In Review

Blackburn Rovers relegated as Venky's nightmare continues

Former Premier League champions head for League One with debts of £100m, while Forest avoid the drop

Blackburn Rovers have been relegated to the third tier of English football, 22 years after they were champions of England.

Even though the Lancashire club beat Brentford 3-1 on the final day of the Cham, they went down after victories for Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City. They now face an uncertain future under Indian owners Venky's, who have been blamed for the demise.

"Ask any Rovers fan and they will point the finger firmly in the direction of the Venky's Group," says Alyson Rudd of The Times.

"Since sacking Sam Allardyce in 2010 'as part of our wider plans and ambitions for this club', no decisions at board level have made much sense and the fanbase has grown increasingly disillusioned when not outright livid."

An "eerie silence" filled Griffin Park yesterday as Rovers' travelling fans faced up to relegation.

"There was no last-gasp escape for the dishevelled Lancashire club, just as there is no miracle cure for the ills that have afflicted Rovers since they were taken over by an Indian chicken-processing corporation in 2010," says Paul Doyle of The Guardian.

"Blackburn were 14th in the top flight back then; now they are heading towards the third tier, a level unknown to them since their return in 1980.

"The fall would be easier for the club's fans to tolerate if they had confidence that the team have reached rock bottom. But Rovers are around £100m in debt, many of the players are due to leave this summer and the owner has given no indication that it has the will or ability to stop the slide, let alone reverse it."

It is a different story for Forest, who spent part of Sunday afternoon in the drop-zone until they took the lead against Ipswich.

They went on to secure their Championship status in style as two goals from Britt Assombalonga inspired a 3-0 win and left them "finally hoping of a brighter future", says John Percy of the Daily Telegraph

"With the dreaded drop into League One avoided, the unpopular reign of Fawaz Al Hasawi is also coming to an end, with Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis poised to complete his takeover.

"Mark Warburton, the eighth managerial appointment under the Al Hasawi regime, will never want to go through this again."

Championship final day: The relegation and promotion picture

05 May

The Championship season comes to a climax this week, with several key issues yet to be decided.

Brighton and Newcastle have already booked their places in the Premier League, while Rotherham and Wigan are down. However, the final relegation and promotion picture is not yet clear and there will be plenty to play for when the final 12 fixtures of the regular season kick off at noon on Sunday. Here's what's at stake…

The title

Fans of both Brighton and Newcastle will tell you that getting into the Premier League is all that matters, and both teams have done that. But winning the Championship title would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.

Brighton have a one-point advantage going into the final day, but since achieving promotion last month they have lost back-to-back games against Norwich and Bristol City.

It looks like Chris Hughton's side have taken their foot off the gas since booking their place in the top table for the first time in a generation and they face a tricky trip to Aston Villa on the final day.

However, Hughton has wrung great things from his players this season and will surely rouse them in a final effort to pip Newcastle, the club that sacked him in 2010, to the title. What's more, the Villa fans may be rather more concerned with how relegation-threatened rivals Birmingham are getting on.

On paper Newcastle have an easier assignment, hosting mid-table Barnsley at St James' Park, where there is sure to be a party atmosphere.

It will be the first home game since the Magpies confirmed their return to the top flight, and despite the off-field concerns over a tax probe and relations between Rafa Benitez and owner Mike Ashley, it is hard to see anything other than a home win, and that could be enough for them to claim the title.

Play-offs

Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield have all booked their spots in this year's game of Russian roulette, and the final spot almost certainly belongs to Fulham.

It would take an absolutely extraordinary turn of events for the Cottagers to miss out on the top six. They are three points clear of Leeds in seventh, and have a 13-goal advantage over them.

Leeds are away at relegated Wigan, and Fulham face Sheffield Wednesday. It's plausible that Leeds will win and Fulham will lose, but the chance of two 7-0 scorelines is infinitesimal.

The Wednesday vs Fulham game will be the one to watch, as these two teams are the best in the division right now. But a victory for Wednesday could mean they face each other in the play-offs.

Relegation

Perhaps the most intriguing battle of the final day is at the bottom, where three famous old clubs will be battling to avoid the drop.

Wigan and Rotherham have already been condemned to League One next season and they will be joined by either Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest or Blackburn Rovers.

It is just five years since Blackburn were playing in the top flight but they are now in danger of relegation to the third tier for the first time since 1980.

"It would be a shattering blow for a club still feeling the effects of relegation from the Premier League and poor recruitment decisions in the aftermath," says Andy Bayes of BBC Radio Lancashire.

Rovers will discover their fate in West London, where they face Brentford, who have lost only one of their last eight games, on Sunday.

However, Blackburn's fate is by no means sealed. They are level on points with Forest with only one goal between them. That means they could lose and stay up if Forest are defeated by a bigger margin.

The agony for Blackburn is that they could go down even if they win and Forest also win by the same number of goals.

That will mean plenty of frayed nerves at the City Ground where Forest entertain Ipswich Town. The equation for the Garibaldi Reds is relatively simple: If they better Blackburn's result; they stay up. If both teams draw, they stay up. If they both win or both lose, then Forest must match or better the margin in the Blackburn game.

The final team involved is Birmingham City, who are two points clear of Rovers and Forest. That means the Blues could still go down if their relegation rivals both win and they lose or draw, thanks to an inferior goal difference.

Harry Redknapp's side will face Bristol City, who themselves escaped the relegation scrap with four wins and a draw in their last five matches.

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