midfield dynamo logo 1
midfield dynamo logo 2

the home of cult football






On this page: Championship Play-offs
League 1 Play-offs
League 2 Play-offs
The Play-off Kings
The Play-off Bottlers
The Play-off Experts
Teams who have yet to experience 'Play-off Final Hell'

Back in 1986 the league changed the straight 3 up, 3 down rules for a play-off system. There has been a common misconception since then that teams finishing in the highest play-off position hardly ever go up, whereas those sneaking into the final spot might as well just pack their bags for the next division, 'cos they're almost guaranteed that promotion. Wrong ? Look at our play-off lists below to find out.

We've ranked the play-off places from 1 to 4, with the team finishing in the highest place given a 1st ranking, the next play-off place given a 2nd ranking etc. Back in 1986-87 and 1987-88 the team finishing outside of the relegation zone had to meet the 3rd ranked play-off team in the divison below, the 1st and 2nd ranked play-off teams also met, with the winners then meeting home and away to see who would go up, or stay up. In our list we have given the single team in the divison above a 1st ranking, as they played the bottom ranked side. The only team to manage to stay up in these 2 seasons were Charlton Athletic, who beat Leeds 2:1 in an additional play-off game after the first 2 matches had finished 1:0 to each home team.


The Championship Play-offs
logo Whilst that popular pub story may claim that "only 1 team finishing 3rd in the Championship has ever gone on to win the play-offs", the stats actually tell us that's a load of old tosh. The Championship play-off rankings play ball with the number of wins. However, it's worth noting that the 1st ranked team has only won promotion 4 times in the last 15 years.


Play-off Rank Number of Wins
1st 11
3rd 6
2nd 5
4th 5


Season Play-off Winner Rank Runner-up Rank Score
2011-12 West Ham Utd (1st) Blackpool (3rd) 2:1
2010-11 Swansea City (1st) Reading (3rd) 4:2
2009-10 Blackpool (4th) Cardiff City (2nd) 3:2
2008-09 Burnley (3rd) Sheffield Utd (1st) 1:0
2007-08 Hull City (1st) Bristol City (2nd) 1:0
2006-07 Derby County (1st) West Brom (2nd) 1:0
2005-06 Watford (1st) Leeds Utd (3rd) 3:0
2004-05 West Ham (4th) Preston NE (3rd) 1:0
2003-04 Crystal Palace (4th) West Ham (2nd) 1:0
2002-03 Wolves (3rd) Sheffield Utd (1st) 3:0
2001-02 Birmingham City (3rd) Norwich City (4th) 1:1 (4:3 pens)
2000-01 Bolton (1st) Preston NE (2nd) 3:0
1999-00 Ipswich (1st) Barnsley (2nd) 4:2
1998-99 Watford (3rd) Bolton (4th) 2:0
1997-98 Charlton (2nd) Sunderland (1st) 4:4 (7:6 pens)
1996-97 Crystal Palace (4th) Sheffield Utd (3rd) 1:0
1995-96 Leicester City (3rd) Crystal Palace (1st) 2:1
1994-95 Bolton Wanderers (2nd) Reading (1st) 4:3
1993-94 Leicester City (2nd) Derby County (4th) 2:1
1992-93 Swindon Town (3rd) Leicester City (4th) 4:3
1991-92 Blackburn Rovers (4th) Leicester City (2nd) 1:0
1990-91 Notts County (1st) Brighton HA (3rd) 3:1
1989-90 Swindon Town (2nd) Sunderland (4th) 1:0 See Note
1988-89 Crystal Palace (1st) Blackburn Rovers (2nd) 4:3 agg (1:3 and 3:0)
1987-88 Middlesbrough (2nd) Chelsea (1st) 2:1 agg (2:0 and 0:1)
1986-87 Charlton Athletic (1st) Leeds (3rd) 2:1 extra game (1:0 and 0:1)

Notes:
In 1989-90 Swindon Town won the play-offs but Sunderland were awarded promotion after Swindon were found guilty of making ollegal payments to players.



The League 1 Play-offs
logo Not the league to finish in the highest play-off place. If you want to spout out the old line "it's better to finish in the final play-off spot, they always go up", then the League 1 is the division to be talking about. Before Blackpool went up in 2006-07 you had to go right back to Gillingham beating Wigan for the last top ranked play-off team to go up.


Play-off Rank Number of Wins
1st 8
4th 7
2nd 7
3rd 3


Season Play-off Winner Rank Runner-up Rank Score
2010-11 Peterborough Utd (2nd) Huddersfield Town (1st) 3:0
2009-10 Millwall (1st) Swindon Town (3rd) 3:2
2008-09 Scunthorpe Utd (4th) Millwall (3rd) 3:2
2007-08 Doncaster Rovers (1st) Leeds Utd (3rd) 1:0
2006-07 Blackpool (1st) Yeovil Town (3rd) 2:0
2005-06 Barnsley (3rd) Swansea City (4th) 2:2 (4:3 pens)
2004-05 Sheff Wed (3rd) Hartlepool (4th) 4:2
2003-04 Brighton HA (2nd) Bristol City (1st) 1:0
2002-03 Cardiff City (4th) QPR (2nd) 1:0
2001-02 Stoke City (3rd) Brentford (1st) 2:0
2000-01 Walsall (2nd) Reading (1st) 3:2
1999-00 Gillingham (1st) Wigan Athletic (2nd) 3:2
1998-99 Man City (1st) Gillingham (2nd) 2:2 (3:1 pens)
1997-98 Grimsby Town (1st) Northampton Town (2nd) 1:0
1996-97 Crewe (4th) Brentford (2nd) 1:0
1995-96 Bradford City (4th) Notts County (3rd) 2:0
1994-95 Huddersfield (4th) Bristol Rovers (3rd) 2:1
1993-94 Burnley (4th) Stockport County (2nd) 2:1
1992-93 West Brom (2nd) Port Vale (1st) 3:0
1991-92 Peterborough (4th) Stockport County (3rd) 2:1
1990-91 Tranmere Rovers (2nd) Bolton (1st) 1:0
1989-90 Notts County (1st) Tranmere Rovers (2nd) 2:0
1988-89 Port Vale (1st) Bristol Rovers (3rd) 2:1 agg (1:1 and 1:0)
1987-88 Walsall (2nd) Bristol City (4th) 4:0 extra game (3:1 and 0:2)
1986-87 Swindon Town (2nd) Gillingham (4th) 2:0 extra game (0:1 and 2:1)




The League 2 Play-offs
logo The play-off situation in League 2 is pretty simple... dont worry if you just miss out on that automatic promotion, as long as you're next in line you're almost certainly going up. Indeed, in the 90's it was almost guaranteed, with only 2 occasions when the top ranked team narrowly failed.

Play-off Rank Number of Wins
1st 13
3rd 5
4th 5
2nd 2


Season Play-off Winner Rank Runner-up Rank Score
2010-11 Stevenage (3rd) Torquay Utd (4th) 1:0
2009-10 Dagenham and Redbridge (4th) Rotherham Utd (2nd) 3:2
2008-09 Gillingham (2nd) Shrewsbury Town (4th) 1:0
2007-08 Stockport County (1st) Rochdale (2nd) 3:2
2006-07 Bristol Rovers (3rd) Shrewsbury Town (4th) 3:1
2005-06 Cheltenham (4th) Grimsby Town (3rd) 1:0
2004-05 Southend (1st) Lincoln (3rd) 2:0
2003-04 Huddersfield (1st) Mansfield (2nd) 0:0 (4:1 pens)
2002-03 Bournemouth (1st) Lincoln City (3rd) 5:2
2001-02 Cheltenham Town (1st) Rushden & Diamonds (3rd) 3:1
2000-01 Blackpool (4th) Leyton Orient (2nd) 4:2
1999-00 Peterborough (2nd) Darlington (1st) 1:0
1998-99 Scunthorpe Utd (1st) Leyton Orient (3rd) 1:0
1997-98 Colchester Utd (1st) Torquay Utd (2nd) 1:0
1996-97 Northampton Town (1st) Swansea City (2nd) 1:0
1995-96 Plymouth Argyle (1st) Darlington (2nd) 1:0
1994-95 Chesterfield (1st) Bury (2nd) 2:0
1993-94 Wycombe Wanderers (1st) Preston NE (2nd) 4:2
1992-93 York City (1st) Crewe Alexandra (3rd) 1:1 (5:3 pens)
1991-92 Blackpool (1st) Scunthorpe Utd (2nd) 1:1 (4:3 pens)
1990-91 Torquay Utd (3rd) Blackpool (1st) 2:2 (5:4 pens)
1989-90 Cambridge Utd (3rd) Chesterfield (4th) 1:0
1988-89 Leyton Orient (3rd) Wrexham (4th) 2:1 agg (0:0 and 2:1)
1987-88 Swansea City (4th) Torquay United (3rd) 5:4 agg (2:1 and 3:3)
1986-87 Aldershot (4th) Wolves (2nd) 3:0 agg (2:0 and 1:0)




The Play-off Kings (Number of Finals Won)
With 3 play-off victories taking them up into the Premiership (1988-89, 1996-97, 2003-04) Palace can lay claim to be the play-off kings. However, they did lose once, to Leicester City in 1995-96.

Success against Yeovil in 2006-07 means that Blackpool also claim a similar record, with 3 play-off victories and one defeat.

Swindon Town can also lay claim to the title, having also won 3 play-offs and having a 100% record in the finals. However, one of their victories was in the 3rd tier, and another, the 1989-90 victory over Sunderland was later soured after they were found guilty of making illegal payments to players.

4 Wins Blackpool
 
3 Wins
Crystal Palace
Peterborough Utd
Swindon Town
 
2 Wins Bolton
Burnley
Charlton
Cheltenham Town
Gillingham
Huddersfield Town
Leicester City
Notts County
Scunthorpe Utd
Swansea City
Walsall
Watford
West Ham Utd
 
1 Win Aldershot
Barnsley
Birmingham City
Blackburn Rovers
Bournemouth
Bradford City
Brighton HA
Bristol Rovers
Cambridge Utd
Cardiff City
Chesterfield
Colchester Utd
Crewe
Dagenham and Redbridge
Derby County
Doncaster Rovers
Grimsby Town
Hull City
Ipswich
Leyton Orient
Man City
Millwall
Middlesbrough
Northampton Town
Plymouth Argyle
Port Vale
Sheffield Wednesday
Southend
Stockport County
Stevenage
Stoke City
Torquay Utd
Tranmere Rovers
West Brom
Wolves
Wycombe Wanderers
York City




The Play-off Bottlers (Number of Finals Lost)
Poor old Preston, 3 play-off finals and 3 defeats. No wonder their fans didn't seem too disappointed when they just missed out on the play-offs in 2007, saving themselves weeks of torture.

3 Defeats Preston NE
Bristol City
Leeds Utd
Reading
Sheffield Utd
Torquay Utd
 
2 Defeats Bolton
Blackpool
Brentford
Bristol Rovers
Darlington
Gillingham
Leicester City
Leyton Orient
Lincoln City
Shrewsbury
Stockport County
Sunderland
Swansea City
 
1 Defeat Barnsley
Blackburn Rovers
Brighton HA
Bury
Cardiff City
Chelsea
Chesterfield
Crewe Alexandra
Crystal Palace
Derby County
Grimsby Town
Hartlepool
Huddersfield Town
Mansfield
Millwall
Northampton Town
Norwich City
Notts County
Port Vale
QPR
Rotherham Utd
Rushden & Diamonds
Scunthorpe Utd
Swindon Town
Tranmere Rovers
West Brom
West Ham
Wigan Athletic
Wolves
Wrexham
Yeovil




The Play-off Experts (Most Finals Played In)
Blackpool's success in 2006-07 means they join Bolton, Leicester and Palace in sharing this one.

6 Finals Blackpool
 
4 Finals
Bolton
Crystal Palace
Gillingham
Leicester City
Swansea City
Swindon Town
Torquay Utd
 
3 Finals Bristol Rovers
Bristol City
Huddersfield Town
Leeds Utd
Leyton Orient
Notts County
Peterborough Utd
Preston NE
Reading
Scunthorpe Utd
Sheffield Utd
Stockport County
West Ham Utd
 
2 Finals Barnsley
Blackburn Rovers
Brentford
Brighton HA
Burnley
Cardiff City
Charlton
Cheltenham Town
Chesterfield
Crewe Alexandra
Darlington
Derby County
Grimsby Town
Lincoln City
Millwall
Northampton Town
Port Vale
Shrewsbury
Sunderland
Tranmere Rovers
Walsall
Watford
West Brom
Wolves
 
1 Final Aldershot
Birmingham City
Bournemouth
Bradford City
Bury
Cambridge Utd
Chelsea
Colchester Utd
Dagenham and Redbridge
Doncaster Rovers
Hartlepool
Hull City
Ipswich
Man City
Mansfield
Middlesbrough
Norwich City
Plymouth Argyle
QPR
Rochdale
Rotherham Utd
Rushden & Diamonds
Sheffield Wednesday
Southend
Stevenage
Stoke City
Wigan Athletic
Wrexham
Wycombe Wanderers
York City
Yeovil




Teams who have yet to experience 'Play-off Final Hell'
There are still 22 sets of fans out there who are untouched by the sheer misery/joy of the play-off final experience. For some of these their time will come. For others, like the fans of Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool, you will never understand the sheer desperation of these games. You think an FA Cup or Champions League final is nerve-racking ? You know nothing.

1 Accrington Stanley
2 Arsenal
3 Aston Villa
4 Barnet
5 Boston Utd
6 Carlisle
7 Chester
8 Coventry
10 Fulham
11 Hereford
13 Liverpool
14 Luton
15 Macclesfield
16 Man Utd
18 MK Dons
19 Newcastle
20 Nottm Forest
21 Oldham
22 Portsmouth
25 Southampton
26 Tottenham
27 Wimbledon