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25 years of the play-offs (and the most successful play-off team are already in the Premier League)


By Brian Sears

11 May 2011

For the 25th season, 12 clubs have made it through to the play-offs in the three divisions of the English Football League – and most attention will inevitably fall on the four teams chasing the £100m jackpot of entry to the Premier League. Swansea have the best play-off pedigree among that quartet, as our tables below show.

The most successful play-off team in the past quarter-century have won four promotions via the play-offs and that club is already (for now) in the top division: Blackpool.

Last year the play-offs took them to the PL (Promised Land), four years ago it was their route into the Championship, and in 1992 and 2001 the play-offs saw them into the League One level.

Our tables below summarise the clubs with most play-off appearances, most wins, and the play-off records of this season’s play-off teams.

Crystal Palace and Swindon have both known three successful play-off campaigns but Swindon forfeited their 1990 success because of their financial problems.

Preston, although experiencing relegation this time round, have made it through to the play-offs the most times, eight altogether, four times trying to reach the top division, twice to get to Championship level and twice to League One.  But although they have made the final three times, Preston have yet to gain a play-off promotion.

This season Huddersfield are joining a select group who have made seven play-offs.  Ipswich have tried seven times to reach the Premier League via the play-offs with their one success over Barnsley 11 years ago.  Bolton also have seven play-offs to their credit and at all three levels.  Their two successes have both been promotions to the Premier League.

Huddersfield are trying for the sixth time to reach the Championship level by way of the play-offs.  Their one success was in 1995 beating Bristol Rovers 2-1 but seven years ago Huddersfield also made it into League One by the play-off route beating Mansfield on penalties.

Of this season’s play-off crop after Huddersfield, Swansea is the next club with most play-off pedigree – this will be their sixth play-off attempt, while Cardiff, Reading and Torquay will all be enjoying their fifth bite at the play-off cherry.  In contrast, Accrington Stanley and Stevanage are in the Football League play-off mix for the first time.


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