2007 Football League Championship play-off Final
|Date||28 May 2007|
|Venue||Wembley Stadium, London|
|Man of the Match||Matt Oakley|
The 2007 Football League Championship play-off Final, also known as the 2007 Coca-Cola Championship play-off Final due to sponsorship from Coca-Cola, was a football match played at Wembley Stadium on 28 May 2007, at the end of the 2006–07 season. It was the third Championship play-off final since the Football League's 2004 rebranding, the 21st play-off final in all at the second level of English football and the first of these matches to take place at the rebuilt Wembley. The match determined the third and final team to gain promotion from the Championship to the Premier League, and was contested by Derby County, who had finished third during the league season, and West Bromwich Albion, who had finished fourth. The teams reached the final by defeating Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively in the two-legged semi-finals.
Stephen Pearson scored the only goal of the final to ensure that Derby County returned to the top division of English football after a five-year absence.
Route to the final
|4.||West Bromwich Albion||46||22||10||14||81||55||76|
|Pos=Position P=Games played W=Wins D=Draws
L=Losses F=Goals for A=Goals against Pts=Points
Derby County finished the season in third place in the Championship, four points behind champions Sunderland and two points behind runners-up Birmingham City. With new ownership, Derby had been able to compete in the transfer market for the first time in a number of years, with Luton Town's Steve Howard becoming the club's first £1 million singing since François Grenet six years previously and, alongside captures from Premiership club's such as West Ham United's Stephen Bywater and Fulham defender Dean Leacock, Davies began shaping a side capable of competing at the right end of the table. This wasn't apparent from the off, however, and a return of just 5 points from the club's opening 6 fixtures did not hint at instant success for Davies, leaving influential and creative players such as Tommy Smith and Iñigo Idiakez to depart the club prior to the closing of the August transfer window. However, a Steve Howard header in a 1–0 win at Wolves on 12 September 2006 proved a catalyst as the club lost only 4 of its next 27 fixtures (a run which included winning all 6 league fixtures in November 2006 and an 8 match winning streak, 6 league and 2 FA Cup, from 30 December 2006 up until 10 February 2007). After a 2–2 draw at home to Hull City on 10 February 2007, Derby were 7 points clear at the top of the table and had strengthened for the promotion run in with the signing of Tyrone Mears, Jay McEveley, Gary Teale, David Jones, Craig Fagan, Stephen Pearson and Jon Macken for a combined £5 million. However, a 0–2 defeat away to Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup Fifth Round preceded a notable wobble in results and the club recorded a return of just 6 points from the next 5 games, conceding top spot to Birmingham City after a 0–1 defeat at St. Andrews on 9 March 2007. A resounding 5–1 win against Colchester United (by far the biggest win of a campaign which saw victory by a two-goal or above margin on just 6 occasions) looked to have put the club back on track but after taking just 12 points from the next 10 fixtures, the club slipped out of the automatic promotion places altogether and a 0–2 defeat at Crystal Palace in the penultimate game of the season confirmed a 3rd placed finish and entry into the 2006–07 Championship playoffs.
West Bromwich Albion were a permanent fixture in the top six from late December onwards and led the division briefly in February, but a run of four defeats in five games at home saw them fall out of contention for automatic promotion. They secured their play-off place with a 7–0 home win against Barnsley on the final day of the league season, finishing fourth in the process. This was one place above Wolverhampton Wanderers, by virtue of a superior goal difference, but eight points behind Derby. Albion scored 81 league goals during the campaign, the highest tally of any team in the Football League in 2006–07.
In the play-off semi-finals, Derby beat sixth-placed Southampton 2–1 away in the first leg, but lost the second leg at home 3–2. With the aggregate scores level after 180 minutes of play, and no further goals in extra time, the tie went to a penalty shootout. Former Derby player Iñigo Idiakez missed Southampton's fifth penalty to send Derby into the final.
Albion meanwhile faced local rivals and fifth-placed team Wolverhampton Wanderers, winning the first leg 3–2, and the second 1–0 to progress 4–2 on aggregate. The second leg was the fifth meeting between the two sides during 2006–07, setting a new record for the most times that the Black Country derby has been contested in a single campaign, while Albion's four wins against their rivals was also a season record for matches between the two.
|Derby County||Round||West Bromwich Albion|
|Southampton||4–4 (4–3 pens)||2–1 away; 2–3 home||Wolverhampton Wanderers||4–2||3–2 away; 1–0 home|
The two teams were competing for promotion to the Premier League, the top division of the English football league system. Both clubs had been founder members of the Football League in 1888 and had spent the majority of their respective histories competing in English football's top division. During the 2006–07 league season, each club had recorded a home win against the other, Derby beating Albion 2–1 at Pride Park in early November and Albion winning 1–0 at The Hawthorns a month later.
The match was the first Championship play-off final to be held at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium. Both clubs were competing at the rebuilt Wembley for the first time, though Derby County had played at the original Wembley Stadium four times and West Bromwich Albion seven times. The attendance of 74,993 was significantly higher than the 64,736 registered at the 2006 final, yet still far short of Wembley's 90,000 capacity. Football League chairman, Lord Brian Mawhinney, commented that "We could have sold the tickets but Wembley weren't able to, didn't want to, couldn't allow us to sell the tickets." Wembley Stadium however, said that empty Club Wembley seats could have been re-sold, but that they were unable to reach an agreement with the Football League on the matter. Both clubs received a ticket allocation of around 33,500, which was insufficient to meet the demands of supporters. Prior to kick-off, the United Kingdom's national anthem, "God Save the Queen", was sung by Garðar Thór Cortes.
Derby County manager Billy Davies said that his players "showed great courage" and added that winning promotion was "a dream come true". Davies emphasised the importance of scoring the first goal and pointed out how organised and well-prepared his side had been. Tony Mowbray, the manager of West Bromwich Albion, believed that his team were the better side in a tight game, but said that "you don't always get what you deserve."
The final was regarded as the most financially lucrative single match in world club football according to accounting firm Deloitte, who estimated that Derby's promotion would earn them in the region of £60 million. A prior agreement between the chairmen of the two clubs, Peter Gadsby and Jeremy Peace, meant that as losers, West Bromwich Albion took the entire £3 million in gate receipts from the final. The day after the game, thousands of Derby County supporters lined the streets of the city as the club's staff and players took part in an open top bus tour.
Upon their return to the top division, Derby County recorded the lowest points total since the Premier League began, thus were relegated back to the Championship. Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion won the Championship title in 2007–08 to achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League, though they were also relegated after a single season.
|Derby County||1–0||West Bromwich Albion|
|Shots on target||4||7|
- 2007 Football League One play-off Final
- 2007 Football League Two play-off Final
- 2007 Conference National play-off Final
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