A half-century wait for SPAL has ended

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One of the 2016-17 season promotion stories comes from Italy,from the region of Emilia-Romagna.Besides the region is represented in the Serie A with Bologna and Sassuolo,next season it will be richer for another club,a blast from the past from the 1960s-SPAL.It is a historical promotion for the club from Ferrara which last time played in the the Serie A in the 1967-68 season and for nearly a half-century was in the football wilderness.The story of the Biancazzurri starts in 1907 when salesian priest Pietro Acerbis founded the club as Societa Polisportiva Ars et Labor with the football section founded in 1913 and until the end of WWII,the Biancazzurri were spending their existence in lower divisions of Italian football.But in 1946 Paolo Mazza came back to the club who in the 1936-37 season coached the Biancazzurri,this time as the role as a chiarman and with him began the rise of SPAL in the Serie A.In 1951 under coach Antonio Janni,the Biancazzurri were promoted to the Serie A for the first time and from that point began the era of the Biancazzurri in the Serie A where they will stay for 13 years until 1964 when they were relegated to the Serie B.During the 1950s and 1960s the Biancazzurri produced some of the most famous names of Italian fooball which some of them became also became some of Italy’s famous coaching names from Luigi Delneri (who currently is the coach of Udinese),Edoardo Reja(who coached clubs like Napoli,Lazio and Atalanta) and most notably Fabio Capello who began his playing career in the Biancazzurri before he swtiched to Roma and also played for Juventus and Milan,while as a coach he won trophies and titles with Milan,Juventus and Real Madrid.Thanks to its youth academy SPAL went to preserve its Serie A status,but was forced to sell its best players to bigger clubs like Armando Picchi who switched to Hellenio Herrera’s Inter and Saul Malatrasi who played for both Milan clubs.In the 1959-60 season the Biancazzurri made their highest finish in the Serie A where they clinched the 5th place which to date that is their best result ever in the Serie A,while in 1962 they made it to the final of the Coppa Italia which they lost to Napoli and it all came an end in 1964 when the Biancazzurri were relegated to the Serie B after 13 of presence in the Serie A,but climbed to the Serie A again in the following season and stayed there until 1968 when on the last matchday Juventus midfielder Gianfranco Zigoni scored the fateful goal which sent the Biancazzurri to the Serie B and to a journey through a football wilderness which will last for the next half-century and with the club’s youth academy no longer producing good players which would sold to bigger clubs,finances also began to dry up,the situation began to turn from bad to worse in 1981 when Paolo Mazza died and the club when from crisis to crisis with no end in sight,with the club twice refounded in the last decade the last time just four years ago when the club began to play in the Serie D besides current Juventus coach Massimilliano Allegri began his coaching career 13 years ago.But the rise of Biancazzurri which started four years ago in the Serie D,culminated this year in a historical promotion which no one couldn’t imagine.With the Colombarini family owning the club and making wise investments together with the hiring of Leonardo Semplici which was hired to the bench in December 2014 he has led the club to back-to-back promotions,for the club happy days were back again.Their start of the promotion to the Serie A this season wasn’t good since they won one of their first six matches,but from the beginning of November the Biancazzurri lost only four matches and ended in 1st place of the Serie B with 78 points,four points more than 2nd placed Hellas Verona.Truly a well deserving return of the Biancazzurri from Ferrara which after wandering half-century through the football wilderness and two bankrupcies in the last decade they made it back to the Serie A which brought back the golden era of the 1960s of Italian football and gave us another beautiful underdog story of the season and hopefully they will stay in the Serie A for a period of time.

The Terriers are in dreamland

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One of the stories of the 2016-17 season is the promotion of Huddersfield Town into the Premier League.The Terriers won the EFL Championship promotion playoff against Reading on penalties and for the first time in 47 years the Terriers are going to play in the highest division of English football.Located in West Yorkshire just 32 kilometers from Leeds,Huddersfield is a market town known for its textile industry,when it came to sports it is a town known for the rugby league club Huddersfield Giants which plays in the Rugby Super League,but also for its football club,Huddesfield Town known as the Terriers which were founded in 1908 and in 1911 became a member of the Football League,however the Terriers were in deep debt which would had forced them to move to Leeds which was avoided thanks to the fans which have paid off the club’s debts.And then after a tough first decade of existence came the golden 1920s for the Terriers which they established themselves as a force in English football and for that was responsible one of the greatest English managers of all time-Herbert Chapman.Thanks to him,in 1920 the Terriers reached the FA Cup final where they were defeated by Aston Villa by a single goal and the same year they won promotion the the First Division.In the following 1921-22 season the Terriers reached the FA Cup final where they beat Preston North End by a single goal scored by Billy Smith besides that the Terriers were battling relegation and evenutally finished 14th,but with new signings signed by Chapman the Terriers finished 3rd in the following season and then came their biggest achievements where they won three straight Football League titles (1924,1925,1926),a feat accomplished only by Arsenal (the club Chapman managed after the Terriers where he made his name),Liverpool and Manchester United.After WWII the club was in a state of decline when in 1952 lost its First Division status,besides that the club was the springboard of careers of Denis Law and Billy Shankly it was in a state of bouncing between the First and Second Division,but in 1970 they played the last time in the First Division and from that moment they began a 47 year journey into the football wilderness which ended this season.The Terriers road to return began in 2008 when Dean Hoyle bought the club and made investments to get the Terriers to the Premier League and three years later under Lee Clark they broke Nottingham Forest’s record of 43 unbeaten matches besides they lost the 2011 EFL League One playoff final against Peterborugh,however in the next season they made it to the EFL Championship when they beat 8-7 in penalty shootouts Sheffield United under Simon Grayson.In the last years in the EFL Championship the Terriers spent at the bottom of the table fighting relegation until the hiring of David Wagner two years ago,who was for four years the manager of the reserve team of Borussia Dortmund.Nobody at the beginning of this season would ever predict the fantastic rise and the promotion of the Terriers which made it to the Premier League after 47 years of waiting since the last time they played in the First Division.The Terriers journey into the Premier League began with a 2-1 victory over Brentford at their home ground in the first match of the season,but after a dry autumn,came a two month run which lasted from mid December to mid February where they 36 out of 45 points and made them a promoton favorite,after that in the spring they tried to chase Newcastle United for the second automatic promotion spot which they failed and eventually they ran out of steam at the end of the regular season where they finished at 5th place with 81 points.Nevertheless their underdog status among the playoff favorites like Sheffield Wednesday,Reading and Fulham who were all familiar Premier League names,but in the end the Terriers made it through two consecutive penalty shootouts to the Premier League,a historical achievement for a club which was a three time champion of England under a legendary manager and was forgotten for a very long time.But next season at Kirklees Stadium the Premier League will be played and the Terriers will count on their underdog status to live the Premier League dream.

The overachievers of the 2016-17 season

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The 2016-17 wasn’t without surprise clubs which achieved their highest positions in their histories or historical promotions of clubs which were forgotten,since there was no underdog title winner like Leicester City which was last season,nevertheless underdog clubs played a huge role this season.So here are the overachievers of the 2016-17 season.

1.Atalanta BC

The most biggest surprise of the 2016-17 season comes from Italy.The queen of the provincial clubs which is Atalanta had a historical season.A season ago they were in the middle of the table,this season they made their biggest achievement by finishing 4th in the Serie A with a record of 72 points which is their best Serie A result ever and returned to European competition for the first time in 26 years when the last time they played in Europe.Gian Piero Gasperini’s men had a tough schedule in the end by playing with Roma,Juventus and AC Milan but they overcame it and wrote history and next season at the Atleti Azzurri D’Italia in Bergamo,the UEFA Europe League will come.

2.Brighton & Hove Albion

For years Brighton & Hove Albion was a promotion candidate to the Premier League,in the 2015-16 season they missed an automatic promotion place at the final day of the season,but this season the Seagulls made history and returned for the first time in 34 years when they were in the former First Division.Years of determination and hard work have finally paid off for the Seagulls which just two decades ago were near oblivion when they almost were relegated to the Conference League.The English South Coast will be richer for one more club in the Premier League and the rivalry with Crystal Palace will be rekindled after years of disappearance,so expect a real derby atmosphere when Palace and the Seagulls play in the Premier League next season.

3.OGC Nice

This season was one of the most contested in Ligue 1 where three clubs were running for the Ligue 1 title and one of those was Nice.The club from the French Riviera took an early lead in the title race but thanks to a number of draws they slumped into third,but eventually they were the once that decided that the title would go to Monaco since they defeated PSG 3-1 on matchday 35 and gave Monaco their first title in 19 years.However the red-blacks also enjoyed resurgence thanks to Mario Balotelli and former Borussia Monchengladbach coach Lucien Favre on the bench.The red-blacks finished 3rd with 78 points.Nice has become a force to be reckoned with in French football and with a new stadium and financially stable owners expect them in the following years to be a title challenger in Ligue 1.

4.TSG Hoffenheim

For years Hoffenheim has been a decent Bundesliga side,this season they took a step further.Thanks to the aquisitions of former Rijeka and Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric and former Darmstadt striker Sandro Wagner together with the future of German coaching Julian Nagelsmann who is the youngest Budesliga coach at only 29 years old,the Kreisgauer finished 4th with 62 points which is their best ever Bundesliga finish since they were promoted in 2008 and qualifications for the UEFA Champions League are in play for the next season.Their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga lasted for five long months from the beginning of the season in mid-August to mid-January,nevertheless a well deserved and surprising table finish for the Kreisgauer which will hopefully see the highest division of European club football.

5.Crotone FC

The great escape of 2017 comes from Italy and it comes from the club which last season was promoted to the Serie A.The Sharks from Calabria,Crotone have pulled the great escape from relegation this season and the fairytale of the small club from Southern Italy will continue in the Serie A for another season.For much of the season Crotone was deep in the relegation zone and chased Empoli which were in the safe place besides the Azzurri had an advantage of 11 points over the Sharks in the last two months of the Serie A campaign.Starting in early april began the great escape for the Sharks which they just lost on matchday 37 against Juventus,but collected 20 out of possible 27 points which included a huge 2-1 victory over Inter in matchday 31.Combined with Empoli’s loss against Palermo and the Sharks huge win over Lazio at home,the Sharks pulled the great escape of 2017 and their fairytale in the Serie A will continue next season.

6.SPAL

A historical promotion which ended 50 years of waiting for SPAL was achieved this season,but no one gave them chances before the Serie B season started.The last time SPAL played in the Serie A was in 1968 and after their relegation that year began a 50 year journey through the football wilderness,two bankrupcies in the last decade and just four years ago they were in the Serie D,the fourth division.Four years later the Biancazzurri made history under Leonardo Semplici who led them to two consecutive promotions and ended a 50 year journey in the football wilderness where they will join their more famous neighbors in Emilia-Romagna Sassuolo and Bologna in the Serie A next season.

7.Lincoln City

The biggest sensation of the FA Cup this season comes from Lincolnshire and involves Lincoln City which have made it to the match beyond when it came to non-league clubs.For the first time since 1914 a non-league club made it to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and that were the Imps.They knocked out Guinsley,Altrincham,Ipswich Town,Brighton & Hove Albion and sensationally Burnley in 5th round to make to the quarterfinals against Arsenal besides they lost the match 5-0,neverthless Danny Cowley’s men made history and to complete their fantastic season they were promoted back to the EFL League Two where they would play next season.

8.Huddersfield Town

A former and forgotten champion of England wandered in the football wilderness for so long that everyone forgot them.But after 47 years of waiting,the Terriers made it to the highest division of English football.A historical promotion since the Terriers weren’t close in the last seasons and they could only dream what other clubs have done,but the hiring of David Wagner and the determination of the Hoyle family has paid off and the most unlikeliest of all clubs who made it to the playoffs this EFL Championship season made it to the Premier League.During the regular season the Terriers have finished 5th with 81 points which was a huge improvement unlike the earlier seasons where they were on the bottom side of the EFL Championship table,but very few gave them chances to go all the way in the promotion playoffs,it took two penalty shootouts against promotion favorites Sheffield Wednesday and Reading to make it to the promised land of the Premier League where the Terriers will play.

The top flops of the 2016-17 season

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The 2016-17 season gave has many overarchievers but also flops where once big clubs have found themselves struggling and achieving table places way below their glory days.So here are the top flops of the 2016-17 season

1.Arsenal FC

Besides the blue part of West London is celebrating Chelsea’s title win,there is very little joy in North London,especially in the red part.For the first time in almost two decades Arsenal will not play in the UEFA Champions League next season and there was no St.Tottingham’s Day like in the previous years for Gunners fans.The Gunners finished 5th in the Premier League which is their first finish outside the Top 4 in two decades and besides the victory in the FA Cup final on Saturday against Chelsea it overshadows the embarassing losses against Watford and Crystal Palace during the Premier League campaign.The is a lot of uncertanity surrounding the Emirates as we are heading into the summer,especially around Wenger since there are talks of his departure and of a hiring of a new name to take over the bench of the Gunners and the current squad where there are rumors that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil might leave the Gunners,but once thing is for sure at the Emirates a new approach is needed.

2.Inter Milan

It was seven years ago that Inter won the UEFA Champions League and six years ago that Inter won its last trophy the Coppa Italia,this season was a failure for the black and blue part of Milan.After the firing of Roberto Mancini by the new owners in the preseason,Frank de Boer which was hired only lasted three months before he was fired and Stefano Pioli was hired on the bench which led to a period of stability during the winter,but in the spring the nightmare began again for the nerazzurri where for two long months they couldn’t win a single match and the morale of the team went down again like in the autumn part of the season,it ended two matchdays ago against Lazio when the nerazzurri won 3-1 and ended an ugly unwinning streak where out of 24 points they managed to grab only 2 besides with a squad which can easily compete for European places,there will be no Europe for the nerazzurri next season as they approach a summer break full of questions and few answers.

3.VFL Wolfsburg

It was eight years ago that VFL Wolfsburg with Felix Magath on the bench and with Edin Džeko and Grafite in the attack that they cruised to the maiden Bundesliga title and two seasons ago the Wolves won the DFB Pokal and finished 2nd in the Bundesliga,however financial problems at VW had caught up the Wolves and they were forced to sell the likes of Kevin de Bruyne to bigger clubs,this season has been one of the worst for the Wolves and they are contesting a relegation playoff match against their local rivals Eintracht Braunschweig where in the first match Volkswagen Arean they barely won by a single goal,the destiny of the Wolves will be decided tonight in the return leg at the Eintracht-Stadion in Braunschweig,but one thing is for sure changes will be needed this summer at the Volkswagen Arena.

4.Valencia CF

In the 2000s Valencia was on the top of Spanish football and they won the La Liga and the UEFA Cup in 2004 and made 2 UEFA Champions League final appearances in 2000 and 2001,however those days are gone and seems like a forgotten past,the last two seasons have been particulary cruel for the Bats since they finished only 12th which was the same as last season,the Bats collected a mere 46 points compared to last season’s 44.Owner Peter Lim sees the club as a money making machine and for personal profit,he has no vision for the club now nor for the future and there is a reason why the club is struggling the last two seasons.The coming of Marcelino Garcia Toral on the bench for next season together with a couple of aquisitions might pull the club back to higher places next season.