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EFL Play-Off Final heartbreak: Catalyst or Curse?

19 July 2017

Three days at Wembley back in May ended in jubilation and promotion for three teams, but how much of a bitter pill to swallow is defeat, and how can it affect a team?

This year the EFL celebrated 10 years of finals at the new Wembley Stadium, so we've had a look at the last 10 Play-Off Final runners-up to see how they fared the following year.

Sky Bet Championship

Reading were defeated by Huddersfield Town after extra-time and penalties at this year's Wembley showpiece. The good news for the Royals faithful is that the last time their side tasted defeat in the Play-Off Final, they went on to gain promotion as champions in the following season.

Another stat to note is that the beaten side in the Championship Play-Off Final has never been relegated in the following campaign.

Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday achieved another play-off finish once again, but failed to reach the final. The lowest finish is Blackpool's – they were defeated at Wembley by West Ham in 2012 and went on to finish 15th the next season.

Year Play-Off Final winner Runner-up Following season finish
2007 Derby County West Bromwich Albion 1st - Promoted
2008 Hull City Bristol City 10th
2009 Burnley Sheffield United 8th
2010 Blackpool Cardiff City 4th - Play-Off Semi-Final
2011 Swansea City Reading 1st - Promoted
2012 West Ham United Blackpool 15th
2013 Crystal Palace Watford 13th
2014 QPR Derby County 8th
2015 Norwich City Middlesbrough 2nd - Promoted
2016 Hull City Sheffield Wednesday 4th - Play-Off Semi-Final
2017 Huddersfield Town Reading  

Average league position following Championship Play-Off Final defeat: 7th

Sky Bet League One

Life following Play-Off Final defeat in League One has proved a real mixed bag. In the last 10 years, we've had: one automatic promotion, three play-off winners, two play-off semi-final defeats, and two relegations.

Millwall were this year's Wembley winners, but that came as a result of an agonising defeat to Barnsley in 2015/16 – the second time the Lions had bounced back from a defeat in the capital with victory the following season. The first came in 2010 when they defeated Swindon Town.

The other side to claim immediate redemption was Huddersfield Town who, after being beaten by Peterborough United, won against Sheffield United on penalties in 2012.

The Robins suffered the ultimate Play-Off Final hangover as they ended the 2010/11 season bottom of the pile in League One and heading for English football's fourth tier. The other relegated side were Leyton Orient, who suffered Wembley defeat in 2014 and were sent down the next year.

Year Play-Off Final Winner Runner-up Following season finish
 2007  Blackpool  Yeovil Town  18th
 2008  Doncaster Rovers  Leeds United  4th - Play-Off Semi-Final
 2009  Scunthorpe United  Millwall  3rd - Promoted via Play-Offs
 2010  Millwall  Swindon Town  24th - Relegated
 2011  Peterborough United  Huddersfield Town  4th - Promoted via Play-Offs
 2012  Huddersfield Town  Sheffield United  5th - Play-Off Semi-Final
 2013  Yeovil Town  Brentford  2nd - Promoted
 2014  Rotherham United  Leyton Orient  23rd - Relegated
 2015  Preston North End  Swindon Town  16th
 2016  Barnsley  Millwall  6th - Promoted via Play-Offs
 2017  Millwall  Bradford City  

Average league position following League One Play-Off Final defeat: 11th

Exeter City will be looking to emulate Burton Albion and Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle after they both recovered from Play-Off Final defeat to secure automatic promotion from the division.

Paul Tisdale's men were defeated by Blackpool back in May and can become just the third team to produce a promotion-winning season off the back of Wembley defeat in Sky Bet League Two.

Northampton Town have the lowest finish in a subsequent season to a Wembley loss; they were beaten by Bradford in 2013 and ended up 21st in 2014.

Shrewsbury Town have been defeated twice at Wembley in the last 10 years. The first was followed up with an 18th-placed finish and the other, in 2009, 12th.

Three teams have tasted more play-off woes following the previous season's defeat. Rochdale, Torquay United and Cheltenham Town all secured another play-pff finish the following season but failed to make it beyond the semi-final stage.

Year Play-Off Final Winner Runner-up Following season finish
2007 Bristol Rovers Shrewsbury Town 18th
2008 Stockport Rochdale 6th - Play-Off Semi-Final
2009 Gillingham Shrewsbury Town 12th
2010 Dagenham & Redbridge Rotherham United 9th
2011 Stevenage Torquay United 5th - Play-Off Semi-Final
2012 Crewe Alexandra Cheltenham Town 5th - Play-Off Semi-Final
2013 Bradford City Northampton Town 21st
2014 Fleetwood Town Burton Albion 1st - Promoted
2015 Southend Town Wycombe Wanderers 13th
2016 AFC Wimbledon Plymouth Argyle 2nd - Promoted
2017 Blackpool Exeter City  

Average league position following League Two Play-Off Final defeat: 10th

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