The most-often spoken goal for Leeds United in 2016 was the top ten, with faint dreams of play-off pushes sneaking into our heads whenever our team made a run. Instead, we finished 13th, and we hear promises (again) that "next year is the year" from our embattled owner.
Cellino: "After all the things the fans have said about me, now they will start to understand. Next year, we'll play football." #lufclive— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) May 26, 2016
For two Yorkshire teams however, this year is the year. This year, they're playing football. And this year, there might be £170 million on the line, as the Premier League TV money just... keeps... flowing.
Hull City enters the match at Wembley trying to return to the Premier League after dropping down to the Championship just last summer. The Tigers finished in 4th place with 83 points despite losing to Leeds in December 2-1, and drawing with us in April by the score of 2-2 in what really felt like a win. They vanquished Derby County in the semi-final by an aggregate win of 3-2 (after scoring 3 in the opener on the road) and now look to join Burnley and Boro in the top division next season.
Sheffield Wednesday, the other lucky Yorkshire team in the final tomorrow, finished in 6th place this season with 74 points, 15 clear of Leeds. The Owls topped us (with the help of a ref mistake or three) in the January derby 2-0 and left Elland Road with a single point back in August in a 1-1 draw. They surprised everyone by topping Brighton last week with an aggregate 3-1 win, and they look to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2000.
Leeds fans won't like either of these teams, but the animosity for Sheffield Wednesday runs deep at Elland Road, so I'd assume our fanbase will likely side with the Tigers in this match. On the pitch, Hull is the better of the two squads despite our better performance against them in 2015/16, so I'll assume they will be the victors today. 6th place teams rarely make the run to the Premier League in the playoffs, with Blackpool the most recent. But if Wednesday can play as they did against Brighton, Hull will be in trouble. I'll still predict a 3-1 win for Hull at Wembley.
Players to watch:
For Sheffield Wednesday, Fernando Forestieri has 15 goals this season and after helping Watford up to the Premier League last season, his experience and goal-scoring prowess could come in handy today. You can also watch Tom Lees in the back, Leeds fans.
For Hull City, the goalkeeper position is the one to watch. Allan McGregor is still doubtful for the game today, and if he can't play, backup Eldin Jakupovic will be in net for the Tigers in the biggest game of their season. And of course, for Leeds, Robert Snodgrass.
Hull City v Sheffield Wednesday
Football League Championship Play-off Final
Sky Sports 1, BBC Radio 5
Saturday, May 28, 2016
9:00a PT / 12:00p ET / 5:00p BT
Jakupovic, Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson, Huddlestone, Livermore, Elmohamady, Snodgrass, Diame, Hernandez
Subs: Kuciak, Bruce, Maguire, Meyler, Maloney, Clucas, Akpom
Westwood, Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil, Wallace, Lee, Hutchinson, Bannan, Forestieri, Hooper
Subs: Wildsmith, Matias, Nuhiu, Helan, Joao, Lopez, Sasso
Hull City 8/13
Sheffield Wednesday 5/4
Enjoy the last match of the 2015/16 season, Leeds fans, and look forward to rubbing it in the loser's face in 2016/17. (We're winning the Championship next year, right Cellino?) Thanks for reading this season, looking forward to Aston Villa, N*rwich, and Newcastle United in August.