Back in November, in assessment of the Championship promotion race, Chris Wilder told of how he believed come the end of the season Fulham and Bournemouth would be away and gone, with West Brom the only side capable of keeping pace.
Fulham have continued to set their relentless pace and look certain to guarantee an immediate return to the Premier League.
But below them, the pack has tightened. Bournemouth have stumbled and West Brom have fallen away from the automatic places, leading the Baggies to replace Valerien Ismael with Steve Bruce last week.
Wilder still believes Bournemouth definitely should and probably will join Fulham in going up automatically, but isn’t surprised at all by the scrap going on for the play-off places, with just four points separating West Brom in sixth and Blackpool in 14th.
“I said at the start of the season that the relegated teams (Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United) should all be in the top three with the advantage they have, and Bournemouth,” said Wilder, when asked for his assessment of the promotion picture.
“The three teams and Bournemouth have a huge advantage because they’ve kept all their players and from a financial point of view.
“Below that are all fighting to get in there, so I’m not surprised with how it’s panned out. A couple of teams will be disappointed they’re not higher but they have a couple of games to catch teams up.
“There are some really good stories in there. QPR is a really good story, a solid club and Mark (Warburton) is a genuine guy and a really solid man. He’s got a team working together, a real team with some really good individuals .
“They’ll want to keep it going. There’s Blackburn, Forest are coming, Sheff Utd are coming, you saw how difficult it was against Coventry, Luton are having a go, Stoke started the season fabulously.
“I still think Bournemouth and Fulham should and possibly will be comfortable as the two promoted teams, especially Fulham. Bournemouth with the business they’ve done and the side, but you never know. This is at times a weird division with results and sometimes people can fall off a cliff and some can go on an incredible run.”
Tonight’s opponents QPR are enjoying a superb season. They’re six unbeaten in the Championship and are just two points behind Blackburn in a second.
Boro headed for Loftus Road on a high after the superb Manchester United victory, and Wilder is confident that his team won’t dip after the Old Trafford delight.
“There are all sorts of things that people can chuck at a team. It’s just about consistency in attitude and approach,” he said.
“They (the players) understand that. I don’t really need to bang on about that. They understand if we don’t turn up on Wednesday night, whoever we are playing in the division, we won’t get the result we are after. Regardless of whether it’s a promotion team or whether it’s a team that’s fighting for their lives. I don’t think that changes.
“They’ve got to show consistency and attitude in play if we are to get the results that we want to.
“I think that was a consistent performance by us. I don’t think we’ve got loss, loss, loss, not worked hard, not tried, not had no desire in lead ups to a game and then all of a sudden play Man United, raise it to a level and drop off .
“We’ve got our results, performances and current form is a consistent one so I don’t think that can be leveled.
“If we lose the game on Wednesday, it won’t be because of a lack of desire or attitude and commitment. I can’t crystal ball it and say we are going to win because we’re up against a really good side and a manager who has done fantastically well. A team that’s really going well.
“You look at their results, how close they are to the top two and they are a team that can definitely stay the pace and brought some good players in. It’s always a tough place to go and get a result.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.