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How much of an achievement would it be if Burton Albion were to survive relegation?

Saturday 1st April 2017
It has been a memorable debut season in the Sky Bet Championship for Burton Albion. Even if the Brewers fail to avoid relegation and an immediate return to League One, what Nigel Clough and his players have achieved this season has to be commended.

Burton Albion currently sit in 21st place in the Championship table ahead of this weekend's fixtures. One point and place above former Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers, as well as being level on points with two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest. When considering the size of some of the clubs competing with Burton in the division this season, it really speaks volumes of the task that was awaiting Nigel Clough and his staff after completing back-to-back promotions at the end of last season.

Undoubtedly the smallest club in the Championship, Burton not only have the lowest average home attendance but they can also lay claim to having one of, if not, the lowest wage bill in the division. Despite seemingly being unequipped to compete with the bigger, richer clubs of the division, they have managed to record victories over the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest. Not to mention the fact they've also taken four points from their big-spending, perennial play-off hopeful neighbours Derby County.

Brewers' fans may well have been feeling optimistic about their survival chances at half-time in their match against Brentford just before the international break, and understandably so. They went in with a 3-1 lead at the interval before capitulating in the second-half as Brentford completed a remarkable comeback to win the game 5-3. Burton fans and management alike were justifiably mystified by their side's second-half performance. However, they would have been buoyed by the news that fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest were 2-1 down late on to their local rivals Derby County, only for Forest to grab an equaliser late in stoppage time to compound Albion's misery.

The results from the last round of Championship fixtures has made proceedings difficult for Burton. With their next two games being trips to automatic promotion hopefuls Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively. Their future in the division appears uncertain at best. They will likely have to rely on slip-ups from the teams around them, as well as perhaps having to prioritise home fixtures against Aston Villa and Ipswich in the final week of the season. That, of course, is not to write off the Brewers when they face Huddersfield and Newcastle. They have already proven they can compete with the top sides of the division; having suffered narrow defeats to each of the top three.

If Nigel Clough does, in fact, manage to keep Burton Albion in the Championship for another season it will unquestionably be his finest achievement as a manager to date. Clough has enjoyed promotions in the past with the Brewers, as well as stabilising and competing with limited funds in his time as Derby County manager. However, neither will compare if the Brewers do manage to avoid the drop this season. Burton's promotion to the Championship last season, though it may well have been historic, the difference in quality and in money between the two divisions cannot be understated. Furthermore, Derby fans have generally grown more appreciate of Clough's tenure at the club in the years that followed his departure. This is most notably due to the fact that a large portion of the Rams' first team squad still boasts Clough's signings. However, as limited as Clough's budget was in his time at Derby, he was still given a fair amount more to spend than he is now at Burton.

With all things considered, it is commendable that Burton Albion has managed to keep themselves just outside of the relegation places for the majority of the season. That is thanks in no small part to Clough's ability to get his players organised and hard-to-beat. This is evidenced by the fact that most of their defeats have come by one or two goal margins. Additionally, loan signings such as Cauley Woodrow and Michael Kightly have proved invaluable to the club staying afloat of the relegation zone,. Iff Burton do survive this season, Clough must use the loan market to his advantage yet again next season.

With just four games remaining and just one point separating them from the Championship relegation places, can Burton Albion do the improbable and survive relegation and, in the process, record their best ever season for a second successive season?
Chris Soloman
21-year-old media student and football fanatic living in Manchester. Lifelong Derby County fan.

Total articles: 4

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