In Depth

Leicester triumph glosses over Midlands' football demise

Hull City's play-off win keeps Foxes as the only side from English football's heartland in the top flight

Hull City emerged triumphant from the Championship play-off final on Saturday to secure a ticket to the Premier League and guarantee a share of the vast riches now on offer to the elite of the English game.

But their victory over Sheffield Wednesday was also symbolic of the changes English football has undergone in the Premier League era, changes that are easy to overlook after Leicester City's astonishing title triumph last season.

Wednesday's failure to make it into the top flight, combined with the relegation of Aston Villa and Norwich, means that next season, Leicester will not only defend the title, they will stand alone in representing the East Midlands - an area that was once the heartland of the English game.

Draw a line from The Wash up to Leeds and across to Manchester, then down along the M6 and M40 corridor, past Stoke City and West Brom to Watford, and across the top of north London, and there is a huge area steeped in footballing history with only one club in the Premier League.

It includes some of the oldest and most venerable clubs in the country: Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.

Other big names - Derby County, Birmingham City, Sheffield United, Coventry, Norwich, Ipswich and even Reading (at a push) - fall within its boundaries

It has been that way for a while. In the 2010-11 season, there were no clubs east of Birmingham or south of Sunderland in the top flight, although Villa, Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom were there to represent the West Midlands.

Only one of that brigade now remains. At the end of the season, West Brom manager Tony Pulis spoke of his pride in managing the only team from the West Midlands to remain in the top flight. "Next season, there will only be one club carrying that Premier League flag," he said. "We've got something to be proud of."

By contrast, in the second tier there will be, depending on where you draw the boundary, at least ten teams from the West Midlands, the East Midlands and East Anglia.

Leicester's triumph may have delighted the football world: it "will never be forgotten and it has reinvigorated the region", as John Percy of the Daily Telegraph writes. But he adds: "Let's be brutally honest, covering the 'fortunes' of Midlands clubs in recent times has not always been a joyful experience."

He continues: "The football world has always seemed to revolve around London and the North West."

Leicester's title may have taken the trophy to a new home for a season at least, it cannot mask the fact that the region that spawned the football league is punching below its historical weight.

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