Championship mid-season grades: Blackburn lead pack

Nathan Spafford
Blackburn celebrate another goal in the Championship

There are more Championship grades to come this week but we start – as is traditional – with the first half of the alphabet.


Bournemouth – B
It was all going so swimmingly. Then November came around and the Cherries went into a tailspin. With the season halfway through, Bournemouth occupy a space in the top two. That is not to be sniffed at, but the margin of error has been reduced from deluxe comfort to itchy bum in the space of a month and with Blackburn hot on the heels of every passing winless game, automatic promotion is looking less and less likely. Come May, Scott Parker’s side will either be an A or a C; it is up to their manager to prove he has what it takes to make it the former.


Parker plummeting in Football League winners and losers


Barnsley – E
If we had done these rankings last season, Barnsley would have been claiming top marks, but it’s bottom of the class for the Tykes. No team has collected fewer points nor scored fewer goals than the South Yorkshire side, who are already on their second manager of the season and seemingly have one foot in League One already. Are there any positives? The global pandemic could render the season null and void; does that count, Barnsley fans?


Birmingham City – C
Birmingham are meh. They are not bad enough to go down, and they are certainly not good enough to go up. A positive start to the season suggested they were one of about 427 dark horses in the opening months of 2021/22, then Brum became a bit glum and now sit comfortably in lower mid-table. AKA: The usual.


Blackburn Rovers – A
They have the holy trinity of looking destined for promotion, having a cult hero in Ben Brereton Diaz and making me look ridiculous. The Hollywood story of their Chilean striker overshadowed a summer of standing still was the verdict half a year ago. As 2022 comes around, Tony Mowbray’s side could start it in the top two. They are having the best season of any Championship team by far.


Blackpool – B
While last season’s automatic promotion duo from League One struggle in and around the relegation spots, play-off winners Blackpool have far exceeded expectations. Despite going seven games without a win in November and December and failing to find the back of the net in four successive outings, Neil Critchley’s side had built up enough credit to go into Boxing Day on the periphery of the top half. Some return to the second tier that, considering the troubled times at Blackpool since they were last in the Championship.


Bristol City – C-
That ghastly home run finally came to an end, and was followed by three more Ashton Gate victories in succession, but like Birmingham, this Bristol City team is one that already knows they will be playing Championship football again in 2022/23. They have had almost no memorable moments of note this campaign, and on their current trajectory, that looks unlikely to change before May.


Cardiff City – D
Mick McCarthy oversaw Cardiff’s slide down the table after a promising opening to the season, while caretaker-cum-full time successor Steve Morison has helped to arrest that drop and give Cardiff enough to stave off relegation to the third tier. After a great second half of 2020/21, there were expectations of a similar level for this term but Cardiff are entrenched in the bottom six, and securing a place in the second tier is all that matters. A strong second half of the season is needed.


Coventry City – B
Had we been completing these gradings a month ago, Coventry would have been top of the whole damn school, but a struggle across the latter weeks of November and into advent have seen the Sky Blues drop away from one of the best of the rest to being merely amongst that crowd. None of that should let us forget just how far this team and club have come. Whatever happens in the second half of the season, this has been a great campaign littered with memorable moments for Mark Robins’ side.


Derby County – C+
Mel Morris and most of the Pride Park decision makers get a big fat F. But Derby’s players and management on the pitch deserve massive credit for fighting their way to make the thought of survival only slightly ridiculous. They will obviously go down, and it is a shame that a genuinely exciting team mixed with talented youngsters and committed elder statesmen of EFL football will be disbanded having never played on a level footing. It should never be forgotten however, just how good Wayne Rooney and co. have done their jobs in the first half of the season.


Fulham – B+
It was all going so swimmingly. Then November came around and the Cottagers went into a tailspin. That both Scott Parker’s former and current employers have conspired to blow their stronghold over the top two with such dreadful runs of form in recent weeks serves to show just how unforgivable and exciting the Championship can be. For both Fulham and manager Marco Silva, promotion is a necessity this season. Halfway through, and it is on a knife edge. Extra marks for having the most potent attack in the EFL by a distance, however.


Huddersfield Town – C
One of a batch of dark horses for the opening four months of the season, and while still threatening to do so, it is feeling like a season of missed opportunities and frustrations in West Yorkshire. There is the potential to see this go either way before May, but it feels like Huddersfield have all the hallmarks of a side who are too good to slide further down the table and just not good enough to make it into the top six. Middle of the road it is.


Hull City – C
Their timing from failed potential to shining stars after a recent run of three wins and three draws in six games was let down only by a slight misstep in losing to Nottingham Forest at the halfway mark of the season. Having looked like certainties for relegation through the opening months, Grant McCann and Hull have shown they have more than what it takes to stay up this season. A first term back in the second tier means that looking more likely to stay up than go down should be celebrated with cautious optimism at this stage.