EFL in 2018: 'Crazed raccoons', cabbages and managerial Tinder

By Ian WoodcockBBC Sport
Norwich City and Derby County
The agony and the ecstasy: Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell and Derby County boss Frank Lampard react to the Rams' incredible 4-3 win over the Canaries

Derby and Norwich brought the curtain down on the EFL in 2018 with one of the most dramatic matches of the year.

The Rams eventually won a seven-goal thriller having been 2-0 down after 25 minutes and 3-2 behind with five minutes left in a match delayed by a floodlight failure.

It has been another brilliant year for the oldest football league competition in the world, with Wolves storming to the Championship title in April, Accrington Stanley winning promotion to the third tier for the first time in their history and League Two side Macclesfield just about avoiding setting an outright record for the longest winless run in the competition's history.

Before it all gets going again on Tuesday, 1 January 2019, BBC Sport takes a look back on a year that some clubs won't want to end and others can't wait to see the back of...

Good year for...

Norwich City might have only finished 14th in the Championship last season but their outstanding form this campaign means it's been a stellar 2018 for the Canaries.

There was little sign of what was to come when Daniel Farke's side recorded just one win in their opening five league games. However, a run of four successive league wins in September catapulted them up the table and a run of six straight Championship wins through October and November cemented their place in the top two.

Quite the achievement for a team who only spent money on one player in the summer.

The Norfolk side's brilliant form even led to Farke comparing himself to Johnny Depp... Kind of.

Farke on Pirates of the Caribbean curse

It's been a long road back to League One for Luton Town.

The Hatters were relegated from the third tier in 2007-08 in the middle of three successive relegations that saw them fall from the heights of the Championship into non-league football.

However, under Nathan Jones the good times have returned to Kenilworth Road. They won promotion from League Two in second place in 2017-18 and will start 2019 second in League One, in with a very good shout of a second straight promotion.

One minute into the National League promotion final in May, things were not looking good for Tranmere Rovers.

On their big day at Wembley, Rovers were reduced to 10 men inside the opening minute when Liam Ridehalgh was sent off for a poor tackle on Boreham Wood's Ricky Shakes.

Despite having to play virtually the whole game a man light Micky Mellon's side battled to a 2-1 win which secured a return to the EFL after a three-season exile.

They have not looked back since and going into 2019 they sit four points outside the the top three in League Two, with a home tie against Tottenham to look forward to in the FA Cup third round.

Bad year for...

Paul Clement
Paul Clement won just seven of his 30 games as Reading boss

No team in the whole of the EFL picked up fewer points than Reading in 2018, with the Berkshire side winning just 36 points from their 46 games.

The Royals had reached the Championship play-off final in 2016-17 but found last season a real slog, leading to Jaap Stam's sacking in March and only avoiding relegation by three points.

Stam's replacement Paul Clement lasted just seven months before being sacked himself in November and replaced with Portuguese Jose Gomes.

They head into 2019 on a run of nine without a win and in serious danger of being relegated to League One.

It might not rival Reading's disastrous 2018 but few Scunthorpe fans will look back on this year with any fondness.

The Iron started the year under Graham Alexander but sacked the former Scotland international in March despite being fifth.

Caretaker Nick Daws led them into the League One play-offs but they were beaten by Rotherham in the semi-finals before Daws was given the job permanently.

However, Daws was sacked on 24 August, with chairman Peter Swann saying it had been "a mistake" to give him the job.

Former Bradford boss Stuart McCall was appointed his successor in September, and initially led the club up the table, but a run of five straight defeats in December has left the Iron in the League One relegation zone, two points adrift of safety.

It was a year of two halves for Notts County.

In the first half of the year the Meadow Lane side pushed for an automatic promotion place from League Two before falling to defeat in the play-offs by Coventry City.

In the second, the Magpies sacked Kevin Nolan in August, then got rid of his replacement Harry Kewell after 79 days and now, under third manager of the season, Neil Ardley, find themselves in a battle to retain their EFL status.

'El Loco' ends the madness at Leeds

Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa quickly endeared himself to Leeds fans by getting the team playing great football, winning matches and, er, sitting on a bucket during games

Leeds United have not been synonymous with the mundane over the past few years and the first six months of 2018 suggested it would be more of the same.

  • January: Lose to League Two Newport in FA Cup, unveil and then quickly scrap new badge after widespread derision
  • February: Sack Thomas Christiansen and replace him with Paul Heckingbottom
  • April: Announce controversial end of season tour of Myanmar
  • June: Sack Heckingbottom, appoint former Argentina and Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa

However, since the arrival of the man known as 'El Loco' (the crazy one) things have gone remarkably smoothly at Elland Road.

The Argentine led the Whites to an eight-match unbeaten league run to start the season and they end the year five points clear of third-placed West Brom.

Could 2019 be the year they end their 15-year exile from the Premier League?

Quotes of the year

Paul Cook
Paul Cook (right) and Man City boss Pep Guardiola share a frank exchange of opinions during Wigan's 1-0 FA Cup win over the Premier League winners in February

Revolving door

David Hopkin
David Hopkin took over at Valley Parade after Michael Collins was sacked after just six games in charge in September

It's been quite the year at Bradford City.

The Bantams started 2018 with a 2-1 win over Fleetwood to sit fifth in League One, but a run of six successive defeats saw manager Stuart McCall sacked in February.

He was replaced by former Leeds, Huddersfield and Preston boss Simon Grayson on a deal until the end of the season.

Grayson was unable to spark the West Yorkshire side back into play-off contention and left the club in May, having won just three of his 14 games in charge.

With two tried and tested managers both failing to get the club fighting for promotion to the Championship, the board decided to go in a totally different direction and appointed 32-year-old youth coach Michael Collins as boss on a three-year deal in June.

Sadly Collins lasted just six games, winning once, before being shown the door on 3 September to make way for former Bantams midfielder David Hopkin.

The Valley Parade side go into 2019 two points adrift of safety in League One but they did at least end the year with a 4-0 victory at Rochdale.

Mascot of the year: Boiler Man

Given everything else that happened in 2018, it's easy to forget that West Brom had a person dressed as a boiler as a matchday mascot. In August. In the middle of England's joint-hottest summer since records began.

Boiler Man: The hero you never knew you needed