentford and Fulham a lifeline but West Brom just about got over the line by two points.


2020/21 (Norwich City)
Final league position – 1st

Before their respective yo-yos were recently broken, past rules in the Championship stated Norwich and Watford must get promoted straight back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

The two sides broke their rulebook in 2022/23 as Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton Town went up instead, but they stuck to the formula in 2020/21.

Norwich have proven themselves to be a superb Championship side in recent times and this was no different as they were dominant throughout.

They have struggled to translate that to success in the Premier League, though. Both them and Watford were relegated again the season after because of course they were.


2021/22 (Fulham)
Final league position – 1st

The 21/22 season was a weird one as the standard at the top of the table was lower than usual.

AFC Bournemouth flattered to deceive for much of the campaign under Scott Parker but they just about did enough to finish second.

Nottingham Forest would have arguably been more deserving of being runners-up following their remarkable upturn in form, but they fell away before triumphing in the play-offs.

Fulham, meanwhile, were the standout team in the league as Marco Silva’s men scored goals for fun.

Aleksandar Mitrovic peaked as he netted a frankly ludicrous 43 goals in 46 games. One-hundred-and-six goals were scored as a team and they would have surpassed 100 points had it not been for the odd poor result.


2022/23 (Burnley) 
Final league position – 1st

Coming out of the Dyche era, Kompany masterminded a complete overhaul at Turf Moor which forged remarkable results as Burnley sat top of the Championship at Christmas and ended up winning the title with weeks of the season remaining.

Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United admirably had Burnley on the ropes at certain points but they were eventually overwhelmed by their superior promotion rivals, who finished 11 points clear at the summit with a 46-game tally of 101 points.

Leicester City’s summer rebuild was not quite as drastic as Burnley’s last year, but they went down a similar Manchester City-inspired route by appointing Enzo Maresca.

The Foxes – and second-placed Ipswich Town – are firm favourites for automatic promotion as they have been a level above the rest this term. But given how Burnley’s optimism has swiftly waned amid their ongoing Premier League woes, Maresca would be wise to learn from mistakes made by Kompany’s team after they presumably copy them in sealing an immediate return to the top flight next year.

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