John Terry’s quest to lead Aston Villa back to their rightful place in the Premier League ended in disappointment Saturday evening, as instead another former Chelsea player was celebrating on hallowed green turf of Wembley. Slaviša Jokanović’s Fulham earned a hard-fought and somewhat lucky 1-0 win over the Villans, collecting the proverbial £150m prize money by playing in the Premier League next season. Chelsea’s “friendly neighbors” are back in the top division after four years in the second tier.
The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC #AVFC pic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018
JT’s own future is a bit murkier now. His one-year contract had a built-in option for an additional year in case of promotion (with a proviso to skip Chelsea games, if he so chooses), which would’ve seen him play Premier League football at age 38. Does he have it in him to keep going for one more year? He was ever-present for Steve Bruce this season, so we certainly wouldn’t put it past him.
Terry started his 36th match of the season as Aston Villa lined up to face a Fulham side boasting the super talents of Ryan Sessegnon, as well as a couple Chelsea loanees sitting on the bench: Tomáš Kalas and Lucas Piazon. Unfortunately, neither of the Chelsea boys started, but Kalas did play the final quarter of an hour or so as Jokanović tried to see out the win and the clean sheet.
Fulham took the lead halfway through the first half on a sweet finish from captain Tom Cairney, set up by the aforementioned Sessegnon, who may not actually be playing for the Cottagers anymore by the time next season rolls around. The 18-year-old Championship Player of the Season is surely bound for a bigger stage now.
With Anthony Taylor officiating, controversy was always going be the order of the day. Several penalty appeals were turned down, at either end, while Fulham’s Ryan Fredericks avoided a red card for stamping on Jack Grealish. Denis Odoi was not so lucky in the second-half however, receiving his marching orders for a second yellow card and setting up a nervy 20 minutes for Fulham.
Villa, who were fairly terrible in the first half but improved as the game went along, pressed and pushed but could not find paydirt. And so, the English football season is over (EDIT: League 1 & 2 playoffs aside, as reminded in the comments). Fulham join the elite of the Premier League and Aston Villa are left to try again.
Congrats to Jokanović, Kalas, Piazon, and the rest, and thanks for setting up the shortest away trip of next season.